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Thread: Strum, chop, mute?

  1. #1

    Default Strum, chop, mute?

    I am really a greenhorn to both the mandolin specifically and music generally.
    Every aspect of this is a big challenge for me, but rewarding because practice pays off.
    I get together weekly with a couple of guys (banjo and guitar).
    In an effort to improve my rhythm / timing I have really focused on listening to music and reading about the mandolin being a "snare drum" in BG, and trying to identify that as I listen to and learn tunes. I have become reasonably competent at doing a muted strum on 2 and 4. Last time I got together with my friends the banjo player kind of complained that I should be doing something other than a 2 and 4 muted strum / chop. If he is playing a 1 -2 - 4 empahsis and I am doing 2 - 4 we are definately taking up the same space and it gets kind of monotonous, but still fun and sounds ok to me.
    I feel like at my level of experience being able to keep time with a 2 - 4 emaphsis when playing chords is ok withs others is ok. Am I being a jerk here or is it ok for me to tell the banjo player its what I can do right now and ok and boring is better than bad?

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Indepndence OR

    Default Re: Strum, chop, mute?

    I came to bluegrass mandolin late in life after a career in music (choral, education). I found the off-beat chops were essential to the style but monotonous to play. So I mess around a little bit without completely throwing away tradition. Maybe every fourth measure or pattern I will 2 - 4-and; it sounds like "(1) chop (3) chuck-a" and so on. I also sometimes do the chop in the higher pitch (1st & 2nd) strings, whereas the tradition is to emphasize lower pitched the 4th and 3rd strings. That give it a "ping" more than a "chunk" sound. If you get too fancy (I am learning Jesse McReynolds cross-picking style) you get dirty looks unless it's your lead. But a little subtle variation now and then is just plain musical. Your buddies can get used to your style, and you can encourage them to mess around a little bit too.

  3. #3
    jbmando RIP HK Jim Broyles's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Plymouth Meeting, PA

    Default Re: Strum, chop, mute?

    If you aren't doing so, you should play chop chords rather than a muted strum. Same space isn't so much the problem as the fact that you could get the same effect by whacking a table with a flyswatter. The "bluegrass snare drum" that is the mandolin should include the sound of the chord. This will add "music" to what you are doing. The mandolin's role when accompanying is 2 and 4, so if you are chopping on 2 and 4 you are doing what you're supposed to do. If the issue is that you don't know the chords, learn them before your next jam session. Maybe your banjo guy just wants to hear the chop chord and not just a thwack.
    "I thought I knew a lot about music. Then you start digging and the deeper you go, the more there is."~John Mellencamp

    "Theory only seems like rocket science when you don't know it. Once you understand it, it's more like plumbing!"~John McGann

    "IT'S T-R-E-M-O-L-O, dangit!!"~Me

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  5. #4

    Default Re: Strum, chop, mute?

    Thanks for the replies. I guess I made a mistake in how I asked the question based on responses. I know the chords for the songs we are workiing on and can even play melodies for a couple of them. When playing chords, I have strived to hear an identifiable and correct chord that is promptly muted after a fairly agressive strum on the 2 and 4 beats.
    I think what the banjo player wants is for me to play a strum pattern other than 2 4. But thhis seems contrary to what I have gleaned from teachers as well as listening and reading about the roll of the mandolin, especailly for late age novices like I am.
    Do any of you folks reading this play other than the 2 4 pattern on BG music?

  6. #5
    Gibson F5L Gibson A5L
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    Apr 2008
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    Default Re: Strum, chop, mute?

    It's always a question of when, what instruments you are playing with and what those instruments are doing. When another instrument drops out to take a break the standard chop is a must. It puts you square in the pocket. You can add some tremolo or cross picking on double stops to broaden out your rhythm to lead into chord changes. You don't want to add "busy" but you want to add "punctuation" to the music. Listen to Monroe and Bush they both push the music with their playing. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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