Week #49 ~ Baltimore Johnny

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  1. Barbara Shultz
    Barbara Shultz
    This weeks' winner is a bluegrass tune, Baltimore Johnny. I'm not familiar with the tune. Some googling found this......

    If there is someone else who can find notation, tab, etc., please do! I'm outta here!
  2. mculliton123
  3. jamann
    Ok, I'll start this off. Here's a version I have from about a year ago that I recorded. Nowhere near up to speed as the video of Ronnie playing it but at least shows it can be played at a slower speed. The is my favorite instrumental from Ronnie McCoury that I hope everyone enjoys and submits their own attempts at it. It's really fun to play and learn.

  4. mculliton123
    jamann, you really nailed it, nice post!

  5. Martin Whitehead
    Martin Whitehead
    Alright, is it just me or do other people feel this way. The McCoury's verson was, of course, awesome. It's hard to understand how someone can have so much mobility, accuracy and rythm at the same time. However, to me it was so fast that it sounded just like any other bluegrass tune the MCCoury's or Skaggs or (name your poison) would do. And when they were all done I couldn't hum it to save my life. Jamann's version, on the other hand, has a clear and comprehensible melody. I could actually hear individual notes and hum portions when it was over. And I like that. I like the McCoury's too, but it frankly leaves me feeling a little frantic. Do I just not listen to the pro's often enough to appreciate them?
  6. Marcelyn
    Really impressive Jamann. That's a fun song. It looks like I'm going to be spending some quality time with my mandolin if I'm going to get it together in a week.
  7. mculliton123
    Martin, i agree whole-heartedly. I've never been a big fan of bluegrass of this nature, more the Allison Krause type of fan, like my BBQ, low and slow.
    Someone a while back posted, on a humor page, that the defination of a Bluegrass band was a group of musicians playing faster than any of their individual abilities.
    (or something close to that) at a certain bpm it becomes a blur to my ears, too. On these threads, when Jill or Don is cranking it up, you can still distinguish the notes, altho sometimes it's hard to seperate Jills triplets. but Ricky and the rest play just too fast for my taste.

  8. Martin Whitehead
    Martin Whitehead
    That's a good way to put it ~ a "blur." It's blurry! Yeah.
  9. Marcelyn
    It sounds like bluegrass has become the heavy metal of the acoustic world.
  10. mculliton123
    My personal 'test' as it were, for a tune or song is this "can I whistle and/or hum it?"
    look above, i can whisle jamann's version but certainly not del's. i also love classical music and the test holds for the melodies too, mozart, beethoven,vivaldi,bach= yes
    puccini/stravinski= no (at least the later puccini)... just MHO.

  11. Tom Tax
    Tom Tax
    Personally, I love to listen to good Bluegrass and would love to be able to play it competently. Therein lies the problem. It is difficult music to play well. I can attempt to play Old Time Country music on mandolin, 5 string banjo, or guitar, but to play a lead part on any of those instruments in a Bluegrass context is way beyond my ability, and I've been trying for a very long time. I think many of the top bluegrass instrumentalists play at a level equal to some of the best classical musicians. That clip of Chris Thile playing Bach posted yesterday on a different thread is illustrative of that. Alison Krauss' band can certainly play slow and tunefully, but they can tear it up with the best of the Bluegrass bands when they choose to. Of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I don't know many people who share my musical preferences, but I will always rise to defend Bluegrass
  12. mculliton123
    Tom, i certainly agree it is a difficult genre to master especially at Mach speeds. but don't get me wrong, i'm not putting BG down but i just prefer it better at a slower pace. I sometimes (and this is just MHO) that some of these guys are trying to show off. There was posted an interview w/ Ricky Skaggs I won't soon forget. he recounts about the first time he met Bill Monroe @ the age of 5 or 6. the hometown folks were asking Bill to "let little Ricky play". Bill stalled a while but finally relented and picked Ricky up onto the stage and let him play 1 tune. the folks went wild and ole Bill didn't look too happy with that. He turned to the band and the BlueGrass Boys launched into their fastest and best known number, Ricky said he did it just to show him up. Can these guys play fast? you betcha! but i still feel it takes something away from at least MY enjoyment of it.

