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delsbrother
Nov-14-2009, 3:12am
OK, so this style of tenor playing has always fascinated me, but I've never been to one of these contests. And just listening to recordings it was hard for me to pick out what exactly the tenor was doing (as opposed to the six strings). Are they basically playing chop rhythm? Boom-chuck? Muting, or letting ring?

Ah, the wonders of YouTube!



I believe Maddie Denton is also a fiddle champion herself.

There are many others, such as:



Seeing it makes it much easier to understand!

Q1: Are all contests that... surreal?

Q2: I wonder, if you showed up at Weiser with Selmer guitars (6 and Tenor) would it go over well? :mandosmiley:

Darrell

sgarrity
Nov-14-2009, 2:04pm
Isn't three rhythm guitars for one fiddle a little overkill?? I've never been to one of these contests before. Is that standard practice?

Bernie Daniel
Nov-14-2009, 3:29pm
"Isn't three rhythm guitars for one fiddle a little overkill?? I've never been to one of these contests before. Is that standard practice? "

Shawn check to see if both those contests are in Texas (the second one obviously is) -- I think 3 guitar back up is common there -- but I'm with you it seems like overkill.

But maybe that is better that underkill? :)

As to the OP's question -- I don't think the tenor is doing anything different -- just making chords?

delsbrother
Nov-14-2009, 8:12pm
Yep, just chords.

allenhopkins
Nov-14-2009, 10:09pm
Tenor guitarist's playing a lot of closed-chord "sock" rhythm, very common in Western swing, less so in Appalachian old-time. Chords hit hard, then muted by relaxing the fingers; movement of barre chords well up the neck. Very little open-string "ring," if any. Since the three guitars kinda blend together, hard to hear if the "sock" chording is distinctive.

Easier to play "sock" rhythm on tenor, with the smaller neck and fewer strings. The sunglassed 6- string guitarist in the 1st video is doing a lot of "sock" as well.

delsbrother
Nov-15-2009, 6:14pm
My question has always been related to the "movement" in the chords. In my understanding of Texas Swing Fiddle Backup, the six strings are doing a lot of "walking" between major chord changes, and I always wondered whether the tenor was following them, going opposite to them, or just improvising.

Bernie Daniel
Nov-15-2009, 7:32pm
delsbrother: I always wondered whether the tenor was following them, going opposite to them, or just improvising.

How to do back up with a tenor is a great question --and not just for swing --
I'd really like to find some good information about doing backup with the tenor guitar -- as a person with mandolins, mandolas etc and a tenor banjo it makes sense that I learn how to provide back up with the tenor and forget about using the 6-string which is an entirely different animal from my other stringed insturments.

Mark Seale
Nov-16-2009, 5:45pm
"Isn't three rhythm guitars for one fiddle a little overkill?? I've never been to one of these contests before. Is that standard practice? "

Shawn check to see if both those contests are in Texas (the second one obviously is) -- I think 3 guitar back up is common there -- but I'm with you it seems like overkill.

But maybe that is better that underkill? :)

As to the OP's question -- I don't think the tenor is doing anything different -- just making chords?

Both of these videos are from Weiser. But the young lady in the second video is from Texas. The fiddler in the first video is from Tennessee. 3 guitars is a common backup configuration in Texas contests. One is allowed 3 guitars and a bass or piano.

The Tenor plays the same moving progression with the occasional walking bass line as the guitars.

delsbrother
Nov-21-2009, 7:51am
Hmmm. I see a lot more movement in the tenors' chords than the six strings' - and a lot higher up the neck. I know they're playing the same progression; it just doesn't look like they are necessarily all moving in any kind of orchestrated way.

catmandu2
Nov-21-2009, 4:39pm
My question has always been related to the "movement" in the chords. In my understanding of Texas Swing Fiddle Backup, the six strings are doing a lot of "walking" between major chord changes, and I always wondered whether the tenor was following them, going opposite to them, or just improvising.


Hmmm. I see a lot more movement in the tenors' chords than the six strings' - and a lot higher up the neck. I know they're playing the same progression; it just doesn't look like they are necessarily all moving in any kind of orchestrated way.

I think it would be helpful to define what you mean my "movement in the chords": considering a relative discussion in another recent thread where definitions were germane.

If you actually mean "within" the chord, we can discuss how 6-string guitar technique often permits much harmonic movement while holding various chord shapes. Generally, the greater number of strings and closer harmonic intervals of standard 6-string tuning permit greater lattitude in this regard. So, for example, while holding a "barre" with the first finger which often forms at least the root and possibly 3rd and 5th as well, the other fingers may execute melodic and harmonic fingering--which would appear to be physically "moving" less, while still executing harmonic movement.

If you mean "movement of the chords," then I would hazard to say that, with bluegrass, old-time, and other trad forms, the 6-string isn't playing a lot of inversions, extended harmonies, and chord melodies a la jazz guitar, etc., but mostly fundamental triads: maj, min, 7ths, open-string first position chords, and bass runs and fills. In my experience with 4-string guitar (which is mostly banjo :whistling:), the chordal work relies less on triads with roots in the lower octaves (a la 6-string trad styles), but rather provides harmonic embellishments by doing more voice-leading, rhythmic invention (a la jazz styles) and runs and fills in the higher ocatves.

So, different roles for two different types of instruments and styles of playing--not necessarily orchestrated, but coordinated to whatever degree intended and rehearsed, and constrained by the dictates of style and functional capacity of instrument.

Pete Martin
Nov-21-2009, 7:35pm
The video of Mia fiddlin features John Francis playing a plectrum guitar, at least in that tuning. John doesn't play in tenor tuning to my knowledge, but has played plectrum for many years. He has often played with us where he takes my tenor and tunes it to plectrum tuning. This may be what he is doing here.

I play fiddle, guitar and tenor guitar in this style. 6 string and tenor players play mostly major, minor, dominant seventh and diminished chords without a lot of extensions (9, 11, 13) or alterations (b5, #5, b9, #9). This fiddle style is an oldtime music, not Jazz, so the less involved chords seem to fit better.

The tenor usually seems to voice best played in the range between the fiddle and the guitar. When playing tenor with a good 6 string player, I rarely play chords with the root in the low note. Often, I try to "follow the melody" the player is playing (yes, here IS melody in Texas fiddlin).

Maybe we can get Joey McKenzie, to my ears the best player of this style anywhere, to chime in his opinions.

Pete Martin
Nov-21-2009, 7:43pm
Q2: I wonder, if you showed up at Weiser with Selmer guitars (6 and Tenor) would it go over well? :mandosmiley:

Darrell

If I was playing the fiddle, I wouldn't want to have the Selmer sound behind me. There is something about playing the fiddle where that loud instrument right under your chin really changes how you hear the chords. When I have played with Selmer type guitars, all I hear is the percussive part, but hear very little of the chord voicing.

Most good guitar players in this style are good fiddlers as well. They mostly use the 40s and 50s Gibson guitars, SJs and J45s are most common. These guitars are most easily heard by the fiddle player, making playing against them much easier. Martin dreadnaughts are rarely used, for the same reason.

Rob Gerety
Nov-22-2009, 10:05pm
If you mean "movement of the chords," then I would hazard to say that, with bluegrass, old-time, and other trad forms, the 6-string isn't playing a lot of inversions, extended harmonies, and chord melodies a la jazz guitar, etc., but mostly fundamental triads: maj, min, 7ths, open-string first position chords, and bass runs and fills.

My ear tells me that in these Texas fiddle contests the 6 strings are indeed playing a lot of 6th chords and 9th chords and diminished as well. But, it would be great to hear from Joey on the chords he tends to play.

Some more

catmandu2
Nov-23-2009, 12:48am
Yes, it is. And after looking at the clip in the OP, it appears the 6-string player is playing "swing" style as well: a style that I associate more with jazz guitar--employing voice leading and chord substitutions--than with bluegrass and "old-timey" trad styles. Good playing..

delsbrother
Nov-23-2009, 10:50pm
I guess my original question had more to do with how to play - for lack of a better term - ensemble rhythm, i.e. how was the tenor getting along with the other guitars.

I made the comment about Selmers because I've been in situations with multiple Gypsy guitars where everyone is playing "rhythm" a different way and often it's just a trainwreck.

Mike Herlihy
Nov-24-2009, 5:53pm
http://www.mandolincafe.com/petemartin.html

Here's a tutorial from Pete Martin, it's for mandolin backup. Wonder if it would work for tenor guitar

monroerules
Nov-24-2009, 7:24pm
The young lady playing tenor guitar is none other than Maddie Denton of Murfreesboro Tn. She is a brilliant musician in many respects. Everyone should check her out on YouTube. Maddie, her parents and I all studied under Jim Wood from Flat Creek, TN. BTW, Jim is one of the premier music instructors in the world - IMHO. His website is www.jimwoodmusic.net. I spent 13 years studying with Jim.
Now for the response to the rhythmic patterns of the tenor guitar. There are 3 basic patterns used in the contest style. Assume the music is based on a 2/4 time signature.
We fiddlers listen for the muted chord on the backbeat that gives the pushing, kicking feeling. Some refer to this as the chop or sock.

Basic rhythm played on 1/8 notes
1 + 2 + The tenor guitar is strummed on Beat 1, then strummed and quickly muted by lifting the fingers the backbeat (+). Both the strum and backbeats are played using a down stroke. The muted backbeat stroke should be played quickly with a lot of snap.

Sixteenth notes:
1E+A 2E+A This is a neat pattern in which the tenor is strummed and chorded on the 1/16 notes. Use alternating up down and upstrokes on all the divisional counts. Notice the backbeat (+) is again played on the down stroke. Be sure to mute the chord and get the snap on the backbeat.

Ragtime Style: This is a pattern preferred by the late John Hartford. You will hear it in most of his music.
1 + 2E+A On the one count play the beat (1) and backbeat (+) with down strokes and let the chord sustain. The (+) of the 1 count is not accented in the technique. On the 2 count play the 1/16 notes using the down/up stroke as above. Again, don't forget to accent the back beat on the 2 count (+) with plenty of snap!

The way I was taught to practice these right hand techniques was utilizing the metronome click as the back beat (+). Most musicians tend to use the metronome click as the beat. Practice the right hand technique without changing chords. When you are perfectly in time using the click as the back beat, you will not be able to hear the metronome click as you snap the muted chord. Any wavering in timing and you will be able to slightly hear the metronome click.

My experience in contests suggests that most accompanists improvise on chord changes and bass lines. Properly arranged there are many neat progressions that support each other harmonically using guitar and tenor guitar.

BTW, this technique works great on the Mandolin. Since the tenor guitar is tuned in fifths, the chords are made with the same shaped fingering.

Hope this helps,
Michael Smartt

delsbrother
Nov-25-2009, 4:49pm
There are 3 basic patterns used in the contest style.

Thanks for those, Michael. I guess my homework will be to keep combing YouTube and trying to hear those patterns. Is there a Hartford video (or recording) you know of that might be a good example of the "ragtime" pattern, for instance?


My experience in contests suggests that most accompanists improvise on chord changes and bass lines. Properly arranged there are many neat progressions that support each other harmonically using guitar and tenor guitar.

This was what my initial post was really getting at; I need to learn how to "properly arrange" what the tenor was doing to compliment/support what the six strings were doing.

I've been working through Gary Lee Moore's instructional material (available as a PDF download via the Yahoo Tenor Guitar Registry Group). I think what I'll do is try those patterns as I play along with the vids Rob posted above. That should be good practice, as there's no tenor already and the guitar (and bass) are doing a fair amount of "walking".

How would you play the "tenor part" in the Sally Goodin video, for example?

Darrell