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Thread: Rhythm for reels and western swing

  1. #1
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    Default Rhythm for reels and western swing

    I sort of hate to admit this, but I have been playing 2.5 years and I just now discovered that when you have a reel and it shows all 8th notes, you aren't supposed to play it that way.

    I had been playing everything with a straight rhythm. I could tell on recordings that people weren't doing that, but I couldn't really tell what. I didn't play as fast as them and just assumed their different sound was some magic I would never approach.

    I bought a book of Mandolin tunes ("Masters of the Mandolin: 130 of the Greatest BlueGrass and NewGrass Solos") and many of these tunes had a curious notation at the top. It said two eighth notes equal a quarter note and an eighth note with a little "3" bracketed over the top. I had never seen that notation before (classical guitar does a lot of things but apparently "swing" is not one of them), so I just ignored it.

    I got another book last weekend ("The Mandolin Picker's FakeBook") and it had a section at the front about genres. Hm. So I went to youtube and searched for "swing" or something like that and found a piano demonstration of playing thirds, but leaving out the middle note. Oh. That was what the "Masters of the Mandolin" meant.

    So my Mandolin playing changed overnight. This is the biggest thing since I learned to really do down-up-down-up (which took about 2 months). I am having to re-learn most of my repertoire.

    We're all just doing our best of course, and for some of us, myself included, that isn't much. If I could give advice to new players it would be "don't be so isolated".

  2. #2

    Default Re: Rhythm for reels and western swing

    The amount of swing (the ratio of the first note to the second) is variable, especially at different tempos. The notes tend to get evener at high speeds. That said, reels are played with straight or almost straight eighth notes, so you were probably playing them correctly. Hornpipes are swung. "Swing" entails more than just the actual rhythm. Accents and phrasing are also part of it. Reels can be played with straight eighths but with doo-be-doo-be accents and phrasing and still "swing".

  3. #3

    Default Re: Rhythm for reels and western swing

    Quote Originally Posted by RodCH View Post
    I sort of hate to admit this, but I have been playing 2.5 years and I just now discovered that when you have a reel and it shows all 8th notes, you aren't supposed to play it that way.

    I had been playing everything with a straight rhythm. I could tell on recordings that people weren't doing that, but I couldn't really tell what. I didn't play as fast as them and just assumed their different sound was some magic I would never approach.

    I bought a book of Mandolin tunes ("Masters of the Mandolin: 130 of the Greatest BlueGrass and NewGrass Solos") and many of these tunes had a curious notation at the top. It said two eighth notes equal a quarter note and an eighth note with a little "3" bracketed over the top. I had never seen that notation before (classical guitar does a lot of things but apparently "swing" is not one of them), so I just ignored it.

    I got another book last weekend ("The Mandolin Picker's FakeBook") and it had a section at the front about genres. Hm. So I went to youtube and searched for "swing" or something like that and found a piano demonstration of playing thirds, but leaving out the middle note. Oh. That was what the "Masters of the Mandolin" meant.

    So my Mandolin playing changed overnight. This is the biggest thing since I learned to really do down-up-down-up (which took about 2 months). I am having to re-learn most of my repertoire.

    We're all just doing our best of course, and for some of us, myself included, that isn't much. If I could give advice to new players it would be "don't be so isolated".
    Following because I sat down with the same book last night and it all sounded horribly. I'm a "hear it - do it" kinda guy so I thought it was me just doing horribly.
    One thing I've learned about mandolins is that they all respond differently to different picks so if you buy it and you don't like the tone, try a different pick.

    Kentucky KM-150
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    Morgan Monroe MFM-300

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