  13. Martin Whitehead
    Martin Whitehead
    Well, we're comparing apples and oranges here. The pros' BG is in a completely different league than 99% of the BG that is played at jams and clubs across the country every day. If "tradition" is determined by sheer numbers of people and tunes played, then the just-us-plain-old-folk tradition is by far more representative of BG tradition. The fact is that for every time the McCoury's play Baltimore Johnny, it is played 1,000 times at the tempo that jamann played it for us. Which version is more "traditional?" It's kind of like show dogs. The fact is that for every champion show dog there are 10,000 of the breed that are just average. So is the show dog "typical" of its breed? Heck no! It's the optimum of its breed, just like the pro BGer's are the pinnicle of their genre. My preference is just for the run-of-the-mill, just-us-folk BG. I don't mind hearing the pros play; it's impressive, but that's not what I aspire to and I can only take so much of it in at a sitting. In the same way, I admire show dogs and watch them on the teley, but I don't think I'd want to own one.
  14. mculliton123
    Martin, good analogy. but i have to wonder why the BG pro's play it differently then other genre's. i never heard The Stones play 'start me up' faster than the average bar band, or Boston Classical Orch play Mozart Violin concerto #5 faster than the local high school orch. And, if it was a song instead of a tune, wouldn't you have to allow the vocalist a chance to annunciate the lyrics? she would be singing like the announcer at the end of a car commercial on the radio reading the disclaimer. just sayin'.
    But i think it's amazing how, like your first post, their co-ordination & speed is off the charts...how many hours would that take??? i really struggled to learn cluck old hen then hardly recoginzed the tune when i saw sierra hill's video.
  15. Rob Fowler
    Rob Fowler
    Hi all,
    I think instead of talking about the tune and making the blanket statement that bluegrass is too fast (except for Alison Kraus) maybe it might be better to put the nose to the grindstone and try to work on the tune. Remember, nobody here expects you to play it as fast as Ronnie McCoury (which I personally like but will probably never be able to attain that speed and precision). If you did then you would probably be touring around the country right now with a pro bluegrass band and wouldn't have time to post to the SAW group. I think a lot people here think that most bluegrass is just overlay fast and incomprehensible, leading most people on this forum to not post anything when a tune like this comes up, which is shame because bluegrass is a lot more than just fast tunes over 200 bpm. Can't play it fast? Who cares we're just here to have fun! Roanoake was the most recent example that I can think of where there were only like 2-3 videos posted and a comment was made about not being able to tell the difference between that and Wheel Hoss, or something like that. Just treat this tune like any other tune of the week here and you will be fine and don't put up the mind-blocking attitude that you have to play it fast to play it good. Many of the non-bluegrass tunes (which most are here...which is great!) on the SAW group can be and are played VERY FAST by many pros of different genres (i.e., ITM) but nobody complains about that. There's been other threads that I remember where Barbara played a tune that was traditionally faster and she played it quite a bit slower but it sounded really amazing and many commented that it reminded them that they don't always have to play a tune fast for it to sound good. Moral of the story: much of the music on this group can and is played fast and bluegrass doesn't need to be singled out as the only genre that does and that the players are show offs.

    I will admit that some of bluegrass is REALLY fast and therein lies the difficulty to the music but there's way more to bluegrass than really fast tunes like Baltimore Johnny, Roanoake, Wheel Hoss, etc. Bill Monroe used to say that a tune should only be so fast that you can still dance to it...Most of his instrumental and vocal tunes were written with that in mind and these really fast tunes are, I think, an exception to the rule but tend to get the most attention because they are so unbelievably fast and attract a lot of attention because of that.....like on this thread. And, many of Monroe's tunes you can hum comfortably. And he never sung, and nor do any other bluegrassy type singers, sing like the announcer at the end of a car commercial. That's just going a bit far.

    Disclaimer: I am a big bluegrass fan and am working on becoming a better bluegrass player but I also love many of the tunes that has been posted to the SAW group and really enjoy every different background/genre that each person here is coming from that contributes. I love ITM, oldtime, choro, jazz, classical-my-assical....basically whatever has a mandolin in it I will appreciate.

    Chris Thile once said that there's 2 types of music: good and bad. All the music that we have shared here on the SAW is, in my opinion, GOOD.

    I am one of the people who voted for this tune so hopefully I can come up with a respectable version!
  16. Marcelyn
    There's nothing wrong with showing off, in my opinion. That is, as long as you have something good to show. Whatever the genre, I like to see upper limits of possibility.
    The true test is whether it can be pulled off effortlessly. Sometimes, a song sounds fast, simply because the musician is working really hard to keep up with the tempo. Sometimes an incredibly fast song sounds almost playable to me until I try to play it at that pace and realize I was tricked by the musician's smooth technique and control. .
  17. Newtdude
    I confess I like the showing off, too, especially live. But even the Del McCoury band doesn't play every song at that tempo. Live and on their albums, most songs are slower than Baltimore Jonny. I suppose one element that makes this tune so great is that it sounds wonderful at a slower tempo -- I loved jamann's post!
  18. jamann
    Hey, No Grass Bashing Allowed!
    I have to agree with Rob. I love bluegrass music and I have never felt it to be too fast. Yes, there are fast instrumentals which do show off the players skills but they ARE INSTRUMENTALS! I'm always impressed with these instrumentals and it's what inspires me to improve. I'm a huge Monroe fan and to anyone questioning bluegrass, I'd recommend listening to Bill. Really take the time to listen. Not a greatest hits CD but listen to everything he recorded. All the Bear Family Box sets is a great start. I'm pretty sure after really listening to Bill, you'll have a greater appreciation for Bluegrass. I can't get enough!
    Forever Bluegrass!

