Results 1 to 16 of 16

Thread: Question for Experienced Players

  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    The Great Northwest
    Posts
    87

    Default Question for Experienced Players

    I am still pretty much a beginner. In fact, many of the parts to the mandolin world are just now coming together. Like a lot of folks, I started playing bluegrass and had progressed to jamming with others regularly until this latest mess interrupted the jams.

    Bluegrass seems to be mostly played at Mach 2. I am finding more and more bluegrass songs that lose their character at the speeds people play them. I heard Cherokee Shuffle played the other day at speeds that made it almost unrecognizable.

    Two points: I canít play that fast; and, I donít want to play so fast that the tune just becomes melodic noise. I have had this same sense at festivals where top players go to jam.

    Is this a common experience in the journey through the mandolin world?

    Maybe bluegrass isnít my genre?!?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Question for Experienced Players

    I agree with you about speed, and yes, bluegrass players who can show speed usually do. It is
    not limited to mandolin, banjo players are the worst (I am one of those too).

    The good thing about music is that you can do what you want. Find players who play at your speed and have fun.

  3. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to BG_Dana For This Useful Post:


  4. #3
    Ted Heinonen
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Duluth, Minnesota
    Posts
    38

    Default Re: Question for Experienced Players

    It does seem like a "Gunfight at the OK Coral" at times when one is at a festival jam session. I usually don't pull the instrument out right away before I walk around the circles and just listen. It's not that I can't keep up when anyone shooting notes out like a machine gun, it's just that after 45+ years I don't care to pick that fast. Speed will kill a fiddle tune faster than a summer downpour in the back field and you're right - tunes can sound a bit blurred, even though who ever is picking fast is clean and accurate and slick as as a winter street in downtown Duluth - I like my tunes at a more moderate pace so I can embellish a bit which I'll admit here now, can get out of hand too - but I like to hear and savor the melody like a good steak.

    Maybe look for a jam that is more old-timey as most bluegrass fiddle standards have started there. I've learned quite a few gems to take home and add to my list that way. When I teach mandolin up north here a number of my students have expressed concern that they aren't picking fast enough. I have to tell them not to worry and strive for speed. If you focus your energy on speed you loose the melody idea and you can crash and burn real quick, which can result in becoming discouraged. Speed will come as comfort with the melody and neck position is learned. IMHO speed should never be the goal of any fiddle tune. One of the hardest things to pick, and pick well is pick a bluegrass standard slow.

    When you do - you hear things differently and for me opens the tune for improv and embellishment
    exploration. Well that's my rant and ramble.. don't let it discourage you, there are jammers out there that feel the same and will welcome you in... and hopefully this Corvid thing will end and we can all get back to pounding out the tunes in the back lots and fields and enjoying the fellowship jamming brings.



    Quote Originally Posted by Dukesdad View Post
    I am still pretty much a beginner. In fact, many of the parts to the mandolin world are just now coming together. Like a lot of folks, I started playing bluegrass and had progressed to jamming with others regularly until this latest mess interrupted the jams.

    Bluegrass seems to be mostly played at Mach 2. I am finding more and more bluegrass songs that lose their character at the speeds people play them. I heard Cherokee Shuffle played the other day at speeds that made it almost unrecognizable.

    Two points: I canít play that fast; and, I donít want to play so fast that the tune just becomes melodic noise. I have had this same sense at festivals where top players go to jam.

    Is this a common experience in the journey through the mandolin world?

    Maybe bluegrass isnít my genre?!?

  5. #4

    Default Re: Question for Experienced Players

    All of the above.
    Its not the genre, its the people. and their attitude/interpretation of music.
    And, its YOUR sense of musicianship.
    You need to find YOUR peeps.

    This like preferring spicy food to less spicy, relaxing music to something that makes you want to dance, etc. no right or wrong.
    And, fwiw, I think tempo, and key are a really big deal, and its not always 240 BPM that's the best. It can be used to make a very tired tune exciting, in the same way as avoiding speed traps in a 30mph zone. Not always the best choice.

    IMHO, playing is being able to listen, and, being able to express yourself. You need to do this at your level, and allow yourself to grow.

    Playing with others is like a friendship, if not sometimes a marriage , depending on the length and intensity of the relationship. Some jams are great, others, not so much, and even they vary almost each session. Festivals are even more intense, imho.

    There are always those better than you, worse than you, richer, poorer, etc.. And people with certain expectations of how and what to play, or, not so much, and just are into being in the moment. and then there are.....the BG POLICE......stay in the lines, that's not how so and so played it....(time for an aspirin or something)

    Personally, mostly I can keep up, but im not a virtuoso, nor is BG my most favorite music. I know pretty much in terms of the repertoire, but I don't study it deeply., More than anything, I hate feeling like its a competition. Does little for my overall sense of musical happiness and satisfaction. Sometimes it may dash my sense of spontaneity and creativity. OTOH, it can up your game, eventually your confidence, but you need to want this for it to be satisfying, IMHO.

