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Thread: What’s the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

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    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default What’s the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Mine is, I think 'Spain' by Chick Corea. I was curious as to what others could play. Now your hardest tune may be someone else’s warmup. Having got Spain, I’m looking fir something else I can sink my teeth into. But I’m also interested in what people think is hard. It took me a month to learn all the sections and integrate them so it’s fairly seamless. Most tunes take me anything from straight away to two days.

    All levels and tunes welcome. No judgement and no condescension.

    What’s your hardest tune?
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    Default Re: What’s the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Brilliancy, as played by Sam Bush, to get clean and up to speed (and then Chris' harmony?...fuggedaboutit...)

    Be Bop and Donna Lee are next - ugh.

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    Default Re: What’s the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Raffaele Calace ll preludio,op.49,,I have it memorized and play it on a F5,,next Orange Blossom Special played to speed as per the sheet music written by Ervin T. Rouse in 1938,,finally the theme to the jetsons,still working on it...

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    Default Re: What’s the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    "Hardest" is a rather relative term. Is it the basic tune itself, or what a player does to/with it?

    Even the simplest and/or slowest of tunes can become difficult if/when the advanced finesse and articulation elements/techniques are incoprporated: slurring, bending, vibrato, harmonic chiming, across-the strings melodic crosspicking, ornamentation, working the entire neck, volume/tone dymanics, doublestops, split-string, playing a simultaneous harmony line(s), muting, adding in backup chords behind the lead line, etc. etc.

    It's been awhile since I've played it on mandolin, and probably can't remember it all (fortunately I've got it written down in a notebook somewhere), but I had a pretty sublime version of "Sleepwalk" worked up.

    For tricky guitar-style rhythm backup, the Johnny Winter version of "Rock N Roll Hoochie Koo" is rough, especially if you harmonize the single string licks with what Rick Derringer was playing in tandem.

    But if it's just single string melody you are talking about, Paganini's "Modo Perpetuo" is a real bear, and I never did get it past the 50% mark tempo-wise. Real good shifting exercise. The Kreutzer (violin) bowing and doublestop etudes are tough on mandolin too.

    NH

    (I would like to be able to replicate Etta James' phrasing/intonation/etc of "At Last" on the flute! Or maybe come close to Sandy Denny on some of her stuff. Capturing the vocal nuances of a great vocalist can be just as difficult as playing any high-speed barn-burner, imo)

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    Default Re: What’s the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    I'm with Alan. Brilliancy is at the very top of my hard to play list. I have been thinking about Little Rock Getaway lately as a recent guitar lesson involved that tune. Here's hoping it won't be more difficult on mandolin than it is on guitar. Sheesh. T.D. if you have a fondness for T.V. tunes check out the theme from Mr. Ed. R/
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    Default Re: What’s the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    I'll continue to struggle on Bach! I have a half-dozen of the two-part Inventions worked up, but they're hard to make clean.

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    Default Re: What’s the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    I find the hardest tunes, the hardest musical endeavors I push through, are classical ensemble pieces. In addition to the music being challenging, the importance of my voice in the ensemble makes it necessary that I get it right, and get it right while listening to others doing something else, something usually very different.
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    Default Re: What’s the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Probably the Bach Partita in E BMV 1006.

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    Default Re: What’s the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    I haven't played much else besides Irish/Scottish and related trad in the last few years, and most of that is not very difficult. A few tunes stand out though.

    One that took me a while is "Ian Green of Greentrax," a Gordon Duncan pipe tune with a fiendish syncopated bit in the third section. Had to burn that into muscle memory, so I don't try to think about it. The "Tolka Polka" is another one that took a while to get under my fingers. I'm still working on the double 16th note run in "King George IV strathspey." Haven't quite got that up to speed yet, and may never match what the Cape Breton fiddlers do with that one.

    Most of the repertoire isn't very difficult. It's meant to get your feet moving, not too flashy or difficult to play well, compared to other genres like Jazz or Classical. The hardest part is learning enough tunes to play with others, since there are so many!

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    Default Re: What’s the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Hardest for me is probably jazz stuff that I am just not familiar with yet. If I called myself a 7/10 bluegrass picker, I am a 2/10 in jazz lol.

    As far as tunes I actually can somewhat play, I think Wild Fiddler's Rag off Alan Bibey's In the Blue Room is one that is always a challenge. Never mind the tempo he recorded it at. The stretches and moving around the neck is a workout and I always feel cramped up by the end of it. A good tune to practice staying relaxed! (in theory)
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    Default Re: What’s the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    "Flaky", by Jethro Burns, is physically hard because it is all double stops, often while holding one finger down and changing others. Another, also because of double stops, is my arrangement of "A Mis Colegas". I transcribed it from a South American cd of tiple music.

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    Default Re: What’s the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Quote Originally Posted by mandocrucian View Post
    "Hardest" is a rather relative term. Is it the basic tune itself, or what a player does to/with it?

    Even the simplest and/or slowest of tunes can become difficult if/when the advanced finesse and articulation elements/techniques are incoprporated: slurring, bending, vibrato, harmonic chiming, across-the strings melodic crosspicking, ornamentation, working the entire neck, volume/tone dymanics, doublestops, split-string, playing a simultaneous harmony line(s), muting, adding in backup chords behind the lead line, etc. etc.

    It's been awhile since I've played it on mandolin, and probably can't remember it all (fortunately I've got it written down in a notebook somewhere), but I had a pretty sublime version of "Sleepwalk" worked up.

