Results 1 to 23 of 23

Thread: Reel picking

  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Worcester, MA
    Posts
    53

    Default Reel picking

    I played fiddle for many years and have picked up the mandolin here and there. Now I've decided to do the necessary woodshedding to get my right hand up to speed. My question is, when it comes to playing reels, is there an agreed on method for right hand picking? In a tune where you have something like "1 and (triplet), 3 and (triplet)" should I maintain constant dudududud variation? The result would be that the first triplet would be played dud and the second one udu. Or, do you "slur" from one downstroke to the next like one often does with a bow when playing the fiddle?

    I can see where always picking dudududududud would ultimately given you more speed and fluidity if it can be done and still get the feel right. However, it currently lacks the kind of strong emphasis on the 1 and 3 that gives Irish music some of its feel.

    Or did none of this make any sense? :-0

    Thanks!

  2. The following members say thank you to sykofiddle for this post:


  3. #2
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Posts
    4,675

    Default Re: Reel picking

    Makes perfect sense and it's a good question.

    For reels, I try to begin each significant phrase in a tune, and the start of an A or B section with a downstroke. After that, I use straight alternating picking, including treble ornaments or actual triplets within the tune. This can mean beginning a treble or triplet with either a downstroke or upstroke, depending on where it falls within the phrase. With enough practice that becomes routine.

    Within that alternating picking pattern, I'll emphasize certain notes depending on what the reel needs for a rhythm pulse. Sometimes it's a pulse on 1 and 3, sometimes it's more of a subtle backbeat feel on 2 and 4. Others may do this differently, but alternate picking is the only way I've found to get up to full dance tempos with reels.

    On some reels, the notes fly by so fast that I don't even get to start a phrase with a downstroke, and it's just constant alternate picking, but I try to keep that in mind. And I always try to make sure I'm adding some kind of rhythm pulse within the flurry of notes.

  4. The following members say thank you to foldedpath for this post:


  5. #3
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Worcester, MA
    Posts
    53

    Default Re: Reel picking

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    Makes perfect sense and it's a good question.

    For reels, I try to begin each significant phrase in a tune, and the start of an A or B section with a downstroke. After that, I use straight alternating picking, including treble ornaments or actual triplets within the tune. This can mean beginning a treble or triplet with either a downstroke or upstroke, depending on where it falls within the phrase. With enough practice that becomes routine.

    Within that alternating picking pattern, I'll emphasize certain notes depending on what the reel needs for a rhythm pulse. Sometimes it's a pulse on 1 and 3, sometimes it's more of a subtle backbeat feel on 2 and 4. Others may do this differently, but alternate picking is the only way I've found to get up to full dance tempos with reels.

    On some reels, the notes fly by so fast that I don't even get to start a phrase with a downstroke, and it's just constant alternate picking, but I try to keep that in mind. And I always try to make sure I'm adding some kind of rhythm pulse within the flurry of notes.
    Thanks for the reply. That makes sense to me. On some tunes with a very strong triplet feel for the main phrases (e.g., Maids of Mount Kisco, Toss the Feathers in Em) it feels like each of those phrases need a strong downstroke at the beginning. On others it seems like it would be more fluid to alternate. So maybe I need to have constant down/up on hand as needed and then not think about it!

  6. The following members say thank you to sykofiddle for this post:


  7. #4
    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Connecticut, USA
    Posts
    2,878

    Default Re: Reel picking

    The few times I've discussed something like this with a teacher, the only constant appears to be that a large segment of the ITM mandolin world plays jigs as DUD DUD. Anything else appears to be DUDUDUD, be it slide, reel, hornpipe or polka. Most of that is subject to the tune itself, of course, since some tunes simply work better with the occasional double stroke. I happen to have a powerful upstroke, so i mostly bag the DUD DUD for jigs and play everything with alternate strokes. YMMV.
    --------------------------------
    1920 Lyon & Healy bowlback
    1923 Gibson A-1 snakehead
    1952 Strad-o-lin
    1983 Giannini ABSM1 bandolim
    2009 Giannini GBSM3 bandolim
    2011 Eastman MD305

