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Thread: Country and Blues

  1. #1
    Registered User DogHouseMando's Avatar
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    Default Country and Blues

    Hello all,

    I wanted to ask about folks thoughts, opinions, and recommendations for playing country and blues on electric mandolins. I've got the bluegrass country down for the normal mandolin that is amplified, so this is really geared towards the electric side of the mando coin.

    Been doing an electric 4 string for about a year now, about to upgrade to a 5 string. I've got my tone and EQ set up down pretty well for the 4 string, and I'll probably just keep the same. My curiosity is regarding picking, playing, and bending styles for country and blues with an electric 4 or 5 string instrument. I don't want to simply replicate what I play on the acoustic mandolin, but I wasn't much of an electric guitar player before I started with mandolin, so I'm open to thoughts and ideas from folks. Anyone here play electric country and or blues on the electric mando?
    Washburn Americana M118SWK
    Keith Coleman custom 3 point w/ oval
    Schwab 5-string electric #79

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Country and Blues

    For electric-mandolin blues, check out Yank Rachell, Johnny Young, Rich Del Grosso, and Lino Muio (for a start) on YouTube.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Country and Blues

    I've been taking electric mandos to open mic-style blues jams for decades. I could give lots of un-asked-for advice about jam logistics, but about blues, there's this:

    Most if not all of the info/advice/lessons about blues for mandolin is for unaccompanied solo (or at least lead) mando, and when applied in a situation heavily involving guitarists, can sound cheezy ("cute" at best) 'cuz it's all an octave too high. Pentatonic scales work, of course, and play what ya want when they're giving you the solo, but the rest of the time you need to blend in with the guitar's upper notes. I'll keep it short here: if a song's in G, your G7's going to sound embarrassing – a Dm (or a Dm–Em–Dm movement)'s gonna sound great, but that's a hard concept to get your ear around when you're playing alone. You have to learn to "float" your theory up a level, but two simple starting rules are: (1) learn to think/play in the Vm of the key (as in the above G = Dm example), and (2) learn your minor 7th 5b chords, and think/play 'em on the third of the chord (G = Bm7b5, C = Em7b5 etc).

    These concepts aren't much fun to practise – as said, they don't sound great and they don't make a lot of sense when you're playing alone – but if you wanna hang with the big boys, if you want to be more than a novelty, ya gotta do it. Good luck!

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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Country and Blues

    Something that works for you is the novelty of blues mandolin - hardly anyone has heard it, so you can impress people pretty easily. That'll get you noticed, get your foot in the door, But of course you have to be real, not just different. The two chords I use the most are the D7 and A7 forms: 2435 and 2243. Slide that D7 up two and there's your E7. Yes, there's no I note, but someone else is usually playing that, so it's covered. And play that 4657 - I swear, it sounds just like "Woolly Bully!" There's a little tickle I use on the A form - slide my ring finger up from the IIIb to the III, then on the top string play a full tone drop, VIII-VIIb. I appropriated that from the Lovin' Spoonful's "Wild About My Lovin'." Love it. Can't overuse it enough.

    Bending notes ... I do that quite often with the III, bending up from the minor third fret. Also, bending up from the VIIb to the octave is cool. I use light strings on mine, and a two-note bend is easy, sometimes even a three-note. That's also good when twangin' country-style. Just remember to start on the fret below you yout target when bending up. And when bending down, stqrt with the string already bent, then relax it to your target. Seems obvious, but Keith Richards didn't know how to do that, literally asked Chuck Berry how he did it in the movie. The light going on his head when Chuck showed him was bright as a beacon.

    In my old jug band, fearless leader wanted me to play like the right hand of the piano, while the guitar played the left hand - covering the audio spectrum without stepping on each other. That odd but effective bit of advice has stood me well over the centuries.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Country and Blues

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post

    Bending notes ...Just remember to start on the fret below you yout target when bending up. And when bending down, stqrt with the string already bent, then relax it to your target. Seems obvious, but Keith Richards didn't know how to do that, literally asked Chuck Berry how he did it in the movie. The light going on his head when Chuck showed him was bright as a beacon.
    Thanks for the tip. I've been practicing this afternoon, and found that following Chuck's technique gives me a better sound -- which isn't surprising. I saw "Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll" many moons ago, but didn't play mandolin (or guitar) at the time, so I didn't absorb that lesson. Perhaps I'll have to watch all the old rock movies again, as a student of rather than just a consumer of music. Now, I can say, "Chuck Berry says that when you're bending notes...".
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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  9. #6
    Registered User DogHouseMando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Country and Blues

    Super helpful advice y'all! Thank you so much! I'm gonna take this and let y'all know how it goes.
    Washburn Americana M118SWK
    Keith Coleman custom 3 point w/ oval
    Schwab 5-string electric #79

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