2019-07 Tune of the Month -- Flop-Eared Mule

  1. HonketyHank
    I will be travelling June 28 until July 3, so I am posting this a few days early. This does NOT mean that St. Anne's Reel is over and done with. I know there are some more versions being polished up, so get them in. I do find it daunting to make a recording every month (or most months anyway), but I am finding it easier to overcome the stage fright and butterflies in the stomach. Well, maybe not overcome, but at least I can get something recorded after fewer tries than I used to require.

    The Tune of the Month for July 2019 is Flop-Eared Mule. The Song A Week thread for this tune is here: https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/g...cussionid=1234 .

    This tune has about a million different titles and for each title there is a different theory about its origins. Fiddlers' Companion appears to put a bit more weight on the theory that it is a Schottisch or Polka, thus most likely continental European. It is a fun tune and the real contest among FEM enthusiasts seems to be how to make his or her particular instrument sound like a mule braying. Discordant sounds abound in the various recordings. (Bev says that's easy for me because I ALWAYS make sounds like that. Hmmm. Even without an instrument in my hands. Hmmmm and double hmmmmm.)

    Here is Baron Collins-Hill playing his version of the tune.


    Baron has a great lesson on the tune as he played it the first time through, here: https://www.mandolessons.com/lessons...op-eared-mule/

    And here are five different versions I found in ABC format rangeing from easy to intricate:

    X: 1
    T:Flop Eared Mule chromatic
    a2^g2 =g2|fgfe dedB|ABAG FED^D|E^DEG F=DEF|DEFG ABde|
    fgfe dedB|ABAG FED^D|E^DEG F=DEF|D2AB cde=f|
    f=f^ff dcdd|ABAG FED^D|E^DEG F=DEF|DEFG A2d2|
    [a2f2][g2e2] [f2d2]e2|ABAG FED2|E2EG F2E2|D2d2 c2d2|
    |:ecAc ecAc|efed cBA^A|BABd cABG|ABcd e2cd|
    eAAA fAAA|efed cBAc|BABd cABG|1 A2AA A2cd:|2 A2AA A4|

    X: 2
    T:Flop Eared Mule Intricate
    de|:f2e2 d2B2|ABAG FED2|A,B,CD EDCE|DEFG A2de|
    fafe dedB|ABAG FED2|A,B,CD EDCE|1 DFE/F/E D2de:|2 DFE/F/E D2cd |
    |:[e2e2][e2c2] [e2e2][e2c2]|efed cBA2|EF^GA BAGB|ABcd e2cd|
    [e2e2][e2c2] [e2e2][e2c2]|efed cBA2|EF^GA BAGB|1 AcB/c/B A2cd:|2 AcB/c/B A4|
    [af][af][af][af] [fd][fd][fd][fd]|
    [dA][dA][dA][dA] [A2F2][AF][AD]|ABcd ecAc|def=g a4|[dA][dA][dA][dA] [dF]
    [AF][AF][AF][AF] [FD][FD][FD][FD]|A,B,CD EDCE|DFE/F/E D2f=g|afdA fdAF|
    dAFD A2A=c|caec BAE=F|Fd=F^F d2=f^f|afdf edBA|
    =F^FAF EDB,^A,|A,B,CD EDCE|DFE/F/E D4|[c'a][c'a][c'a][eA] [ee][ee][ee][ee]|
    [ec][ec][ec][ec] [eAA][AA][AA][AA]|EFGA BAGF|ECEF GAB=c|cecB AGA=c|
    caec BAF=F|EFGA BAGB|A2[AA][AA] [A2A2]Af|d/f/dAd' a/d'/afe|
    d/e/dAF DEFD|A,B,CD E=F^FA|B=c^cf ecBc|dBAd B/d/BAF|
    E/F/EDB, A,4|A,B,CD EDCE|DFE/F/E D4|

