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Thread: Need some advice.

  1. #1

    Default Need some advice.

    I play mandolin, guitar, and bass. Most recently I have been playing all three in a Bluegrass/Roots/Old Time band where I was mostly on mandolin. That group broke up after about 9 years because one member wanted to retire and the BL wanted to go on to other projects.

    I have been subbing on both mandolin and bass since then along with playing bass at church. I have also been actively looking for a new gig while avoiding Craigs List and hoping to stay out of bar gigs. I subbed on bass for a group I really like that plays mostly 50's, 60's, and 70's rock and roll. They already have a bass player and two guitar players. They have invited me to one of their practice sessions and asked me to bring only my mandolin.

    My concern is that I don't really see that mandolin will fit well into their song selections. I know I am familiar with almost all of their songs and I can play rhythm on the mandolin with no problem. But almost all of my single note playing is in the Bluegrass area, and I have no idea what to play single note wise for classic rock and roll. I am confident that my bass and guitar playing would fit in well with their song list, but as I said, except for subbing assignments with them on those instruments, they already have that covered.

    I should mention also that they know other folks I have played with and have probably already discussed my level of skill on the various instruments. I do read music fairly well, but they use mostly charts without notation. I really hope they ask me to join their group, so what advice can you offer as to how I can prepare for this "audition?" I don't know exactly what they are expecting from me, so maybe I should just go with what I already know and see what develops. What do you think.

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts,

    One_Dude

  2. #2

    Default Re: Need some advice.

    Regardless of what you think, they asked you for mandolin, so don't sweat it. Perhaps they are looking for a new direction. Give it to them.
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  4. #3
    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need some advice.

    I've been playing with a casual Saturday morning group (banjo, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, electric bass, and me on mandolin) that does some bluegrass, some gospel, some country, and some alt rock. The mandolin is such a flexible instrument and can enhance the band sound in so many ways. You can fill in the spectrum nicely when you strum or pick arpeggios or whatever. You can throw in lead lines when the situation warrants. You can fill in for dramatic string lines by using tremolos. We do Johnny Cash's version of "Hurt," and the mandolin tremolos can really help build the intensity. Lots of options for the mandolin!
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    Default Re: Need some advice.

    You may be surprised how many parts originally played by piano or guitar can be picked up by a mandolin player. I always look for fills and turn-arounds. Guitarists will love you because you will enhance the overall sound without stepping on them.

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    Registered User grassrootphilosopher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need some advice.

    Itīs all about how the music is put together. So a mandolin might fit in a rock band. But if the musicians do not know what they are doing even an all bluegrass cast suck at playing "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" (or "Wagon Wheel" if that is more of a pet peeve to you).

    Forgive me the extreme example that must follow. Itīs about "In The Hall of The Mountain King" by Peer Gynt.

    Some classical footage:



    And hereīs the rather obnoxious (but I find it extremely cool and well put together - though not my kind of music -) version by the cello-heavy-metal-group Apocalyptica:



    Now all you have to do is to pull off some stunt that is as cool as that and no matter what genre they will ask of you, you can do it.
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  8. #6

    Default Re: Need some advice.

    Quote Originally Posted by grassrootphilosopher View Post
    ... And here's the rather obnoxious (but I find it extremely cool and well put together - though not my kind of music -) version by the cello-heavy-metal-group Apocalyptica:

    Interesting! Not my type of music either, but they seem to have done alright with it, they seem to be very capable musicians. (I wouldn't be able to play all those way up high on the neck notes, but I think I could handle the hair-tossing part pretty good.)

    Quote Originally Posted by grassrootphilosopher View Post
    ... Now all you have to do is to pull off some stunt that is as cool as that and no matter what genre they will ask of you, you can do it.
    Good point.

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    Default Re: Need some advice.

    Find a song list on Spotify or Pandora or whatever that contains a lot of the music you’ll be playing with them. Listen, and play along. Work on turn around a, fills, some lead stuff, and maybe harmonize with some of the lead guitar stuff. Otherwise, just be yourself and keep an open mind...

    Good luck!
    Chuck

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    Registered User tree's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need some advice.

    It's good ear/brain training to try to pick out parts from other instruments. If you start with a simple, iconic guitar (or saxophone, or piano, or whatever) lick or two you can build it into a solo just by hanging around on or near the notes in the chord, or using parts of scales, or double stops, or some other musical technique.

    It might seem daunting but just keep it simple and try what sounds good to you - you can do it easier than you might think. Plus, EVERYBODY starts off not being able to do what they'd like to be able to do.
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    Default Re: Need some advice.

    IMHO, making music is making music, regardless of genre. If you've got the ear and the chops, you can play anything. It's just about finding a comfortable fit in the mix. I say go for it.
    Mitch Russell

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  13. #10

    Default Re: Need some advice.

    Thanks to all who offered advice; I think your input will help. I attend a local jam twice a month that is usually Bluegrass and Country, and last night I tried finding the melody instead of always playing rhythm and I am starting to get the idea of finding fills that lead from one chord to the next. When my turn came I played some older (50's & 60"s) rock songs that were more rockabilly and that went well also.

    I have another week to do some wood-shedding, and beyond that I think I will just go with the kind of stuff I already play. As someone mentioned, they were very specific about asking me to bring my mandolin only, so maybe they have something new in mind to add to their song-list.

    I'll let you know how everything turns out.

    Thanks again,

    One_Dude

  14. #11
    Registered User mbruno's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need some advice.

    You can really play anything on mandolin. Currently I'm playing in a bluegrass band, a grateful dead acoustic cover band, a 90's rock string band, my own solo stuff (which is a lot of Bluegrass, Stevie Wonder and Steely Dan and other random stuff).

    If you need notation, you can always try searching "song name + sheet music" or "song name + violin sheet music" and you can usually find that information.

    Just curious - what are the tunes you are having some troubles with? I have a pretty large collection of music notation that I've built up over the years - if I have your tunes, I'd be happy to send them over.

  15. #12

    Default Re: Need some advice.

    Quote Originally Posted by mbruno View Post
    You can really play anything on mandolin. Currently I'm playing in a bluegrass band, a grateful dead acoustic cover band, a 90's rock string band, my own solo stuff (which is a lot of Bluegrass, Stevie Wonder and Steely Dan and other random stuff).

    If you need notation, you can always try searching "song name + sheet music" or "song name + violin sheet music" and you can usually find that information.

    Just curious - what are the tunes you are having some troubles with? I have a pretty large collection of music notation that I've built up over the years - if I have your tunes, I'd be happy to send them over.


    That's a great offer; I don't know their song list yet, just that it's 50's, 60's, and 70's rock selections. I will probably know more after I attend their practice on the 22nd. After that time I may take you up on your offer.

    Thanks, One_Dude

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    Default Re: Need some advice.

    Also remember, the mandolin is sometimes a percussion instrument. Those chop strokes can sometimes add a lot.
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  17. #14

    Default Re: Need some advice.

    OK, so here's an update.

    I went to the scheduled practice last night with the band I am hoping to join. I originally did a last minute sub gig on bass with them and really like the personnel and their song catalog. They asked me to attend one of their infrequent practices, and that was last night. They asked me to bring only my mandolin since they really are not in need of replacing anyone.

    I viewed this opportunity as more-or-less and audition, but I don't think that is what they had in mind. I organized some songs that I could play as the date approached. As it turned out, this was just a practice session to try a few songs they were considering adding to their catalog. I played along with them, but there was no chance to do some of the music I was ready for. So this was more of a "come along and observe our process" affair. All the band members are friendly and I got at least one compliment about my playing, and invited to attend more of their practice sessions. But where this will go, if anywhere, is unknown. It has been hinted that there will be more sub work coming up in the future, so I'll have to wait and see.

    At some level, I am disappointed that I was not asked to join them, but the reality is that they really didn't have a chance to evaluate either my playing or singing. Their agenda was already set and they didn't vary from it. They have been together a long time, so I understand that they probably will not make any quick decisions about adding to their group. September is a down month for them since several members will be taking out-of-town vacations, so I don't expect to hear anything from them until after that time. They also said they take January and February off each year to work on new material. That's when they will practice every week so it may be that long until I can play with them again.

    As stated, I am disappointed that the evening was not more fruitful, but such is the musician life. I also play guitar and bass, and am wondering if I could do some solo work with the variety of material I already know. Certainly no solo bass work, but mandolin, guitar, and singing may be a possibility.

    Thanks again for your input,

    One_Dude

  18. #15
    Rush Burkhardt Rush Burkhardt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need some advice.

    How about this or something to the effect:
    "I'm looking to join a band. You guys check a lot of the boxes. (compliment, but not too wishy-washy) You've invited me to play with you. What do you have in mind? Short term? Long term?"
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  19. #16

    Default Re: Need some advice.

    I'd just take things as they come. Adding anyone to a group slices the financial pie into smaller pieces. They would need to think gigs would be bigger and better with you. I'd take a portable recording device to one of their gigs and learn the material on as many instruments as you play. That way you're ready for any sub situation.

    If you have not done a solo gig, by all means develop that skill set. It's a whole new ballgame. I'm doing a trio thing with two others who also write and sing, as well as play multiple instruments, so I have a chance to play mandolin, guitar, and bass, and sing harmony. Big fun. One of us plays out a bunch and takes every opportunity to develop relationships, plus he's really good. As we other two are retired, and he has young children, the two of us have decided he's going to be well paid regardless. We are fine with that.
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  20. #17
    Registered User mbruno's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need some advice.

    I find that when a band wants a new member, they'll ask. A lot of times there's more reasons then your skill level or personality that keep you out of a band. In many cases, it has nothing to do with you at all. Two examples for me.

    One band I've been sitting in with for 4 months. I play some, though not nearly all their gigs. Last gig I played with them, I told them how much fun I was having with them and would love to do it more. The response was essentially "we'd love to have you in permanently but gig money isn't always there to support a larger band so we only call you when we can". As a 5 piece band already (bass, guitar x2, harmonica, banjo) that's legit and understandable. They need to make X per gig and with 6 people that's harder. But, they have been calling me a lot more lately (4 gigs with them this month)

    Another band I've been on and off sitting in with for about a year now. They play frequently but I wasn't a lot of getting calls - even for their gigs in my neighborhood. Recently (last 2 months) they have started calling me for nearly all their gigs. The main reason is they reduced the band size from 5 people to just 2 (husband on guitar and vocals wife just vocals). After playing like that for a bit, they wanted to add some sonic flavor - drums were too much, the bass wasn't needed (their opinion) - so mandolin was a good fit. I've got 2 gigs with this band this month too.

    IMO, until you're in the band (and probably continuing once you're in) - you need to show dedication / skill to learn their sounds, have good stage presence, and be dependable. For me, I write charts for all their tunes and share the charts with the band. By itself, that shows a lot about your intent (why would you write charts for a one and done sit in?) and that you understand their music enough to write a chart.

  21. #18

    Default Re: Need some advice.

    Thanks for the good advice and the mention of what goes in to adding a band member. This case is a little different from most of the others I have been part of. This band plays mostly nursing homes and assisted living facilities. There are 6 band members; two on guitar, a bass player, two singers, and one person on percussion. They are very well organized, and have first rate gear. Here's where it's different; they accept no money from these venues. I think they also play other venues at times, and I don't know what the money situation is in those cases. But the nursing homes and assisted living facilities are their primary focus, and they see their participation as their contribution to the well being of the residents of those facilities. They do between 40 and 50 of these dates a year. Each concert is one hour long and is in the early evening.

    I volunteer at church 2 or 3 times a month playing bass, so this kind of arrangement is not new for me. In other bands I have been part of money was always a component. I basically do not believe in playing for free, or paying to play, but this is different. The appearance of this band at the different locations is the high point of the week for many of the residents. It has been my experience that most homes like this will only pay $50 to $100 for their entertainment, so in this case it's just easier for the band to not charge. That much money is fine for a one hour solo artist, but split six ways it barely pays for your gas expenses. So in this instance, I don't think money is an issue in the adding of a new member, but dedication, skill level, and getting along well with the others are all probably factors they consider.

    I like the idea of being right up front about asking what their intentions are with regard to me joining their group. Since September is a down month for them it will be a while until I get together again with them. I have been invited to additional practice sessions so I should have the opportunity to ask the BL that question. I will keep you posted when I learn more.

    Thanks again,

    One_Dude

  22. #19

    Default Re: Need some advice.

    Here is the latest info on the possibility of me joining the aforementioned band. The BL contacted me in the last week of September to ask if I could fill in for their bass player at a practice session. I said yes and the practice went well. Since then I have attended three of their shows and they asked me to sit in with them on mandolin. That gig was this evening and it went pretty well. The show was an hour long and we did 16 songs from the 50's through the 80's. Most of them I was familiar with and they provided a good chart for each song.

