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Thread: Why keys of B and B flat?

  1. #126
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Here's one of my favourite songs to pick along with as practice - ''Fair Weather'' - Alison Brown - in Bb. How would you go on as a mandolin player, if you were invited to step up & join in if you couldn't hack it in that key ??,
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    Here's one of my favourite songs to pick along with as practice - ''Fair Weather'' - Alison Brown - in Bb. How would you go on as a mandolin player, if you were invited to step up & join in if you couldn't hack it in that key ??,
    Ivan
    https://youtu.be/osmHyP0Jm6o - ''Insert Video'' ain't workin ' !.
    Good tune from a good album. Many a mandolin picker guest on this recording; this number features Stuart Duncan.

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  4. #128
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Hi Alan - I have several of Alison Brown's recordings. Of course many of them are ''not strictly Bluegrass'',but that's what i like about them.They are all very melodic though,& nothing's done for 'showmanship' - a great artist !,
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  5. #129

    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by T.D.Nydn View Post
    I think Wakefield wrote New Campton in Bb out of sheer boredom of normal mandolin keyes,,it says he used to play in G ,then take it to G# and then to A and then Bb,,,that's someone who is very familiar with moving around keyes,,and playing in G and taking it to G# is a great practice tip,,,I do it constantly thanks to Frank...
    Bb is really not a hard key once you get situated. You can play it first position with open strings, just maybe have to reach up to the high Bb at 6th fret on the E string. The major chords are Bb, Eb and F. Not hard chords to play.

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  7. #130
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    Here's one of my favourite songs to pick along with as practice - ''Fair Weather'' - Alison Brown - in Bb. How would you go on as a mandolin player, if you were invited to step up & join in if you couldn't hack it in that key ??,
    Ivan
    https://youtu.be/osmHyP0Jm6o - ''Insert Video'' ain't workin ' !.
    that’s nice

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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    I've been playing in the key of B lately,jamming to a great but rarely played bluegrass tune called Train45..sometimes it's in G but mostly in B ,with capos on the banjo and guitar at fret 5,,I just don't see the reason why this,was written in B ..

  9. #132

    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by T.D.Nydn View Post
    I've been playing in the key of B lately,jamming to a great but rarely played bluegrass tune called Train45..sometimes it's in G but mostly in B ,with capos on the banjo and guitar at fret 5,,I just don't see the reason why this,was written in B ..
    I think you mean capoed at fret 4.

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  11. #133
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    I have been playing some tunes from Québécois and Missouri fiddle traditions in keys of F and Bb. It is very different from the usual keys I play. Also seeking out some tunes from Cole's 1000 Fiddle Tunes (also called Ryan's) in those keys as well as the relative minors (D minor and G minor). A real challenge on mandolin and even moreso on fiddle.
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by T.D.Nydn View Post
    I've been playing in the key of B lately,jamming to a great but rarely played bluegrass tune called Train45..sometimes it's in G but mostly in B ,with capos on the banjo and guitar at fret 5,,I just don't see the reason why this,was written in B ..
    Train 45 was not "written" in this or that key. It belongs to a family of folk songs including Reuben, Ruby, and 500 miles. The oldest version that I know of was recorded by Grayson & Whitter in the 30's, in the key of G. Reuben is often played on the banjo, in D tuning. Possibly the first BG version was by the Stanley Brothers. Bill Monroe recorded it in B in the late 60's. B is a signature key in Bluegrass, for various reasons explained earlier in this thread.

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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I have been playing some tunes from Québécois and Missouri fiddle traditions in keys of F and Bb. It is very different from the usual keys I play. Also seeking out some tunes from Cole's 1000 Fiddle Tunes (also called Ryan's) in those keys as well as the relative minors (D minor and G minor). A real challenge on mandolin and even moreso on fiddle.
    Such remarks make me wonder how people go about learning an instrument. My first instrument is the guitar, which I started learning in 1957. Systematically, key by key, in first position, then in higher positions (realizing that the F and C scales in first position use only the first three frets). And, later, much more freely. In the beginning I simply followed the circle of fifths both directions from C: C, F, G, Bb, D, ... On the mandolin, 10 years later, I didn't proceed quite as systematically, basically I just started playing: first in open, then in standard positions determined by the fret markers, and then, again, much more freely. I think it's important to master all major keys in first position, without using open strings. The next step is to translate these scales up and down the fretboard. E.g., Ab is the same scale as A pulled back one fret. What's so special with the key of F?