    X: 3
    T:Flop Eared Mule in G
    GA|:"G"[Bg][Bg][Bg][Bg] [GB][GB][GB][GB]|DEDC B,A, G,2|"D"A,DCD B,DA,D|"G"G,A,B,C DEFG|!
    "G"[Bg][Bg][Bg][Bg] [GB][GB][GB][GB]|DEDC B,A, G,2|"D"A,DCD B,DA,D|[1"G"
    [D2G,2][DG,][DG,][D2G,2] GA:|[2"G"[D2G,2][DG,][DG,][D2G,2]FG||!
    D2|"A"EAGA FAEA|[1"D"D2 DD D2 FG:|[2"D"D2 DD D2 z2|]

    X: 4
    T:Flop Eared Mule Easy
    S:Long forgotten
    Z:Nigel Gatherer
    de | f2 f2 d2 d2 | ABAG FE D2 | E2 G2 F2 E2 | DEFG A2 de |
    f2 f2 d2 d2 | ABAG FE D2 | E2 G2 F2 E2 | D4 D2 ||
    cd | e2 c2 e2 c2 | efed cB A2 | B2 d2 c2 B2 | ABcd e2 cd |
    e2 c2 e2 c2 | efed cB A2 | B2 d2 c2 B2 | A4 A2 |]

    X: 5
    T:Flop-Eared Mule (from fiddlers' companion at ibiblio.org)
    Z:Transcribed by Bruce Osborne
    A2|^e2f2 c2d2|ABAF D2F2|EDEF GECE|DEFG A4|
    ^e2f2 c2d2|ABAF D2F2|EDEF GABc|d2f2 d2:|
    cd|efec efec|efec A2c2|BABc dBGE|ABcd e2cd|
    efec efec|efec A2c2|BABc defg|[c2a2][c2a2] [c2a2]:|
  2. maudlin mandolin
    maudlin mandolin

    Here is the Fiddler's Companion version on mandola. The final double stop is a bit tricky.
  3. HonketyHank
    Wow. First video of the month, again! Good job handling the key change from the A part to the B part.

    I have a question and a tip:

    1. How do you tune your mandola? A previous post (maybe it was Wildwood Flower) indicated standard mandola tuning but when I tried to match up on my mandola with your video, my fingerings were three frets up the neck from where yours appeared to be (hard to tell exactly). For example on your last double stop, I matched your tones by playing a D-Bb which is a half tone sharp from the C-A diad, but your fingers look like you are playing a B-G (if tuned CGDA). Maybe my bad eyes are fooling me, though.

    2. A lot of your fretted notes sound slightly muted, like you might have the pad of your fingers on top of the fret instead of slightly behind. I am guessing you play electric guitar really well -- your left hand position and technique makes me guess that. With mandola (and even more so with a mandolin) it helps to use more of the tips of the fingers and with the fingers angled somewhat .
  4. bbcee
    Sounding really good, @Maudlin, I like the choice of notes, quite different than the Baron version. That mandola has a nice tone.
  5. maudlin mandolin
    maudlin mandolin
    Hank - the mandola is tuned CGDA. The last double stop was C# A but, if I am playing alone, I just tune the instrument to itself by ear so it could have been a semitone sharp. Incidentally I thought abc notation could only handle one note at a time but Bruce Osborne has found a way to transcribe double stops in it.
    If the notes sound muted this is probably a combination of a rubbish built in microphone on my computer and bad playing.
    I do play guitar and with the long scale and broad fretboard of the mandola the fretting technique is going to be somewhat similar. Not clear what you are suggesting though - fingers more of a right angle to the fretboard like guitar or diagonally like mandolin?

    bbcee thanks for the comment - to be honest I am not concentrating at all on tone at this stage I am just happy to bang out the tune.
  6. HonketyHank
    ah, ok, I can see the C#-A now. I was looking at the wrong fingers. That's a good stretch of the fingers to nail that one on a mandola.

    Re finger angles, that was mainly a questionable and quibbly detail aimed at maybe helping if the muting I was hearing was finger-related. But if mic related, it's all moot (sorta pun, sorry). Whatever is comfortable and gets results is great.

