View Full Version : A need for simple versions of songs.

Jul-01-2004, 12:05pm
One thing I realized while at Kaufman's Acoustic camp last week was the need to know the melody of a song before you can play it. I don't mean - memorize the exact piece you are playing (such as any version of Fisher's Hornpipe we are recording), but knowing the bare/basic melody. I think I've always known that's the best, but I heard a lot of simple versions of songs like "Old Joe Clark" and "St. Anne's Reel" and they sounded so good. I looked at the St. Anne's Reel .TEF file and found that while it wasn't something that Sam Bush would struggle with, it was not the 'just the melody'. I would find it kind of hard,with a new tune, to pick out the bare melody from these tef files.

Am I making any sense? What do you all think?

Jul-01-2004, 3:46pm
I think you make perfectly sense. The tef files at co-mando are flashy versions with (usually)lots of ornamentations and if you don't know the tune it's hard to find out what's the basic melody. One exception is East Tennessee blues (and I think there are some other tunes too available in basic versions there), I found a very simple and basic version there.
I've usually learned like that, first learning the basic melody and then adding things to it later.
Is it St Anne's reel and Old Joe Clark you're interested in? I have some very good and basic versions of those, I have Old Joe in tef format, a very simple version that a friend created, and I think I can make a tab of St Anne quite easily.

Jul-01-2004, 4:07pm
Sometimes at co-mando you'll find the hard and the easy versions, though not all. My teacher gave me tab from an old Frets issue for Andy Statman's Flatbush Waltz. Man, a little tough around the second part. Got the simple version from co-mando, and you're right, it's a lot easier to "become" flashy if you have the basic melody.

I still haven't become flashy, just flashier than I was before. Flashy is really the wrong word, but you get my gist.

Michael H Geimer
Jul-02-2004, 8:31am
Even if someone were setting out with the goal of playing a slick, flashy version, that person could never succeed without a solid grasp of the basic melody. IMHO the key to making busy passages sound musical, is to make sure the core notes and phrases of the original melody still stand out against all the filler notes.

I was dissapointed to see a real pro player of great technical ability (guitarist for Jerry Douglas) who didn't see things my way. He spat out solos that were nothing but endless runs headed nowhere ... but thoroughly embellished, of course.

I've had good luck on this project so far using The Fiddler's Fakebook. But even learning tunes from there, I find myself dropping out notes that I feel are 'extra' or that aren't doing much to prop up the melody.

I think listening to each othgers submissions is one of the best ways that we can inform each other about what each tune can sound like. I use 'can sound like' rather than 'should sound like' for reasons I think we all get; liberal interpretations are a big part of the fun this project offers.

Sorry ... no helpfull TAB sources in this post.

- Benig

Tom C
Jul-02-2004, 8:44am
<span style='color:green'>Dix Bruce Backup Fiddle Trax is great for learning the basic melodies. I also like Butch Baldassari's 30 fiddle tunes.</span>

Jul-07-2004, 5:15pm
the dix stuff is wicked fast for beginners (the cd, that is)

John Flynn
Jul-07-2004, 7:39pm
Andy Statman's "Teach Yourself Bluegrass Mandolin" has both a "bare-bones" and an embellished version of each tune. It also has a CD with each tune played once through the first version and once through the second version, both with a backup band, and then played two times through with just the backup band and no mando, so you can play lead to backup. All of the tunes are "must know" standards, done at moderate speed. It is a very useful book.

Jul-07-2004, 9:30pm
This sounds very interesting. What tunes are there in the book?

Jonathan James
Jul-08-2004, 6:13am
The Roland White Bluegrass book/CD is really good for this in that he has a fairly basic version of each song and then slow/faster recordings on CD. Great feeling when you can chop or play along with the "adult" versions!

Tom C
Jul-08-2004, 7:24am
"the dix stuff is wicked fast for beginners (the cd, that is)"

<span style='color:green'>You are right in that the slow version is too slow and the fast is too fast for beginners. But a little software to slow it down solves all. Plus, you do not have to use the CD. I think they are just good versions of the tunes on there.</span>

Dave Hicks
Jul-08-2004, 7:26am
You might find useful a book by Ohmsen:

Back in print! Teaches 16 traditional tunes. Gives tools (theory, exercises, scales & licks) to use in improvising. Also covers rhythm techniques. Note/tab. For intermediate players. 84 pp. Comb bound.
(Description stolen from Elderly site)

He gives fairly straightforward versions of standard fiddle tunes, then discusses tactics for elaboration. (There's really not much on rhythm playing, just a page or so on chord subs.)

Jul-08-2004, 7:50am
Gosh, I been thinking the same thing lately. Some fiddle tunes I try to learn from notation are just wicked frustrating. I think for someone not talented at sight-reading, it's just a bear to learn someone else's ornamentations. I kinda think you gotta feel 'em, not read 'em.

I started learning Old Joe Clark and was not getting all that far with the written out versions. I started with John McGanns' book (which I like). It has a simple melody first and then builds on it. I learned the A part quickly, it was easy, but the basic melody to the B part had a lot of syncopation which kinda a thru me when try to play from notation. I found the easiest B part not easy enough to play all the way through. I wanted something even simpler to start. I guess the thing is, as a casual musician, I want to be able to play some version of the song all the way through at a speed that isn't pathetic. Once I get it, I can add to it. I tried some .tefs but none had just a simple melody.

For OJC, what I did was write out an ultra simple version myself. I learned that. Now I'm adding add some embellishing here and there, some I make up and some from some of the measures in McGann's book. I do like reading to learn some knew tricks.


PS Here's a link to my ultra-simple Old Joe Clark. I have to say that I stole much of the melody from another version I found online but I made a some changes to get they way I wanted it and it scored it so it's good for practicing along with...


Jul-08-2004, 10:22am
The first songs I learned to play were from Mel Bays "Beginning Mandolin Solos. It included a version of Old Joe Clark which is very close to what you wrote. Yours is a little more embellished (better) on the second half. I still play that version of OJC and also the simplified Cripple Creek now and then with some double stops thrown in. It is a good introductory book for beginners for solos as it has real easy versions in a variety of genres in addition to bluegrass.


Jul-08-2004, 10:25am
Sometimes the easiest way to get the bare bones melody is to import midi's into tabedit and select the vocal track to convert o notation and tab.


Jul-08-2004, 12:01pm
Alan, call me at home. i'll try to find my 20 solos every parking lot picker should know. it has 3 versions of every tune, from simple to advanced. 20 great tunes. Don Batten 252 637 7596

Jul-13-2004, 6:26am
The tef files at co-mando are flashy versions with (usually)lots of ornamentations and if you don't know the tune it's hard to find out what's the basic melody. One exception is East Tennessee blues (and I think there are some other tunes too available in basic versions there), I found a very simple and basic version there.
Is there a really basic version of East tennesee Blues on mandozine?

Looks to me like the three versions there are all similiar and are endless streams of 1/8th notes. I'd think a basic melody would have lot's of 1/4 notes. Haven't tried to play it yet though. Sometimes it's hard to tell be looking how endless streams of 1/8th notes are going to play. Sometimes they give me tangle fingers and sometimes they're easy.


Jul-13-2004, 9:15am
Yeah, one of the versions I found of East Tennessee blues was quite basic, compared to any other version I've seen on tab. It's easy to grab and not as extremely ornamented as they can be.
But, you are completely right, it's full of 8th notes. 8th notes don't necessarily have to mean they are very difficult tunes. Most of the beginner tunes have lots of 8th notes, but mixed with 4th notes.
I think, though, that East Tennessee Blues is not at all a beginner tune. It has way too much ornamentation and fancy stuff for a real beginner to play.
Anyway, the version I play is the Perry version. If you start out slowly, it is ok, even if it's not the first tune you shuold start with.

Jul-18-2004, 3:11am
An excellent source for understanding the developement of tunes from basic to overdrive is John McGann's "Developing Melodic Variations on Fiddle Tunes" (http://www.johnmcgann.com/books.html). This particular book has about twenty different tunes - transcribed in five different versions. The CD has each version - so you can hear the development and learn how these tunes can be embellished.

John is a terrific player - from B/G to Celtic to Gypsy etc. and he knows how to teach.

Oops - there are ELEVEN different tunes in this collection - Scroll down the above link to get to the Mandolin description.

Jul-21-2004, 1:38pm
Steve Kaufmans parking lot series is just what you need. He does play just bare bones melody at first then fives and intermediate version and then advanced.

great book 6 cd course

Jul-24-2004, 5:16am
There is a great resource of "simple melodies" for 10 or so of the most popular fiddle tunes at theBluegrass Guitar website (http://www.bluegrassguitar.com)

The tab is aimed at guitars (obviously) but each tune has a midi file of the melody stripped down to its simplest form, which is very useful indeed. Of course, if you can read music then you can play along on the mando.

I find this site very useful to hear the melody of a song and learn what it is meant to sound like before progressing onto some of the more complex versions that you'll find on the co-mando site.

Hope that helps someone!