  19. mculliton123
    I'm not bashing BG, just wondering why/how it got so fast. What if Yoyo Ma could play the Bach prelude in 30 seconds flat, would you really think that was cool?
    just sayin'
  20. Rob Fowler
    Rob Fowler
    Hey Mike,
    Sorry if I came off a bit edgy. I didn't get a whole lot of sleep last night and I think it's affecting my mood today! I should never post things when I lack sleep

    But, in reality, I don't think Yo Yo Ma would ever play the Bach Prelude in 30 seconds flat. That's just not feasible, nor tasteful, nor would it be acceptable in the classical genre. Apples and oranges comparing this to fast bluegrass tunes.

    Speedy picking has it's place in bluegrass and has had a place in it since Monroe started the genre in the 40's. It's just a part of it that is traditional and is expected. If people don't like it then that's ok because in this world we have endless possibilities for music choices, especially in the internet age. Stick with what you like.

    Maybe we should just not worry about why SOME bluegrass is so fast and just accept that it is.

    All the best
  21. Don Grieser
    Don Grieser
    Great playing, jamann. You've got the tune down. Where'd you learn it?

    Hey, I'm a Ronnie fan. I think when you play 200+ bluegrass shows a year for many many years, speed doesn't really cross your mind. Ronnie could play this faster. This tune's been around for quite a while, so McCoury fans know it. Speed might be one way they keep it fresh for their fans--a lot of them are pickers and have learned this great mando tune. Like others have said, the McCourys play at a lot of different tempos. This tune might have followed a slow one. They know how to pace a show and they always play with heart & soul no matter what tempo they're playing IMHO. Not all bg bands have that.

    This is a great Gm tune and will teach you a lot about how fun it is to play in Gm. It also has some phrases that pay tribute to Monroe and Wakefield. It's written in a way that makes it playable at fast tempos.

    Bach wrote some crazy fast tunes too that can only played at speed by virtuoso violin players. There's a time and place for speed just like there's a time and place for playing pretty. Ronnie knows how to do that too.
  22. jamann
    Don, thanks I learned this tune from the version on Mandozine. I agree Gm is fun key to play. Ronnie McCoury is an amazing player and his dad is one of the all time greatest. How can you not enjoy this tune!
  23. Martin Whitehead
    Martin Whitehead
    Hey, great points everybody. An educational and interesting discussion. I look forward to hearing everyone's version of Baltimore Johnny!
  24. Solas
    Here's where I'm at after a couple of hours.

  25. mculliton123
    Solas,another great version!!

    Folks, i was never bashing BG, and i think their virtuosity is unmatched. Maybe it's my old ears but i really lose the tune at 200+ bpm and it IS a blur, at least to me. I like Robs quote " Bill Monroe used to say that a tune should only be so fast that you can still dance to it..." so i compared Del's to jamann and MAYBE MIchael Flatley could dance to Del's version but few others
    anyway i'm still working out this tune and hope to post soon but the weather here is awesome right now and i'm working on getting in my garden.

  26. Martin Whitehead
    Martin Whitehead
    Hey, that's sounding pretty good to me Solas!
  27. Manfred Hacker
    Manfred Hacker
    Very nice and clean picking, Solas and jamann.

    I was not raised with Bluegrass or fiddle tunes in the bottle so this tune, like many others, is new to me and it will take a while to get something posted.
  28. OldSausage
    You have to expect to commit some time and study to really appreciate bluegrass music. It only sounds like a blur because your ears haven't been edumacated. Very nice work indeed from Jamann and Solas!
  29. mculliton123
    OS is right, it will take a while as this whole scene is new to me too,not just the many genre's but the mandolin too, so i'll work my way up the path and give it some time.

  30. Marcelyn
    Solas, that is awesome. I'm extremely impressed. This song is a little intimidating to me even at "slow" tempo, but I'm persevering. I love all those double stops.
  31. Solas
    Thanks everyone!

    Cruise speed is, for me at least, more enjoyable in bluegrass (Blue Highway anyone?). Though, I can appreciate the fast stuff, too.
  32. Rob Fowler
    Rob Fowler
    Yeah, Solas! For only a couple of hours of practicing this tune that's really GOOD!

    I've been learning this tune for the past hour or so and it actually falls under the fingers pretty easily for me for some reason. I think really helps having all those open Ds and As, I think. Now I know what Don G. was talking about this tune being made to be played fast.

