View Full Version : New question

Feb-20-2004, 2:34am

I have been playing for about 4 years. I have drilled alot on scales and such and never really learned a song. I am able for the most part to sit down with a song and play notes that sound good with the song.....

But when they ask me to solo I cant. I have a problem when a chord changes. I can play pretty fast, and I can play all over the neck, and when I play against someone playing lead then I sound good because when they make the chord changes I just match that sound up in my head. But when I try to do that I cant, any idea why not? Do I need to just sit down and try to learn a song?

thanks for any help

Feb-20-2004, 5:00am
Practice, practice, practice.

Feb-20-2004, 5:25am
I guess thats what I needed to hear,

I just need someone to confirm that this will work out with practice and is not going to be a stumbling block for the rest of my life......

Feb-20-2004, 5:47am
I am still working on the same problem. It is a matter of being able to play and see everything around you. It has to be second nature.
I seen Rhonda Vincent a few nights ago and she was playing and talking to the fiddle player at the same time. I can barely sit and play, lol.

Feb-20-2004, 7:21am
It's more than just practicing. And, to learn a tune isn't always done while playing an instrument. Often, in rote practice, what you're doing is teaching the muscles in your hands to follow a pattern (a good thing). The problem lies in what you're hearing.

Sing the pattern without the instrument. Sing a scale, sing an arpeggio, sing a pentatonic scale etc. Even if you don't sing very well, get out there and do it. You can practice this while driving a car, doing housework, riding a bicycle etc. Next, sing the pattern / tune and play along. Now, you're combing the kinesthetic aspect of your hands and fingers, moving to what you're hearing. This is part of what a skilled player; folk, B/G, Celtic or Jazz, does to get the idea across.

This will be a start for you to get to understanding what playing music is about, as opposed to "just" playing a mandolin or guitar ...

John Flynn
Feb-20-2004, 8:00am
I agree with Dolamon. Practice is great, but it can't teach you everything. Assuming you have practiced enough to have the basics, which it sounds like you have:

> If you want to learn tunes, learn tunes. Practicing scales won't teach you tunes.

> If you want to learn tunes so you will remember them, learn them by ear, not by sheet music or tab. There are other ear training benefits in doing this as well, which will help you with soloing.

> If you want to learn to play with other people, just start going to jams or ensemble classes and playing with other people. It may be uncomfortable at first. It gets easier. If there aren't jams or ensembles in your area, start hosting one.

> If you want to learn soloing, solo to recorded music and then at the jams. Again, it will not sound the way you want at first. Work on it until it does.

IMHO, practice should not be an end in itself. It should be about enabling all of the above. For instance, if I went to do a solo in a jam and thought that a tremlo would sound good in a certain place, but it didn't come out sounding the way I thought it should, I would be practicing tremlos the next week. If I just couldn't find the notes I wanted, I would be working on scales, arpeggios and ear training, etc.

BTW, the "building blocks" of soloing seem to be: Pentatonics, arpeggios and the melody. I think it is also helpful to learn some great solos verbatim, not to do them as your own solos, but to get a feel for how great soloists think.

Feb-20-2004, 9:46am
I would say that, if you want to play tunes, you first learn the tune so the notes are ingrained in your brain and practice at whatever speed is comfortable to the point that you don't make any mistakes and the tune sounds good, then you can slowly speed up to where you can play it at the required speed.
If difficulties occur when you are playing faster, slow down, eventually you will be able to play the tune withhout even thinking about it, or are so relaxed with the tune that when you are playing it, you have time to think where to place certain accents.
In a jam, when you get the nod to play lead, you lead until you finish your part and hand the lead to someone else , while you play #lead, the others follow, support and complement.
Most musicians are very understanding and will feel what your comfort level is and play with you at that level or speed.when you have finished your lead, back to backup: chop, very slight soft melody lines, or some nice soft tremelo here or there, always making sure to support the lead player , not to interfere.
Hope this helps

Feb-20-2004, 9:49am
Baloo, you have the "Key" to soloing & lead breaks already.....scales. #Just remember that if the song is in A & your playing within the A scale, there are no wrong notes, some are certainly better than others, but there are no wrong ones.

