View Full Version : Blake's Mando VHS

Mar-09-2004, 3:12pm
I recently bought a copy of The Mandolin of Norman Blake video, and, as has been said before, this is a real good video for "intermediates" interested in his style. Blake gives a lot of instruction on ornmanentation on the first tune, and then a little scattered here and there on the rest. I think if you were just starting out playing it might get over your head quick, but if you've got the basics down, its not hard to follow just from watching and listening...the transcription is pretty well written, as well. The real value of the video, I think, is just seeing how Blake plays, and hearing where he chooses to place drone notes, triplets, crosspick rolls, slides, and such. Also all the tunes are very fun to pick through...I believe there is an unintended lesson on song selection here, too.

I was thrilled to hear a version of "Campell's Farewell to Red Gap", probably my favorite song that I've never heard anyone play (until now).

There is a brief section where he displays samples from his self-titled "World's Worst Mandolin Collection".

I think first he starts out with a Lyon & Healy Style B (which he uses for most of the video), then moves to a Martin flattop, then a Gibson A-4, then says something like "Moving right on down the line in the world's worst mandolin collection, here's a Lloyd Loar Gibson F-5". I just about lost it.

I've read somewhere else that he doesn't care for snakeheads either. Well, its nice to see we all aren't Loar junkies.

Mar-10-2004, 4:33pm
there's an interview somewhere where he repeats that remark about Loar, i'd be interested in understanding the context of the remark, or what he means by it as it certainly leaves alot hanging. where did you find the vhs, how much was it? worth owning? thanks

John Flynn
Mar-10-2004, 4:56pm
I have it and I like it. Unfortunately, I lost the booklet that came with it, but the video is still useful. I liked the mandolin collection interlude. On the Loar remark, I got the impression he was saying that (I am not personally saying this, so don't flame me!) he believes Loars, and F-5s in general, are good for chop chords, but not much else. He obviously feels there are better choices for playing his music, especially his L&H.

One thing I thought was interesting is that he has the logo on the headstock on his L&H "blotted out" on the video and on the cover of the video case. I wonder why he did that?

Mike Buesseler
Mar-10-2004, 7:50pm
I've had that Blake video for several years (although I can't find it at the moment...). #

I took Norman's comment about the F-5 as tongue-in-cheek. # He sure was smiling when he showed that Loar. #

I've also got some Blake guitar videos. #He is VERY particular about what he plays for EXACTLY the sound he wants. #He never uses packaged sets of strings, for example. #He mixes his own. # No wonder his sound is so distinctive.

And I think that was the point of his collection joke. #He plays the instruments that give him his signature sound, same as Monroe did, I suppose. #It's an old-timey feeling, not a bluegrass sound. #

I thought that Lyon & #Healy had an actual full scroll, like a violin (only clunkier). #It looked to me like someone has sawed it flat, not covered any logo. # I'm not sure, but I don't think those models of L & Hs had logos.

I love Norman Blakes music. #He's my favorite American musician.

Mar-11-2004, 1:31am
I don't think the Style Bs had the full violin scrolls on the peghead. Those are the Style As. (Someone correct me if I'm wrong)

Mar-11-2004, 7:54am
I think your right about the Style A's having the violin scrolls. I wonder what kind of tuners they used. Blake's Style B sure sounds sweet on that video. He even gets juicy tone out of an old Martin. It was interesting to hear a good player run through all those quite different sounding mandos.

I too think the Loar thing was some well-natured humor.

John Flynn
Mar-11-2004, 8:17am
The Loar thing may have been good natured humor, but I think that it is interesting that he owns a Loar, but it is clearly not his favorite axe.

Mar-12-2004, 9:23am
Well I hope the mandolin video is better than the one I got for the guitar. It's good watching him play but there's that annoying bloke that you just want to punch, he just sits there and grins at him. It just seemed really awkward, there was barely any eye contact and you could just see Norman Blake cringing all the time.

Mar-12-2004, 9:33am
Don't know who the bloke is your talking about. The mando video is just Norman and Nancy.

Mar-12-2004, 9:46am
Happy Traum, the bloke's name is.

But if it's just Norman and Nancy then that sounds a lot better than having this presenter-type person I had on mine. I've got other instructional videos where they just talk on there own and they're so much better.

Mar-12-2004, 1:46pm

I think the award for the most awkward instructional video host/picker combination has to be John Hartford (RIP) and Bill Monroe (RIP). On that tape, you can just see Bill Monroes thought processes after some questions, like he's thinking "Man, I'd like to stomp thios guy into the mud."

At one point Hartford states he notices the BG Boys quieting down when he takes his mandolin breaks, and then the scene is quickly cut. I assume Bill didn't like that question too much!

Mar-16-2004, 11:13am
Below is a link to a kind of infamous Norman Blake interview where he has some interesting comments regarding Loar era Mandolins and Martin guitars. #Here is a taste:

What kinds of mandolins do you favor?

I have a 1929 [Gibson] F2 and a 1913 natural-top F4, double flowerpot. I also have a very rare 1910 two-point F4 with the wire and pearl peghead like the three points, which is also natural top and finish. And I have a '38 raised fingerboard F4, a Vega - not a cylinder-back - but like those, except it isn't cylinder-back or top with a sunburst finish, which is unusual.

Regular old-time lute-style mandolin, that's a Vega with pearl inlays around the top. Very nice mandolin. Then I have a '26 Martin Style B. Brazilian rosewood style B Martin, round-hole mandolin. And I have the rarest of the Martin mandolins. I have a Style E with all the pearl trim, like the Style 45 except it's double-bound. There's two borders of pearl on the top and around the hole, side to side. They made 62 of those. I have a '22 Gibson A2. I'm not very fond of snakeheads. I'm not fond of the Loar-era, round-hole mandolins. The necks are too narrow and their intonation is rotten. Many Gibson and Martin instruments have rotten intonation, always have had from day one. The Loar period at Gibson was their low point.

Here is the full interview:


Interesting reading!


Mar-16-2004, 12:05pm
I would venture to agree with Blake on the width of snakehead fretboards. Before I got an old pre-Loar A, I suppose every mandolin I've had was similar in width to a snakehead fretboard. After I got the A, that is just too narrow for me...small hands and all, I greatly prefer the wider fretboard. I feel like my knuckles are a little too scrunched on a narrow board. I guess its just an issue of personal comfort.

Mar-31-2004, 5:58pm
a couple other gems from the hartford/monroe video
H;Bill, I notice you don't play up the neck much M: don't need to
H: can you tell us the difference between (two common fiddle tunes) M: no i can't
pretty amusing
I'm happy to have this video, especially with it's "extra" footage, just wish it had been done in his M's prime....

Apr-01-2004, 9:04am
Also, when Hartford says something like "It doesn't look like you use your pinky?"

WSM definitely seemed a little defensive about that.

One funny section was when Hartford said something like "What if I was in your band and I came up with a break that didn't really sound like yours?"

To which Bill replied somehting like "Well, we wouldn't want you around."

I also love those videos, more for the stories Bill tells than anything else.

Apr-19-2004, 12:21am
I remember hearing a quote about him saying something to the effect that he didn't like playing Dreadnaughts because they sounded like stringing up the kitchen table.