View Full Version : Newbie Question on Playing Style

Oct-29-2004, 11:24am
Something that I've caught a bit of, but have heard opposing instructions on is when you're strumming, do you typically strum across all four courses? The bottom two or three?

I'm sure you'd do all four if the chord you were playing depending on the G string, but I'm looking for a generally accepted rule of thumb.


John Flynn
Oct-29-2004, 12:47pm
It really depends on the sound you are going for, but I have been taught and generally agree that it sounds better to go heavy on the G and D strings and light on the A and E strings. A mandolin on rhythm can sound shrill will all four courses are continually strummed equally. Options include only strumming the lower two or three courses on most strums and then occasionally hitting all four, or always hitting all four, but with a substantial emphasis on the lower two, tapering off to a "glancing blow" on the trebles. I advise experimenting with it. Part of the decision involves what other instruments are involved. If you are playing with a full group that has bass and midrange covered strongly and no other treble instrument, the sound may stand up to full strums, whereas playing solo or just with light guitar backup it may not.

Oct-29-2004, 3:43pm
Most modal chords will allow for strumming across all four courses, if you want to play them. It's not just 'G' based chords that work that way. I'm thinking especially of GDAD tuning, though.

I mainly strum my bouzouki (see the 'om and mandolas' thread for a lengthier discussion of this topic). At first, I played all courses, all the time, and now I try to vary it according to the tune or rhythm I'm playing. Also, I find that when I use chords at different 'inversions' - like G and C at the 5th fret, and then sliding up to the D at the 7th, it sounds much better if I play on the 4th and 3rd courses, or at least emphasise them.

Generally, I find that a very light plectrum is best for strumming across all courses and a heavier one for selecting courses for emphasis. I'm also beginning to strum/pick more too, and this also works well on selected courses, rather than across the fret board.

At our last session in Adare (Bill Chalkes, Thursdays) I even managed to cross-pick the rhythm for a whole jig ('Out on the Ocean') - not a strummed string in sight for at least 5 minutes! This was symbolic for me, as that jig was the first tune I managed to strum to, as well!


Oct-30-2004, 3:02pm
I can only answer for my own playing (I play Irish traditional on a GDAD-tuned bouzouki), but I'd say I wouldn't strum across all the strings a huge amount of the time.

To be honest, I don't think that the bouzouki is that wonderful an instrument for all-out strumming all the time. To me, it sounds better used for counter melodies, cross-picked patterns, partial chords, melodic runs and so on, with the occasional bit of full-on strumming for variety.

But that's just my take on it...

Oct-31-2004, 12:35pm
Tim O'Brien gives good advices on playing counter melody and/or chords and/or accompaniment on a bouzouki in the DVD just released by Homespun Tapes. I ordered it and I have to say it's definitely a BIG help in finding what to do with that "mandolin before taxes" http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Oct-31-2004, 3:13pm
I started out strumming across all courses, but I've gradually moved to something more like cross-picking than not. It just sounds more interesting to me when I'm playing a lot of partial chords (i.e. playing a mixed subset of courses) in a row than if I were just doing all, all the time.

Dec-10-2004, 10:35am
I know it's an old thread, but I just found it and want to add my tuppenny bit. OMs really shine for picking a nice punchy countermelody, but they work well also for playing two or three note chords up the neck while hitting all four strings to take advantage of the open tuning aspect. With tunings in fifths, no matter what 2 strings you are playing on, the other two are droning in a commonly used key. Of course you knew that, but I think it's a major part of the OM sound.

Also, even in first position, four string chords that aren't all that much strummed sound GREAT if you pound the living snot out of them, that is, approach them in a more percussive manner.