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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Yeah …. bottom line is that the world is full of singers that play guitar and own capos. Not to mention 'grass players that love the odd key now and again. Capo cowboys often have little or no clue what key they are actually playing in. So learn those "odd" key breaks and practice those closed position scales and arpeggios. That's the way you can step in any time you feel the want to do so. Being a well studied player pays off in fun and the occasional paying gig. I still prefer not to play in Eb Ab and Db but will if it is required. Enjoy the process. R/
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post
    What's so special with the key of F?
    My mandolin and fiddle playing, at least in the earlier years for those instruments were part of learning the folk repertoires, mostly Irish and then pretty strongly old time music. The vast majority of tunes in those genres and many other folk ones are played in D, G, A and C. F and Bb and much more uncommon.

    Yes, if I had systematically learned classical violin or mandolin I probably would have less of a challenge to play in any key. However, I didn't. I can certainly play in those keys and am enjoying the adventure.
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    I’m a sucker for that minor modal sound. The scales for F and Bb are familiar because I like Dm (F) e.g. Bach’s Invention #4, and Gm (Bb) e.g. Sam Bush’s Poor Richard’s Blues. Dm is a great sound for many Doc Watson tunes (like Little Sadie) and Jimmie Rodgers’ Gambling Bar Room Blues (Jimmie recorded in Ebm), as well as the Rowan & Rice version of Cold Rain & Snow.

    As for the key of B ... I’m not much of a Grasser, but if you’re one, why would you not want to be familiar with it?
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    I'm sure this has already been said farther up in this thread, but sometimes B or Bb is just the best key that suits the vocalist. One you start to get the hang of where the major and pentatonic scales live in relation to the chop chord position, breaks in these keys or in any key become a lot more accessible.
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    I think it helps to not feel like any key is harder than another...all the scales, chords, etc work the same way it’s just using different frets. I had a guitar teacher once that said the notes are not in my fingers...that really helped me focus on the fretboard rather than some position or patterns (not that there’s anything wrong with that...)

    Learn Rebecca - it’s in B, a fun tune and good exercise for playing in that key. Bb is not that much different than F - I think new camptown races is in Bb so just pick a tune or two in those keys and learn them...you didn’t know G or D until you learned it.

    Another technique is to take a tune you know and play it in other keys, you don’t have to get it to performance speed but just get a reasonable rendition going and move it around in other keys. It will train your ear and help to familiarize yourself to the relevant frets...also, remember...the “right” note is only 1 fret away...have fun.
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by bigskygirl View Post

    Learn Rebecca - it’s in B, a fun tune and good exercise for playing in that key. Bb is not that much different than F - I think new camptown races is in Bb so just pick a tune or two in those keys and learn them...you didn’t know G or D until you learned it.

    Another technique is to take a tune you know and play it in other keys, you don’t have to get it to performance speed but just get a reasonable rendition going and move it around in other keys. It will train your ear and help to familiarize yourself to the relevant frets...also, remember...the “right” note is only 1 fret away...have fun.
    As I've indicated earlier the choice of keys for instrumental pieces often is idiomatic. Cheyenne is in Bb because of the g minor bridge (using the lowest note on the fidle or mando). New Camptown Races is in Bb because of the g min chord. On Sailor's Hornpipe the key of Bb offers nice phrase turns on the d and a courses. Clarinet Polka is a clarinet piece to be sure, and the clarinet is a Bb instrument, but it's done on the fiddle occasionally (Howdy Forrester and Jimmy Riddle recorded a wonderful, but much too brief, version with fiddle and harmonica) and it fits very well on the mando for the same reasons as Sailor's Hornpipe. Possibly these latter songs were my inspiration for exploring the combination of first and second position in Bb (and F).

    I play several songs in Bb, like Crazy and Slow Poke. I learned the latter song from a video with Pee Wee King. He did it in G but I didn't like that range so I raised the key and found that Bb allows a nice descending sequence of three-part chords towards the end. Crazy, well, that's where Patsy Cline did it; but I don't modulate to B, as I wanted room for some improvisation. (I've posted a recording on Flatpciker Hangout, under the name Piotr; for idiomatic reasons the guitar is uncapoed).

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  23. #142
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    I learn most tunes simultaneously on mandolin and fiddle. Mandolin is not as hard—just getting used to odder fingerings. On fiddle I have to work harder on perfecting intonation in those keys I rarely play in. Plus double stops are, well, doubly hard.
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    After some shows a couple of weeks ago, got to thinking about this again. Cm (E flat) is not great sounding on either guitar or mandolin. Sure, melody is okay, but the chords do not sound nice to my ears. Especially on mando. Am sure if I worked on the voicing it could work, but it's just high up the neck to get a nice, resonant sound.
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Topsy works fine on mando, in C minor. Voicings are important.
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    https://youtu.be/Tv70oMuUl34

    Here’s a catchy little tune in Bb from Russ Barenberg. “Jump Back Barley.” It’s my most recently learned tune. I have no idea why Russ chose Bb, but there are a few good stretches (1st fret E string to 6th fret A string) and also a couple sections that require (at least for me) fretting two strings at the same fret with one finger, specifically, my left ring finger. Both good exercises and worth it for this neat tune. I have tab if anyone is interested.

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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Lots of good reasons here for why it’s good to get comfortable with different keys. Now, the question for us beginners is, how to do that? Of course, one way is to just pick a tune and practice it. I’ve found that a good complementary approach is good old scale and arpeggio practice. Now, I know that’s not for everybody, but I think it can be fun, and really has gotten me out of my “D & A” rut. There are tons of books with scale/arpeggio exercises. The one I’ve landed on is called The Fiddler’s Red Book of Scales and Arpeggios, by Canadian fiddler Gordon Stobbe. I like it because, for each of the main fiddle keys (sorry, it does not include B, but it does have Bb), it includes a variety of different scale and arpeggio patterns. It comes with a recording of each exercise, played on fiddle. I’ve loaded them all into Amazing Slow Downer so that I can vary the tempos and loop them. Playing along with the recordings, at least on fiddle, is great intonation practice, but it’s also very helpful for practicing on mandolin. I have a list of a bunch of mando tunes in F that I want to learn for an upcoming music gathering, so I’m working on my F scales and arpeggios to get my fingers in place. Here’s information on the book, which you can purchase directly from Mr. Stobbe (no financial or other interest—I just find his books helpful): http://www.fiddlebooks.com/bookcontent16.html

  29. #147
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Lots of soundfiles from mostly OT players. Seems like there are 125 Bb tunes linked on this great site.

    Here's Casey's Hornpipe, one that I am working on in Bb. I hope to get it up to speed, especially on fiddle. Lots of Bb tunes from the midwest and Charlie Walden is one of the best playing these tunes these days.

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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Platt View Post
    After some shows a couple of weeks ago, got to thinking about this again. Cm (E flat) is not great sounding on either guitar or mandolin. Sure, melody is okay, but the chords do not sound nice to my ears. Especially on mando. Am sure if I worked on the voicing it could work, but it's just high up the neck to get a nice, resonant sound.
    Eric, it would be interesting to hear more about the experience you describe with Am. I’m assuming that context is everything here. Down the neck in Am is
    2200 (A5)
    2230
    2235
    And the scale notes are the same as Cmaj - the relative major to Am is C.

    I do play around in Am as well, and am confused by your comment. I’d like to hear more.

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    Apologies Eric! You wrote “Am sure ...” and I mistakenly read “A minor” - please disregard.
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  33. #149
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    Default Re: Why keys of B and B flat?

    Exercise in Eb/Cm

    Just a suggestion ... here is a fun track to play with as an exercise in Eb/Cm. I realize this won't be appealing to everyone because (1) Bob Dylan, (2) spiritual. This is a song I play in C/Am in performance, but I find it tough to get the syncopation right when playing to a click, so I work on that sometimes and noodle to it for breaks, etc.

    Today I decided to play along with the actual tracks, but both versions here were recorded in Eb/Cm so I had a blast working with it in those keys. It made me think of this thread, thus my post about it. Maybe someone will want to play around with it and use the Eb positions. If the shoe fits ...

    Here are the voicings I use with it, depending where I am in the progression and what licks I want to play:

    Eb: 856x and 3113
    Cm: 556x (5568) and 0133
    Bb: 335x (3356)
    Ab: 113x (1134)
    Fm: 10-10-11-x and 1334

    I like to do the comping but also find licks of the same flavor as the guitar and bass licks in the originals.

    What Can I Do For You, Eb (version 1)


    What Can I Do For You, Eb (version 2)
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