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Thread: Proper form for playing B major shape chords on mandolin

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    Default Proper form for playing B major shape chords on mandolin

    I have a chord chart PDF printed off from mandolinchords.net that shows a B chord shape I'm finding difficult to play. It's the first one they show on the page at https://mandolinchords.net/chords/root/b/major/, in tab notation 4-1-2-2 with supposedly fingers 4/1/2/3 respectively. They repeat this shape for the E and C# as well, and of course being all closed strings it could be generally useful — if I could play it!

    I have no problem playing the x-1-2-2 bit, a similar shape to a basic E major on guitar. But to put my pinky down on the 4, my ring finger (on the E string) either wants to slip up to the next fret unless I majorly contort: knuckle "locked" backwards and wrist quite twisted…which seems very poor form, no? I tried swapping my ring/middle fingers i.e. 4/1/3/2 and similar situation.

    Is this not a realistic chord for my "bass player" fingers? Is it normal to need contortions for this shape, and which parts of my hand/wrist should I prefer to compromise? I tried to find a video e.g. was hoping MandoLessons would show that particular shape but not sure what to search for in order to watch some examples.

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Proper form for playing B major shape chords on mandolin

    I would finger it ring, index, middle, middle.

    4-4-6-7 and 11-9-6-7 are also viable B chords.
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    Default Re: Proper form for playing B major shape chords on mandolin

    What Martin said above.

    I can't say I've ever seen anyone regularly use that first chord and I'd never, never, ever teach someone starting out that form. Here's those two suggested above.

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    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Proper form for playing B major shape chords on mandolin

    4-4-6-7 (or indeed simply 4-4-6) is one of my favourite chord shapes, because it's moveable and has the root in the bass. That means it works for every major chord and can use any note on the lower two strings as the root. Takes the pain out of remembering specific chord shapes. Its companion shapes are 4-4-5-7 (or 4-4-5) for minor chords and 4-4-6-5 for seventh chords.

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    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Proper form for playing B major shape chords on mandolin

    I like 4-1-2-2 or 4-1-2-x,
    but I finger it just like I finger the bluegrass C chord, just move down 1 fret.

    I get the E & A strings with the same fingertip (if I play the E string.)
    No Pinky involved.

    (oops, just noticed that mrmando said that in post #2)

    This shape works really well for 1-3-4-1 chord progressions, like Old Home Place.
    Last edited by Philphool; Sep-07-2018 at 8:09am.
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    Default Re: Proper form for playing B major shape chords on mandolin

    Why not 4-4-2-2? It only takes two fingers.
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    Default Re: Proper form for playing B major shape chords on mandolin

    The 4-4-6-7 shape mentioned above is a beautiful chord shape moved all around the fretboard, I like it and use it a lot. "Proper form" as mentioned in thread title could be anything, "proper" is what you prefer the sound of in context for what you're doing. Ease of fingering also comes into play when you're learning, but as you master more shapes or voicings, that becomes less of a criterion and context and timbre becomes more important in choosing your fingerings for many people.
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    Default Re: Proper form for playing B major shape chords on mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by natevw View Post
    ... shows a B chord shape I'm finding difficult to play.
    When I was an innocent young guitar player 55ish years ago, and couldn't wait to learn a bunch of (besides the Beatles) Peter, Paul & Mary stuff, I was suckered into thinking that I had to use the chord formations shown in the songbooks. Stupid me didn't yet realize that real life people either used capos -or- went further up the neck to get a chord, while far too many of the music publishers felt the need, and still do, to show everything as close to open strings / 1st position as possible, which I assume(d) was to not scare off potential buyers by going "up the neck".

    And THAT was my first thought when I ran into your "now-favorite" B-chord that is rarely, if ever, used by actual humans.

    Oh, please let me finish the rant! Does any guitarist really play Eb as xx1343, as per my early PP&M books? I happily do it now as x65343, but you probably won't see that in a book. And yes, it IS real close to the beloved G-chop formation... on guitar!
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    Default Re: Proper form for playing B major shape chords on mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by EdHanrahan View Post
    I happily do it now as x65343, but you probably won't see that in a book. And yes, it IS real close to the beloved G-chop formation... on guitar!
    Uh-huh ... and pedal between 5th and 6th strings with the pinky to alternate the bass on that one. But is that considered to be built on the D shape (as is the xx1343 you disdain) or is it the C shape? It's a bit of both, or either, I guess in my way of thinking but definitely the open C shape moved about the neck. Movable chords. They're what's for dinner.

    You can use all six strings with that shape you mention (alternating bass), but there's nothing wrong with the first one you mentioned, or with x6888x for that matter, depends what goes before & after, and what voice fits the music best really.

