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Thread: Doublestops again

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    Default Doublestops again

    I have been playing the mandolin for a couple of years now. I am interested in how to play double stops. I have some of the basics and have read Pickloser's excellent series on the subject, posted on this forum.

    Where I am coming unstuck is how to apply this to a song. Sure, you can always find double stops just by trial and error, but I want to apply the theory!

    For example, as one goes through a simple tune, if one is going to use double stops, I guess you always need to be conscious of the chord you are in at any one time, correct?

    If then the melody includes one of the chord tones of the chord you are in at that moment , then it is reasonably easy to find a double stop (using Picklosers methodology and that of others posted on the internet). But what if the melody is not a chord tone?

    I have looked at the patterns for creating double stops from major chords, but what happens when you are in a dominant, minor, or half-dim chord? Do you look at the home major chord and work it out from that?!

    I have looked at the excellent harmonised scale stuff on 'Mandozine' but can't see how that translates to a tune. Maybe I am making the whole thing overcomplicated.

    Any advice welcome.

    Regards,

    Geoff

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    Registered User Mark Robertson-Tessi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Doublestops again

    If the melody is not a chord tone, then you still might look for a chord tone note above or below. For example, if the note is D, played over a C chord, you might play a G above the D. If the note is A, you might play an E below the A. Using your ear as a guide to what sounds good is the way to go. Depending on where you are going and coming from, the options vary.

    The same ideas you use for major chords apply for any type of chord. If you are playing a chord tone from a dominant chord, you might start by finding another chord tone to go with it. The shapes/patterns are different for the different chords, but it's really no different than figuring out the major chord DSs. If you know the position of the melody note in the chord (root, third, fifth, seventh), then you can find the corresponding chord tones above and below with the same pattern every time, without even needing to think about specific note names.

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    Default Re: Doublestops again

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Robertson-Tessi View Post
    Using your ear as a guide to what sounds good is the way to go. Depending on where you are going and coming from, the options vary.
    Thats what I do. I have a handful that are easily reached, and a few "stretchies" and when I noodle around a tune (alone when practicing) I will try them out. I then use the theory to figure out why this or that worked.

    I personally just hate to get feeling that playing music is like doing a math problem. (It is, but I hate the feeling.) So if the "correct" answer is not one of my fun familiar double stops, I just move on.

    Often I find a couple of serviceable double stops for a situation. In that case I follow the melody line. If its going down I use the lower one, and vv.
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    Registered User pickloser's Avatar
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    Default Re: Doublestops again

    moreDSstuff2.doc moreDSstuff.doc
    You might find some of this (see attached docs) useful. I will try to mp3 some double stop licks for you tonight.
    Last edited by pickloser; Apr-12-2012 at 10:07am.

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    Registered User Mark Robertson-Tessi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Doublestops again

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    I personally just hate to get feeling that playing music is like doing a math problem.
    Indeed. That feeling can be shed, even if some of it was used along the way to figure things out. In the end it always comes back to using the ear. Theory/math/patterns are just tools to make the steps from nothing to owning it by ear. Once the work is done, the tools can be put back in the box.

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    ...but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Doublestops again

    Quote Originally Posted by yerffoeg View Post
    Sure, you can always find double stops just by trial and error, but I want to apply the theory!
    Theory is not for creating beautiful music. It is for talking about beautiful music afterwards and acting intelligent.
    Calculated music is predictable and thus, by definition, boring.

    Nevertheless, it stops being trial and error after a while when you have learned to hear the result in your mind before you play it. Then your fingers tend to play the right doublestops without your head thinking about it. That's how it turned out for me: NOT playing doublestops would require extra practising.
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    Joe B mandopops's Avatar
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    Default Re: Doublestops again

    All this input is good. I think when using this "Double-stop/chord melody" style it is not necessary to play every note harmonized. If you don't find a note you like to add, play just a single note.

    Another thought, when you come across a non-chord tone (F# over a C chord), as stated, go ahead and use a regular chord-tone as the double stop. It might sound a little dissonant at 1st, but by the next note or 2 it will resolve nicely. It gives a nice tension and release. The more you do it, the more natural some of the dissonant harmonies will sound. Sometimes experiment with the harmony note as a non-chord tone, again it could resolve very "pleasingly" by the next note or so.

    Yes, be aware of the note and the chord you're on, but don't worry about each note being within that chord. Any note can be some extension of that chord. Stretch the fingers and the ear.

