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Thread: Help with rhythm

  1. #1

    Default Help with rhythm

    I am getting some feedback from my jam mates about mandolin playing and rhythm. Based on everything I have read/heard it seems to be a consistent message that the mandolin player’s role when playing rhythm is to chop on the second and fourth (“back”) beats. I work diligently on this including playing along with backing tracks and also using a metronome, not at the same time of course. If I record myself either playing with a backing track or a recording of me playing melody it sounds ok to me ( I am a 62 year old beginner). However the banjo and guitar guys continue to want something more than that. Again, all references I have indicate chop on 2 and 4, downstrokes only. Am I missing something here?
    Thanks

  2. #2

    Default Re: Help with rhythm

    Here are some cool rhythms. Try these with a metronome as chops, but also as single note patterns and arpeggios.
    Good luck!

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	32 Strum patterns UKE n SONG TABS.pdf 
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    Remember be careful, some of the jalapeño thyme, rosemary, cinnamon, propolis and cloves rhythms -you do NOT want to play in certain situations.
    Last edited by atsunrise; Sep-06-2019 at 2:59am.

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  4. #3
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with rhythm

    Cool patterns, leads me to ask or want to verify, the bold arrow is the chop? What is the upstroke, a light chord or a chop? How do you chop a down stroke and up stroke so quickly, it seems in some cases that would be tricky. Of course I don’t even know if I chop correctly. I tend to hit the chord like normal then lighten my fingers right after the initial attack to mute it abruptly but that might be a different technique. Is that a valid chop?
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    Default Re: Help with rhythm

    Baron at Mandolessons has a good tutorial here.
    Mitch Russell

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  8. #5

    Default Re: Help with rhythm

    Here’s a chop chord definition that’s reasonable:
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chop_chord
    ‘Chop chord’, the term being genre specific, Bluegrass etc, you’ll usually be playing on the upbeat. There’s a gap of silence on the 2 and 4 beat that’s free for the mandolin. That’s so that the guitar and especially the bass can fill in on the 1 and 3.
    Basically you want to divide a measure up and give each instrument it’s place on it’s own as much as possible to avoid the sound being too muddy.

    The rhythms that I’ve posted above can be used too, and it can sound really cool BUT each instrument again has to know where to fill in.
    Sometimes there are rhythms that repeat over 16 or even 32 eights. In this case if the mando comes in on every 2 and 4 beat it can sort of flatten the rhythm out too much (for the taste of the other musicians).
    It can (sometimes) sound amazing if the mando comes in only on say the 18, 19, 22 and 24 eights, or a short flourish each time beginning on say, the 6th eighth in the pattern.
    Guitarists, being more rhythmically inclined, can sometimes believe that it’s obvious in a complicated rhythm where another instrument could go to be helpful.

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    Registered User Ky Slim's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with rhythm

    Quote Originally Posted by John Bertotti View Post
    Cool patterns, leads me to ask or want to verify, the bold arrow is the chop?
    The bold arrows in the uke patterns are down beats. That is helpful for learning various rhythms but is not a chop specific exercise.

    To the OP, if you have a bass player get in between his rhythm with chops. If not, ask your guitarist to pedal bass notes and let you lock in with that. Tell the banjo player to hush.

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  12. #7
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with rhythm

    If your chop rhythm sounds in good time on the "off beat" when you record yourself, it might be that your rhythm is fine and the tone or volume needs work.

    You might need to tighten up the synchronization of pick and left hand on the chord release so the chop is nice and clean, not muddy with a sloppy release. You need a fairly aggressive pick attack to get enough volume. You also need reasonably fresh strings so there is enough high frequency to be heard above other instruments. Make sure you're changing your strings often enough.

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  14. #8

    Default Re: Help with rhythm

    Chopping on the 2 and 4 is the most important part of mandolin rhythm playing (in bluegrass). In a full jam circle, that's probably all there is room for. With less instruments there is more space.

    You can "boom-chop" (especially if the guitar player is taking a break). Bass note on the 1 and 3 with chops on the 2 and 4. This helps get your hand moving enough for some other imbelishments. Another easy imbelishment is to hit the A and E strings on the up stroke. This should fall on the "and" before 2 or 4.

    Bass & chop & Bass up chop

    There are a ton of other options. Listen and watch some of your favorite players when the aren't soloing.

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  16. #9
    Confused... or?
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    Default Re: Help with rhythm

    Quote Originally Posted by John Bertotti View Post
    ... leads me to ask or want to verify, the bold arrow is the chop? What is the upstroke, a light chord or a chop? How do you chop a down stroke and up stroke so quickly...
    Lots of good information above, but I think some definition is needed for perspective:

    - The ukelele chart shows a series of "strums", as normally used on uke. None of them are specifically a "chop". (I trust that "strum" itself, per its most common usage, doesn't need further definition.)

    - A "chop" is a specialized form of strum, highly abbreviated, and mostly played on the off-beat in bluegrass music. It replaces the hi-hat of a traditional drum set.

    - A proper BG chop is normally played on a downstroke, because it is mostly expressed by the lower strings of the mandolin.

    - The TERM "chop" is, again, mostly in bluegrass, and would not be known to most ukelele players or other musicians.

    - The effect of a chop does show up in places o/t bluegrass, mostly often played on guitar or even piano; not so much on ukulele.

    Aside: Some will laugh either with me or at me, but John Lennon's rhythm on "She's A Woman" is, to me, an extreme form of rock "chop". His "mallet-on-steel" tone is also the earliest example I can recall of anything being called "heavy metal", back before heavy metal became a thing meaning "bathed in distortion".

    Hope this helps!
    - Ed

    "What our group lacks in musicianship is offset by our willingness to humiliate ourselves." - David Hochman

  17. #10

    Default Re: Help with rhythm

    https://ukulelego.com/lessons/reggae...ng-on-ukulele/

    This one covers double chops in Reggae, which of course is a bit easier with the ukulele
    because of the lower string tension but well worth practicing on the mando.
    There are a couple of audio files.

  18. #11

    Default Re: Help with rhythm

    Asking for "something more" than the chop leads me to think your jamming buddies want you to embellish your playing with brief flashes of artsy strums and lead lines.

  19. #12

  20. #13

    Default Re: Help with rhythm

    Quote Originally Posted by atsunrise View Post
    Here are some cool rhythms. Try these with a metronome as chops, but also as single note patterns and arpeggios.
    Good luck!

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	32 Strum patterns UKE n SONG TABS.pdf 
Views:	133 
Size:	26.3 KB 
ID:	179559
    Very cool! Thanks!

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    Default Re: Help with rhythm

    You can tell by these answers that everyone seems to have a difference of opinion on rhythm. Find out what exactly your mates want and if you want to do that. For hard driving bluegrass listen to Monroe in his prime of Duffy with the Country Gentlemen. The mandolin must constantly chop hard and strong pushing the beat. I do that on a song that really needs driving or when band mates start countrifieing the song, but to be honest the constant chop sounds good but like Jethroe it bores be to tears, so band is learning to keep driving without the chop. This can be done, listen to early Flatt and Scruggs, they didn't have a mandolin or Jimmy Martin driving the band with his guitar. This leaves the mandolin to do other things.

  22. #15
    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with rhythm

    If all else fails, perhaps actually have a conversation with your bandmates?
    Phil

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  24. #16
    Registered User tree's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with rhythm

    Listen to Sam Bush and David Grisman when they're playing rhythm. They're not scared of anything . . .
    Clark Beavans

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  26. #17

    Default Re: Help with rhythm

    Yes, it could be some sort of emotional issue between the members of the band (that’s music), and something to sort out.
    I was also wondering about timing, do you (OP) have a solid rhythm and can you change, to play the chops fractionally before the beat, and fractionally after?

    A lot of people , especially fiddlers I believe, like to have percussion played just AFTER the beat.
    This pulls them to slow down and can help reign in the more excited or competitive fiddlers in the group.

    Also, fiddlers play notes as pulses, there’s a rise and fall in volume of each note. They may feel that the beat is when they start to pull their bow in order to play the note, whereas you may hear the beat a fraction of a second later when the pulse is at it’s maximum volume. So there’ll be a difference in where the band members feel that the beat actually is. Something else to talk about.
    Echo too.

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  28. #18
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    Default Re: Help with rhythm

    If you are playing Blugrass and want that drive that BG is supposed to have you must push the beat. Dragging the beat sounds bluesy. Which is fine if that is what you want but it ain't grass.

  29. #19
    Registered User OldMandoMan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with rhythm

    When I have students say that they don't have a sense of rhythm, I reply "So you can't walk?" Therein lies a great practice technique. Instead of strumming everytime your foot hits the ground, a mandoliner has to chop precisely in-between steps and mute all strings when your foot hit's the ground. Don't start with Orange Blossom Special though. Try Blue Moon of Kentucky to avoid tripping! Also might want to try this for the first time when no one is watching?

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