    IMHO, its important to bear in mind, respectfully, that your feeling are yours, most other folks make their judgment about you and its over and done, not good, not hostile, not bad, just they peg you. So chin up, attend not to conquer , but to particiapte, if you can, or to observe and learn. Just think about all the other great things in your life. And carry on, play and let er rip, clams and all.

    Don't worry be happy. Find where your comfortable. As they tell us, speed will come.LOL
    Last edited by stevedenver; May-26-2020 at 3:01pm.

  6. The following members say thank you to stevedenver for this post:


  7. #5

    Default Re: Question for Experienced Players

    I agree that it is most likely a jam thing. If you listen to the Bluegrass Album Band, you will find tunes they play
    in the appropriate (at least, to me) speed.

  8. #6
    Registered User cartershilts's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    Madison, Wisconsin
    Posts
    17

    Default Re: Question for Experienced Players

    There's a British journalist named Emma John who wrote a book about her trip to North Carolina and her first exposure to bluegrass jams. The first thing she noticed was the 'competitive' aspect of the jams and how soloists were always trying to one-up each other with faster, more technical solos. It's not necessarily a bad thing, and is one of the reasons bluegrass breeds so many prodigies, but it certainly has side effects as well. A little competitiveness is good, it pushes players and helps them improve, but too much competitiveness upsets the vibe and can make the jam really unenjoyable.

    The excitement of the jam plays a role as well. Coming from the Midwest, I didn't have too many opportunities to jam when I was growing up. I remember when I first started going to jams my entire sense of timing would be thrown out the window because I was so excited that I would just put the pedal to the metal on every tune.

    All that said, I think the top players are actually the ones who play at a tempo appropriate for the tune (think Tony Rice's version of "Cattle in the Cane," or Bill Monroe playing "Southern Flavor"). The top players are also the ones who adapt to the overall level of the jam (you'll never see Sierra Hull walk into a beginners' jam and start playing Daybreak in Dixie at 200 bpm).

  9. The following members say thank you to cartershilts for this post:


  10. #7
    Hands of Pot Metal
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Forest Grove, Oregon
    Posts
    1,407

    Default Re: Question for Experienced Players

    Fast tempos are part of many musical genres, so switching can be problematic. Jams vary considerably in preferred tempos, so its often the case of founding one yourself to attract players in your preferred tempo. I've done that in 2 different genres.

    But when you're in a jam where a particular song is too fast, you can always pass, or play a slimmed down version of the melody. Learning to slim down the notes is a skill in itself.

    My take-"which fiddle tunes sound better slower? All of them"
    Play it like you mean it

    Not all the clams are at the beach

    Arrow G
    Clark 2 point
    Ratliff CountryBoy A
    00-21 (voiced by Eldon Stutzman)

  11. #8
    Registered User Erin M's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2020
    Location
    The Beautiful Pacific Northwest
    Posts
    37

    Default Re: Question for Experienced Players

    Quote Originally Posted by cartershilts View Post
    ...
    It's not necessarily a bad thing, and is one of the reasons bluegrass breeds so many prodigies, but it certainly has side effects as well. A little competitiveness is good, it pushes players and helps them improve, but too much competitiveness upsets the vibe and can make the jam really unenjoyable.
    ...
    I'm lucky that the only bluegrass combos I've played with (bass, not mandolin) have been friendly amateur groups, so nobody is belting out tunes so fast the poor fiddler's bow arm looks like a hummingbird wing. Maybe things are just more laid-back about bluegrass on the west coast, too. I have seen a lot of performances that are taken at breakneck tempo and those are usually groups from the "heartland of bluegrass". Personally, I prefer the cooperative rather than competitive atmosphere; I kind of feel the results are more satisfying.

    It calls to mind my orchestra days when we'd do something like Beethoven's 8th symphony at Beethoven's indicated metronome markings[*] (WAY fast); I felt bad for the poor cellists who were barely able to scratch out that triplet-infested trio section in the 3rd movement. It invariably ended up sounding like a trainwreck. But, when played at a tempo more in line with the character of the music, it sounded beautiful.

    That being said, there's room for everyone in the Bluegrass world and not necessarily a right or wrong tempo.


    [*]: there's a lot of speculation that Beethoven's metronome, which was among the first ever made, was a bit inaccurate, so all the metronome markings he added just seem way too fast for the character of the music. Some conductors insist on playing them exactly as written though.
    "Same old moon, same old sun, same old race that we've always run." - Jeff Black

  12. #9
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    The Great Northwest
    Posts
    87

    Default Re: Question for Experienced Players

    Thanks for your insights. They are appreciated.