    As Thelonious Monk would say, "Wrong is Right".

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    Default Re: Doublestops again

    Quote Originally Posted by Bertram Henze View Post
    Nevertheless, it stops being trial and error after a while when you have learned to hear the result in your mind before you play it.
    Ah, but what difference then between arriving to this place using trial-and-error versus theory if both are discarded in the end?

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    ...but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Doublestops again

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Robertson-Tessi View Post
    Ah, but what difference then between arriving to this place using trial-and-error versus theory if both are discarded in the end?
    arriving relaxed vs arriving with a headache...
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    Default Re: Doublestops again

    True, the dissonant stabs of discord one must endure with trial-and-error certainly pain the brain.

    But, truth be told, there is much to be gained by trial and error. It's worth playing something outside of what your ear, and fingers, would have "thought of", because this leads to new approaches. Good for reaching the end of a plateau and starting up a fresh hill, as discussed in another thread.

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    Default Re: Doublestops again

    I have to disagree that somehow knowing and applying theory is boring. It allows you to move past the mundane and predictable and try new ideas as you figure out the musical language. Very akin to learning the basics of grammar and syntax for a language so you can eventually speak fluently. It's certainly NOT about "It is for talking about beautiful music afterwards and acting intelligent. " Using your ears is of course necessary in anything musical but I can use my eyes and I might still be lost in an unfamiliar place without a map. I'm not blind but I could still get lost. Music theory principles are simple maps to a language that can help you jump ahead easily and not get hung up on something simple: changing keys with secondary dominants; why minor pentatonics works well over blues changes; what sound played over an altered dominant. So you can hear all you want in your head but as soon as you want to try something new, something yo may hear another performer do, your lost without a map and left to stumbling around hoping to trip over what you need by ear. More over you can learn to 'hear' more things differently by directing yourself to new ideas with a little study. A little theory goes a long way to explaining so many basic musical ideas. Good luck!

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    Default Re: Doublestops again

    Quote Originally Posted by mam View Post
    I have to disagree that somehow knowing and applying theory is boring. It allows you to move past the mundane and predictable and try new ideas as you figure out the musical language. Very akin to learning the basics of grammar and syntax for a language so you can eventually speak fluently. !
    But don't we really learn language by trial and error, copying an mimicing others, learning from mistakes? At some point we have enough language skills that all the theory and "best practices" comes into place and we can deliberately improve our speaking and writing. But I know for myself, I was speaking in complete sentences before I knew what a complete sentence was.
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    Default Re: Doublestops again

    Dear All,

    Thanks for some great replies; Pickloser, a special thanks to you for some more informative material.

    I do agree that one's quest should be to play with fire and soul, but at the start, surely theory can take you some of the way!

    Regards,

    GEoff

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    Default Re: Doublestops again

    I suppose it's down to how one learns. Copping others’ licks and trial and error give me pieces of information I cannot easily store or recall. Music theory gives me a good outline for storage, I think. Once I "get it," I cease thinking about it in terms of theory, at least until I am trying to add another piece of information. Theory now directs much of my trial and error; I start more from the perspective of "if that's true, then this should work."

    John McGann said something like music theory seems esoteric until you learn it; then it seems more like plumbing. (I looked for the post, but my searching chops are not good.) I like knowing where the water might go or might have come from, so to speak. I have not learned any music theory that has not proved to be very useful to my playing, and the more I learn, the more like plumbing it is, just like John said. I realize others can (and have) skipped this step, but I think more would tend to benefit than would be burdened.

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    ...but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Doublestops again

    Quote Originally Posted by mam View Post
    Using your ears is of course necessary in anything musical but I can use my eyes and I might still be lost in an unfamiliar place without a map.
    There would be no map if not somebody would have explored the place before drawing it. That's what I mean: theory gives you names and descriptions for discoveries others made by trial and error before you. There is no theory of what has never been tried. Theory does not tell you "that is completely new and it will sound great". There have been attempts at that, but none of them sound great to me.

