Week #159 ~ Kentucky Mandolin (Bill Monroe)

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  1. Barbara Shultz
    Barbara Shultz
    This week's winner, by a landslide, is Kentucky Mandolin, which was submitted as a Bill Monroe tune.

    Here is some notation & tab from Nigel Gatherer

    This seems to the ABC for the above:

    T:Kentucky Mandolin
    C:Bill Monroe
    S:Photocopy from a book - possibly Butch Baldissari?
    Z:Nigel Gatherer
    DGBd gfdc | B4 D4 | ^F4 G4 | [G6d6] D2 ||
    FGGG G2 Bc | c2 cd cB G2 | FGGG G2 GA |
    BABc d2 D2 | FGGG G2 Bc | c2 cd cB G2 |
    ^cddd d2 ^cd | B G2 [GG,] [G2G,2] [G2G,2] :|
    fggg g2 fg | g2 gb gf d2 | =effg fd c2 |
    agfa gf d2 | fggg g2 fg | g2 gb gf d2 |
    =effg fdBA | cBAF G4 :|]

    Here is another link to notation and Tab on Traditionalmusic.co.uk
  2. neil argonaut
    neil argonaut
    In general I think it's better to play something at a pace you can play it cleanly at, but for this one I couldn't resist the temptation to play it as fast as I possibly could second time, to the detriment of my accuracy, tone etc. Fun tune to play.
  3. OldSausage
    Doh! Now I've got to learn it. Bill makes it look quite a challenge, doesn't he.

    That was fast Neil, you are some kind of wunderkind!
  4. WayneLetang
    sounds nice... downloaded the music score... I shall work on it...
  5. Barbara Shultz
    Barbara Shultz
    Neil..... way to go!
  6. Michael Pastucha
    Michael Pastucha
    Excellent job Neil. As for learning how to play fast -- sometimes you've just got to go for it and see what happens! That's part of the challenge of bluegrass. Well done...
  7. Barbara Shultz
    Barbara Shultz
    Michael bumped up this tune, which he had submitted last year, as an 'other tune'.

    Here is a link to that discussion!
  8. jonny250
    Wow that Bill monroe version is seriously FAST!! I Love that banjo break very very clean.

    Neil, nice job again! i know i'm guilty of always playing faster than i can/should, but it is fun that way

    There's 3 versions of this one in the Butch Baldassari CD/book.
  9. jamann
    Here's another version of Kentucky Mandolin by Bill Monroe & Doc Watson ~ Live Duet Recordings 1963-1980 Off The Record Volume 2.

    I tried to download my copy (itunes) to soundcloud but was unable so I found a copy on You Tube.

    I have not learned this tune yet but have always loved this version from Bill and Doc. I really need to learn it and I'm going to have to work on it.

    Neil, Nice picking there. I like that version your playing!

    Michael, Your version with your old band (Prairie Sunset Band) is incredible and I really enjoyed it. I'd buy it if it was on a CD.


  10. Don Grieser
    Don Grieser
    I love that Monroe version at the top of the thread, especially the little sneers he gives while playing it. So abstract and slidey. Michael, your version in the other thread was stellar. Neil, you nailed it too.
  11. Marcelyn
    Neil, it sounds great to me at both speeds. The intro is perfect. How on earth do you learn songs so quickly?
    I've got to go check out the other thread with Michael's version. What a great song.
  12. neil argonaut
    neil argonaut
    Well this one I was vaguely familiar with, plus I started learning it before friday as it looked like it was going to win the poll (this has lead me in previous weeks to learn songs that get beaten at the end, but that just means I end up knowing another tune I wouldn't have learned otherwise), plus I've got nothing else better to do with my time
  13. jordandvm
    Well done Neil!

    I thought I'd throw my hat into the ring on this one as well. I too didn't know this tune, but you made it sound fun. My excuse is that I'm retired and have nothing better to do but play my mandolin, which is a Collings MF5-V I really like for Bluegrass tunes. I'm not up to your speed yet on this one, but getting faster as I develop my finger memory.

    I hope some of the other BG members post theirs as well!