    Will post a version over the weekend hopefully!
  33. Solas
    Thanks Rob! I look forward to seeing yours!

    Here's another testament to BG musicians' virtuosity and versatility--not that we needed more convincing. It's so strange to hear a dobro play this type of music..

  34. mculliton123
    here is a Brazilian number that is pretty quick, too.

  35. CelticDude
    Interesting discussion of tempo re. bluegrass tunes. I have often heard similar complaints about Irish stuff - "Why are they/you/somebody playing it SO fast." That fact is, some of it, many reels for example, sounds really good fast, and should be played at least at 120bpm. Same with this tune; the Del McCoury version sounds great, IMHO, and yes it's faster than I'll ever be able to play, but so what. I'm not holding anyone to my limitations, and don't begrudge anyone's ability to play it this fast.

    Likewise, some Irish music needs to be somewhat slower. Jigs, for example, should be played a bit slower than reels (except for slides.) If I knew more about bluegrass I could probably name some tunes that should be slower. Come to think of it, Rattlesnake and EMD, both Grisman tunes posted here at SAW, are not played at killer speed, and still sound wonderful.

    Is there classical music played at warp 9? Flight of the Bumblebee comes to mind. Seems like all genres have their slow and fast and in-between tunes. Maybe the good players are the ones who know when to play what at appropriate speeds.

    Comin' down off the soapbox now...
  36. Rob Gerety
    Rob Gerety
    Gypsy Jazz can be played pretty fast. 120 for a Celtic reel is indeed a good clip but this BG stuff makes 120 look real slow.

    Whatever the genre, the super fast stuff like the McCrory clip leaves me cold. I have always been more attracted to slower and I think somewhat more emotional music. I've always loved slow blues for example. But I do enjoy uptempo stuff as well, not that fast though. I don't think my feeling on this is for lack of study or experience. I just don't care for it - no matter the genre. I end up with a headache after a couple of tunes.
  37. Sore Ears
    Sore Ears
    Like it or not like it, McCoury's version sure has energy. I like it. But I can't even hum that fast.
  38. Martin Whitehead
    Martin Whitehead
    The Three Ring Circle, to my ears, sounds more like Spanish classical than BG. And, IMHO, even though it was lightening speed it was more "listenable" and the McCoury's Baltimore Johnny. There is just something about 3ring that is different . . . can't put my finger on it, but it was definitely less "blurry" than BaltJohn.
  39. Martin Whitehead
    Martin Whitehead
    And that Brazilian number was a hoot!
  40. Tom Tax
    Tom Tax
    Maybe some of the blurriness you detect in the Youtube video is due to poor sound quality of the recording. The CD version is quite a bit clearer. You can hear it at http://new.music.yahoo.com/del-mccou...ohnny--1222786
  41. KeithMcIsaac
    Wow, I've missed a lot in the month or so since I checked in here. I don't see how I'll ever catch up. I'm loving this tune though and everybody's playing.
  42. Jill McAuley
    Jill McAuley
    Great versions everyone! I second what Dana said re: all genres having tunes that cover the spectrum of fast/inbetween/slow, and players who cover that spectrum as well - it's all good. In ITM it brings to mind tenor banjo players - my preference is for folk like Angelina Carberry, John Carty and Brian McGrath. Other people prefer the speed of the likes of Gerry O'Connor, or Brian Kelly. I appreciate the technique it takes to play at lightning fast speed, but for my own playing it's not something I'd aspire too. It's still pretty amazing to watch players who can break the land speed record though.
  43. OldSausage
    That's very nice David, the oval-hole sounds just fine on that bluegrass tune.
  44. mculliton123
    Well said, Jill. It is amazing to watch. In my mind they have crossed the line from being Musicians to world class Athletes. it's the only analogy i can think of.

  45. Martin Whitehead
    Martin Whitehead
    Tom, I think you may have a point there. That seemed cleaner, although still "furitive."
  46. Rob Fowler
    Rob Fowler
    H all,
    Here's my "need-to-still-work-on-it" version. Played on a borrowed Driftwood #11. Maybe I'll record another one when I get another chance......

  47. Marcelyn
    Wow Rob, if I get a "Need to work on it still" version like that I'll be thrilled. You were really moving and it had a fun, blusey swing to it.
  48. OldSausage
    I still like the sound of it, David. And it's great to see you back in action on that one Rob, excellent job. Me, I'm still working on it...
  49. jamann
    Rob, You made that Driftwood sound great. Nicely done! I enjoyed that.

    David, You did a great job on that. I'm impressed. I like the Newson.
  50. Don Grieser
    Don Grieser
    Rob, good attack--you put some whomp into it and it sounds really good. Great playing.

    David, I like your version on the oval. Those low notes really come out strong.
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