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Thread: Hearing the pulse in mando music

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    Default Hearing the pulse in mando music

    I listened to an interview of Monroe on a cd that a friend lent me. Bill says that his uncle Pen had a pulse in his music that is difficult to get with the mandolin, but can be heard in the fiddle. I picked with a fiddler years ago who accentuated the note on the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th beat. Is that what Monroe meant by a pulse? Does anyone have an example of mando music where the pulse can be heard?

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    Registered User Cheryl Watson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hearing the pulse in mando music

    There are clips of Bill Monroe on You Tube but also Mike Compton playing Monroe tunes and other tunes/songs. If you can possibly attend one of Mikes seminars/workshops on Monroe-style mandolin, it would really help you. It really helped me to understand this and start applying it to my own playing. The pulse is the feeling and the drive that Monroe put into the music both in the rhythm and in his lead playing. It has partly to do with accenting certain beats, but there is so much more to it.

    Here is a great video example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwsRt4-EH7c

    In the video above, listen at :36 where Mike plays a 2nd solo starting with tremolo. Instead of evenly strumming, he drives it with an accent on the "1". The pulse of Monroe is all through this video; that is just one clear example.

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    Registered User Mike Bunting's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hearing the pulse in mando music

    Quote Originally Posted by cwtwang View Post
    There are clips of Bill Monroe on You Tube but also Mike Compton playing Monroe tunes and other tunes/songs. If you can possibly attend one of Mikes seminars/workshops on Monroe-style mandolin, it would really help you. It really helped me to understand this and start applying it to my own playing. The pulse is the feeling and the drive that Monroe put into the music both in the rhythm and in his lead playing. It has partly to do with accenting certain beats, but there is so much more to it.

    Here is a great video example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwsRt4-EH7c

    In the video above, listen at :36 where Mike plays a 2nd solo starting with tremolo. Instead of evenly strumming, he drives it with an accent on the "1". The pulse of Monroe is all through this video; that is just one clear example.
    It sounds like that first tremolo is in sixes too, as compared with the tremolo a little later on in the solo. Last year at Owensboro camp, he gave us a great handout of rhythmic figures to work on.
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    Registered User billkilpatrick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hearing the pulse in mando music

    1,3,5,and 7 ... i think what you're getting at is syncopation. the following is a jazz mandolin video describing how to comp but the principle applies to any rhythm:


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    Registered User Justus True Waldron's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hearing the pulse in mando music

    When I took a workshop with Jesse Cobb last February he spent some time speaking about the "pulse" too. I think I've always kind of subconciously understood to do it, but never fully considered what it was until he brought it up. I think it is more common with fiddles, which is something he mentioned, but it can be done powerfully on mandolin as well. The way Jesse described it was accentuating the downbeat on every stroke when playing lead... obviously when playing mando chords the accent is on the upbeat. I think it gets more complicated than that in real life, but for getting started hearing/playing it "pushing" the note on the downbeats starts to give it that feel. He mentioned Brittany Haas (fiddle player) as a good example of this, which I can agree with because I've always liked her fiddle playing for that very reason. Just yet another example of how bluegrass is more than just 3 cords and a bunch of notes over top...
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    Registered User neil argonaut's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hearing the pulse in mando music

    Quote Originally Posted by billkilpatrick View Post
    1,3,5,and 7 ... i think what you're getting at is syncopation.
    Surely 1,3,5,7 is the opposite of syncopation, on the on beat instead of the off.

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    Default Re: Hearing the pulse in mando music

    I did a search on Haas to listen to her fiddle playing and found this with her sister...it is not mando music, but some great music nonetheless...definitely a pulse in her music...like a metronome in her head, right on the beat, but not always on the 1,3,5 7.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yzbvBlvGNk

    The fiddle player I knew would put more energy into the downbeat on the 1, 3, 5, and 7, not on the upbeat between them so it wasn't a syncopation, but it was a fraction ahead of that downbeat on the 1,3,5 and 7. He didn't always hit those every time, but I could hear the beat in his music.

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    Registered User Justus True Waldron's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hearing the pulse in mando music

    Sam Bush is another mandolin player who can have a really strong "pulse"... if you can find the song "Ozzie & Max" off of his "Howling at the Moon" album (which apparently isn't on youtube) it's probably the best example of what I'm thinking about. Not ALWAYS on the downbeat, but more down then up, with the occasional up emphasis for syncopation. Given that Sam also plays fiddle this isn't surprising. I've taken to playing Big Sciota like this though, with the pulse and lots of double stops like a fiddle... it's pretty fun and sounds cool!
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    Registered User billkilpatrick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hearing the pulse in mando music

    Quote Originally Posted by neil argonaut View Post
    Surely 1,3,5,7 is the opposite of syncopation, on the on beat instead of the off.
    you're right ... waddya'callit? - is "pulse" a musical term?

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    Default Re: Hearing the pulse in mando music

    "Pushing" the beat is another way I have heard of it. If a person has good timing, they can hit the chop or note of a melody a nanosecond before the beat. The indian drum does it alot...just think of the sound of a war drum....BOOM boom boom boom BOOM boom boom boom. That big boom just ahead of the beat. In bluegrass without a drum, it gives the music not only a rhythm but a heartbeat, a groove. Hard to get in a regular jam. And I am trying to incorporate it with the mandolin, a mando has such a cutting chop it is easier to hear it than when playing a guitar to my ear. I am just wondering if I should just go on the first beat or the third, fifth or all of them. I would like to hear a mando player where it is very distinct so I am searching youtube for someone.

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    Registered User Mike Bunting's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hearing the pulse in mando music

    Double post.
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    Registered User Mike Bunting's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hearing the pulse in mando music

    You can hear the best example of the pulse being out front on any Compton tube.
    From Musicglossary.com "pulse - the consistent "heartbeat" of a rhythm."
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    David Mold OldSausage's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hearing the pulse in mando music

    I think you should just carefully consider how to phrase the melody, preferably with reference to a player you admire. You certainly don't need to try to accentuate the 1,3,5, and 7: everyone naturally does that too much on account of it being far easier to make a loud noise on a downstroke than an upstroke. I think it sounds better if you can make up and down strokes more even, and aim to develop a dynamic, melodic flow that's independent of whether you're on a downstroke or upstroke.

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    Registered User Tom Wright's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hearing the pulse in mando music

    A friend of mine had a really sweet rhythm style on fiddle; his version of the shuffle patterns actually had a little crescendo during the slurred notes, which led to a great hit on the first separated note. I think that must be what Monroe was referring to; a fiddle can shuffle better than any of the plucked instruments. Only fiddles can swell toward the accent. (Most classical players don't know this trick, but it helps Beethoven groove, used with discretion.).

    Being on the front, center, or back side of the "pulse" is another usage, where it refers to the beat centroid. High-energy tunes tend to benefit from playing the tiniest bit early, to keep it hot. Laid-back tunes require the opposite, a conscious effort to play just at the "back edge", late without sounding wrong. Then there are exceptions, like playing a fast Big Mon but holding it rock steady by playing a mere sniff late. Not so easy reliably finding those places, it separates the experienced from the rest.
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