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Thread: Monroe's "Fiddle" Shuffle

  1. #1

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    Mandolin players that study Bill Monroe's playing technique often talk about the "shuffle." From my attempts at emulating Bill's style, I've so far come to one conclusion about the "shuffle."

    In part, at least, it involves anticipating the attack by a half-beat. Rather than play a note on the exact beat where it would correspond to the melody, Bill put it in there just a half-beat earlier.

    I discussed this once with a well-known old-time fiddler, and he said that this technique is characteristic of traditional fiddle styles as well. Must'a been that Uncle Pen....

    Anybody have any additional insights on Bill Monroe's "fiddle shuffle?"

  2. #2
    Registered User evanreilly's Avatar
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    I think on one of the Smithsonian live Monroe recordings he details some of his thoughts on his 'shuffle'. He is clearly using his pick to brush the strings like a fiddler uses their bow. To illustrate his style, he plays 'Paddy on the Turnpike.

  3. #3

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    Evan, what do you know for sure about the true authorship (writer's credit) of these two "Monroe" masterpieces:
    "Goldrush", which I have heard credited to Byron Berline, and
    "Jerusalem Ridge" credited (at least partially) to Kenny Baker.
    I am writing some liner notes to a new C.D. and I want to get the facts straight.
    But Amsterdam was always good for grieving
    And London never fails to leave me blue
    And Paris never was my kinda town
    So I walked around with the Ft. Worth Blues

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    In Roland White's Bluegrass Manodlin he recounts that he was on the bus when Monroe was showing Berline how to play this tune, and how he (Monroe) wanted to keep it simple. So, at least according to White's story, it seems to be a Monroe composition, with perhaps some input from Berline.

    Jerusalem Ridge?...just listen to it. That's all Kenny Baker. I could be wrong, of course, but I doubt it.

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    I tend to agree...I can't imagine Monroe had too much to do with Jerusalem Ridge. When you listen to other Monroe Am tunes, there is a world of difference. The tune also seems to be built for the fiddle, and just has some oddities in it that I don't think WSM could have conjured up.

    My guess is that Baker introduced the tune to Monroe, Monroe named it aftera place-name from his past, and it got stamped with a Monroe copywrite since Baker was employed by Monroe. But who knows.

    I'd love to hear the inside story on this tune.

    I have seen at least two instances of Monroe "copywriting" what is widely known as a traditional tune, which leads me to wonder whether alot of Monroe "originals" are just old time fiddle tunes, or slight variations thereof, that he stamped with a copywrite because noone else had yet. But this is all conjecture....there is no denying the prolific nature of Monroe's music writing, which is certainly evident in his vast number of vocal tunes.

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    "Gold Rush" was written by Bill Monroe (the melody sounds a lot like "Poor Elen Smith"), and Byron came up with the ending. Byron told me this not long after the tune was recorded.
    Keep it acoustic.

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    Registered User evanreilly's Avatar
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    I think both are Monroe compositions. I do have the sound clip of Monroe where Monroe attributes #authorship of Jerusalem Ridge to Kenny Baker, but I think this was just a public nod to Baker.
    Monroe didn't play other writer's compositions in general, certainly not to the extent 'JR' got played.
    As far as the tune being a fiddle tune, I think it clearly is written for the fiddle; Monroe does not take a break on the recording, there are only two fiddle breaks. #Monroe wrote a lot of tunes specifically for one instrument or the other.
    In the Bear Family book, there is a good bit of information regarding the number. To abbreviate Monroe's attribution: "...I wanted to go back in time with the music to reflect the Scottish and Irish sounds. #It has been five years since I wrote it... I think it is one of my best numbers."
    Clearly, Monroe is claiming authorship of this four-part tune, which he wrote for the fiddle.




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    One piece of evidence I think points to Kenny Baker as the composer is that I have never heard Monroe play all three parts of JR, on record or on stage.

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    I have a live recording of a workshop from the late '80s of me playing the tune with Bill. He plays all four parts there, but that is te only live recording I have of him playing all four parts.

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    Thanks, guys; apologies to LCMark for highjacking his thread...
    But Amsterdam was always good for grieving
    And London never fails to leave me blue
    And Paris never was my kinda town
    So I walked around with the Ft. Worth Blues

  13. #11

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    Anybody know what the story is on the final mix-down for "Master of Bluegrass"?
    I was just listening to it and the entire "Evening Prayer Blues" sounds like the party started a little early (before Blake's guitar break) and the levels on "Old Dangerfield", "Old Ebeneezer Scrooge" and others are laughable (unless you are Butch Robins, looking for posterity) I read in that Monroe biography that Bill was "teaching Butch some lessons" but it seems odd to disfigure his own recordings like he did to his own mandolin. It's sad, because that recording was a real chance to leave a final legacy, and the above flaws could be one reason that it has never been offered on C.D. If it ever was to be re-issued, it #would need to be #re-mixed.
    But Amsterdam was always good for grieving
    And London never fails to leave me blue
    And Paris never was my kinda town
    So I walked around with the Ft. Worth Blues

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    I read an article somewhere about Kenny Baker prob in BU about tune Jerusalem Ridge. Bake said that Bill had Baker sit and play phrases until Bill heard what he wanted. That they hooked em all up and that was it.

