Week #121 ~ Big Sandy River (Bill Monroe)

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  1. Barbara Shultz
    Barbara Shultz
    This week's winner, by a landslide, is Big Sandy River, a Bill Monroe tune.

    Here is a link to some TAB for the tune (TEF file)

    And another...

    Here's a link to standard notation from BluegrassCollege.org

    I don't have mine with me, but this is supposedly in Brody's Fiddler's Fakebook.

    Hopefully, some of ya'll bluegrassers are already familiar with this one, and will post more!
  2. Martin Whitehead
    Martin Whitehead
    Here's a pretty clean, not-to-fast-to-follow version on YouTube by calloused finger.

  3. Marcelyn
    Is there a standard bluegrass kickoff that mandolin players use to start this song? And if so, can someone describe how to play it?
  4. jordandvm
    I always hate to be the first to post on these things, but know that there's plenty of room for improvment on subsequent posts. We play this tune almost weekly at our Bluegrass jam.....seems to be a favorite of our banjo player. As far as I know, there's no "kick-off" to this tune. Just the first triplet note run-up to start.
    I'm playing my Collings MF5-V mandolin....my favorite BG mando!

  5. GKWilson
    I believe that Calloused Finger is our own Charles Dumont playing his Krishot. Nice job too.
    You are the 'kick off' for this tune Jim. Also a nice job.
  6. Mike Romkey
    Mike Romkey
    This is a really cool tune. I hope people don't find too daunting. I'm going to work on my version awhile before posting.

    Some unsolicited advice: listen to Bill Monroe play this on the mandolin. I recommend the version on "Kenny Baker plays Bill Monroe," which features both artists. These notes are not played straight. There's a real groove to this tune, and you gotta know where to swing the notes to get the feeling.

    This transcript Barbara found is a good one. It's the fiddle version, you probably noticed. As a fiddler who NEVER pays attention to bow markings, they're important, I think, on getting this tune to sound right on the fiddle. The B section -- which really looks more like a B and a C section to me, really depends on cross-string bowing to get the flavor of the melody. I'm going to work up a fiddle version of this. When I work on it on the mandolin, I'm going to pay attention to what Monroe does in the last section of the tune to get the same effect.

    Monroe's mandolin version is wonderful but a lot different than what you'll get if you play the notes in this transcript straight. If anybody's interested I could upload the Baker & Monroe version and post a link.
  7. Don Grieser
    Don Grieser
    I've been listening to Monroe's playing (from Baker Plays Monroe) at half speed and slower to try to figure out what he's playing. As Mike pointed out, it's not what Kenny Baker played. I've about got the A part and it's on to the B.
  8. Rob Fowler
    Rob Fowler
    Really good advice to take to heart with learning this tune, Mike. Looking forward to learning this one.
  9. Marcelyn
    Mike, I'd be interested in hearing that version if you get a chance to posting the link. I've memorized the tune, but am hoping to add a little extra flavor.

    Jim, way to get the ball rolling. That really is a nice bluegrass mandolin.
  10. HddnKat
    Co-incidentally I just learned this at the jam at ArtzRibHouse last week - still don't have it very fast, but it's fun and easy to play. The second time through I tried speeding it up just to the breaking point - which sad to say isn't much faster than the first time through!!

  11. Michael Thompson
    Michael Thompson
    I used the version found here: http://www.bluegrassbooksonline.com/...%20ver%201.pdf

    The backing track was recorded by me earlier and then just played through my computer's speakers straight from GarageBand.

    It's not perfect, but I didn't want to spend forever on this one, so about 2 hours sight-reading plus three takes equals this result. *shrugs*

    Always room for improvement, I suppose.

  12. Manfred Hacker
    Manfred Hacker
    Good efforts so far, Jim, Cat and Michael
    Mike and Don, what do you think about the Todd Collins transcription? This is what I have and try to get a handle on.
  13. Mike Romkey
    Mike Romkey
    Whoops. See below. ... Is the Collins version the transcription I have somewhere to the fiddle for this entire album? That's pretty good. There's some fancy chording think Baker does his second time through that is on this one.
  14. Mike Romkey
    Mike Romkey
  15. Don Grieser
    Don Grieser
    Wow, Mike, you sound just like the record!

    Manfred, I don't have the Collins book. If you listen to Monroe's break in the clip above, he's reduced the fiddle melody in the classic Monroe way. It's not what you'd recognize as the fiddle melody, but it follows the outline of the melody. I'm still working on it.
  16. Barbara Shultz
    Barbara Shultz
    Mike.... I had to holler..... "YEE HAW" after that performance! Awesome!
  17. David Hansen
    David Hansen
    Damn Mike go easy on us mere mortals. I knew my version was slow but now it's like a dirge after listening to Mike's. Here's a non Bluegrass version of a really cool Bluegrass tune played on a non Bluegrass mandolin.