  8. #5
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Llanidloes, Wales
    Posts
    644

    Default Re: Reel picking

    There are differing opinions on this. What players generally strive for is for the downstrokes to fall mostly on the strong beats (i.e. 1,3,5 & 7 in a bar of 8 quavers*). As long as you are playing a sequence of quavers, if you start on a downstroke, this happens naturally with alternate picking. Opinions diverge, however, on i. what to do when playing a crotchet† and ii. what to do when playing a triplet.

    Approach A:
    i. Strong beats are always played on a downstroke
    ii. Quavers are played with strict alternate picking
    iii. A crotchet is always played with a downstroke
    iv. A triplet is always started (and finished) on a downstroke.

    This means that, crotchet or triplet is always followed by a downstroke, which means you play two successive downstrokes.

    Approach B:
    i. The first strong beat (i.e. not a pickup note) is always played on a downstroke
    ii. The note following a crotchet is started with the opposite pick direction to that with which the crotchet was played
    iii. The note following a triplet is started with the opposite pick direction to that with which the triplet finished

    This means that, following a triplet, the picking will be turned 'upside down', so upstrokes fall on strong beats. It is common practice to then insert another triplet where possible (which will start on an upstroke), to bring the picking back in phase.

    Approach A is, I think, the most common approach. Some players (notably, Kieran Hanrahan) advocate Approach B, since it is more 'economical' - the pick never has to move unless it is playing a note. Approach A may involve 'wasting' pick strokes, but it is, I feel, a safer way to achieve a steady pulse. I lean towards approach A, but might occasionally throw in the odd 'upside-down' phrase followed by an up-triplet when playing at speed.


    *quaver = 1/8-note
    crotchet = 1/4-note

  9. #6
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Posts
    4,675

    Default Re: Reel picking

    Quote Originally Posted by sykofiddle View Post
    Thanks for the reply. That makes sense to me. On some tunes with a very strong triplet feel for the main phrases (e.g., Maids of Mount Kisco, Toss the Feathers in Em) it feels like each of those phrases need a strong downstroke at the beginning. On others it seems like it would be more fluid to alternate. So maybe I need to have constant down/up on hand as needed and then not think about it!
    Right! Getting to where you don't think about it, is the key to where you can start thinking about a rhythm pulse on top of whatever else you're doing.

    A few more thoughts on this topic (it's a great topic!). With reels at full tempo, it's a good idea to look at how players of other instruments approach the tunes, and not just the way it's written in sheet music. And then see how we can use those ideas within the limitations of a plucked string instrument like mandolin.

    For example, let's take that Em (actually E dorian) version of Toss the Feathers.

    Most fiddlers I know will use a roll or a "bow shake" over that triplet in the first bar. A flute or whistle player might use a fingered roll or tongue articulation to the same effect. A tenor banjo player might play it as a tight picked triplet. Here's Kevin Burke using a roll on that first bar:





    On mandolin, we don't have all those options (except for the tight triplet), but we might fake that initial roll in the first bar with a hammer and pull-off. Or just play two eighth-notes followed by a quarter note, instead of trying to hit the triplet at speed. Whatever it takes, to get 'ya through a reel at 100-115 bpm (counted 2/2). Kevin is playing it at about 105 bpm in that clip. Notice the backbeat feel in that clip also (emphasis on 2 and 4, counted 4/4). Not all reels are accented 1 and 3.

    On this particular tune, when in a session with fiddlers really pushing the tempo, I tend to use the two eighths followed by a quarter note in that first bar, and save the tight treble ornaments for other places in the tune where I can manage to squeeze them in.

    Bottom line: the mandolin is limited in some respects when trying to pull off what other instruments can do, just due to the picking mechanics. I can play Toss the Feathers more smoothly and faster on flute. But there are things I can do on mandolin -- mainly in the realm of throwing in partial chords within the melody line -- that I can't do on other instruments, which keeps me playing it with this music.

