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Thread: Mongrel Technique

  1. #1
    Registered User Rob MacKillop's Avatar
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    Default Mongrel Technique

    Most of us will be aware of the "German School" of technique, characterised by angled downwards rest strokes, followed by a single-string up stroke, contrasted by 90 degrees to the string for scale passages and occasional tremolo beginning with either an up or down stroke as in this position up and down strokes sound the same, etc, etc.

    And then there is the Roman school of Ranieri, who as far as I can tell does not mention angled picks or rest strokes (correct me if I am wrong), has tremolo as the normal stroke, with what look like staccato dots for not staccato but non-tremolo, and what look like tenuto marks (a short line above a note) not for tenuto, but for short bursts of tremolo, etc, etc.

    Well, yesterday I was on Zoom with a friend, both of us looking at a duet by Mazas, which clearly had been marked up with Ranieri symbols. My friend had been studying with a teacher of the German school, while I am working through the Ranieri Method, now on the second of four books. Our interpretations were radically different. I was able to play all the technical notation as printed, while he had to find equivalents that were not the same. For instance, I played mostly tremolo, or not in the case of the dots above the notes, and he was angling and not angling his plectrum, not playing tremolo at all, and playing staccato for the dots above the notes.

    Now, it is a nice duet in whatever technique was used, but - had we been able to play it together without latency - would have sounded decidedly odd, though perhaps curiously interesting. It raised aesthetic choices, using one school's technique to realise another school's repertoire.

    But having listened to and observed many mandolinists online, professional and amateur, I see that there are some purists of each school, but many people have found their own mid-way technique, a bit of this, a bit of that, a sort of mongrel technique. The music usually sounds good, no matter what technique is used, though sometimes one approach clearly works better.

    So if we see the German and Roman schools as being polar opposites, where would you say you belong on the line between them? Or would you use Ranieri technique for music he was associated with, for instance? Imagine Ranieri playing Bach - interesting but somewhat strange! Horses for courses? Do whatever you feel like doing at any give moment? All of our choices can radically change the perception of what is heard. Is this something you like, or does it drive you crazy?

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mongrel Technique

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post

    So if we see the German and Roman schools as being polar opposites, where would you say you belong on the line between them?
    I admire and appreciate the German style but do not play like that, nor do I prefer the Ranieri/Roman pick either.

    So the answer would depend on where you put the basic Neapolitan style on your range of choices, since I mostly play in that style - bright tone, Neapolitan (or similar) pick, lots of tremolo, etc.

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    Registered User Rob MacKillop's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mongrel Technique

    How different is the Neapolitan style form the Roman, other than the pick? I imagine Calace has something to do with it, no?

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mongrel Technique

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    How different is the Neapolitan style form the Roman, other than the pick? I imagine Calace has something to do with it, no?
    Yes, I think Christofaro, Munier, Calace, all had method books for Neapolitan style.

    Beyond the difference in pick, didn't Roman style mandolins have a narrower and radiused fingerboard?

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    Registered User Rob MacKillop's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mongrel Technique

    Yes, more violin-like. It makes it difficult, trying to play the mandolin under your chin ;-)

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mongrel Technique

    Take a step back and look at today's classical players. I am not expert at the taxonomy of the various schools, but I would wager that there are some connections with these regional players, for instance: all those Israeli players who seem to play Kerman instruments (are there any of those folks who play any other maker's mandolins?); and today's players in Australia, UK, US, Japan, etc. I am not too sure how to categorize these players but to say they in that continuum from one to the other.

    It is not just those few "schools" mentioned above but lots of hybrid techniques. I believe that many of these musicians may have started out studying in specific techniques but may have modified their techniques or even switched around. I remember Alison Stephens changing her picks to the German style at some point in her sadly short career. And Chris Acquavella, who studied in the UK with her in a more Italianate style switched to playing primarily German style.
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    Registered User Rob MacKillop's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mongrel Technique

    Indeed, we can all do what we like, and the old schools do not need to be followed any more, though some choose to do so.

    I would definitely find it odd, though, interpreting a Ranieri edition with anything other than his technique. Not that it can't be done, or shouldn't be done, but he's so specific.

    Ultimately, though, we should enjoy our time with music, not follow some rules we don't agree with. As with life.

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    Default Re: Mongrel Technique

    Wow! Deep! An impressed megamongrel!

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    Default Re: Mongrel Technique

    "Imagine Ranieri playing Bach - interesting but somewhat strange!"

    Ranieri played Bach. A 1905 article in the journal L'estudiantina (Dec 1905) mentions recent concerts that Ranieri gave in Germany, including a sampling of the pieces, one of which was Bach, "Fugue in G minor" (presumably, from BWV 1001). The Bach violin works were known to early twentieth century mandolinists (Munier included selected movements in his op. 200, "Grandi Studi da concerto").
    Robert A. Margo

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    Registered User Rob MacKillop's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mongrel Technique

    Thanks, Bob. I suspected he did, but wonder if he adapted his technique to all non-tremolo, or did he draw Bach within his own orbit. Part of me is hoping he did the latter, if only for the uniqueness of it.

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    Default Re: Mongrel Technique

    I learnt using the Ranieri books, after an ad hoc grounding in folk, and would tend to play that era of music in his style and anything else with much less tremolo -although one lady did accuse me of turning everything into a Cornetto advert.

    I play with a few different groups, one of them is a remnant of several old mandolin orchestras and they tremolo everything, I play mandola and that is tremoloed too, even though it has enough sustain, to my mind, not to need it.

    I also played with a group playing earlier repertoire and they didn't tremolo except in extremis where single notes needed to be sustained over several bars.

    So, horses for courses.
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  20. #12

    Default Re: Mongrel Technique

    Got mongrel alright, not much technique.

    I play primarily a modern Calace. Yes, I own a lovely Embergher but I have never gotten totally comfortable on an arched fingerboard; my padded, callus-rich bassist paws just never quite fit in those extra-extra-tight spaces. No fault of the instrument, of course, nor is this a judgment beyond "can" and "cannot".

    Yet I much prefer Ranieri-type picks and play those exclusively. Is it that vague allusion to a bow that clicks with my nerve-ends? Who knows? In any case, I have never felt either secure or fluent with a teardrop-shaped pick. Again, the fault or deficiency is entirely mine, not that of the design or the various products.

    It's all a classic Goldilocks Dilemma. As long as I enjoy what I do, nothing else crosses my mind. Different strokes for different folks.

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  22. #13
    Registered User Rob MacKillop's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mongrel Technique

    Thanks for the contributions. I think the general tenor is that there are different strokes for different folks. I think that was always obvious. Less obvious, though, is how you might all interpret something edited by Ranieri in a very specific way, such as with this excerpt:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    The results could differ radically. Is it all about just doing whatever we want, or should we give more respect to the composer, try to realise his intentions and wishes?

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