  14. fatt-dad
    way to go Neil and Jim! I'm going to learn this too!


    p.s., nice-sounding mandolins too!
  15. jonny250
    Well done Jim! that sounded pretty quick to me. a fun tune
    Here is my attempt - first take, [still using the tab too]:
  16. OldSausage
    Good job on this guys. One of the odd things about this tune is that none of the tab seems to be that similar to what Bill Monroe plays, either on the standard version or the one he did with Doc Watson. I guess a lot of the tab out there is based on Butch Baldassari's version? I'm trying to figure out the Bill & Doc version at the moment, and I have the first run through tabbed out - although there are a number of subtle effects Bill is getting on there that I can't replicate.
  17. justkaron
    Jonny...gotta say I like that a lot.

    Like all of the renditions ....but, Jonny, I feel the humanity! Keep on pickin' man.
  18. neil argonaut
    neil argonaut
    OS, yeah that made me wonder too, the tab/music is quite different.
  19. Don Grieser
    Don Grieser
    OS, you're right about the tab/notation for the tune. I think everyone just copied what Butch wrote out in his book instead of actually writing out what Monroe played. The "number of subtle effects" are very hard to notate let alone play. I'm working off the live video in conjunction with the studio version. Very different from what I learned from Butch's book. Lots of implied notes? Very slow going in relearning the tune.
  20. fatt-dad
    www.mandozine.com has a tab file that's pretty good for the Monroe version. Just to play it as his tempo, eh?

    Johny that sounded great!

  21. OldSausage
    Well, f-d, that mandozine tab was one of the versions I had in mind, to my ears it seems very different from Bill's. Thanks for chipping in, Neil and Don. Yes, Don, there's a lot Bill only seems to half play, and yet it's all there somehow,especially in the version with Doc. He's a crafty old dude.
  22. laura809
    Nice work Neil, Jordan, and Jonny. Michael, the version you posted in the other thread was outstanding.
  23. jonny250
    well played Laura that sounded good - is that you backing up as well?
    Thanks for the encouraging comments on my effort - Karon I hope we will hear your version?
  24. jordandvm
    Way to go Jonny & Laura!! Nice renditions from you both!

  25. Michael Pastucha
    Michael Pastucha
    I've played this song for over thirty years. It's one of those tunes you keep going back to by listening to Mr. Monroe play it over and over and hoping a little bit of Bill's magic rubs off on you. The other version I posted was from 1992 and we were playing all the time back then. This new version contains some of the variations I've come up with since then and I tried to learn a banjo part too. It is always an adventure pickin' this tune. Congratulations to all those who have tried it – now you're hooked too!

  26. fatt-dad
    Michael, that was a great production and performance! Just perfect! I've spent all day with this tune in my ear. I think it's fully committed to my memory and about 70% beneath my fingers. I'm having some trouble separating this melody with another tune I know (well I play this other tune, but can't remember the name). For my current three-day effort, my video will be quite bare-bones. I am having fun learning this tune though!

  27. OldSausage
    Nice work Michael, that's a really enjoyable and highly listenable performance, I love it. Interesting how the banjo rhythm seems to capture the essence of Bill's phrasing too, maybe he was thinking of that sound.
  28. Marcelyn
    Woah! That's my favorite of yours yet, Michael. I love the variations and am so impressed with the banjo part.
  29. nanaimo
    Wow, too! Michael that was great! Beautiful sound.
  30. OldSausage
    Here's the tab I did for the version with Bill and Doc Watson. If you slow down the Bill and Doc version and play along, it comes pretty close, and Bill's variations are quite limited on that one so you can probably figure out what he's doing the other times through.


    I still haven't learned it properly yet, but I'll try to post a video once I do.
  31. Don Grieser
    Don Grieser
    Great transcription, OS! Thanks!! There's a lot of similar phrasing on the studio version. It sounds primal.
  32. OldSausage
    Thanks Don. Primal - yes, I like that
  33. fatt-dad
    Take one is loading. Once again too fast and a few clams. This was a fun tune to work on for sure!


  34. Rob Fowler
    Rob Fowler
    That was AWESOME fatt-dad!!! Not too fast and what clams were you talking about? Great! The Cohen sounds like it's really breaking in nicely, also.
  35. Michael Pastucha
    Michael Pastucha
    Very impressive effort fatt-dad, well done!
  36. OldSausage
    Yes, very nice job, f-d
  37. fatt-dad
    thanks guys. I think the music I was working from is more akin to Monroe's fiddle part. I may attempt a few Monroe quotes - all in good time. . .

  38. Rob Fowler
    Rob Fowler
    That ain't no part of nuthin.
  39. Francis J
    Francis J
    nice one f-d. Only thing missing is the hat!
  40. Don Grieser
    Don Grieser
    Fine playing, fattdad. I like the sound you're getting on the Cohen too. Michael, you know this tune inside and out. Great. I enjoyed everyone's playing on this fine Monroe tune.

    After a couple weeks of trying to figure out that youtube live Monroe version and listening to the studio Monroe version of this tune, here's what I came up with. It's 3/4 of the speed Monroe played it, but about as fast as I can get it at this point.

    Played on my Duff A5.

  41. Michael Pastucha
    Michael Pastucha
    Very nicely done with quite an authentic "Monroe" feel! It's the right stuff. (Great mandolin too!)
  42. justkaron
    Just watched Bill Monroe play this tune again. Whew!

    Props to ALL who are playing it here! Enjoying the way you all are gettin' it done!
  43. OldSausage
    Good job there Don, this really is a tough one to play at anything approaching Bill's speed. I just can't get it anywhere close and play it clean - I'm trying to build a technique that will let me do it, but I've been working on it for a couple of weeks and I'm nowhere near right now.
  44. Don Grieser
    Don Grieser
    Thanks Michael and OS. OS, let us know what that technique is. I can go faster but it starts falling apart. Monroe's not even working--guess that what you get when you play mandolin full time.
  45. Rob Fowler
    Rob Fowler
    Killa', Don! This is really a tough tune to play in Monroe's style.
  46. jamann
    Don, Very impressive, you definitely got that Monroe feeling going on there. I'm really enjoying your version and digging the mandolin too! Yes indeed!
    I've been struggling with this tune and it's going to take some time to get it down even at my slowed down pace. I never get tired of listening to this tune and it shows Bill's incredible talent. Such a great tune!
  47. OldSausage
    Well Don, I'm not sure it's even going to pay off, since currently I can only do it comfortably at just over 100bpm, where your Bill is more like 150. Now, I can play a tune like Rawhide at that speed, but it doesn't have any of the fiddly string-crossing this one has. When I listen to Bill's playing, I imagine I hear a pretty loose grip on the pick. The faster you pick, and the louder you play, the more tempting it is to grip the pick tighter, but when you do, you lose heaping shovelfuls of tone. So I'm just trying to keep the pick floppy enough in my fingers that it still sounds good. I'm also keeping the pick much flatter than I usually would, to help even up the upstrokes. Upstrokes are another thing I tend to lose as I go faster, but Bill doesn't.

    It takes a lot of time because I have to fight my natural inclinations, and as you speed up you still have to catch the strings just right to make them sing, like skimming a stone. I'll be sure and post a video if I ever make it work.

    As you point out, it was Bill's day job, so I'm not going to beat myself up if I can't do it like he does, but you never know where it will take you when you try something new.
  48. Don Grieser
    Don Grieser
    OS, you're right about the loose flopping pick. It's something I work on too, but it's tough to keep control at speed. It's well worth the effort. I know my grip isn't loose enough in my video, but I just decided I'd record it because it was driving me crazy just getting some of that version to muscle memory. I'm further back by the bridge than Monroe was too where I find it easier to play fast because there's less give to the strings back there. I do like the tone back there, but not everybody does. My guess is that back then, Monroe wasn't using picks as heavy as we are using today either which might make it easier to get that loose grip to speed. The pick never seems to leave the strings--by the time it snaps through on the downstroke it's already headed back up on the upstroke.

    Thanks Rob and jamann!
  49. Michael Pastucha
    Michael Pastucha
    Too much muscle tension kills this song every time! For myself I concentrate on getting a really loose wrist and just enough finger strength to keep the pick from flying out of my hand and across the room... ain't always easy to do however!
  50. fatt-dad
    Nice discussion on technique, 'cause that's my struggle too. I'm way too tight on my grip and end up with more note separation than I'd like. I love the flow of Bill's notes. Michael, I like your approach on the wrist and pick and "know" that to be where the body's burried. Not sure what to do about it though (other than keep plugging away).

    Don, Great rendition! I really like how you derived the tune, played it and got the Monroe vibe! (Nice sounding mandolin too!)

    Cheers to all! What a fun tune to work on together!

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