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Thread: How to play in A Flat

  1. #26
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to play in A Flat

    Who made up this rule about no capos? It sounds like this may be a one off situation so use all the tools you can. I assume this is a request for a gig like a wedding. I would just capo up one fret and play in G.

    Of course, if this will be a repeated situation then eventually you will want to learn to play in that key but if there is little time then do what you can to optimize the music. Hey I have heard about some of the top recording guys doubling on banjo by tuning it to guitar tuning to get the sound. No one will really care if you use a capo.
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  3. #27
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    Default Re: How to play in A Flat

    Quote Originally Posted by bobby bill View Post
    I have heard this many times and I have given up on understanding it. How is a "c" played in the key of A flat any lower than a "c" played in the key of C? How does a key say anything about the range of notes one might find in it without direct reference to a particular tune? And if the particular tune was in G and you transposed to A flat, you would be raising the range.

    I guess this is a rhetorical rant and you do not really have to try to explain it to me.
    because the singer isn't singing the same notes. He or she is singing the same position in the scale so If You sing a song in G do or I is G If I sing the same song in Ab the do or I is Ab and thus I am singing a higher pitch than you (Note all references to do assume the american moveable solfege system and not the french fixed system) Obviously the same holds true in reverse ie you sing in G I sing in Gb or F
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  4. #28

    Default Re: How to play in A Flat

    Bobby Bill, it’s about vocal range. If you change the key, the vocal range either lowers or raises. So a song like Orphan Gitl in A, lowered to A flat, which I believe is where Gillian Welch sings it, lowers the range the vocalist has to deal with. Our group has gone even farther down to G over the last two years. It’s just more comfortable for our vocalist to sing it in, and she’s not straining her voice. She’s more of an alto now than a soprano.
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  6. #29
    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to play in A Flat

    How I got fluid and comfortable playing in A flat was to play EVERYTHING I could play in that key for about 3 months. Start with the major scale in 1st position, then easy tunes, eventually harder tunes and exercises. Every problem you will have to find a solution, and all those will stick with you and show you "how" to play in the key.

    A friend of mine used to tell me, "there are no difficult keys, just unfamilliar ones".
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  8. #30
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to play in A Flat

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    Which Jethro book was that from, please?
    Quote Originally Posted by AlanN View Post
    This one, ca. 1976.
    There were quite a few errors in that book. I took the one and only week-long class with Jethro at Augusta Heritage Arts in WV back around 1983. I remember working on Jethro's Tune and found a few errors in notation in that one. I also have the more recent Complete Jethro Burns Mandolin Book. I would hope that they corrected the errors in that one.
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  10. #31
    Registered User Bruce Clausen's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to play in A Flat

    Discussion has ranged pretty far afield here, and we may have lost the OP.

    ricklmf, if you're still out there, we'd be glad to hear how you end up dealing with the situation, whatever exactly it is. It's always nice to know how the story ends.

  11. #32
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    Default Re: How to play in A Flat

    As usual there's the question of conext. Will you be the only player or will there be a supporting chordal instrument or at öeast bass? Here's the song in Ab and G, apparently an arrangement for mixed choir: https://hymnary.org/text/i_come_to_t...dia_flexscores
    The arrangement makes essential use of inversions, most importantly at the end: Ab/eb, Eb7, Ab, a "six-four preparation", where someone else would have to supply the bass. If you're on your own you could probably use the soprano and alto part (in the upper staff).

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    Default Re: How to play in A Flat

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    Just an aside, Ralph (but you brought it up), I am curious: Where is this taught or recommended as a "rigid formula"? I have to confess that I've not heard it taught as a rigid formula anywhere, only as a tool for indicating hand position. In practice, there is no such rigid adherence to such a formula for actually playing every note; it is a guide indicated by hand positioning.