    I am playing again with them in two days and probably on 3 more gigs this month. This evening I played strictly chords with no lead work, but they seemed satisfied with that. When the BL introduced me during the naming of all the members, he said they hope I will be joining them. So while it's not a done deal yet, I think if my mandolin playing fits in with their material well enough, they may officially ask me to join.

    For now it's looking good, and I'll let you know how it goes.

    Thanks for listening and for your advice,

    One_Dude

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    Default Re: Need some advice.

    Congratulations - it sounds like you have found a good situation!

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    Default Re: Need some advice.

    This probably goes against the prevailing opinions here.
    You can play mandolin in an "oldies" pop band but its very hard to fit in rhythmically.
    In my experience Bluegrass "chop" chords don't work at all - they diminish the
    musical quality and groove of classic rock & roll. The root is on top. Great
    for anchoring Bluegrass tonalities. It kills the harmonic beauty of pop
    music of any sophistication. Also incorporating mandolin turns
    this music into some sort of "fusion" or stylistic mix. Some very few people
    can do it in a complementary way. [Probably on electric mandolin. Niles Hokkanen
    for example.] I found playing Motown or anything like it sounded terrible.
    Maybe its just me :^) IMO if its original rock music with mandolin, that's another
    matter. Room for creativity there. I've played bluegrass with a flute
    player. Cool, but it automatically wasn't Mr. Monroe's concept. :^)

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    String-Bending Heretic mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need some advice.

    Quote Originally Posted by Joel Glassman View Post
    I found playing Motown or anything like it sounded terrible.
    Maybe its just me :^) IMO if its original rock music with mandolin, that's another
    matter. Room for creativity there. I've played bluegrass with a flute
    player. Cool, but it automatically wasn't Mr. Monroe's concept. :^)
    Actually, R&B stuff can be played on mando and fit. The trick is... you MUST understand how the rhythm guitar(s) function in that genre. There a lot of guitar backup figures which are on the top three strings of a guitar in closed-voiced chords. This puts the actual pitches within the range of the mandolin. Think "Soul Man" or the chord stabs of (Temptations) "Get Ready", or some of the Curtis Mayfield songs. Play Steve Cropper's rhythm guitar part!!! I did Hendrix's "Wait Til Tomorrow" on a compilation tribute album to Joseph Spence, and Jimi's guitar riffs are pure R&B/soul, and I tried to stay as close to that as I could. FUNCTION, FUNCTION, FUNCTION!

    Click image for larger version. 

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    I spent so much time studying and adapting electric guitar (and other instruments) rhythm figures/playing onto the mandolin neck. Those "Note-for-note" transcription books which notate the whole tune including the underlying rhythm playing....Hendrix, SRV, Santana, Angus Young AC/DC, Beatles, James Brown, etc/ etc etc - there's 2 feet of shelf space filled with those type of books. One of the most informative was this one, which is now unfortunately out of print; terrific resource! - I used to work on those examples/grooves, not only putting the guitar part(s) onto mandolin, but also playing the bass lines on midi bass pedals, and the drum patterns on my one-foot control drum-kit. REALLY taught me all about how grooves are put together, especially so when you are the ENTIRE rhythm section
    The Art Of Playing Rhythm And Blues for Guitar Bass, and Drums, Volume One: The 50's and 60's Paperback – July 1, 1987
    by Dr. Licks (Author)

    https://www.amazon.com/Playing-Rhyth.../dp/0793519764

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  28. #23

    Default Re: Need some advice.

    One more update. We have another gig this Thursday and the BL contacted me to make sure I had the correct time for the show. So I continue to be encouraged. With regard to Bluegrass chopping; I am specifically not playing the chop and using chord forms that allow the chord to ring and sustain. I have been playing bass for 35 years in pop, rock, jazz, praise & worship, and country music, so I am pretty good at finding the groove in whatever style is being played. If they want any lead work in the future, I'll have to be careful not to step on the guitar leads. I'm excited about this new opportunity and hope it continues to work out well.

    Thanks again for your thoughts.

    One_Dude

  29. #24
    Registered User mbruno's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need some advice.

    Great to hear!! Glad to hear things are progressing for you!

  30. #25
    Registered User Kevin Briggs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need some advice.

    Hey, man:

    Sounds like a good problem to have. A band's asking you to play with them. :-)

    My input is just ask someone in the band what you'll be playing when you meet. They'll likely tell you, but if they don't and give you grief then I'd say it's not worth the time. Do you, man!

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