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Thread: Starting to see the difference

  1. #1
    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Starting to see the difference

    As a typical guit-picking folksinger who came late to mando, I'm starting to see one beneath-the-surface difference between the two.

    On guitar, I've always learned to play patterns and shapes, a.k.a. boxes. Every shape is so distinctive that they're easy to navigate up and down the neck.

    I know. Jazz and classical artists don't do it that way. But I'm not a musician. I'm a folksinger!

    And the trouble has been that playing the boxes isn't as easy on mando, where the shapes are too similar. But after a few years trying to figure the dern thing out, I notice that I'm starting to think in terms of distances between notes rather than visual patterns.

    That note-distance thinking (intervals?) must be elementary (even preschool) to players who were brought up on mando or fiddle, but it's a brave new world (and maybe a revelation?) for this boy.

    Anyhow, getting there. Or somewhere. On we go!
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    Default Re: Starting to see the difference

    Yes I came to the mandolin through the same route, playing guitar for many years mainly folk and then bluegrass. And singing so i left the picking to others. After many years I came to appreciate the versatility the guitar offered even if the finger board was a constant challenge. Enter the mando 20 years ago and the finger board seemed so logical in comparison. But it did take some time to reprogram the brain. And, of course the fingers too!
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starting to see the difference

    IMHO mandolin is linear, guitar and banjo chordal.

    Doesn't mean you don't play melodies on guitar and banjo, chords on mandolin -- just organizes the way I approach the different instruments.

    OTOH, harmonica is both; Dobro (the way I play it) still guitar/chordal, concertina mostly linear, bass strictly linear, Autoharp chordal, Appalachian dulcimer I dunno, ukulele chordal.

    Kazoo -- you tell me...
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  7. #4

    Default Re: Starting to see the difference

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    IMHO mandolin is linear, guitar and banjo chordal.

    Doesn't mean you don't play melodies on guitar and banjo, chords on mandolin -- just organizes the way I approach the different instruments.

    OTOH, harmonica is both; Dobro (the way I play it) still guitar/chordal, concertina mostly linear, bass strictly linear, Autoharp chordal, Appalachian dulcimer I dunno, ukulele chordal.

    Kazoo -- you tell me...
    Every guitar player or teacher I've ever had an in-depth conversation with, it's been obvious that their brain is perceiving the instrument in terms of chords first. Melodies happen within that "chordal" mental framework.

    Violin/viola/cello players seem to see the music more linearly. For whatever the reason that's how my brain processes music too, although my first musical influences were singing and playing piano rather than stringed instruments.

    I think mandolin players can be in either camp. Bluegrass mandolin players are every bit as "chordal" as bluegrass guitar players. But when I was taking mandolin lessons my teacher came from a violin/cello background and definitely had a linear perspective on the music.

    Of course the difference between myself and a real musician is, they can get to the same place in the end whether they go through chordal or linear or whatever concepts to get there. I, on the other hand, am sadly limited by my own preconceptions and haven't managed to transcend them yet. Now that I'm in my 60's the time for transcending mental constraints may be running out.
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    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starting to see the difference

    Quote Originally Posted by Brent Hutto View Post
    Every guitar player or teacher I've ever had an in-depth conversation with, it's been obvious that their brain is perceiving the instrument in terms of chords first. Melodies happen within that "chordal" mental framework..................
    I don't recall that in my classical guitar lessons or playing. It was more 'linear' with occasional double or triple stops to end phrases or motifs.
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    Default Re: Starting to see the difference

    Classical guitar is very different from most folk guitar styles - we're doing both: Bach has much linearity; romantic/impressionistic is more chordal, etc. But it's all integrated.

    Charlie, good to hear. Epiphanies are exciting.

