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Thread: Missing the bluegrass sound

  1. #1
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    Default Missing the bluegrass sound

    I have been playing for 10 months now. My cords and cord progression is good. I can pick simple melody but it is missing that bluegrass sound. Can anyone point me in the right direction, YouTube video or book?

  2. #2
    Registered User Steve 2E's Avatar
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    Default Re: Missing the bluegrass sound

    Mandolessons.com, Peghead Nation, Banjo Ben Clark, that’s just a few. I would focus on some fiddle tunes first. Maybe Angeline the Baker or Old Joe Clark.

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    not a donut Kevin Winn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Missing the bluegrass sound

    You'll sound a lot better when you're playing with a couple other people, especially a guitar and bass.

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    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Missing the bluegrass sound

    Mandolessons.com is great for learning fiddle tunes, but not specifically bluegrass. Banjobenclark.com is great, I'm a member there, his lessons are great and easy to follow, it's not free though.
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
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    My blog: https://theoffgridmusician.music.blog/
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    Default Re: Missing the bluegrass sound

    Be patient , take some lessons, best in a direct teacher student exchange but sites will work, and do a bunch of listening to your favorite mandolinists . A computer program or device that slows down the recording will assist your ear in picking up just what is going on. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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  10. #6
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    Default Re: Missing the bluegrass sound

    Usuallypickin, it's hard to be patient, I know that it takes years to become a master of any craft. I can play the melody but just that sound is' there. I just wish I could put my finger on it.

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    Default Re: Missing the bluegrass sound

    Eric, I am not trying to be a wiseguy here. I am just curious to get more information.

    In that spirit of discovery I would ask:

    1. How many Bill Monroe albums have you listened to? You should wear the grooves out on several. I really mean a thousand hours of it. No joke. And then add in John Duffey, Jesse McReynolds, Bob Osborne before you dive into Grisman, Bush, and eventually land at Thile. Start with Bill and lots of it. Soak in that and you can’t help but take it in. (Since the Father is no longer on our mortal plane you can’t, obviously, go sit in the front row.)

    2. How much time have you spent, with that mandolin slung over your shoulder, in the company of other bluegrass musicians? I am talking about jams, festival parking lots and campgrounds and cabin porches. Time spent there, and it takes a lot of time over many years, will instill that thing you are missing.

    Brad
    Last edited by bradlaird; Oct-29-2019 at 5:31am. Reason: Typi

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  13. #8
    Registered User Steve 2E's Avatar
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    Default Re: Missing the bluegrass sound

    Quote Originally Posted by bradlaird View Post

    1. How many Bill Monroe albums have you listened to? You should wear the grooves out on several. I really mean a thousand hours of it. No joke. And then add in John Duffey, Jesse McReynolds, Bob Osborne before you dive into Grisman, Bush, and eventually land at Thile. Start with Bill and lots of it. Soak in that and you can’t help but take it in. (Since the Father is no longer on our mortal plane you can’t, obviously, go sit in the front row.)

    2. How much time have you spent, with that mandolin slung over your shoulder, in the company of other bluegrass musicians? I am talking about jams, festival parking lots and campgrounds and cabin porches. Time spent there, and it takes a lot of time over many years, will instill that thing you are missing.
    I would say Brad nailed it.

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    Default Re: Missing the bluegrass sound

    Thanks Double E!

    That is what I try to do. My thing is to think—clearly if possible—, post rarely, and if I do, make it worth the thumb typing on this stupid iPod.

    And something I forgot to say in my original response is that my questions were rhetorical. The questions are meant to be pondered, not answered. Internal dialog is generally more productive that “crowd-sourced” wisdom. Mine included.

    I firmly believe that if one has the intelligence to formulate a question they probably already have the ability to find an answer.

    This is (sorry Scott) a down vote on forums, internet chatter and bar stool opinions. And perhaps even podcast addiction.

    I really think that people should try out the idea of thinking for themselves.