    "Next scale note, next finger" would be the correct and natural way of playing scales ... and scale notes that span a whole step interval mean the fingers that play those scale notes will span two frets. Leaving scales, when chromatic runs are played, sometimes it is most efficient to play "next note, next finger" while other phrases will require sliding a finger up covering multiple frets for multiple notes. Efficiency rules. None of this explains why you recoil at the idea of proper hand position on mandolin being indicated by two frets per finger, as opposed to guitar being one fret per finger. My own opinion is that you fight a straw man when you (often) post about this. I've read your comments on the subject for years, and I just don't see where you differ in anything other than terminology.

    I was just trying to be helpful. With this approach the keys of Ab and Db, for example, are no more difficult than those of A and D, unless you rely very heavily on open strings (which may be the case with, e.g., many fiddle tunes).

    On this forum I've seen this rule given several times, very pedantically, this finger goes to these two frets. This happens to produce standard diatonic fingering in a few keys, such as A major, but not in Ab, which has scale notes at the 6th fret on all courses and none at the 7th fret. Could that be the reason some people think of keys like Ab, Eb, or even Bb, as "strange"?

    ("For years"? I believe I brought up this topic for the first time last fall.)

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  14. #34
    Mandolin Friendly Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to play in A Flat

    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post
    I was just trying to be helpful. With this approach the keys of Ab and Db, for example, are no more difficult than those of A and D, unless you rely very heavily on open strings (which may be the case with, e.g., many fiddle tunes).

    On this forum I've seen this rule given several times, very pedantically, this finger goes to these two frets. This happens to produce standard diatonic fingering in a few keys, such as A major, but not in Ab, which has scale notes at the 6th fret on all courses and none at the 7th fret. Could that be the reason some people think of keys like Ab, Eb, or even Bb, as "strange"?

    ("For years"? I believe I brought up this topic for the first time last fall.)
    I'm not questioning your motives at all, Ralph, I understand you're being helpful. I just fail to understand why you appear to rebel at the "one finger covers two frets" device. 'Could that be the reason some people think of keys like Ab, Eb, or even Bb, as "strange"?' Got me there; I couldn't speak for some people. I have not thought of those keys as strange, speaking for myself, and I haven't thought of "one finger, two frets" as a stumbling block to playing in any particular keys. If everyone thought alike, we'd have a boring world without much creativity, so while I have trouble understanding why "one finger, two frets" is anathema to you, I'll learn from DougC's response, "I see no reason to voice frustrations about people" and let it go ... my mind is not as supple as it used to be, and I find myself getting frustrated at my own ignorance and inability to understand things sometimes. This sidebar hasn't added anything of value to the thread, and the subject I went off on is not that important anyway, so peace.
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    Default Re: How to play in A Flat

    Bobby Bill, it’s about vocal range. If you change the key, the vocal range either lowers or raises.
    I understand that transposing a melody can raise or lower the range of that melody. What I do not understand is saying that a singer prefers A flat (period) because it has a lower range. A key does not have a range. Transposing a particular tune to A flat that was originally in A will lower the range of that particularly tune. But if the tune was originally in G, it would raise the range. And playing a particular tune composed in A flat will have a range that can be higher or lower (or the same) as the range of notes found in a completely different tune in any other key.

    I apologize for departing from the OP's question and my inability to understand a singer saying "I like A flat" needs no further concern.
    Bobby Bill

  16. #36
    Registered User Bruce Clausen's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to play in A Flat

    Right, Bobby. It's the notes that count, not the key. One song when done in Ab can use exactly the same note range as another done in C or F or whatever. So you find the key where you can comfortably sing (or play) all the notes.

    Example: Bye Bye Blackbird in C (range G to G), She's a Woman in G (range G to G).
    Last edited by Bruce Clausen; Feb-08-2019 at 3:26pm.

  17. #37
    Registered User Mandolincelli's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to play in A Flat

    When this thread is finished, let's start talking about Gb.

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  19. #38

    Default Re: How to play in A Flat

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Clausen View Post
    Right, Bobby. It's the notes that count, not the key. One song when done in Ab can use exactly the same note range as another done in C or F or whatever. So you find the key where you can comfortably sing (or play) all the notes.