    A clarification, the regular group I jam with is very accepting of a newbie.

    What caused me to be thinking about this more than usual are the number of tunes on YouTube that just rip along. This caused me to think about the jams at the festivals from last Summer in which tunes were played that I had played that I simply didn’t recognize. All rather circular logic.

  13. #10
    Bluegrass Mayhem marbelizer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Location
    Washington State
    Posts
    48
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Question for Experienced Players

    When I was in my beginner/ intermediate days I would venture out to the National Old Time Fiddle contest out in Weiser ID. I found the more moderate tempo jams were with the older folks. I'd listen to the younger gunslingers for awhile then head over to the RV section where the "Weiser Geezers" were jamming the old numbers at a moderate tempo. Much more enjoyable for me. They were also very welcoming and friendly.

    Now I'm in my 60s and ready to take on the mantle of Weiser Geezer. Maybe next summer....
    '95 Gibson F-5V
    2017 Collings MF5
    '93 Donaldson F
    2002 Martin D-18GE
    pre-war German violin

  14. The following members say thank you to marbelizer for this post:


  15. #11
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    1,947

    Default Re: Question for Experienced Players

    For what it's worth, this conversation occurs in Traditional Irish Music circles as well. There are often specific "slow sessions" held for folks who can't quite get up to "session speed".
    Steve

  16. #12
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Southern Maine
    Posts
    76

    Default Re: Question for Experienced Players

    At a summer camp last year there was a group of older teens and young 20’s who dominated the bluegrass jams as if it was NASCAR. Some of us older folks just formed smaller groups elsewhere to get out of the speed trap.
    Silverangel A
    Eastman 615-tweaked

  17. #13

    Default Re: Question for Experienced Players

    You lose the beauty of the melody with all that speed. Does nothing for me. Listen to something like Russian Rag. You get all the intensity without that 'I'm gonna play this as fast as I possibly can and don't care how many notes I miss' attitude.

    I love to enjoy the note and hate to hear it spoiled.

  18. The following members say thank you to jimmy powells for this post:


  19. #14
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Kalamazoo, MI.
    Posts
    7,172

    Default Re: Question for Experienced Players

    There is a great tendency for break neck speeds for breakdowns (sorry, I will go to my corner) and a very great amount of Bluegrass music, the problem is so many replace “Drive” with SPEED! And it’s not always about speed, there is a certain aggressive component to the music that makes it “git right up there and go!”
    There are tunes that are just fun to play with a “swing and bounce” not fast as all get out!
    You will find some more guys with like feelings and you will be happy as a clam at high tide!
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

  20. The following members say thank you to Timbofood for this post:


  21. #15
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    No. California
    Posts
    840

    Default Re: Question for Experienced Players

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall View Post
    Fast tempos are part of many musical genres, so switching can be problematic. Jams vary considerably in preferred tempos, so its often the case of founding one yourself to attract players in your preferred tempo. I've done that in 2 different genres.
    Quote Originally Posted by jimmy powells View Post
    You lose the beauty of the melody with all that speed. Does nothing for me. Listen to something like Russian Rag. You get all the intensity without that 'I'm gonna play this as fast as I possibly can and don't care how many notes I miss' attitude.
    As youíve seen, there are plenty of jammers who go NASCAR. As youíve read here, there are plenty who donít. One advantage of playing at Mach Whatever is getting to play more songs or tunes at a jam.

    That said, the bottom line is doing whatís fun. Thatís why people play music, rather than work music. The speed demons Iíve played with have tons of fun going at that pace, but I donít, so Iíve dropped out of those jams. I found myself working music in those. I prefer allegro non troppo, and so do the guys I currently play music with, pandemics notwithstanding.
    still trying to turn dreams into memories

  22. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to Marcus CA For This Useful Post:


  23. #16
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Kalamazoo, MI.
    Posts
    7,172

    Default Re: Question for Experienced Players

    Iíve said that before Marcus CA,
    Itís called ďPLAYINGĒ music!
    Doc Watson once said: ďWhen playiní music turns into a job it will be time to quit!Ē Great way to look at it, Doc,
    I have felt that a couple times, and, have stopped. But, the guys I play with are my best friends and we play still. We started playing together in 1975, three of us are still playing together, eat together, enjoy each other still. The music was an amalgam to forge the most lasting friendships Iíve been blessed to have. It hasnít just been the band, it was meeting people, learning from other people, sharing what I could, learning like a five year old in kindergarten! Being around luthiers, talent on so many fronts.
    Find people that are fun to be with, I used to tell people to find the guy thatís two weeks ahead of you, the same questions have just gone through their head as they come to you!
    Itís all fun, itís up to you to find where the fun is for you.
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

  24. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Timbofood For This Useful Post:


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •