View Full Version : What Monroe is doing at 2 minutes and 30 seconds

Sep-30-2010, 7:05am
Did anyone see what Bill is doing at 2 minutes and 30 seconds?
It looks like he is getting a harmonic with a finger tap on one of the E strings.
They do a close-up on this. I guess I just never watched this video before.


Jim Moss

Scotti Adams
Sep-30-2010, 7:30am
Doesnt appear to be a harmonic......He takes his hand completely of the fingerboard....Just a little "flash for the cash"....'Look Ma...no hands"

Sep-30-2010, 7:33am
Boy, the bite and zing on that E string...

Sep-30-2010, 7:41am
I have pretty good speaker cabinets on my computer here, Cerwin-Vega, and I hear a harmonic. This begins at the same time Monroe hits the e strings, or string, with his finger before he moves his hand up the neck. If you can hear the sound then you can trace it to his hand movement.

Jim Moss

Sep-30-2010, 8:16am
I don't see him hitting a harmonic (12th fret for sure) anywhere and don't hear it either. YMMV, of course.....

Sep-30-2010, 8:27am
Well, what it looks like to me is that he is getting a faint split string sound. What I see is
his first finger hitting the e string then moving up the neck. Notice also the banjo player
smiling at the same time as all this is happening. Then he quickly gets serious.
The harmonic makes the cord sound very minor. However, you need to hear it first.

When I heard it, it reminded me of some old recordings of Dusty Miller at Bean Blossom
where he did something similar with a harmonic. Frank always said that Bill's string
had come out of the nut, but I never believed that. Monroe did that at a few shows.

Jim Moss

Sep-30-2010, 6:12pm
He is doing it on purpose. Do you remember my stories about sitting
in front of him on the bus when he would be teaching me tunes?
He would often do subtle things like this. I have referred to it as
broadband mandolin playing. He knows what he is doing with all the
harmonics and every string as well as the mixtures of tones.
He would get a little upset with me when I didn't pick up this
stuff and only try to get the big picture melody. I will never in my life forget
him looking at me from less than 2 feet away and saying those words that
will forever be burned into my brain, "Can't you hear that boy?"

Talk about feeling like a complete incompetent. That scared the hell out of me.
Here is one of your heroes asking you if you can even hear his music,
let alone learn it. You really start to sweat bullets and focus like you never have before.
If one has over looked these subtle elements in Monroe's mandolin playing
then there is a whole world of music that is left for them to discover in Bill's work.

I think when you play as long as Bill did with his exposure to gospel singing and
just the noises around him, you start to get a little bored with just the ordinary stuff.
I found that his playing was chuck full of these resonances that were what he
considered to be voicings, to be understood and played.
Well, by me at least... but.. I am a fiddler not a mandolin player.
I don't have 8 strings to get resonances from. Well, I never brought that up.
I didn't think I could have survived what would have come next.
I just tried like my life depended on it get these sounds.

No, the harmonic is there and he is doing it on purpose.
I think to impress Marty Stuart.

My friend Jeff who played guitar with Frank and the band,
who is also a mandolin player, said he could hear the harmonic
when he put on his headphones.

Jim Moss

Sep-30-2010, 6:59pm
It looks to me like he hits the E around the 15th fret the third time he moves his hand up. I have lousy speakers so I am not sure I am hearing anything.

But what's happening with the mandolin mic at around 3:50? Is that "loose boom syndrome" or did he drop it down there on purpose?

Sep-30-2010, 7:25pm
I was totally convinced that you were imagining things till about the tenth time I went over that segment. I think I'm hearing what you're talking about. If I'm right, it sounds like a 5th fret, 2nd string harmonic on the way to the open e string. Very quick and subtle. BEFORE he takes his hand away from the fingerboard.
Only works if the index finger has been lifted off the string before the ring finger taps the string. Don't know if he was doing it on purpose or not, but I would NEVER have heard that without prompting. Any other videos to show that he did this on any other occasion?
I think the close-up was for the "no hands" trick and just happened to catch the tap.

Sep-30-2010, 7:36pm
Boy, the bite and zing on that E string...
And the "A" string as well!

Jim Broyles
Sep-30-2010, 7:47pm
In my opinion, he could be hitting the 4th fret G string harmonic (B note) on the "and" of 4 and the 7th fret A string harmonic (E note) on the 1, to give it that 5-1 interval, just as he takes his hand of the neck. You can see that he definitely plays the 4th fret at that spot. The second note sounds like a G the second time around, so I don't know where that harmonic is unless he is using an open tuning of some kind.

Sep-30-2010, 8:14pm
I am listening to a pair of speaker cabinets that have 1 16" paper cone speaker with a high frequency tweeter above that which produce a clear high end. This is all in the same case. There are no 8" or 10" speakers to load the mid-range and mask the highs. I might suggest playing with the computer's EQ section to boost the highs and lows while dropping the mids just as a way to identify the sound. After you once identify it, I think you will hear it in your standard settings. Head phones worked for some. Monroe was a genius. We are still unpacking his music.

Jim Moss

Ivan Kelsall
Oct-01-2010, 5:20am
I wonder if it had something to do with the famous Monroe "Ghost Note" ?. This apparently occured a few times when the top "E" string caught under the end of a fret that was slight 'proud' of the fingerboard. Bill Could have been pulling the string out from under.
Incidentally that's the clip i learned the tune from. The sound of that Mandolin really kicks a**s. I could tell it from a million others. I've often wondered whether the tonal qualities of Bill's Mandolin had a lot to do with the wear & tear it had over the years ie. next to no top finish left (or any that you can see) & a great amount of wear of the wood. Whatever it was,it'll never be reproduced (IMHO) & i've got lots of recordings of other 'Loars' played by players such as John Reischman & Dave Grisman to name but two .Their Mandolins sound nothing like Bill's - for me, that's THE sound of Bluegrass,:cool:
Jim - "Monroe was a genius......" AMEN !