    Brad

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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Missing the bluegrass sound

    Find a few people to make some music with, it is an accepting group of people! Don’t hide, maybe hang back until you find your feet. Bluegrass music is the most “Group-funded” genre I’ve ever seen. Listen and learn, find where you feel comfortable, it might take a little time but, the whole thing is making music is

    “PLAYING”

    Minor English lesson...
    It’s “Chord” not cord, reasonable use of the strangely idiomatic “English language” time for me to roast something else for dinner.
    Timothy F. Lewis
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  18. #11
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Missing the bluegrass sound

    Might want to attend this next year........

    https://monroemandolincamp.com/
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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    formerly Philphool Phil Goodson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Missing the bluegrass sound

    Quote Originally Posted by bradlaird View Post
    ....

    I firmly believe that if one has the intelligence to formulate a question they probably already have the ability to find an answer.
    ...I really think that people should try out the idea of thinking for themselves.

    Brad
    I generally agree with Brad. BUT... beginners (I remember) may not be AWARE of certain concepts and therefore have a hard time thinking much about them.

    Case in point: Eric, if you can play the melody, are you playing it as a line of single notes? Do you use embellishments like slides?

    Two tools used lots in BG music are double stops and slides. (There are, of course, many more techniques also.)
    If you're not yet using these, they would likely add a lot to your efforts.

    Guide to Doublestops
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    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Missing the bluegrass sound

    And learn how to play bluegrass rhythm!!! Learn the infamous G-chop chord and learn how to chop it (multiple free videos). Listen to your favorite players and try to emulate their rhythm patterns. Even more importantly, play with others in a jam; really learn how to play rhythm for bluegrass tunes & that will make you sound "more bluegrass" above and beyond anything else. Your role as a soloist in an instrumental tune is to play rhythm at least 3/4 of the tune, less if it is a vocal tune. Plenty of bluegrass tunes (Flatt & Scruggs) have minimal to no mandolin soloing in some pretty iconic bluegrass songs...

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    Default Re: Missing the bluegrass sound

    My first question. What does a bluegrass mandolin sound like? Bill Monroe or Doyle Lawson--- Jesse McRenyolds or Red Rector. My point is the bluegrass sound is varied, listen to the one you like the best until it's really in your head then try to do it. The more you listen and the more you practice the closer you will get. Never forget what you should be trying to achieve is to sound like you, but you have to start somewhere. Also not to be a smart a$$ those you are listening to probably have been playing more than 10 months.

  24. #15
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    Default Re: Missing the bluegrass sound

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric "Trapper" G View Post
    I have been playing for 10 months now. My cords and cord progression is good. I can pick simple melody but it is missing that bluegrass sound. Can anyone point me in the right direction, YouTube video or book?
    Its hard to be born full grown.

    Give yourself a little more time, measured in years, not months.
    Play it like you mean it

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    Registered User archerscreek's Avatar
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    Default Re: Missing the bluegrass sound

    I would guess that you're playing probably sounds too mechanical, rigid, or technical. Or to put it another way, you play like an engineer rather than an artist. It's a natural progression. You have to nail the technical stuff before the art can freely flow.

    I think if you really want to nail the bluegrass sound and be able to communicate with your music, you have to listen to the blues. Think of it as Blues Grass music rather than something named after a sod. There would be no bluegrass without the blues. I hear a ton of blues influences in Bill Monroe's songs.

  27. #17
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Missing the bluegrass sound

    I have read that it takes about a decade to sound like you have been playing 10 years.
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
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  29. #18

    Default Re: Missing the bluegrass sound

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall View Post
    Its hard to be born full grown.

    Give yourself a little more time, measured in years, not months.
    I once read that it takes about 10 years to sound like you've been playing for a decade... and some of us don't progress that quick.

    Edit: Guess I'm not the first to say this... maybe I should read the whole thread before commenting.

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  31. #19

    Default Re: Missing the bluegrass sound

    Yep... you gotta slide into the 3rd. Find the 3rd in the scale and slide into it from below eg flatted 3rd to the 3rd. Of course this is not all but it certainly will sound more bluegrassy and is easy to do.

  32. #20
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    Default Re: Missing the bluegrass sound

    All of the above - sadly there are no shortcuts.

    Learn a bunch fiddle tunes (and make sure you can play them clearly before you play them fast)
    Develop your rhythm playing
    Practice making up breaks for songs you like.
    I would agree with listening to lots of recordings, but I will add to not get discouraged that you can't play at light speed - use them as inspiration
    Lessons are good (I'm currently enrolled in Peghead Nation)

    And, I'll add a bit to what Sorefingers posted above. You can get a lot of mileage out of using pentatonic scales with the added flatted third note. If you know the chord progression you are playing with you can play the pentatonic scale that goes with each chord as they change. Try this and you will be amazed at how bluegrassy you can sound. I have used and still use instructional material from Niles Hokkanen - The Pentatonic Mandolin and Bluegrass Up the Neck that teach basically how to find and use the scales within the chords you are playing. Also, I went to a great workshop by Don Julin at Wingergrass this weekend where he talked about this idea - you might check his website for lessons as well.

    Finally, playing with others really pushes you. If you can't do that, there is an app called IReal Pro that costs about $15 that can give you backing tracks of chord progressions of your choosing.
    Last edited by RobP; Feb-25-2020 at 1:06pm.
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  33. #21
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Missing the bluegrass sound

    Quote Originally Posted by Timbofood View Post
    Minor English lesson...
    It’s “Chord” not cord, reasonable use of the strangely idiomatic “English language”
    Taking the side track, sorry ... Timothy, like you (and surely many, many others) I notice these errors and cringe, especially when I make one. I do generally refrain from posting corrections on social media. But I just want to say that the words "chord" and "cord" are closely related. I read somewhere that the word "chord" came about from the idea of playing certain notes on multiple cords (or strings). So there's that.

    https://www.etymonline.com/word/chord
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  35. #22

    Default Re: Missing the bluegrass sound

    I second the recommendation above of Niles Hokkanen’s book “Bluegrass Up The Neck.” The book teaches position playing using closed strings for the most part. It’s a crash course in bluegrass mandolin 101. I found it very helpful.

  36. #23
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    Default Re: Missing the bluegrass sound

    I'm not shilling for this, but I did notice Peghead Nation announced Sharon Gilchrist's new course, starting this month, is "Bluegrass Mandolin Fingerboard Method." She gives a preview here.

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  38. #24
    Registered User mingusb1's Avatar
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    Default Re: Missing the bluegrass sound

    Keep at it. I've been messing with bluegrass mando consistently for almost 20 years and finally feel like I'm getting some of what I love hearing on classic bluegrass recordings. I want to mention a couple of things. If you sit down to learn say a Monroe instrumental it's of course challenging. And there are a lot of ways to do it--listen to a recording of the original over and over, slow it down, learn it from a friend or teacher either in person or maybe online. Any of these can work. But I'd say don't worry about exactly replicating a recording or someone's version. I don't believe Monroe would do that himself, and I don't think that's necessarily the spirit of the music. Concentrate on the "big notes" and key phrases, and figure out what strings and positions the phrases are being played on. And of course what is the right hand doing? When you do this the next Monroe tune may be just a little less mysterious because you've got some muscle memory now. If you get to say 85% of what your source version is that's good. Your tune will be recognizable and other players can play with and off of you. And down the road someone may say "hey, show me your version of so and so..." and you can recall where you learned it from. Another thing I'll mention is the classic bluegrass that I love always has a little desperation in it. The kickoffs, breaks, rhythm playing, and of course singing. And I don't just mean the fast numbers. This tells me that while the players were practiced and knew what they wanted to do they also were not afraid to push it and take some chances. That's what I love.

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  39. #25

    Default Re: Missing the bluegrass sound

    Listen to LOTS of Bluegrass. One of the best ways to "get" a style is listening. Active listening is actually a form of practice. Make a special playlist of the songs or tunes you want to learn first and listen to those especially, even when you're not playing. Amazing Slow Downer is also a good resource. Not just for slowing down to learn the melody or rhythm, but also for picking up stylistic elements that may pass too quickly in the regular recorded version. And it takes time.

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