View Full Version : Much more blues than bluegrass.

Aug-20-2004, 7:22am
A fair amount of people still don't recognize a mandolin. #If they do recognize it, they tend to expect me to play some bluegrass... # Now I like a little high quality BG - in small to moderate doses. #But overall, I am a Gospel and Blues man. #
# It feels good when I can win someone over and hear them say something on the order of , "That's cool. #I didn't know you could get so bluesy with a mandolin."
# # http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/cool.gif # Jack
PS: #I like these clickable smileys, but one with a bluesy hat would be neat. # http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Aug-20-2004, 7:39am

Dave Caulkins
Aug-20-2004, 10:11am

Yeah, I run into that all the time! When I sat in with a performer after work one night (I'm a chef at a restaurant that has live music), he actually kept choosing country-esque material. I don't think people realize that the mandolin is versatile, even my bandmates were surprised that I wanted to play mandolin on our blues tunes.

Hopefully, if enough mandophiles keep playing jazz/blues/rock/polka on the little powerhouses people will realize the nature of the instrument!


Bruce Evans
Aug-20-2004, 10:16am
Are you guys playing F style mandos? If so, maybe that is what is prompting the bluegrass expectations. If you saw a guy with a Gibson Flying V, you sure wouldn't expect to hear some cool jazz, would you?

I'm not saying it's right, but it might be a reason why.

Dave Caulkins
Aug-20-2004, 10:28am

Both my mandos are "A" style. I do play bluegrass, and I enjoy old country - I guess its the stereotype that gets to me sometimes. I could see where an "F" would be instantly associated with bluegrass.


Aug-20-2004, 1:23pm
When I took up mandolin I was not aware it was a viable blues instrument. but since investigating it as a blues instrument and some of the blues greats I am even more enthusiastic about it.

If one wants to get the best instrument the A is several hundred dollars less than the F style Gibson. That scroll is one mighty expensive strap hanger.

Just for fun I did a unscientific survey of traditional blues mandolinists and found that the A style certainly dominated. Maybe it was that the Gibson A was less expensive but still had the tone professionals were interested in.

selfish shellfish
Aug-20-2004, 1:49pm
I am surprised by the number of Led Zeppelin-related comments I continue to get regarding the mandolin, even from people far younger than I.

But it was a group (from Chicago, I believe) called "The Siegel Schwall Band that got me enthused in the first place in the late 60's, before I had even heard of Bill Monroe. Jim Schwall played a hook-heavy blues ditty called "Bring it with you when you come" that more than sold me. The tone was thin, the mando amplified... with Corky Siegel on vocals, backed by beefy bass and drums.
As far as the blues are concerned, I feel the mando is legit and then some!

Aug-20-2004, 3:05pm
The mando fitting right into the blues could be due to the fact that it is voiced in the same octave range as the harmonica and can play most everything that you hear comin' from someone playin' blues harp. Just as the harp is a popular blues instrument, so mando is becoming, IMWO.


Aug-21-2004, 9:06am
I was at an open mic night and my partner and I got up there and did a country/blues original and when the solo came I did my standard bluesy stab. I had a guy come up to me and say "I always thought that mandolin was a corny little thing that hicks played...but you sure don't play like a hick..."
YIKES...we have a long road to travel to enlighten the public...

Aug-23-2004, 8:19am

I felt the same way about the mandolin. I hated that high harmony super fast bluegrass stuff( I like some of it now).
Some of those players must be paid by the note.

Norman Blake gave me a real appreciation of how beautiful the mandolin is. I think he is the best mando player on the planet.

As a Blues and Ragtime guitarist, I find to tone of the mandolin perfect for Blues.

Most people I speak to still think the mando is for Italian dinner music. But I have come to love it.

Aug-23-2004, 1:56pm
duuuuude, you are right on with the harp comparison. i play both, and when people first see me reaching for the mando getting ready to play a blues tune, they look confused, until i play (then they are just horrified).

Aug-23-2004, 3:12pm
http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Good to have ya back, ira!

Aug-26-2004, 8:08am
Like Mark (above) I felt that Bluegrass was basiacally an exercise in manual dexterity - Somethng which people my age have less of than we once did. I have grown to like and respect it (bluegrass) but still prefer the great mandolin blues players.

When I began playing the mandolin I thought tremolo was just a silly technique... I soon learned though that it expands the vocabulary of the mandolin and nothing can quite replace the wailing of great blues tremelo. While the bluegrass player can dazzle us with technical gymnastics the great blues mandolin players draw us in with their simpler blues sound.

Aug-26-2004, 10:46am
bmac- quite true. playing anything other than bg often surprises the audience. i get this pretty much every time we play out. early comers to the bar see me take out my mando and are waiting for us to play some bg or ot type tune, and are quite surprised when the thrill is gone or just some funky improv blues in "a' comes out.

Aug-28-2004, 8:13pm
great surprise. went up to rockport, ma today. just to walk around beautiful if you've never been there). so i get down to the end of the point, and right near the water a live acoustic duo- a guitar and a mando, playin brown eyed girl, then labamba, wake up little suzie, etc... not blues, but not bg either. it was super.
(before you ask, he had a fender a/e 'a' style) what a great surprise.

