imitation of our heros

  1. JeffD
    There are many of us who consciously go about trying to play like one or more of our musical heroes. I personally think its kind of ridiculous, because of course we are never going to make it; the very best, the pinnacle of our efforts will be to be known as "almost like Marty Stuart" or whomever.

    It seems almost heretical to say I'd rather sound like me, even at a less accomplished level than to sound like anyone else.

    The danger, as I see it, is that mandolin is not as huge as many other instruments, so the number of heroes we have is small. So if we are all chasing a small handful of big talents, our playing is bound to coalesce into a sameness. A kick-ass sameness I will admit, but still, a conformity.
  2. JeffD
    As a bit of evidence of this, I offer a quote by Shaun Garrity, responding to a thread about an amazing mandolin playing youngster named Zeb Snyder:

    "He sounds like all the other guys that play really fast, clean, and technically perfect. So much modern mandolin playing just sounds the same to me. There's very little personality that comes through in the playing. The kid is obviously very musically talented and has no doubt practiced his tail off."
  3. Richard J
    Richard J
    Well, I have to say Levon Helms was and still is my hero. It is because of him that I play a mandolin.
  4. Michael Bridges
    Michael Bridges
    New mando player here, but 45+ yrs on bass and guitar.I think starting out trying to emulate whatever musical hero you choose isn't necessarily a bad thing. Gives you a reference point, and a target to shoot for. Let's face it, pretty much EVERY bluegrass picker started out trying to sound, play like Bill Monroe. The ones that stick out know to use this as a basis to build their own thing from. That's where evolution takes place,and newer things continue to grow from it.
  5. OldSausage
    I consciously go about trying to play like ALL of my mandolin heroes, just as they did themselves - that is, after all, how they acquired their ability to express their unique personality in their playing. They didn't have themselves as heroes, so I will never sound just like they do, because I have different influences, different goals, different strengths, a whole different brain, nowhere near as much time to practice, and so on. Just like Sam Bush, David Grisman, Mike Compton and all those guys sound almost nothing like Bill Monroe, but all spent years trying to copy his breaks. That's why I think this noncomformity agenda is misguided.

    I don't have much time for Shaun's quote, either: "fast, clean and technically perfect" is a great place to start. If someone sounds great I take my hat off to them. If they sound a bit iffy then I want to support them and help them get where they want to be. I think it's likely premature to be judgmental of where they are as artists - they are on a journey, like all of us, and who knows where they are headed? And if they do happen to want to sound just like recording XYZ, what's wrong with that? Isn't that where we all started, as fans? It doesn't determine where we end up, or where we meander on our trip.

    And one more thing: it is far more difficult to express your personality and creativity through your playing than the tenor of this thread seems to suggest. Because first you need to overcome your technical limitations. In fact, it is a real achievement to get anywhere near it, and most of us can only wish we had the time and space to get to the point where we could do it. Young players, especially, have clearly not yet had the time to reach such a goal, unless they started out extravagantly talented.
  6. Michael Bridges
    Michael Bridges
    My main problem right now (on mandolin), is I sound just like me! Now, Me is gonna improve, thru time and practice, to where "My" sound is where I want it. Just thru osmosis, it'll me a mix of what I've heard, and what I've added to it.
  7. JeffD
    Well I kind of started differently. Outside of any recorded mandolin music. That might make my view a little different. I started with the mandolin, and me, and playing pop tunes and commercials and classical and what ever was being played around me. I never set about trying to emulate any mandolin player.

    So as a result I see note for note emulation of some super star's breaks as a little odd. I can see being inspired sure, and even picking up techniques - like Sierra Hull's way of string skipping. But I don't learn anything I don't intend to play and I would feel weird playing someone else's break.

    I am much more inclined to emulate phrasing, (don't know why), and for that I turn to vocal phrasing, fiddle phrasing, and perhaps the phrasing common to a genre.

    You are correct that by emulating "all" your heroes, you don't get locked into sounding like any one in particular. Especially if you have diverse taste in mandolinners, so that all your work doesn't come from one corner of the mando-universe.

    No I have no interest in expressing myself, or my personality, in any deliberate way. I go for expressing what's in the tune I am playing. But I am sure a lot of me comes out when I do that, which is kind of fun to see, probably inevitable, just not a deliberate goal.
  8. JeffD
    All the above being said, isn't there a sameness creeping into mandolin playing. Not at the top levels of play certainly, but at various festivals I go to I hear lots of normal mandolinners. And they mostly all sound like they are mining the same vein. Some are better, some are worse, but everyone is chasing the same licks the same way. Even within a genre there could be more room for diversity I would think.
  9. JeffD
    To OS I agree it takes some experience and accomplishment to even be able to play at all, much less follow your own muse. But, thinking out loud, the range of tastes and playing so many expect from someone who is accomplished is so narrow as to almost define success as compliance.
  10. Michael Bridges
    Michael Bridges
    Your comment on "Mining the same vein" is spot on, I believe. I think that for so long, newer players coming in have been told "THIS is bluegrass" any deviation is frowned upon in some circles. That mind-set tends to herd newbies into a set direction. I'm excited at some of the fresher-sounding young talent I've heard that seem to be trying to veer off a bit, and imprint a different take, while still paying homage to the traditions.
  11. DataNick
    I think that young players(in musical experience) in general are learning to be musicians, and so the learning process lends itself to emulation that results in "mining the same vein". If you're already a musician, and already have experience in musical self expression, then mandolin is just another tool to facilitate that. I tend to grab snipets of licks/techniques that I hear and put them in my toolbox to use as I see fit. I'm very unconventional in my playing, and yet I can be very conventional as it suits me, if that makes any sense.
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