    (Note for clarity - Ed has shifted the discussion to Eb and guitars)
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    Default Re: Proper form for playing B major shape chords on mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by MontanaMatt View Post
    Why not 4-4-2-2? It only takes two fingers.
    B-F#-B-F#

    Doesn't work nicely with other chords, more difficult to move to other chords that might be called for in that key. I'd argue it's not particularly easy to play but that's an opinion and I'm on vacation without my mandolin so can't check, but I'm pretty sure. No third for it to form a major chord so what do you do if the next chord you wish to play is B minor? And while bar chords are movable, changing any one note in that formation to form a new voicing by itself to change to another chord requires movement of at least two fingers and switch from a bar position to an individual fingering, unlike the two B chords I linked to and cited earlier. Again, that happens plenty, but this fingering is unnecessarily limiting. Maybe that'd be fine if you just needed to play that chord all by itself for some kind emphasis.

    Bigger issue: the problem I have with web sites that list too many chords without guidance is most people starting out have no idea which one they should use, hence the opening post with a valid question about one of those chords. Just because someone can form an odd shaped chord on the 12th fret for a certain chord and put it on a web site, book or app doesn't mean it has any use or that 1/10th of 1 percent ever use it. 10 versions of B is not a problem you need without an instructor early in your development.

    But in the end, it's all abstract and music is a choice. If that fingering works and you like it, have away at it. If someone came to me for lessons and was using that I'd steer them away by showing the benefits of learning the two linked to first. There are other reasons why those work better as well but that's another discussion.

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    Default Re: Proper form for playing B major shape chords on mandolin

    4 4 6 7 is not only good for sliding up and down the neck but it takes little effort to make minors and sevenths.

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    Default Re: Proper form for playing B major shape chords on mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandolin Cafe View Post

    I can't say I've ever seen anyone regularly use that first chord and I'd never, never, ever teach someone starting out that form.
    Same here. That first form does get some use when the 4th string B is lowered to the A to make a B7 chord, though. As it is, I never use it.

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    Default Re: Proper form for playing B major shape chords on mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandolin Cafe View Post

    Bigger issue: the problem I have with web sites that list too many chords without guidance is most people starting out have no idea which one they should use, hence the opening post with a valid question about one of those chords. Just because someone can form an odd shaped chord on the 12th fret for a certain chord and put it on a web site, book or app doesn't mean it has any use or that 1/10th of 1 percent ever use it. 10 versions of B is not a problem you need without an instructor early in your development.
    Exactly so - and any chord shape also matters in terms of which chord shape was played before and after the said chord.

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    Default Re: Proper form for playing B major shape chords on mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by MontanaMatt View Post
    Why not 4-4-2-2? It only takes two fingers.
    He asked for a comfortable b...
    No need to shift out of first position. No peeking to see if you've hit the right fret. In an ensemble, I doubt anyone will hear a missing third, flatted or not.
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    Default Re: Proper form for playing B major shape chords on mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by EdHanrahan View Post
    ... Does any guitarist really play Eb as xx1343...?
    Yes. And on plectrum (22-fret) banjo. It's a fundamental shape/voicing.

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    Default Re: Proper form for playing B major shape chords on mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by EdHanrahan View Post
    Does any guitarist really play Eb as xx1343, as per my early PP&M books? I happily do it now as x65343, but you probably won't see that in a book. And yes, it IS real close to the beloved G-chop formation... on guitar!
    Man, you're spot-on about that. I'm always amazed when I go through a songbook and see all these interesting rare shapes- it's like the music version of driving twenty miles of backroads to avoid an awkward merge.

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    Default Re: Proper form for playing B major shape chords on mandolin

    It's legal to skip the D# and just use 4-4-2-x for that more bluesy sound. Context usually fills in major or minor so I often skip the 3rd.
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    Default Re: Proper form for playing B major shape chords on mandolin

    I do use that first chord shape - but i omit the E string & play a ''partial' chord. I like it because i like the sound of the low B on the G string,in the same way that i like the lower note in the G chord shape that i always use,
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    Default Re: Proper form for playing B major shape chords on mandolin

    I've begun using it more lately, but I also omit the E course so that it's just a C chop shape moved down 1 fret. As stated above, it works well for moving from B to C. Also tends to get used (partially, at least) when I'm using double stop progressions in E. E-A-B is as easy as 2-2-x-x, 2-4-x-x and 3-1-x-x or 3-1-2-x
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    Default Re: Proper form for playing B major shape chords on mandolin

    I know that the G shape chord that i play,isn't the 'standard' one,but i've often wondered 'why' the standard shape is used so much when it robs the sound of the chord of much of it's 'bass' tone. I've said before that to my ears,my chosen G shape sounds more like a 'woof',the standard one more like a 'yap' !. With the mandolin being predominantly trebly,i'll always go for the lower notes where possible,
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    Default Re: Proper form for playing B major shape chords on mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    I know that the G shape chord that i play,isn't the 'standard' one,but i've often wondered 'why' the standard shape is used so much when it robs the sound of the chord of much of it's 'bass' tone. I've said before that to my ears,my chosen G shape sounds more like a 'woof',the standard one more like a 'yap' !. With the mandolin being predominantly trebly,i'll always go for the lower notes where possible,
    Ivan

    Hmm. But if you play your G-chord as 4-5-2-3, you're missing the fifth, of course, and only (in effect) get the sound of a double stop. So it's sort of a "chord," but not really. It could just as easily be played over an Em as a G! One would avoid such a chord like the plague in backing up a fiddle tune like Temperance Reel, wherethe melody calls for switching between G and Em chords, and these need to sound different!

    That's one reason (not but the only reason) why the full "bluegrass G", 7-5-2-3, is considered to be a superior choice by many players. Yes, it might be harder to play, but it sounds much better to my ears. And you can play it as a chop chord, if you like. But if you prefer the sound of the lowest bass notes to ring out, why choose to put a B note (third) on the bottom, when you can so easily have a G note (tonic), with good 'ol two-finger 0-0-2-3? Easiest of all to play, and it has all three of the notes that it needs.

    So, if you want a B chord with the B note on the bottom, the best all-around choice is probably 4-4-6-7, which is nothing more than the good 'ol G taken up to the 4th fret. It has a lot going for it: Not very hard to play. Has all three notes in it. Moveable shape. Tonic in the bass. Easy to make into minor, seventh, etc. And another good option would be the "bluegrass B" (derived from the bluegrass G), as 11-9-6-7.

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    Default Re: Proper form for playing B major shape chords on mandolin

    From what so many bluegrass mandolin players are using now it doesn't mater if it has a root or a third or a fifth it's just a slap. I use the chord Ivan uses, didn't until arthor got into my hands and it is so difficult to reach the long BG G. Maybe it sounds like a double stop but that is still better than a slap in my opinion.

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    Default Re: Proper form for playing B major shape chords on mandolin

    I was thinking that Ivan meant mostly that he uses that shape for chop chording (and now Mandoplumb affirms he does the same), I've read both of them mention this several times in the forum. I think it's great. I also think that the sound of that G shape is very much distinguishable from an Em chord where the root is voiced in the Em (e.g., 4-5-2-3 followed by 0-2-2-3 or even 4-2-2-3), I just played some grooves alternating those to hear it for myself. Some people are just playing a dead thunk for a chop sound at times, like Mandoplumb mentions, so hearing all three notes of the triad is not really necessary for a chop.

    At the same time, sblock makes some valid points, such as when you want the lowest bass note to sound in a G chord, the best shape is 0-0-2-3 without a doubt, and that chord can be chopped using the ring and/or pinky fingers to deaden the open strings, so you might give that a try.

    I have favorites for a G chord, when I can use them, my favorites are 0-0-2-3 and 4-5-5-7. I use both those in the same song often, depending whether I want the G bass or B bass, or what part of the fretboard I'm playing in, for a Gmajor chord. I never use the full "bluegrass chop chord G" unless I am playing with others in a bluegrass jam.

    Go to chord for a B is 4-4-6-7
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    Default Re: Proper form for playing B major shape chords on mandolin

    From Mark Gunter - " I was thinking that Ivan meant mostly that he uses that shape for chop chording ...". Absolutely right Mark - maybe i should have stated that more clearly,but i thought that my remark that it sounded more like a 'woof' would have told that side of it.

    For me,it simply has a more bassy tone - as you might expect. The mandolin has enough treble without needing to go to the higher note on the G strings & it doesn't sound like a 'double stop' either. I can play the standard G chord shape,but i don't like the sound of it - the G strings sound too trebly for me. They are the BASS strings after all,so i use 'em that way to 'fill out' the overall sound of the chord. To my ears,it's a bit like standing around jamming & then,a bass fiddle will join in & the whole 'sound' blossoms,
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    Default Re: Proper form for playing B major shape chords on mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    I know that the G shape chord that i play,isn't the 'standard' one,but i've often wondered 'why' the standard shape is used so much when it robs the sound of the chord of much of it's 'bass' tone. I've said before that to my ears,my chosen G shape sounds more like a 'woof',the standard one more like a 'yap' !. With the mandolin being predominantly trebly,i'll always go for the lower notes where possible,
    Ivan
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