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Thread: How an Instrument Shapes Our Playing

  1. #1
    Registered User Kevin Briggs's Avatar
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    Default How an Instrument Shapes Our Playing

    Hi, Everyone:

    I've been playing the heck out of my new Collings MT2 for the past week and, as I'm sure you know, when we put lots of time in on our instruments unexpected things can start to happen.

    This morning, as I was practicing some fiddle tunes at different speeds, it became clear to me that I was playing the tunes in a way that worked for me when I owned a different instrument. I learned most of the fiddle tunes I know on a Weber Fern I owned a few years ago, putting a lot of time in on that instrument and working out the songs with it. It was quite a different mandolin than my Collings MT2, and this morning I noticed myself trying to do things with the Collings that worked well on the Weber. It didn't work the same though.

    The Weber was extremely resonant with substantial low end, but did not have cutting highs, and it was perpetually physically tough to play. So, I was often negotiating the great tone it had with what I felt I was able to do without getting a cramp in my hand. The Collings, on the other hand, is really bright, does not have the same bottom-end, but plays like a dream. So, I'm not negotiating amazing tone with tough playability, but I'm also not getting that deep bottom-end which factored into how I played the fiddle tunes. I'll say, both are equally loud, wonderful instruments.

    The point is not that one is better than the other, it's more of a curiosity about how I'll be reconfiguring how I play some of the fiddle tunes I've known for years because I learned them on a much different mandolin that played differently and literally made different sounds. Of course, it would be great to hear any similar experiences from ya'!

  2. #2

    Default Re: How an Instrument Shapes Our Playing

    Even with the same instrument, changes can cause you to play differently. I recently set up my kit build after playing it for ten months. It had gotten indistinct in the upper registers. After a fret level and a truss rod tweak, the high end exploded and I had to alter my pick attack as the high end became loud.

    My Silverangel is at the other end of the sound spectrum and gets played accordingly.

    My old A1 takes me in different directions entirely. Certain mandolins just have more headroom, some compress. When playing instruments side by side one realizes how different they can be. I played my SA back to back with Northfields and Collings. Quite the contrast, and which you like is going to be predicated by what you are going to use it for. I think my SA is pretty good at everything, but doesn't have the raw power and cut my Arches has, but I'd pick it for Celtic every time, but then my A1 is great for that. Thus the need for many instruments. That's my rationalization and I'm sticking to it.

    There is no doubt in my mind I'll eventually own a Collings. Just because.
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

  3. #3
    Some Ability - No Talent MikeZito's Avatar
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    Default Re: How an Instrument Shapes Our Playing

    I am a firm believer in instruments changing playing styles. Without getting into boring specific details - I have owned several instruments over the years that because of their feel, tone, and/or playability have brought my playing to places that I had never really considered before. To me, growing as a player is all about study, practice and inspiration - and very often new instruments have given me new inspirations that eventually lead me to more study and practice . . . and in the end, that is a very good thing.

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    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: How an Instrument Shapes Our Playing

    Yep, I finger things completely differently when I'm playing my KM150 than when I'm playing my GX guitar.
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

  6. #5
    Registered User Frankdolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: How an Instrument Shapes Our Playing

    I do believe to a degree you are what you play. No matter the instrument we hold we are bound to be influenced first by appearance, then by feel. Those two things would be enough. But we're also dealing with whatever opinions we may have towards a certain style or manufacturer. And we haven't even played a note.

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    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: How an Instrument Shapes Our Playing

    I've experienced it; if you are a sensitive player, the instrument changes how you play, sometimes immediately, sometimes over a period of years. I've had instruments that totally changed my playing style as I learned how to best pull tone from them and going further, as I learned how best to express my music through them.

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  9. #7
    Registered User Kevin Briggs's Avatar
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    Default Re: How an Instrument Shapes Our Playing

    Quote Originally Posted by dhergert View Post
    I've experienced it; if you are a sensitive player, the instrument changes how you play, sometimes immediately, sometimes over a period of years. I've had instruments that totally changed my playing style as I learned how to best pull tone from them and going further, as I learned how best to express my music through them.
    Yes! This is what I mean. I was well trained on how to pull tone from that awesome Weber I had, but it did not translate to the MT2. I’ve been playing The heck out of it and making adjustments to the action as I go. Whereas the Weber performed exceptionally with high action, the Collings clearly doesn’t need it. In fact, I noticed a bit of deterioration of the tone when the action was too high. It’s a bit lower now, and I find I’m not digging in so hard, which was often needed on my Weber. The Collings has a really sweet, round tone at its core, and it woods without having to crush it. Very cool, but it’s revolutionizing my playing.

  10. #8

    Default Re: How an Instrument Shapes Our Playing

    "Tone Poems" by David Grisman exploits this phenomenon. Each different instrument brought out a different style and tune. David's notes about this are interesting.

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