    Back to the fiddle shuffle on the mandolin. IMHO I think its a mindset of thinking of how the fiddle would do it. Because you don't have the sustain of the fiddle. I've heard this before too. Compton has said something about it before. But like in Paddy on the Turnpike, you still pick updownupdown.

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    On the Sam Bush CD, and he's pretty much familiar with Big Mon's style to say the least. He teaches it as two downstrokes and an upstroke accentuating the lower pitched string(s) on the downstrokes and the higher pitched string(s) on the upstroke. It can be done using a doublestop a tripple stop or all the strings (your two finger chords come in real handy here). It comes out sort of like ONE, TWO and, ONE, TWO and .... where the "ONE" = one beat and the "TWO and = one beat. It is done ON the beat and sustained, not chopped at the off beat and muted. It is fairly easy to do on the A and E strings, but gets a little tricky when trying to do it on just the D and the A strings. It takes more pick control than I have at this point to do it at more than a slow pace and not get all tangled up in the adjacent strings.
    There are 10 kinds of people in the world, those that understand binary and those that don't.

  16. #14

    Default Re: Monroe's "Fiddle" Shuffle

    Quote Originally Posted by LeftCoastMark View Post
    Mandolin players that study Bill Monroe's playing technique often talk about the "shuffle." From my attempts at emulating Bill's style, I've so far come to one conclusion about the "shuffle."

    In part, at least, it involves anticipating the attack by a half-beat. Rather than play a note on the exact beat where it would correspond to the melody, Bill put it in there just a half-beat earlier.

    I discussed this once with a well-known old-time fiddler, and he said that this technique is characteristic of traditional fiddle styles as well. Must'a been that Uncle Pen....

    Anybody have any additional insights on Bill Monroe's "fiddle shuffle?"
    ...are we sure we know just what we are referring to when we use the word 'shuffle' ?...this idea of "half-beat" is nuts,...don't even know how to respond to that !...playing mandolin with a 'shuffle' simply means that you pick both ways,...-up and down !..there is NO way fast tunes can be played without using a 'shuffle' !

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  18. #15

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    Jimís description above of the fiddle shuffle is what I think of also-the rhythm is an eighth note followed by two sixteenth notes (2/4 time). This is also the basic clawhammer banjo lick. As to the OPís reference to starting a half beat early, that may perhaps refer to Monroeís ascending arpeggio lick where the note changes on the up-pick, which lends a distinctive ripple-like feel to the lick. That may also be an old time fiddle move but I donít think of that as a shuffle per se.

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    Default Re: Monroe's "Fiddle" Shuffle

    Quote Originally Posted by mando-tech View Post
    ...are we sure we know just what we are referring to when we use the word 'shuffle' ?...this idea of "half-beat" is nuts,...don't even know how to respond to that !...playing mandolin with a 'shuffle' simply means that you pick both ways,...-up and down !..there is NO way fast tunes can be played without using a 'shuffle' !
    You have 15 years to figure out a good response when you bump this thread again.
    Kentucky KM950 and loving it.

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    Default Re: Monroe's "Fiddle" Shuffle

    About Goldrush, there's video where Byron plays an extra part that was left out and not recorded to make the song the right length for the record.

    i recall reading an interview of KB where he said the BM wrote both Jerusalem Ridge and Ashland Breakdown in the same night. KB didn't take credit for writing JR, so it sounds collaborative to me. That must've been some night.

  22. #18

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    One time I was at a workshop where a couple of people in the room said Kenny Baker wrote Jerusalem Ridge. Bob Black was among the instructors there.

    Bob said absolutely firmly that Bill Monroe wrote Jerusalem Ridge. Bob was good friends with Kenny Baker, played with Monroe about the time it was written and played on the Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe album which included it. Kenny Baker has also stated in at least one interview on YouTube that Bill Monroe wrote it.

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    You have 15 years to figure out a good response when you bump this thread again.
    hahahaha

    I started reading all this again and getting worked up, ...knew Id seen this discussed in the past. All before I noticed the date.

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    15 years is just a fleeting moment when you're trying to figure out the Monroe shuffle ...
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