    Example: Bye Bye Blackbird in C (range G to G), She's a Woman in G (range G to G).
    Starting in which position of the scale? Low G, middle G, high G? Range implies where the notes are located on the staff. It also depends on the song, because a song such as Both Sides of the Tweed has an extended range, which not everyone can handle (same goes for the Star Spangled Banner- in any key).
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  20. #39
    Registered User Bruce Clausen's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to play in A Flat

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobar View Post
    Starting in which position of the scale? Low G, middle G, high G? Range implies where the notes are located on the staff.
    Range means the interval between the lowest and the highest note in the tune. In my example, both tunes have a one-octave range.

  21. #40
    Notary Sojac Paul Kotapish's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to play in A Flat

    While I wholeheartedly agree that it's a good idea to master (or at least get competent enough to fake it in) as many keys as possible, unless you are playing with horn players or singers who regularly play or sing in Ab, I'm with Jim: There's no shame in using a capo for a one-off song in a key you rarely play in.

    I can manage in Ab when I need to. The chords are fine and I can make my way through the melodies, but it comes up so rarely for me that it's never going to feel like home, and there's no real incentive for me to work at it more. Maybe I'd sweat it more if I needed to do it more often, but there are other things I'd rather spend my practice time on.

    More importantly, sometimes I want the sound of open strings ringing out. I recorded an Irish song with a singer who wanted to do it in Ab, and we wanted to have a more open sound to the mandolin, with drone strings available. The capo was my friend in that instance, and both the chords and the melody sounded better with open, ringing strings available.

    And, for what it's worth, the guitarist/singer was entirely capable of playing it in Ab without a capo, too. She's a great swing/jazz rhythm guitarist who plays in flat keys all the time, but for that one she wanted the sound of open chords, so she used a capo ... without a hint of shame.
    Last edited by Paul Kotapish; Feb-08-2019 at 7:56pm.
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  23. #41
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    Default Re: How to play in A Flat

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandolincelli View Post
    When this thread is finished, let's start talking about Gb.
    And we can discuss F#, too.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Kotapish View Post
    I can manage in Ab when I need to. The chords are fine and I can make my way through the melodies, but it comes up so rarely for me that it's never going to feel like home, and there's no real incentive for me to work at it more. Maybe I'd sweat it more if I needed to do it more often, but there are other things I'd rather spend my practice time on.

    More importantly, sometimes I want the sound of open strings ringing out. I recorded an Irish song with a singer who wanted to do it in Ab, and we wanted to have a more open sound to the mandolin, with drone strings available. The capo was my friend in that instance, and both the chords and the melody sounded better with open, ringing strings available.

    And, for what it's worth, the guitarist/singer was entirely capable of playing it in Ab without a capo, too. She's a great swing/jazz rhythm guitarist who plays in flat keys all the time, but for that one she wanted the sound of open chords, so she used a capo ... without a hint of shame.
    2 good points.

    One, capos are useful for using open strings, as others and I have said.

    Second, I guess if you do not play music styles like jazz that use lots of keys in a single piece of music, then you are more likely to be fluent in the common keys you use.

    That said, the few times I use a capo it's almost always on guitar, not mandolin.

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  25. #42
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    Default Re: How to play in A Flat

    As I wrote above: "As ususal there´s the question of context". And, as usual, there was no answer. It never ceases to amaze me that so many people ask for advice without supplying the necessary information, even when asked. E.g., whether there are other instruments or not may determine your choice of octave, whether to play just a solo line, double stops, or occasional chords, or just supply chordal backup.

    I wouldn't play such a simple melody without dressing it up a little, e.g., play in doublestops. In that case a capo is of very little help. It may make things "easier" if you just stay in the capoed position, and "think G" instead of Ab. However, with doublestops you inevitably have to move out of that position. That's one reason many of us advise beginners to use the capo for effect only, not in order to reduce to a small number of keys.

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