    For tricky guitar-style rhythm backup, the Johnny Winter version of "Rock N Roll Hoochie Koo" is rough, especially if you harmonize the single string licks with what Rick Derringer was playing in tandem.

    But if it's just single string melody you are talking about, Paganini's "Modo Perpetuo" is a real bear, and I never did get it past the 50% mark tempo-wise. Real good shifting exercise. The Kreutzer (violin) bowing and doublestop etudes are tough on mandolin too.

    NH

    (I would like to be able to replicate Etta James' phrasing/intonation/etc of "At Last" on the flute! Or maybe come close to Sandy Denny on some of her stuff. Capturing the vocal nuances of a great vocalist can be just as difficult as playing any high-speed barn-burner, imo)
    That was part of my question. For some players, something like 'twinkle twinkle little star' might be hard, because they’ve just started or because they arrange it in some way that has a high degree of technical finesse. Someone may have had an accident your a medical condition is what is quite easy for you or I might be a technical achievement for them.

    There are some great answers here. Keep them coming.
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    Default Re: What’s the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Haven't been playing long enough to really be able to play difficult pieces. Probably the toughest I try is Sakkijarvan Polka. In Cm. Can get through it in Am. But the switch over to Cm is harder than I expected. And am nowhere near actual Finnish polka speed. Thankfully the accordion player I play it with from time to time can slow it down for me. Although that makes it more difficult for her.

    But on most pieces, am still not satisfied with my phrasing, picking and finger pressure. So many things need to be worked on at different levels.
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    Default Re: What’s the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    In all seriousness, it’s all hard for me.
    Technique, theory and fun, fun, fun. I love playing, studying and sharing MUSIC.
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    Default Re: What’s the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    In 2011 I learned the mandolin accompaniment to the one aria in Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni that features mandolin. I had to memorize it because I was on stage in the character of a street musician who is paid by Don G to help him woo a maid with song. I did two shows with an opera company in Albany. Most of the company were in their 20’s with powerful voices and strong acting skills to boot.
    I think the most challenging part of the music was learning the fingerings. The mandolin part is lovely, as busy as the vocal line is calm. What most struck me about it apart from the beauty and creativity of the music was that it moved through the circle of fifths just like so much popular music. The whole experience was very worthwhile for a bluegrass musician with no prior classical music experience.

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    Default Re: What’s the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    There is a way I hope it is always difficult. I mean, I don't really ever want to sit back and say its good enough. I don't rule out having a metric tonne of fun. I mean that I want always to be struggling to make it better.

    Because there always is better. In the classical world i am holding on with my teeth, in the fiddle tune repertory not so much. There I am trying to make my playing more musical. Which is also a real challenge.
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    Default Re: What’s the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Fairly recently I asked this same question … "that seems hard to play, is it?" (can't remember the player or the tune at the moment) but his answer was very motivating ..… "no, it's not hard to play at all, but it was pretty hard to learn".
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    Default Re: What’s the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Quote Originally Posted by KGreene View Post
    Fairly recently I asked this same question … "that seems hard to play, is it?" (can't remember the player or the tune at the moment) but his answer was very motivating ..… "no, it's not hard to play at all, but it was pretty hard to learn".
    I was searching for an answer...your quote helped me answer.
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    Default Re: What’s the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Quote Originally Posted by MontanaMatt View Post
    Also, anything in Bflat, not fun for me.
    I suppose that includes Gm then? I love to play in Gm, just not any good at it yet.
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  36. #20
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    Default Re: What’s the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Still struggle with Blackberry Blossom.

    Agreed... Bflat sucks on mandolin.
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    Default Re: What’s the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    The 2 mandolin instrumentals that i simply 'had to learn' were '' Eighth of February'' by John Reischman, & the mandolin 'classic' by Herschel Sizemore ''Rebecca''. I'd learned to play Rebecca on banjo after hearing Jim Mills play it. It's such a terrific melody that when i came to mandolin it was at the top of my ''have to play it'' list.

    I can't however say if they were 'hard' tunes to play,but simply a tad tricky to learn by ear. I broke them down into seactions,learned each one, then strung them together.

    'Brilliancy'' - I've heard 'of it',but never actually heard it.I must look it up,although these days,i concentrate more on playing back up & trying to come up with decent solos to songs. I wasted far too much time learning banjo instrumentals & then never playing them anywhere,forgetting them & then going on the the next one ad nauseum,to start to do the same on mandolin - but the odd 'challenge' might make life interesting,
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    Default Re: What’s the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    The song I'm trying to learn now.

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  42. #23

    Default Re: What’s the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Tom Bekeny’s solo on Panhandle Rag, from the Kathy Kallick album. The rhythm, phrasing and fingering are plenty challenging. We don’t have to talk about speed.
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  43. #24

    Default Re: What’s the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    I'd say the hardest tunes I know are the Choro piece Desvairada, Bach's Dm Gigue, and another Choro called O Voo da Mosca (The Flight of the Fly). I also spent a bunch of time learning the lead and harmony parts for Brilliancy and those are pretty tough too especially when pushing up the tempo.

    I agree with what many people have said here which is that you can make any tune hard. Just listen to Mark O'Connor play Boil Them Cabbage Down.

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    Default Re: What’s the hardest tune you can play on mandolin? (Or family)

    Thanks I had forgotten about this Reischman tune. He always gets my foot tapping. R/
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