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Thread: Whatís the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

  1. #26
    Some Ability - No Talent MikeZito's Avatar
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    Default Re: Whatís the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    The hardest thing I can play in an A-minor scale . . .

    Yeah, I am a pretty pathetic mandolin player - but at least I have fun!
    I recently finished a new homemade 4-song EP of original solo acoustic songs; (sorry, no mandolin content this time). If you are interested in a FREE copy, feel free to send me your address via Private Message, and I will be glad to send you one. Trust me, it will be worth the price!


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  3. #27
    Registered User Bruce Clausen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Whatís the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy B View Post
    In 2011 I learned the mandolin accompaniment to the one aria in Mozartís opera Don Giovanni that features mandolin. I had to memorize it because I was on stage in the character of a street musician who is paid by Don G to help him woo a maid with song. I did two shows with an opera company in Albany.
    That does sound hard to do well. I played that bit on a run in Vancouver way back, but was fortunately sitting comfortably, reading the part in the pit while an actor on stage pretended to play on a prop mandolin. No acting, and no costume or make-up.

    Also used to play in a band that did Spain and Armando's Rumba. Fun tunes to solo on, but with some tricky bits in the head. Then there are tunes that are easy to play but really hard (for me) to solo over; I never got comfortable with Moment's Notice by Coltrane, let alone Giant Steps.

    The hardest tune I've played a lot on mandolin is probably Um a Zero by Pixinguinha. It's longish and relentless and moves pretty fast, and you really are supposed to get all the notes, unlike the situation with a lot of jazz tunes, where you can make your own version. (I did a quartet recording of it 10 or so years ago using my Mowry mandolin, and I see Andrew still has the clip up on his website, on the Listen page.)

    On guitar my toughest assigment was the opera The Lighthouse by Peter Maxwell Davis, 80 minutes of non-stop playing. Fiercely complex and difficult music, but very great.

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    Emando lover David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Whatís the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeZito View Post
    The hardest thing I can play in an A-minor scale . . .

    Yeah, I am a pretty pathetic mandolin player - but at least I have fun!
    The main point of any musical endeavour. To have fun

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  7. #29

    Default Re: Whatís the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    In all seriousness, itís all hard for me.
    Wouldn't know it by your playing, the videos you've posted sound pretty darn good.

    Of course we don't know how hard you may have had to work at making those tunes sound good, and how many hours of practice might have went into it.

    But I guess that's part of being a truly good musician, is the appearance of effortless ease where the musician can make everything look easy, even when it might have been a real challenge to learn.

    (Off-topic side note: I suppose the exception to that last paragraph would be how some prominent rock guitarists do, maybe I'm misinterpreting their actions but it seems like they intentionally *exaggerate* the difficulty, with gratuitous high-up-the-neck fretboard gymnastics as if they're trying to wow non-musician audiences who see it and think, "OMG that person must be a *really* good musician because look at how difficult that looks!" Gotta say that seeing flashy visuals just doesn't do anything for me, if anything it's kind of a turn-off because it just looks like grandstanding which makes me suspicious that maybe they're not as talented as people think they are, but obviously crowds seem to love it and I guess if a musician is trying to make money selling tickets that's one way to do it. And no it's not sour grapes or jealousy on my part, I *can* play that way (on electric guitar anyway, haven't tried it on mandolin) but most of the time I see no merit in doing so unless it improves the actual *sound*. But I digress.)


    Quote Originally Posted by mandocrucian View Post
    "Hardest" is a rather relative term. Is it the basic tune itself, or what a player does to/with it?

    Even the simplest and/or slowest of tunes can become difficult if/when the advanced finesse and articulation elements/techniques are incoprporated: slurring, bending, vibrato, harmonic chiming, across-the strings melodic crosspicking, ornamentation, working the entire neck, volume/tone dymanics, doublestops, split-string, playing a simultaneous harmony line(s), muting, adding in backup chords behind the lead line, etc. etc.

    ... Capturing the vocal nuances of a great vocalist can be just as difficult as playing any high-speed barn-burner, imo ...
    Agree totally.

    It's one thing to blast through a tune at warp speed and hit all the right notes. That's a phase that everyone has to go through. In my own playing, it took me a good long time (years) to even realize that there was more beyond just "playing the notes".

    But trying to take it to the next level, finally realizing that there's a whole 'nother aspect to it - the subtle expressive nuance stuff that truly brings the music to life - starts a whole new round of "How do they do that, I must learn how to do that!".

    And (IMO) that's a *good* thing, because without new stuff to learn, music wouldn't be any fun.

    It's good to always something on the horizon to aim for.

    I think that even for many pro musicians, there isn't a point at which they think they've "arrived" (done everything there is to do, nothing left to learn), rather it's just a constant pursuit of different levels of excellence.

    So the question of difficulty, is an interesting one because there are so many possible angles to it.

  8. #30
    Americana in France? Daniel Nestlerode's Avatar
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    Default Re: Whatís the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Quote Originally Posted by mandocrucian View Post

    (I would like to be able to replicate Etta James' phrasing/intonation/etc of "At Last" on the flute! Or maybe come close to Sandy Denny on some of her stuff. Capturing the vocal nuances of a great vocalist can be just as difficult as playing any high-speed barn-burner, imo)
    Niles, your postscript reminded me of Jeff Beck's instrumental work. He's inspired by south Asian singers who use microtones. Slurs his notes both with left hand bends and judicious use of the vibrato arms on his Strats. Now THAT's hard!

    To answer the question for myself:
    Yardbird Suite as arranged by Don Stiernberg. I've never quite mastered it.

    Daniel

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  10. #31
    Doc Ivory Doc Ivory's Avatar
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    Default Re: Whatís the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    For me its Bach.
    I do persist to make it sound clean and smooth but perhaps that will be forever illusive.
    I'll keep tryin' though!
    Doc Ivory
    -Play loud, live long..

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  12. #32
    Registered User Toycona's Avatar
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    Default Re: Whatís the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    I saw that someone put "8th of February" by John Reischman. I wrestled with that for years. I also have wrangled with "Song for Tom Morrow" by Vasen. Both of those are technically challenging songs for me. A traditional song that really challenges is "Jerusalem Ridge." I've played that on and off for years, and if I wait too long, it feels like starting over. Regarding ear training on tough tunes, once I gave up tabs (thanks to a Marla Fibish class), I learn things more quickly by ear. They stay in my head and under my fingers more readily.

    But above all, have fun!
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    Registered User Drew Streip's Avatar
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    Default Re: Whatís the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Ironically, some of the harder-sounding tunes tend to be easier to play, because they're often built around scales or arpeggios, but played at a challenging tempo.

    "Brilliancy" is one of the few tunes I can play proficiently all the way through, solo, with some embellishments, and make it sound like music.

    Early Chris Thile tunes (Jessamyn's Reel, Ah Spring, Ode to a Butterfly) also qualify on the "A" parts but most of the "B" parts are lacking.

  14. #34
    CP Mandolins
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    Default Re: Whatís the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Have a go at 'Flippen'

  15. #35
    String-Bending Heretic mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Whatís the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    "To shred, or to sing,..... that... is the question."

    Would you prefer the "blue pill" or the "red" ?



    But, you can always opt for a purple cap (of various shades) instead.

    NH

  16. #36

    Default Re: Whatís the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Nestlerode View Post
    Niles, your postscript reminded me of Jeff Beck's instrumental work. He's inspired by south Asian singers who use microtones. Slurs his notes both with left hand bends and judicious use of the vibrato arms on his Strats. Now THAT's hard!
    (Not mndln-related, but...)

    I have a congruent observation to this. Taking up trad Chinese music (on guzheng), I found - even though much of the music is what we'd call "slow" - it is "difficult" indeed...perhaps as difficult as any other form ive played in respects. It is this aspect you cite - (Eng) portamentos, slurs, and various ornaments - that are accentuated in traditional Asian forms. Emanating from vocal traditions, these idioms and instruments like the long zithers, dan bau, and of course winds, etc, highly emulate vocal properties, "lyrical" effects, etc., and in essence afford an infinite (continuous) variety of pitches, and embellishments. A very old, deep tradition.

    *and as well, why I love Jeff Beck. And why a strat is an eminently superlative instrument

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    Default Re: Whatís the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Arrangements wot I wrote -I seem to have developed a knack for taking a simple tune and turning it into a finger buster. Any pretence that it's to show off my virtuosic playing is quick dispelled when I pick up the mandolin, they often sound good in Musescore though.
    - Jeremy

    Wot no catchphrase?

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  19. #39
    Mandolin Friendly Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Whatís the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Quote Originally Posted by mandocrucian View Post
    (I would like to be able to replicate Etta James' phrasing/intonation/etc of "At Last" ... Capturing the vocal nuances of a great vocalist can be just as difficult as playing any high-speed barn-burner, imo)
    +1
    I'd love to get the soul of At Last or I'd Rather Go Blind whether in vocals or on any instrument.
    Technique, theory and fun, fun, fun. I love playing, studying and sharing MUSIC.
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  20. #40
    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Whatís the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Any song with a smooth measured tremolo and closed position fingering.

  21. #41

    Default Re: Whatís the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    I'm sure it's child's play for you vets, but I've been playing for a week and a day, and just got down whiskey before breakfast haha! learning all the time.
    Just me and my Eastman MD315!
    And we're hungry to learn

  22. #42
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    Default Re: Whatís the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Every tune is hard for me until I learn it ! What I lack in ability I have in determination and sticktoiveness ( no such word) !!!
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain------supposedly !

  23. #43
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    Default Re: Whatís the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post



    'Brilliancy'' - I've heard 'of it',but never actually heard it.I must look it up,although these days,i concentrate more on playing back up & trying to come up with decent solos to songs. I wasted far too much time learning banjo instrumentals & then never playing them anywhere,forgetting them & then going on the the next one ad nauseum,to start to do the same on mandolin - but the odd 'challenge' might make life interesting,
    Ivan

    Brilliancy is a fiddle tune in the key of A, in three parts, popularized by Howdy Forrester. It's composed of parts from two traditional hornpipes, Passaic and Trafalgar (as I found out from the collection 1000 Fiddle Tunes). I heard Forrester's version (with Jimmy Riddle on piano) on the radio in 1960 and thought it was the prettiest tune I'd heard. So I looked up Forrester's LP in the Schwann catalog and ordered it from a local record store. It took about half a year to get it. I transcribed it in 1965 and the awkward string crossings on the guitar were my main motive for taking up the mandolin (incidentally, the second part depends on having an open e string available) in 1967. I used to know it pretty well to the point of recording it with a four piece bluegrass band in 1969. However, the most difficult piece on Forrester's LP is High Level Hornpipe, not because of the key (Bb), but the lack of rests.

    The most difficult piece I used to know (I haven't played it in many years) is "Artistry", a rag that I composed 50 years ago: https://www.mandohangout.com/myhangouÖ

  24. #44
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    Default Re: Whatís the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    [QUOTE=ralph johansson;1680485]Brilliancy is a fiddle tune in the key of A, in three parts, popularized by Howdy Forrester. It's composed of parts from two traditional hornpipes, Passaic and Trafalgar (as I found out from the collection 1000 Fiddle Tunes). I heard Forrester's version (with Jimmy Riddle on piano) on the radio in 1960 and thought it was the prettiest tune I'd heard. So I looked up Forrester's LP in the Schwann catalog and ordered it from a local record store. It took about half a year to get it. I transcribed it in 1965 and the awkward string crossings on the guitar were my main motive for taking up the mandolin (incidentally, the second part depends on having an open e string available) in 1967. I used to know it pretty well to the point of recording it with a four piece bluegrass band in 1969. However, the most difficult piece on Forrester's LP is High Level Hornpipe, not because of the key (Bb), but the lack of rests.

    The most difficult piece I used to know (I haven't played it in many years) is "Artistry", a rag that I composed 50 years ago:
    https://www.mandohangout.com/myhango...c.asp?id=22331

  25. #45

    Default Re: Whatís the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Been working on Farewell Waltz (Doc Roberts) for a long long time.

  26. #46
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    Default Re: Whatís the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Most classical pieces I've tried have one movement I find (relatively) easy and two movements where I go "Huh?!?" so I keep working and working..... I've recently tried some more Celtic works, those are fun challenges but manageable. Bach is really stretching my abilities, but stretch I must if I want to get better! And jam pieces (mostly chords) are fun to keep me thinking I am getting somewhere unless (as has been mentioned) they are playing in Bb! LOL!!

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