  10. The following members say thank you to foldedpath for this post:


  11. #7
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Llanidloes, Wales
    Posts
    644

    Default Re: Reel picking

    Quote Originally Posted by sykofiddle View Post
    ... do you "slur" from one downstroke to the next like one often does with a bow when playing the fiddle?
    Slurring notes on a plectrum instrument is not very effective for rhythmic playing - it is best to employ a pick-every-note policy. Hammer-ons and pull-offs can be used for ornamentation (like the example mentioned above by foldedpath) but even they tend to get lost in a session and, if over-used, can detract from the overall rhythmic 'punch' of your playing. Picked-triplet-based ornaments are the most commonly used; the picked triplet can be employed in different ways, so it does not sound the same every time

  12. #8
    Registered User liestman's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Conroe, Texas
    Posts
    328

    Default Re: Reel picking

    I endorse Whistler's Approach A (well described by the way!) but do incorporate a fair bit of hammer-ons and some pull-offs for "cheap and easy" triplets also. They do get a bit lost in a session but sessions are not the end-all, plus I use them on tenor banjo also and there they don't get lost. To me, Approach A is the best insurance for getting the right pulse and pulse is the most important aspect.
    John Liestman -
    Eye new ewe wood lye kit!

  13. The following members say thank you to liestman for this post:


  14. #9
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Worcester, MA
    Posts
    53

    Default Re: Reel picking

    This is all very helpful. I appreciate people taking the time to write out their approach. The first thing I have to say is, "wow - Kevin sounds exactly the same playing TTF as he did when I first bought "If the Cap Fits" on vinyl!"

    So there are a few different approaches and it seems like economy of picking needs to be balanced with getting the right pulse for a tune. A follow-up question - is it crazy to keep using a 1.5mm pick? I really like the fat tone produced by thicker picks but I wonder if some of the triplet ornamentation would be easier with a thinner pick.

    I've got literally hundreds of tunes in my left hand that keep popping out, and then the right hand says, "You're serious?"

  15. #10
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Posts
    4,675

    Default Re: Reel picking

    Quote Originally Posted by sykofiddle View Post
    So there are a few different approaches and it seems like economy of picking needs to be balanced with getting the right pulse for a tune. A follow-up question - is it crazy to keep using a 1.5mm pick? I really like the fat tone produced by thicker picks but I wonder if some of the triplet ornamentation would be easier with a thinner pick.
    For what it's worth, I use a 1.0mm pick on mandolin: a Blue Chip TAD40-1R. Backup would be a Dunlop Ultex 1.0mm. Somewhere around 1.0mm is my personal sweet spot, and as a side bonus it works for me on acoustic guitar too. I have trouble getting tight treble ornaments with thicker picks like Bluegrass players favor, but maybe that's just me.

    To get a meatier tone with a thin/stiff pick like this, I put a tiny amount of thumb-downward angle on it when hitting the strings. A tiny bit of "scrape" instead of a flat-on attack thickens up the tone. The TAD-1R shape also has one rounded corner as an option for a thicker tone. I go back and forth on that... used to play on the rounded corner, but for most things I'm on the pointy tip these days.

    Pick choice is highly personal, that's just what I use. Experiment with many picks and see what works for you. Just don't go too thin or flexible and sacrifice tone and volume.

    I've got literally hundreds of tunes in my left hand that keep popping out, and then the right hand says, "You're serious?"
    Not the worst problem to have. You're halfway there!

  16. #11
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Llanidloes, Wales
    Posts
    644

    Default Re: Reel picking

    Even 1.0mm seems heavy to me. I used a Jim Dunlop nylon 0.88mm for about 5 years until, one day, I was mistakenly bought a bunch of 0.73s. I got used to them and have continued to use them for 20 years - I find they give me the feel and sound I want. But to each his/her own.