It's harder to play the melody than just "close to" the melody (for me anyway). It will all come easier with time & the mando really lends itself to "blue" notes. On your breaks, stay in key & make the melody "yours".......that's half the fun of it!

Really good advice by the other posters & my advice really applies more to a jam type enviroment where you have never heard the tune before.

Feb-20-2004, 10:15am
I'm a strong believer in this: Find a jam and attend it regularly.

Nothing will help you more. You'll be forced to play in keys you're not used to. You'll be offered spontaneous breaks. You'll encounter both while playing songs you've never heard or in styles you'd never play. Don't worry when you screw up - it's a jam. You'll go home and work on the things you don't know. You'll become a better player.

Playing alone at home or with recordings is no substitute. Practicing scales is great but it's not making music with others. It just enables you to do so. You're on the right track. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Feb-20-2004, 12:46pm
If you have played for 4 years and you are pretty good at using all parts of the neck then this won't be too hard, but you just have to be patient becasue it just takes a little time. I would suggest starting out with fiddle tunes. Learn the melody well and the chords that go along with it. You have to be able to hear the melody in your head while playing chords. This a big part of learning to solo. Once you learn the tune well, then its time for improvising. I would go back to your scales and arppegios. Arppegios are a pretty big deal when its time for soloing. I would start off playing quarter notes and eighth notes. Just puting in a little variation on the tune. Once you get the hang of it, speed it up and add in some triplets, 16th notes, graces notes, whatever sounds good. Remember to use the arpegios and try to stay with in the scale of the chord that your playing over. If you want to get more technical go right ahead. If so, I would start to put in those accedentals you always hear in #bluegrass(flat 3rds,5ths and 7ths). But do remember to try to resolve them. Example: slide or hammer-on from a flat 3,5,7 to a natural 3,5,7. When I am soloing I try to keep the melody but add my own variations on it. I would just pull out some records/cds and try to play along with it. I hope some of this helps.

Feb-20-2004, 2:11pm
I've found that learning lots of fiddle tunes on the mandolin, opens up a huge number of fingering options for you. I learn from tab, because if forces me to learn someone elses fingering for a tune.

If all you do is diddle around in a key, you don't learn any new and difficult fingerings. It helps incredibly when you need or want a note when trying to solo. I can't do it hardly at all yet, but with every new fiddle tune I learn I get a few more tricks to pull out of the bag when I need them.


Feb-20-2004, 2:22pm
I agree with Pete. Nothing has progressed my playing faster than learning fiddle tunes from the tabledit files at co-mando. Not necessarily because I'm learning new tunes, but more so because I'm being forced to learn new patterns and techniques in these songs that I wouldn't have figured out on my own. Its like adding words to your vocabulary...

Feb-20-2004, 3:50pm

You mentioned that you have trouble "when a chord changes".

Just because the chords change doesn't always mean you have to change the scale you are playing. In a standard BG song using G,C & D chords you can play the G major, or minor pentatonic scale over all of the chords in the song. You can also play the pentatonic scales that follow the chord changes. (G pentatonic, C pentatonic, D pentatonic) Since you can play either the major or minor pentatonic scale for each of the chords in the song you have a lot of possibilities.

Personally, I like to hear a bit of the melody and think that riffing on the pentatonic can sound boreing after a couple of tunes but it will get you through situations where you are playing a song you don't know.

Good luck.

Feb-20-2004, 3:55pm
Thank You 250sc, that's what I was trying to say above. Baloo has to walk before he can run & understanding that basic formula lets him do that.

Feb-21-2004, 9:11am
Dale, I knew that was what you were going for. It's good advice for those situations where you don't know the song.