Week #334 Cabin in Caroline

  1. Marcelyn
    This week's winner is a great bluegrass song called Cabin in Caroline.

    Here’s an article where a musician describes his process for coming up with mandolin breaks in bluegrass songs—Cabin in Caroline in particular. He offers ideas in tab along with midi here…

    Here's more tab and midi from the Traditional Music Library's site...

    Here’s a version played by Bill Monroe and The Bluegrass Boys...

    Here's the song from Lester Flatt...
  2. Michael Pastucha
    Michael Pastucha
    Here's the Osborne Brothers doing Cabin in Caroline. Great mandolin break at about 1:44 by Bobby Osborne. This whole album is terrific... the Osborne Brothers do this version in the key of B.

    Flatt and Scruggs played it in G# (but tuned their instruments up a half step so it's actually played out of the G position but sounds like G#) and not to be out done Bill Monroe did it out of C. This is one of those songs that the singer chooses the key to play it in and the mandolin follows along...

  3. woodenfingers
    I can't believe I am the first to post for this week. Sorry no video, too many things to get done this week. Played in the key of D on guitar, mando, and fiddle.

  4. jonny250
    thats great Woodenfingers, well played and sung on all the parts!
  5. Michael Pastucha
    Michael Pastucha
    Everything works well together. Well played!
  6. Marcelyn
    Nice work on this arrangement, Bob. Thanks for the example.
  7. Michael Pastucha
    Michael Pastucha
    Here's a kind of exercise I use to practice the mandolin and learn a song. The song, Cabin in Caroline, has breaks over the progression of the verse but, what I've done here is to make up breaks over both the verse and chorus parts as if the song was an instrumental. It doesn't hurt anything in practice just as long as when you play it with the band you remember to play backup behind the singers. I also practice at a slow tempo and I'm aware of what the chords are at all times.

    The first "break" is played in a closed position (no open strings). This means you can take this break and move it around in order to play the song in any key. Sometimes I'll take a break like this and move it through several keys just to practice playing in "closed" positions.

  8. luurtie
    Wow Michael the thing you play on that "woody" Gibson is extremely helpful to me! Nice version Bob!
  9. woodenfingers
    Oh wow. That is so good. I'll be trying to copy that!!

    I find that if I don't 'sing the song' in my head I lose track of the chord progression and easily lose a half bar or more. What do you do to keep track of where you are? You have your own backing track but you still need to know when the chord will really change.

    Also, I find in jams that if I don't play a reasonable version of the melody that the guitarists lose track of the chord progression and then chaos reins.

    And, thanks everyone for your kind comments on my post.
  10. Michael Pastucha
    Michael Pastucha
    Woodenfingers: In answer to your question about how I keep track of where I am, I'll chord along with a recording until I've gotten the structure set in my mind if it's not a tune I already know and then I'll write it down as reference. As I work on the solo I'll sometimes actually hum the melody as I play my solo so that I'm sure that I've got it right. Another technique I use is to play the chords when ever possible as I play my solo (or at least double stops) so that I'm keeping track of where I am in the progression. As for my backup on this and many of my videos like this, I actually add the backup guitar after I've recorded the mandolin solo. That way I force myself to play as strong a break as I can and my "back up" has to follow the mandolin.

    At jams you really don't know how good your backup is going to be, or if they're even familiar with the song at all, so it's important that your mandolin solo guides them along. If you don't play the melody in your solo you'll have to have a really strong break that leads everyone around just the same. I know that when I'm playing guitar backup I have to sometimes hum the melody out loud to myself so that I won't get lost – especially if the lead break is a bit uncertain or rambling...

    Thanks luurtie!
  11. Marcelyn
    That's an awesome demonstration, Michael. Thanks so much!
  12. James Rankine
    James Rankine
    Superb Michael and such a clear view of your fingers there is so much to learn from this. I've had bluegrass mandolin lessons over here from a great young (as in young enough to be my son) mandolin player (Evan Davies from the Kentucky Cow Tippers) who introduced me to the closed position you start out in but as an open position Celtic player I didn't quite see the point. When you move down to the open position it all makes sense - using different voicings up and down the neck, double stops with closed or open strings - a world of possibilities never explored in celtic mandolin playing. A totally different beast. I'm going to spend some time digesting all of this - thanks for the free lesson
  13. John Kelly
    John Kelly
    Great instructional video, Michael. Your technique (both hands) is a real object lesson to us and I echo James's comments re our being open position players generally. I do use closed position on guitar and can play even up at the dusty end, and do improvise over scale patterns and chord shapes, but my generally Scottish repertoire on mandolin family has allowed me to rely too much on open positions. Note to self: I must practise more on mandolin!
  14. Michael Pastucha
    Michael Pastucha
    There's nothing wrong with playing in open positions. There are a bunch of fiddle tunes that I play in certain keys because it is traditionally done that way. However, a big part of a bluegrass band is the singing and it is common for the singers to find the best key to sing a song in. So the mandolin, fiddle and upright bass end up playing in the actual key whatever that might be. The guitar and banjo have it just a little easier in that they can use capos to get into the right key. On the mandolin it was just easier to figure out closed positions for certain keys (like B). After a while it just sort of dawns on you that you're using the same fingerings over and over and just moving them around to hit different keys. It's then that closed positions don't seem so difficult as when you first attempted them...
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