  17. The following members say thank you to whistler for this post:


  18. #12
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    Edinburgh, Scotland
    Posts
    1,142

    Default Re: Reel picking

    Might be of help, not sure …




  19. The Following 4 Users Say Thank You to kmmando For This Useful Post:


  20. #13
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Worcester, MA
    Posts
    53

    Default Re: Reel picking

    A big thanks to everyone who chimed in on this thread. I've come back to it several times in the past week as I practice. One thing has become clear - the main sticking point is that first upstroke after a DUD triplet. Although it's still awkward, at least I know where things are getting tripped up. I've been slowing down considerably and practicing the phrases that give me the most trouble.

  21. #14

    Default Re: Reel picking

    From long-ago workshops with Mick Moloney and others I think that the standard pattern for picking reels on mando (or banjo, or any plectrum beastie) is D-U-DUD-D-U-DUD--meaning that you have to quickly change over to play two consecutive down-strokes in order to get back on pattern after a triplet. Thus pickers like Mick will hold their right hands very close to the strings and drive everything with tiny movements of the wrist. Here's an example where you can see how small the picking radius is:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlU6LABN8Bg

  22. The following members say thank you to jdsobol for this post:


  23. #15
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Llanidloes, Wales
    Posts
    644

    Default Re: Reel picking

    Mick M.'s still one of the best! (...and Miss T. isn't all that bad either.)

  24. #16
    Registered User zoukboy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Lubbock, TX
    Posts
    1,194

    Default Re: Reel picking

    Quote Originally Posted by sykofiddle View Post
    the main sticking point is that first upstroke after a DUD triplet. Although it's still awkward, at least I know where things are getting tripped up. I've been slowing down considerably and practicing the phrases that give me the most trouble.
    I always suggest practicing ornaments separate from tunes in exercises. My favorite is doing triplets in scales in thirds.
    Roger Landes
    http://rogerlandes.com
    The Hal Leonard Irish Bouzouki Method:
    http://www.halleonard.com/product/vi...?itemid=696348
    "House to House" with Randal Bays
    http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bayslandes
    "The Janissary Stomp" with Chipper Thompson
    http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/rogerchipper

  25. #17
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Location
    Howell, NJ
    Posts
    74

    Default Re: Reel picking

    This has been a really interesting thread. I have been trying to build more triplets into my playing but as of yet there are some tunes where the speed is not yet there in which case I fall back on the 2 1/8 notes and a 1/4 note or a hammer on pull off combination.
    The other thing I have done is to work on emphasizing beat on the upstroke since the music calls for that sometimes. Practicing scales starting with an up stroke and emphasizing the beat that way helps.
    Practicing ornaments seperately and breaking out pieces that give you trouble and work on them seperately also makes sense.
    For what it is worth, Mike Marshall suggests following the triplet by 2 up strokes to get back in sync. This works, but he is more bluegrass oriented so the reels flow a bit different. I have been trying this but it seems to depend on which strings you are crossing to to make it flow smoothly. I mostly follow the formentioned approach B and just pick out of sync until I can switch at the next quarter note.
    I am still using a blue chip CT 150 (1.5mm). I have a bunch of different picks which I will occasionally go through and see if there is something that works better as my playing changes. I tend to angle it and try to hold it loose enough that it does not catch on the strings. THat is not always easy when you are trying to get a lot of volume on a fast tune.
    Most important is to enjoy the journey. It is a wonderful instrument to explore, and there is always room for improvement.

  26. #18
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Llanidloes, Wales
    Posts
    644

    Default Re: Reel picking

    Quote Originally Posted by irishmando View Post
    Mike Marshall suggests following the triplet by 2 up strokes to get back in sync. This works, but he is more bluegrass oriented so the reels flow a bit different. I have been trying this but it seems to depend on which strings you are crossing to to make it flow smoothly.
    Coming from an Irish direction, it seems to me that, if you're going to play two successive strokes in the same direction they might as well be two downstrokes, since that gets your picking back in phase sooner. The only instance in which I can envisage myself (at a stretch) playing two successive upstrokes is when I am crossing strings in an upward direction (e.g. A-string to D-string). But if it works for Mike Marshall...