  18. Barbara Shultz
    Barbara Shultz
    David.... I just had to holler "Yee Haw"! after your's too! Really appealed to the non-Bluegrass in me!!! What notation did you play yours from?
  19. David Hansen
    David Hansen
    I used the one Michael Thompson listed above: http://www.bluegrassbooksonline.com/...%20ver%201.pdf

    but I added the triplet pickup from the other version.
  20. jamann
    Very nice efforts from everyone so far!

    Yah! Finally some bluegrass. I'm going to give this one a go and I'm liking Bill's 1963 version.

    Here's the 1963 recording of Bill Monroe ~ Big Sandy River on soundcloud for everyones listening pleasure.

    Bill Monroe ~ Big Sandy River - 1963
  21. Don Grieser
    Don Grieser
    jamann, that 63 version is definitely from Monroe's power playing days. Cool how they pass it off on the B part and interesting to hear how Monroe's approach changed by the time of the Baker Plays Monroe version that Mike posted. (I guess some of you didn't see the wink. Mike posted the version from the "Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe" CD.)

    Great playing David, Michael, and HddnKat.
  22. Marcelyn
    David, I thought that version was awesome. It really brought out the hornpipe feel to this tune.

    Thanks for posting the Monroe versions Mike and John. That helps a lot. It's embarrassing to admit I own 2 mandolins and not one Bill Monroe CD.
  23. HddnKat
    Listening to the 1963 version I can hear differences between what Bill played and the transcription I learned from - Now if I can get comfortable enough with the tune to start improvising some of that, I"ll know I've arrrived.
  24. jamann
    I can't believe what I'm reading. No Bill Monroe Cd's in your possession. Shame on you.

    I'm here to help!
    Here's a link to a five part series of Bill Monroe on Black Mountain Underground to get you started. There's some great stuff here. Lots of rare live recordings. This will keep you listening for hours and you'll be hooked. Then you'll want to go out and buy all the Bear Family box sets and everything else available by Bill Monroe.

  25. RalphM
    Hi! Newbie here. I like this forum! This is a great way to learn new songs and learn new arrangements. I also like the ABC notation, which is new to me. I have a couple of Irish jigs I'd like to try to conver to ABC files and maybe submit for potential Poll tunes. I'm attempting my first upload here so hope this works.
  26. Barbara Shultz
    Barbara Shultz
    Ralph, welcome to our group! That was a great first upload! Was that 'licker' behind you, a cat or a dog?
  27. Martin Whitehead
    Martin Whitehead
    Nice job Ralph. Is that a Morgan Monroe MMS-5 I spy?
  28. Marcelyn
    Very cleanly picked, Ralph. Glad you joined.

    Thanks for the link, John. I'm off to check it out and rectify the sad situation.

    Out of curiosity, I really like the variation on the melody on the 63 Monroe track where the fiddler goes down the scale in his A part. Before I spend a lot of time trying to figure out the double stops involved, I thought I'd see whether anyone already knew it and could share.
  29. RalphM
    Good eye, Martin! it is a MMS-5. Barbara, it's a cat. One of two that might make a cameo from time to time
  30. Martin Whitehead
    Martin Whitehead
    Thot so! I recognized the tailpiece and compared it to the MM website. I have a MM Phantom, equivalent to the MMS-4 I think, but they made it for only 18 months or so. Personally I think the MM's are an overlooked brand and an excellent value for their price.
  31. Barbara Shultz
    Barbara Shultz
    Ralph... you get 'extra points' for animals and children in the videos!
  32. Barbara Shultz
    Barbara Shultz
    Surprise! A video from me! A bluegrass tune, no less! But, I'm no bluegrasser, so I'm sure this can be considered another 'non-bluegrass' version! Played once through on my Collings MT2O mandolin.

  33. Don Grieser
    Don Grieser
    Barbara, that's really lovely, especially when you play the B part low. Wonderful tone.

    Ralph, welcome and fine playing.

    Here's what I think Monroe plays on the "Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe" clip that Mike posted. I play through it once slow so the Monroe nuts can see and hear it. Then I speed it up.

    The genius of Monroe's reduced melody version is that you can play it easily at bluegrass speeds. I prefer not to play tunes at crazy tempos, but sometimes you need to in bluegrass and Monroe's version lets you play this tune fast.

  34. Barbara Shultz
    Barbara Shultz
    Don... can you do ABC for that?
  35. OldSausage
    I like it - great work everyone
  36. Rob Fowler
    Rob Fowler
    Hey Sausage, didn't you do a thread for this tune at some point for the group? I seem to have a recollection of that? Great picking all and nice Monroe interpretation, Don!
  37. Don Grieser
    Don Grieser
    Thanks Rob and OS. Barbara, I don't know how to write ABC but I'll try to write it out in some way when I get home tonight.
  38. Marcelyn
    Thanks so much for the slow once through, Don. That's awesome. It's really amazing how it transforms when you play it faster.
  39. Don Grieser
    Don Grieser
    Marcelyn, thanks. The sped up version really shows Monroe's genius, IMHO. As Mike Compton would say, he insinuates a lot of notes, and you hear more notes than he actually plays.
  40. Michael Pastucha
    Michael Pastucha
    Great work Don. Have you noticed that every time when trying to transcribe a Bill Monroe mandolin solo, what you hear him playing almost seems to change depending upon what day of the week you are working on the tune? With most other mandolin players, you hear the notes and write them down. With Mr. Monroe you hear a "wall of sound" consisting of single notes, double stops, chords, slides, chops, drones, harmonic overtones, syncopated rhythms and 'those mysterious phantom notes you'd swear were there but ain't." All of this is fused into a mandolin tune. Always a challenge figuring out what he did. In fact, if he had been a painter, he'd of been an impressionist! And then there's that mandolin of his... wow! Can you tell he's a hero of mine or what!!!
  41. Don Grieser
    Don Grieser
    Thanks, Michael, and great post! You're absolutely right about trying to figure out Monroe's playing. It seems so simple at first. Pure genius, more like Van Gogh than the impressionists though--broad vivid strokes of musical color.
  42. jamann
    Ralph, Welcome and very nice first video.

    Barbara, Nice to see you taking on this bluegrass tune. Sounded wonderful and bluegrassy to me. Enjoyed it!

    Don, That was great! You make it look so easy. It pushed me to get my version posted. I did not post a slow and speeded up version because my speeded up version is slow already. It's as good as it gets with me.

    Here's my attempt at Bill Monroe's 1963 version of Big Sandy River. Definitely different from Don's version from "Baker Plays Monroe."
    Hope you enjoy! It was fun to learn.

  43. Don Grieser
    Don Grieser
    jamann, that's really cool. Excellent. Shows Monroe's use of the open strings no matter what key he was in. It sure grabs your attention. Thanks for working up the 63 version and posting it.
  44. Manfred Hacker
    Manfred Hacker
    Nice work, John.
    It will take me a while to get that far. I am trying the version in the Todd Collins book.
  45. Michael Pastucha
    Michael Pastucha
    I bought "Kenny Baker plays Bill Monroe" on vinyl when it first came out back in the late 70s. Love that album and love this tune. I tried to get some of Monroe's flavor in this version. It's almost up to speed. It's played on a Kentucky KM600 mandolin with back up from my Simon & Patrick guitar. I had to stand up for this one... just can't play bluegrass sitting down!

  46. Don Grieser
    Don Grieser
    Really fine playing, Michael. That up the neck version was especially good. Yes sir.

    I posted notation/tab for the Baker Plays Monroe version I played at www.dongrieser.net/files/BigSandyRiver.pdf for anyone interested. Can't seem to post it here.
  47. jamann
    Don, Manfred, Thanks for the kind words. It was a blast learning this great tune.

    Look forward to your version when you get it worked up Manfred.

    I've been listening to your version over and over Don and I'm going to have to learn it. Very inspiring! Thanks for the tab.

    Michael, As always you amaze me! You can tell that your really enjoying yourself when you play because you put so much into it. Always enjoy listening and watching your videos and this one was excellent. Thanks!
  48. Mike Romkey
    Mike Romkey
    Super versions, y'all. Don, you nailed it, as usual. Great sketch of how Monroe turns the rocking bow into an arpeggio. I'm still working on this.
  49. Marcelyn
    John, thanks so much for another deciphering of Monroe's playing. That sounds great and saves me a ton of time. That 63 version really appeals to me.

    Michael, that's incredible. It's got to be one of my all time favorites from your videos here.
  50. jamann
    Marcelyn, I'm glad you liked my take on Monroe. I have a lot to learn but I'm inspired here with the likes of Don, Michael, OS, Jill, Shaun, etc, etc, and you of course. I always enjoy your old timey feel you put into your tunes.
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