    As a physicist, I have certain expectations as to what a "theory" should deliver, and music theory has never failed at disappointing me. John McGann's "plumbing" analogy nails it.
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    Default Re: Doublestops again

    Interesting thread from what initially seems a straightforward question - often the way I suppose..
    My approach is certainly to be aware of the chord and play the doublestop out of the chord. That then means you've got to make choices. For example if it's a G7 do you go for 1st and 3rd or maybe 3rd and 5th or point out the harmonic development by including the 7th? I'd probably do the latter but it depends whether I'm accompanying or soloing...
    With regard to the case where the melody is carried on a note outside the chord (in effect this is usually a passing note) I'd be tempted to play the melody and a note from the underlying chord even though it may sound dissonant. Again depends whether I'm accompanying ( in which I'd play the chord and let the soloist carry the melody) or soloing.
    A sort of example here in Wave (starts after 1.28) where I try and play the underlying chords while referencing the melody - which, like other Carlos Jobim numbers, often hangs outside the given underlying chords.

    Hope this helps a bit,
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    Default Re: Doublestops again

    Personally,i feel that Bertram has hit the nail squarely on the head re.'calculated' music.It's not exactly 'calculated',more 'regimented' to my mind,but there is a certain predicatability in it.You most definitely need to be able to hear in your head what you want to play before you play it. It may not be the same every time,that's where our ability to improvise comes in.Double stops aren't a means unto themselves,they're a tool to be used if & when we decide they fit in. My biggest trouble isn't with the double stops,but the notes linking one DS to another.I get to the point where i'm not playing the DS's any more,i'm playing the single note melody - i just need to work on it a lot more. For my part,i'd forget the theory for the most part,& go with the 'feeling' & 'spirit' of the tune in hand,
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    Default Re: Doublestops again

    Thanks Ivan for the support

    I want to add that "trial and error" is not neccessarily the chaotic groping in the dark it looks like. There are highly organized forms of trial and error (e.g. the way a child learns to walk or to speak his first language, evolution or genetic algorithms), and nature seems to generally prefer it as the most reliable and efficient optimization strategy. Its only downside is that things learned that way are hard to explain, because explanation requires theory. But I far rather play my music than explain it - I'd be one hell of a teacher
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    Registered User Vincent Capostagno's Avatar
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    Default Re: Doublestops again

    Speech existed before writing and music existed before music theory. Frankly, I don't know why they call it "theory". To me, It is basically a way of describing the relationships between tones. Once you find combinations of tones you like, by being able to describe it in terms of theory will allow you to use these combinations in other keys or in other musical settings.

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    Default Re: Doublestops again

    I think one needs to be careful to separate the path and the destination. Perhaps someone who is stuck on the path of "theory" will play prescribed or calculated music if they don't ever move beyond that. But the trial and error path is not foolproof either. I've heard plenty of note doodlers who use trial and error on the fly, and the results are mixed. There's broad agreement that a major goal is using the ear to play what one hears. But this can be reached by many different routes, and it's not clear that any one is better than the other. In fact, perhaps a combination of many approaches is the best hedge and most versatile. It's easy to throw around generalizations about these things, but in real life we'd all be hard pressed to listen to the good players and know what path they used to get where they are just from their playing.

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    ...but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Doublestops again

    It certainly is useful for any musician to know the basic system of notes, how a triad makes a chord, what modal scales are etc.
    But that is not what I would call "theory" in the full sense. It is just the giving of names to things.

    Looking back at the OP's question, how theory could tell him which doublestops will work and which won't, I count at least three questions theory can't answer:
    - if I have this chord and the melody note is the base and I want the doublestop to be within the chord: should the other note be the 5th, the 3rd, the 6th, the 7th (!) to make the tune more interestingly beautiful?
    - which of the options give easiest playability?
    - I inadvertently tried this other doublestop and it sounds good though it is outside the chord - why?

    So... don't throw away your knowledge about the system, but don't expect it to take you all the way.
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    Registered User pefjr's Avatar
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    Default Re: Doublestops again

    hmmm..... interesting, I'm picking up some musical intellect on my radar, think I will hang here see..read...listen...awhile.
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    Default Re: Doublestops again

    Quote Originally Posted by Bertram Henze View Post
    But that is not what I would call "theory" in the full sense. It is just the giving of names to things.
    No, it's not a scientific theory, but it is a philosophical theory, the observation and contemplation of a practice. But, propose different name, and we can start using it!

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    Default Re: Doublestops again

    Perhaps Pythagoras would have called it euphonopraxia. I'll settle for anything that indicates tonal relationships.

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    Default Re: Doublestops again

    Love it. This is what the M/C excels at. Simply questions answered and expanded on for the benefit of all talent levels. You guys are awesome.
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