  27. The following members say thank you to whistler for this post:


  28. #19
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    North CA
    Posts
    3,669

    Default Re: Reel picking

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    Most fiddlers I know will use a roll or a "bow shake" over that triplet in the first bar. A flute or whistle player might use a fingered roll or tongue articulation to the same effect. A tenor banjo player might play it as a tight picked triplet.
    ...........

    On mandolin, we don't have all those options (except for the tight triplet), but we might fake that initial roll in the first bar with a hammer and pull-off.music.
    Quote Originally Posted by whistler View Post
    Slurring notes on a plectrum instrument is not very effective for rhythmic playing - it is best to employ a pick-every-note policy. Hammer-ons and pull-offs can be used for ornamentation
    Quote Originally Posted by liestman View Post
    I endorse Whistler's Approach A (well described by the way!) but do incorporate a fair bit of hammer-ons and some pull-offs for "cheap and easy" triplets also. They do get a bit lost in a session but sessions are not the end-all, plus I use them on tenor banjo also and there they don't get lost. To me, Approach A is the best insurance for getting the right pulse and pulse is the most important aspect.
    Good points about other instrument and the use of ornamental rolls, triplets, etc.

    Although I am not per se a specialist in this, I find that it would be hard to make a blanket rule about how to pick dance dunes - it depends on the tune and how you want to play it.

    I've seen the same basic setting of a certain tune ornamented and thus played differently by English, Scottish and Irish musicians.

  29. The following members say thank you to DavidKOS for this post:


  30. #20

    Default Re: Reel picking

    Quote Originally Posted by whistler View Post
    Coming from an Irish direction, it seems to me that, if you're going to play two successive strokes in the same direction they might as well be two downstrokes, since that gets your picking back in phase sooner. The only instance in which I can envisage myself (at a stretch) playing two successive upstrokes is when I am crossing strings in an upward direction (e.g. A-string to D-string). But if it works for Mike Marshall...
    I agree whistler. On Celtic tunes, I always use a downstroke after a triplet to get back in into the rhythm. To me, the two downstrokes just sound more Irish, and seem to fit into the pulse of a reel or jig better, imo. I learned triplets from Mike's Artistworks curriculum, and use two up strokes on the fiddle tunes. If you can pull off both, it is another tool in the toolbox you can use.
    Collings MT-O
    P.W. Crump OM-III

    Not long in this house:
    Weber Bitterroot F

  31. #21
    Registered User Jim Bevan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Dubai, UAE
    Posts
    450

    Default Re: Reel picking

    Am I the only one here who plays 'em this way?

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Screen Shot 2018-10-15 at 6.50.25 AM.png 
Views:	21 
Size:	137.4 KB 
ID:	171876


    (or written this way – more fiddly, less swingy)

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Screen Shot 2018-10-15 at 6.48.37 AM.png 
Views:	14 
Size:	139.5 KB 
ID:	171877

  32. #22
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Llanidloes, Wales
    Posts
    644

    Default Re: Reel picking

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Bevan View Post
    Am I the only one here who plays 'em this way?
    That depends where 'here' is . You're probably not the only one but I suspect you're in the minority. It seems awkward to me crossing from the A-string to the D-string with two successive downstrokes - but whatever works for you...

  33. #23
    Registered User Jim Bevan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Dubai, UAE
    Posts
    450

    Default Re: Reel picking

    "Here" at the Cafe.
    (Dubai hasn't proven to be a hotbed of Irish Trad.)

    I started ornamenting reels that way when I realized that that was how I was playing slides (when there are two eighth notes followed by a triplet followed by either beat 1 or 3). Seemed logical to me at the time, and still does – in the above passage (especially when played with a little bit of swing), I'm placing the two consecutive downstrokes between the notes that have the most space between them.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •