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Thread: Finding whats appropriate and what's the balance?

  1. #1
    I really look like that soliver's Avatar
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    Default Finding whats appropriate and what's the balance?

    Hey all, I've been playing for a few years now and have really focused in for the most part on BG, OT and a little celtic. I am stretching a little to join the band at the church. For the most part, the music is what most would refer to as "Contemporary Christian." A lot of it is very much like rock or pop but very Ballad-like in a sense.

    In the BG/OT arena I am used to choosing along until I get my turn for the break when I play the melody which is typically very similar or the same as the lyric's melody. Long and short, I am mostly used to playing the song's melody. In this worship setting, it does't always seem appropriate to play what the singer is singing, and it can often sound kinda weird.

    In this setting, I am finding the mandolin as more of an ornament and less of a driver as in the BG/OT arena. So since I find playing melody is not always the best route, I am having trouble figuring out WHAT to play and where.

    I have been learning the chord progressions and trying to do some cross picking as well as listening to recordings and finding little background melodies to fill in with (utilizing a lot of tremolo), but I would love any and all advice from the collective.

    Thanks in advance.
    aka: Spencer
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  2. #2
    Mandolin Friendly Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Finding whats appropriate and what's the balance?

    Quote Originally Posted by soliver View Post
    I have been learning the chord progressions and trying to do some cross picking as well as listening to recordings and finding little background melodies to fill in with (utilizing a lot of tremolo)
    Sounds like you're on the right track, Spencer. If you have the practice & learning time to invest, it might be a good time to learn some cool licks that you can make your own and use in appropriate places. Cafe news mentioned a book of 400 licks with audio tracks last year, https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/c...Mandolin-Licks

    I bought that and only now beginning to play with it a bit. These are essentially "Bluegrass Licks", per the title, but you can learn and adapt licks in many ways, use them to fire the imagination for making your own that are 'context appropriate'.
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    Default Re: Finding whats appropriate and what's the balance?

    I head up the youth praise band at my church, and am the utility guy. I play guitar, bass, mando, and occasionally mandocello and banjo. There are almost always plenty of guitar players, and one of the young ladies has taken an affinity to the bass of late, so I've been playing a ton of mandolin lately. In our setting, I tend to either use it as a rhythm machine to keep the other players together and drive them a little (not necessarily chopping like in BG, though), or play lead on it, either like an electric guitar (on Mandobird), or with arpeggios, tremolos, fills, double stops where appropriate, etc., acoustically. Last Sunday we played "Build Your Kingdom Here" by Rend Collective, for example, and I used my National RM-I to essentially play the main rhythm guitar part, as the other two guitar players just can't yet go fast enough to really drive it (I usually end up with a little sweat going by the end of that one, LOL). I'll also sometimes work out harmonies to the melody line to play, but I'm still in my infantile stages there.

    It can get interesting at times, as our singers will land us in keys that aren't the easiest on mando, but I'm learning to let the bass and guitar handle bass notes, especially on slash chords, and do what the mandolin does best. It's still very much a work in progress for me, but I'm getting better at fitting it in nicely. I've found that just playing with the original recordings of songs in the basement to figure out what works (even if it's in a different key) helps me immensely, but I'm pretty terrible at improvising, so I like to have a plan...

    Agree that it sounds like you're on the right track. The nice thing about the band setting, vs solo, is that you don't have to do everything and hit every note. And, you're not there to perform, but to lead others in worship, which, IMO, are slightly different skill sets (though there's obviously a lot of overlap). Good luck, keep at it, and make a joyful noise!!
    Chuck

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    Default Re: Finding whats appropriate and what's the balance?

    I think the key is to be rhythmically in combination with the guitar. Not necessarily in sync, maybe in counterpoint Listen to recordings with 2 guitars and see how they combine. Playing the melody is good but there is always a place for a variation on it. George Harrison was a master of this.

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    I really look like that soliver's Avatar
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    Default Re: Finding whats appropriate and what's the balance?

    Quote Originally Posted by CES View Post
    It can get interesting at times, as our singers will land us in keys that aren't the easiest on mando,
    Yea, I KNOW!... We played "So Will I" By Hillsong at rehearsal last night in D flat?!??!?!?,.... I was thinking... "Come on... D flat, really???... who plays in D flat????..." But it all worked out anyway.

    The great thing about playing in a praise and worship band is that everyone is SUPER supportive ... that has put my nerves at ease a great deal!
    aka: Spencer
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    "You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage
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    Default Re: Finding whats appropriate and what's the balance?

    I think you're limited only by your own creativity and what's appropriate. It also depends a lot on the song. For CCM, mandolin can be fantastic for adding to the dynamics of a song. A lot seem to begin fairly quiet, and I'll play double stops on the three lowest strings with some fills where appropriate. As a song builds, I'll move into light strumming, arpeggios, or cross picking patterns. Tremolo on the two high strings works beautifully sometimes on the big parts of the ballad-y songs.

    The hard part is that usually in these songs there is no mandolin part. The good part is that that free you up to ask "what can I add here with a mandolin?" I've found that in this setting, that question - "what can I do here to enhance the experience for the congregation" will take you a long ways.

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    Default Re: Finding whats appropriate and what's the balance?

    Well .... Backing up a singer is a whole different thing than playing a tune. Firstly , stay of the singers note. Secondly, play when the singer isn't singing. The beats between the songs lines , the turnarounds at the end of verses and choruses, intro and outros. This is generally referred to as fill. If, and that is a bif if, there is a break or instrumental portion you can play the melody. Keep it simple and support the song and singer. The feel of the song has to be reflected in the tone timing and tempo of any fill , intro or outro or break. Cross picking is a good tool , syncopation in your strum is good also. sweeping a four tone chord is good, alternating your chord forms , inversions, is good .... but remember to always blend with the singer and other musicians. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Default Re: Finding whats appropriate and what's the balance?

    Staying off the vocals.
    Get a Lick collection.
    Study chord theory to understand harmony.
    Check, check and check.

    And, once you get a feel for the boundaries or your given style,
    listen to music outside your given style.
    Listen to everything you can. Listen clinically. Listen like a thief.

  14. #9
    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Finding whats appropriate and what's the balance?

    Quote Originally Posted by farmerjones View Post
    Staying off the vocals.
    Get a Lick collection.
    Study chord theory to understand harmony.
    Check, check and check.

    And, once you get a feel for the boundaries or your given style,
    listen to music outside your given style.
    Listen to everything you can. Listen clinically. Listen like a thief.
    Listen like a thief ... I love it.
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    Just send an email to rob.meldrum@gmail.com with "mandolin setup" in the subject line and he will email you a copy of his ebook for free (free to all mandolincafe members).

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  15. #10

    Default Re: Finding whats appropriate and what's the balance?

    Quote Originally Posted by soliver View Post
    .....I have been learning the chord progressions and trying to do some cross picking as well as listening to recordings and finding little background melodies to fill in with (utilizing a lot of tremolo), but I would love any and all advice from the collective.....
    All that sound good Ill bet, Ill just add using double stops and moving them around over the melody is something you could add in.
    Northfield NF5M #268

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    Default Re: Finding whats appropriate and what's the balance?

    I've found that once the melody is learned pretty well that I can noodle around with some improvising and figure out what fits within the song. The bluegrass chop usually can add to the drive of the song. Keep at it.

  17. #12

    Default Re: Finding whats appropriate and what's the balance?

    +1

    Know the melody and changes.

    Then do what YOU feel.
    Its a perfect place to be creative.
    Experiment.

    Usually pickins thoughts are mine too.
    Mix it up. Trem, dynamics, double stops, drones, open chords, different voicings, build the drive, or, put the brakes on mid tune and restart for effect, etc.

    Safe.....only if youre not up to shining. Or, those early mornings.....can make engaging tough.

    Shine on!

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