    I'm going back into my cave now. Gotta change out my hearing aid batteries. Maybe clean my eyeglasses, too.
  7. daveclt
    That's a good lesson by Baron, but it only covers the first 50 seconds of the video. I can play that part ok, but I'm lost after that. I know the second part is advanced, but I'd still like to at least understand what's going on. Anyone have any guidance?
  8. HonketyHank
    All of Baron's tune lessons, or at least all I have dug into, present a relatively basic version from which the student can build his or her own variations. After a few years of learning tunes from him and others, I am beginning to find ways to create embellishments that suit my own taste and capabilities. I think that is what Baron and Brad Laird and Banjo Ben, etc, all have in mind. In addition, learning all these tunes of the month hasn't really expanded my repertoire of tunes very much (because I don't keep practicing them and then I forget them), but they definitely have expanded my repertoire of "licks" I can use to create variations. And I bet Baron never plays those advanced variations the same way twice anyway so it would be difficult to lay down exactly how to play them.

    I think he does have a few lessons on the general subjects of building variations and various embellishments. Not sure about that.

    Some day I hope to be able to say "Oh yeah, Flop Eared Mule" and play a basic version and then rip through some variations more or less spur of the moment. Not there yet. Not by a long shot. It's nice to have a goal in sight though.
  9. bbcee
    @daveclt, I second what Hank says. After years of learning basic fiddle tune versions, quite a few from Baron, I naturally started wondering what I could do with them. For me, it came through taking online classes in which the instructor played a tune "same but different", various YouTubes, etc. that made me go, "Hm, that's cool!" Everyone comes to it differently, for me I was thrilled to be learning this new way of playing music after years in rock guitar, but I got to a point where I started getting restless.

    I do think the point is to get to a place where you know the framework of the tune, and you know what you can do with it based on the key & the melody. For me at least, that's still a far shore. I'm happy to have these tunes of the month to work over and slowly come up with some small variations, based on a mesh of various versions (and maybe some of my own ideas), that I can record & be reasonably happy with.

    FYI, Baron sells a nice package of each tune, with various tempos, backing tracks and full melodies, for a more-than-reasonable price (NFI). If you're stuck on this one, but find you like his approach, check it out. There's a bunch of others as well, who all approach the same song differently.

    HTH, thanks for letting me expound.
  10. Mark Gunter
    Mark Gunter
    You asked for guidance on how he does some of the embellishments, I’ll offer this much ...

    The first two notes of the A part are F# notes (2nd fret E string), the second two notes are D notes (5th fret A string). So when Baron plays those up the neck with sliding doublestops, he slides the ring finger up to an F# on the A string (9th fret) with the index sliding to 5th fret E string. Then he slides down to the D note with ring finger on 5th fret A string, index finger sliding down to the F# at 2nd fret of E string. I’ve been using that move a bit in practice too, because I like the sound of it.

    I can’t tell you what else he does, because I only watched his performance video once. You could learn more about the variations he tosses in by watching repeatedly, slowing down the video, and trying to mimic what you see and hear.

    The reason he doesn’t teach all that in the lesson video has been given already by our good buddies above. He’s teaching the tune itself, rather than variations and hot licks. But you can go the extra mile and study what he does and steal some of those licks if you want.
  11. Mark Gunter
    Mark Gunter
    Okay I just watched Baron’s performance again, and I was wrong about the slides. That’s not what he does, it’s just what I do.

    When Baron moves up the neck, the first double stop is the one I wrote, ring finger on F# and index on A, but then he just moves index finger up to catch the D note on 5th fret A string. My apology for sowing confusion.

    Most of what Baron is doing is playing a lot of chordal tones with the melody for a fuller sound. This will get easier as you expand your general knowledge of scale tones and chord tones and put it to practice.
  12. daveclt
    Thanks everyone. I had a feeling it wasn't a simple answer. But all of your posts are helpful. Mark, I think you're on the right track. He seems to be using a combination of slides, double stops and chords, all of which are probably second nature to him and very difficult for me. One thing this taught me is that I need to play all the quarter notes on the down strum.
  13. daveclt
    I think this is the lesson mentioned above about how to add variations (specifically with double stops). And the lesson is with the tune... Flopped Eared Mule! It's a great lesson and keeps things simple.

  14. HonketyHank
    Wow. Thanks for finding that. Too late for my this month's shot at FEM, but I'm going to steal at least some of it after I get my version up.

    Good stuff!
  15. bbcee
    Here's my submission ... it's three, three, three tunes in one! I seem to want to make everything into a medley.

    Doing three tunes was a challenge for sure, but I think I got them to flow together fairly well. Played on mandolin & mandola, with chop chords throughout. Don't look too closely at the playing, it's "lipsynched" (sort of) to the already-recorded track. I got some good ideas for "Johnny" from Mike on the Mandolin & Alex O'Brien's versions on YouTube - thanks guys.

  16. HonketyHank
    I just don't know how you keep coming up with two or three tunes on two or three instruments every month and doing them all well at that. I like the pace and the transitions were nice and smooth. Good back and forth between instruments.

    Lick-syncing, huh?. Hmmmm. Sounds a lot better than sink-licking. Don't worry, I won't tell.

    I'm still working on mine. I plan to post something tomorrow or next day even if I don't get all the wrinkles smoothed out in time.
  17. HonketyHank
    Flop Eared Mule was one of my 'go to' tunes when I played banjo back in the 1960's. I wasted a lot of time this month trying to come up with something that sounded like what I used to play. Finally I came to my senses. I mean why would I want to sound like a banjo? Why not sound like a mandolin? So I did a bunch of mix and match stuff from various versions and this how it ended up.

    As I did my research on mules, I discovered that what everybody (well at least me) thinks of as the sound a mule makes is really the sound of a donkey. Mules sound more like a horse than a donkey. So all that effort to make the sound of a mule braying is kinda dumb because donkeys bray, not mules. Oh well.

    I play it ABAB instead of AABB. For some reason I think it gets boring if played AABB.

  18. bbcee
    Right on and right on time, Henry! Sounds really good, I like the variations, and the mandolin sounds A+. Good steady tempo too.

    I have to sheepishly admit that I didn't get that there was a mule (or donkey) to imitate. Both you & Maudlin play that dissonant part in the A section that I totally went away from. Now mine sounds too melodic. I am awash in waves of shame.
  19. HonketyHank
    thanks, bbcee. no shame for not trying to imitate the sound that mules don't make. Choose an alternate title and everybody will say "that's a catchy little tune".

    re the mandolin: I bought that thing for my wife in 2015 when I was trying to resurrect my old banjo love. The banjo didn't work out and the mandolin never really 'took' with Bev. I knew nothing about buying a mandolin at the time and I lucked out on a pretty decent beginner instrument. Made in Japan, maybe in the 1960's. All mahogany, which probably helps mellow out the sound. It is slightly weak on the e string and a little jangly on the g string, but it is overall a good one to have when there a lots of kids running around and adults sipping various mood enhancers at the family reunion.
  20. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    Once again, bbcee and Hank, you two both nail it with the tune and the production values. I love all the variants of this tune.

    Here's mine. Once again, a day late and a dollar short, but that's my life. At least this time the phone didn't reverse the image.

  21. HonketyHank
    Not a day late. A day early if anybody is watching the calendar. And certainly not a dollar short.

    You're getting some good exercise for your pinkie finger. Did you notice that I cheated on that first phrase going up to the high B?

    Good job. I like your choice of variations, too.
  22. bbcee
    Glad you posted, Louise - you're sounding great, as does that Reno. Like the variations very much.
  23. Mark Gunter
    Mark Gunter
    Interesting renditions Hank & Louise! I hope to hear Bruce’s soon. For some reason it doesn’t play on my phone.
  24. Mark Gunter
    Mark Gunter
    My, what a wonderful multi-track medley, Bruce

    Beautifully played and produced, I love it.

    (Fired up the laptop this morning. I have no idea why it wouldn't play on my iphone.)
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