Oct-01-2010, 5:43am
that clip was shot long after that woman smashed the mandolin to pieces too.
I think the sound has a lot to do with Bill's attack... too.

Jim Moss

Oct-01-2010, 9:10am
Jim: I'll try & dig up headphones & listen to it close.....
And, yeah, I remember being face-to-face with Bill and him sticking the mandolin in my face forcing me to hear his tune!! "GET IT!!! It was threatening.....

The famous 'Ghost Notes' where the E string caught under the (probably) 15th fret were on the second break to 'Blue Grass Part 1'.... and I believe they were purely accidental, altho Monroe chose to keep that cut as the release for the album.

Oct-02-2010, 11:59am
I've seen that clip since it first aired on TNN and I don't see anything different from the times I saw him live do that song.
A good instrumental to play if you can find anyone today that knows it.

Oct-02-2010, 12:17pm
I don't see or hear any harmonics. I think he is just playing the E string unfretted, a bit of shownmanship. "Look Ma - no hands!" as Scotti mentioned before. It looks like a finger drifts near the strings the first time, but I don't see it make contact.

Jim Broyles
Oct-02-2010, 12:50pm
I don't see or hear any harmonics. I think he is just playing the E string unfretted, a bit of shownmanship. "Look Ma - no hands!" as Scotti mentioned before. It looks like a finger drifts near the strings the first time, but I don't see it make contact.

Nah, it's there. Keep listenin'!

Oct-02-2010, 12:53pm
I hear something faint, but it could be coming from the fiddle or another instrument, or could be a touch of feedback. As much as I believe Monroe was a true master of his instrument, I am not convinced there's more to this than that. I will grant that my speakers aren't all that great, but anyway, that's my take on this.

Oct-02-2010, 2:41pm
Probably is Mark O'conner playing around with Monroe throwing in a few ancient tones!

Oct-02-2010, 3:42pm
Its there. Once you hear it, you will notice it from then on. It is not the fiddle. It is like a ringing that creates this minor sound. You need to have good high freq separation in your sound system and speakers or it gets covered up. Live I am sure it was very apparent. Youtube is not a HIFI system so we have to struggle. That said, I heard it right off here with my speakers. I hear it every time. Heck, my girlfriend who is not a musician hears it. I must say, I was traumatized into watching for this kind of think by Bill himself early in my life. :-) Then there were all those years listening to WakeFrankfield. I am sure Grisman would hear it. Frank and David were going over a bunch of possible harmonics for the mandolin after recording Frank's part for the Tone Poems CD. Grisman would hear it in a heart beat.

I say keep looking. I am not the only one here who hears it.
I am not sure Monroe did this every time he played the tune. I am guessing that he is trying to impress Marty Stuart.

Jim Moss

Jim Broyles
Oct-02-2010, 5:33pm
There is definitely a harmonic G note - 5th fret, G string. I think I can see him doing it at 2:38 and 2:41. I have listened over and over and I thought I heard a high E, but now I think it's just the G.

Jim Broyles
Oct-02-2010, 5:33pm
I think he hits a harmonic B and a harmonic G (4th and 5th frets of the G string) all three times. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Jim Broyles
Oct-02-2010, 10:13pm
Or maybe the B is just a fretted A string at 2. I hear the B, but there isn't enough time to get to the open E if you go B-G. Maybe he just hits the G harmonic by itself.

Oct-02-2010, 11:39pm
Now we are movin'.
Things like this are what give Monroe's playing Depth. Kenny Baker's playing is the same way.

You know, it is up there frequency-wise. If dogs could only talk, I am sure that they can hear it. :-)

This is why mixing cuts for an album takes me so long. I mean 11 hours for each of 3 attempts from which I select one. It is things just like this that I want to come through. Most of the work is on how to prevent the masking of some tones by others. This is also why I hate cheap mixing boards where the EQ stages just turn everything to mud. In my defense, I have watched Rock or Pop music mixes go for 150 hours.

Jim Moss

Oct-03-2010, 4:58am
When i first saw the thread title i thought it was going to be Mr. Monroe's 'getting down' thing, were he squats real low while playing, i still am not sure what that is for beyond an interesting quirk... what is that for?

Changing the tone i suppose...

but after listening to that clip a few times i'd say that i can hear the harmonic thing, actually harmonic things, theres a few harmonic-type-pings throughout the tune, but that section of playing is peppered with wee pings, with two high ringing 'ping-ooos', or, if not, then my cheap end speakers are creating them.

Thats a really nifty, thanks for pointing it out

Oct-04-2010, 2:31am
Good to hear from you over there in France.
Is there much Monroe style Bluegrass in France?

Jim Moss

Oct-04-2010, 5:03am
Good to hear from you over there in France.
Is there much Monroe style Bluegrass in France?

Jim Moss

Truth be told, i'm not the best person to comment on that... i'm still getting used to the country in general :)

I do know of at least one fair sized Bluegrass festival, La Roche, hosted down south which can boast groups from all over Europe and the States, and i think there are others, maybe one in Normandy, and yet another in Burgundy, but i dont know of their scale or what Bluegrass styles are catered for.

Maybe some of the native players here at forum would have a better idea on that score for you