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    Default Re: Starting to see the difference

    One of the wonderful things about the mandolin is that because of symmetry, and "discoveries" in pattern thinking, or note distance thinking, is instantly useful all over the dern instrument.
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  15. #8
    Registered User mbruno's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starting to see the difference

    I used to look at it linear - especially for fiddle tunes. The melody was the main thing I was concerned about. That said, later I started really diving into the fretboard layout. I started writing out all the notes of the chords from the songs I wanted to play on a fretboard map - mapping out the arpeggios for each chord (so where the G B and D notes are for a G chord etc). I also started doing this for the major scale I was playing (assuming a major scale for the fiddle tune etc).

    In doing this, I began to see the mandolin as a little of both. There's definitely a linear quality with note runs and movement - but because of the scale of the instrument, using chord tones to move around between positions is super easy. In addition, with fiddle tunes, the melodies sit around the chords often - so playing a "chord melody" style (similar to Aaron Weinstein etc) is easier too (though not as easy as Aaron makes it look!!).

    If you're looking to improve your ability to move around the mandolin, I'd suggest writing out fretboard maps. You can find them online or in books - but IMO, writing them out yourself is much better for learning. Here's a little article I wrote for my students on this - https://mattcbruno.com/fretboard-maps/
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  17. #9
    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starting to see the difference

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    IMHO mandolin is linear, guitar and banjo chordal.

    Doesn't mean you don't play melodies on guitar and banjo, chords on mandolin -- just organizes the way I approach the different instruments.

    OTOH, harmonica is both; Dobro (the way I play it) still guitar/chordal, concertina mostly linear, bass strictly linear, Autoharp chordal, Appalachian dulcimer I dunno, ukulele chordal.

    Kazoo -- you tell me...
    Ow! Power to you! I tried concertina for about a day and half and finally threw in the towel. In fact, I threw in the whole laundry load. Hadn't been that stymied since I tried pedal steel.
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  19. #10
    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starting to see the difference

    Quote Originally Posted by Brent Hutto View Post
    . . . Now that I'm in my 60's the time for transcending mental constraints may be running out.
    I've been wondering about that lately, too (69!), but Ramblin' Jack Elliot just played here — the day before his ninetieth birthday!

    So now I'm figuring I have a good twenty or thirty years ahead of me and am planning accordingly. (If not accordionly . . . .)
    Gibson A-Junior snakehead (Keep on pluckin'!)

  20. #11
    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starting to see the difference

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    . . . Charlie, good to hear. Epiphanies are exciting.
    They beat Epiphones hands down!

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    One of the wonderful things about the mandolin is that because of symmetry, and "discoveries" in pattern thinking, or note distance thinking, is instantly useful all over the dern instrument.
    Yup. I love that!
    Gibson A-Junior snakehead (Keep on pluckin'!)

  21. #12
    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starting to see the difference

    Quote Originally Posted by mbruno View Post
    I used to look at it linear - especially for fiddle tunes. The melody was the main thing I was concerned about. That said, later I started really diving into the fretboard layout. I started writing out all the notes of the chords from the songs I wanted to play on a fretboard map - mapping out the arpeggios for each chord (so where the G B and D notes are for a G chord etc). I also started doing this for the major scale I was playing (assuming a major scale for the fiddle tune etc). . . .
    I did that when I started on dobro. Must've drawn a dozen charts. It helped a lot.

    The standard dobro layout itself is simple — even simpler than mando: just two major G triads an octave apart — but when you're constrained to only the notes you can hit with the steel (no fingering!), it's kind of like boxing with both hands tied behind your back.

    Which makes charts handy.
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  22. #13

    Default Re: Starting to see the difference

    Playing the dobro is like playing the guitar with one finger. My dobro playing got a lot more “linear” (in Allen’s well-chosen word) after I got serious about playing mandolin.

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  24. #14
    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starting to see the difference

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy B View Post
    Playing the dobro is like playing the guitar with one finger. My dobro playing got a lot more “linear” (in Allen’s well-chosen word) after I got serious about playing mandolin.
    Yup! That's why I got one. I was starting to worry about arthritis, tendonitis, and the whole wide, wonerful world of -itis.

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