Jonathan Reinhardt
Aug-28-2004, 10:04pm
Most people just love to hear something nicely done on mandolin. Blues is still a bit more comfortable for me than bluegrass - it flows a little more easily. My band has come to depend on that and I must say I milk it a bit, but always am learning how to push the boundaries and keep my/our learning curve happening. For example, tonite was hot and steamy and I was slipping and sliding all over the fingerboard. I settled for some slightly unconventional 1/2 tones at a slower pace (behind the beat and otherwise) and got more out of a scale than I ever have before. It was a shock to all - band members and audience, but it was way deep into the blues, and gave me something to think about in terms of phrasing in the future. (Always have loved how Skip James carved a different path.) Our guest steel pan player was awesome to call and response with, but I must admit that his pan was like more than several banjos in volume. Quite the blues instrument! Ah, the musical journey is amazing.


Sep-03-2004, 9:53pm
What I hate is I mainly play Irish trad and when peoplethink that is bluegrass it makes me want to beat the #### out of them. Sorry had to say that but people are suprised to hear Blues and Jazz out of mandolin.

Sep-16-2004, 10:44pm
Hey All,

Whoa! I have to comment. I hate to throw cold water - maybe I just don't get it (wouldn't be the first time - ask my wife!)- but...

Duuuude said "The mando fitting right into the blues could be due to the fact that it is voiced in the same octave range as the harmonica and can play most everything that you hear comin' from someone playin' blues harp. Just as the harp is a popular blues instrument, so mando is becoming, IMWO."

Ira replied "duuuuude, you are right on with the harp comparison..."

Little Walter, Big Walter, SonnyBoy I, SonnyBoy II, Sonny Terry, James Cotton, Jimmy Reed, Charlie Musselwhite and even artists as varied as Milteau, Deford Bailey, Brendan Power, Mike Stevens, Bonfiglio, Charlie McCoy and all the Harmonicats either fainted dead away or are rollin over in their graves...

I freely admit mando fits in the blues but lets be careful here! To imply - chuck the harp use a mando instead? I love mando in blues. I even love playin blues scales and little exercises on my mando but to tell me that you can - for example - actually get the feel and the soul of perhaps the most famous blues harp tune of all - Little Walter's Juke to come out on a mando?!? WoW! If you say I could actually do that then I could throw all seven of my SP20 harps in the trash, not bother ordering my first XB-40, and never work on another 3 hole draw double bend again. And to boot I'll never have to learn to overblow.

Seriously though - to me - virtually no instrument has more ability to express soul or what is in your heart more than the harmonica - happy or sad - blues or jazz - campfire or classical. I believe it's probably because with very few instruments do you have the ability to vary your attack and color your notes as much as with a harp.

A simple example: Amazing Grace - Harp versus Mando. IMO I have yet to hear a mando only version that begins to capture the essence of that song as well as a harp only. It might make for an interesting comparison.

I love both instruments but to replace one with another - sorry I don't get it - compliment each other? - you bet!.

As a sidelight it occurs to me that it might be real interesting to see who is faster John Popper or Chris Thile. Mmmm don't know about that one.

All of this JMO.

Take Care! -Ed-

Oh an Ira I horrify people with BOTH my mando playin and my harp playin!http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Sep-21-2004, 3:43pm
I agreed wholeheartedly EasyEd! The mando will never replace the harp in blues, I was just pointing out it's ability to mimic alot of harp licks since it's in the same range. After about a year of learnin' mando I picked up a harp to run through something I was workin' on and found that a major percentage of the licks I naturally used on mando actually came from my years playin' harp, and here I thought I was comin' up with all this creative new stuff! It'd be interesting to trade licks with soemone playin' cross-harp sometime, hhmmmm, gonna have to pursue that.

Sep-23-2004, 8:52am
easy there ed. not talking about throwing out the harp. it is my first instrument and i am far more proficient on it than on mando. i too believe in how expressive it is. noone talked about replacing one with the other. only that so many of the licks i play, tremolo, bending, etc... come from my harp playing, especially in blues. i think harp solo much more than i do mando solo, even when playing mando. the point was that the high range and expressive nature of the mando allow it to be used in a similar way in many blues tunes, and its surprising that it isn't used more. i am just begining to explore how amazing a mando is on blues for the last 2 years and i haven't even come close to touching it yet.
ps- btw-amazing grace tremolo on mando the hole way through with a tiny bit of picking or crosspick in between is about as soulful as you can get.:blues:

Sep-23-2004, 8:43pm
Hey All,

I apologise here. It musta hit me wrong. However I personally know of no instrument that is more expressive than harmonica. Fiddle comes close sometimes but with harmonica you have so much more control and freedom to express the music. Maybe I'm sensitive since so many people out there see the harp as just a toy - when it is not uncommon for harp players to know so much more about music and music theory than the average guitar jockey - why because they have to in order to "fit" in. How many guitar players can actually construct the circle of fifths and explain it's use?

The other thing I wanted to comment on was the concept of musical space. This was first pointed out to me on harp-l when a poster pointed out to me that harps, fiddles, mandolins and sometimes the singer's voice all occupy the same tonal range. The challenge here then becomes complimenting each other and not stepping on each other's toes. A real challenge sometimes I think. One song that I have shows this concept and how to compliment each other. In the song (a country song) a fiddle and harp take turns finishing each other's solos (breaks) and complimenting each other. Beautifully done IMO and I marvel every time I hear it. I suspect harp and mando might be able to do something similar. I look forward to perhaps trying.

Take Care! -Ed-