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Thread: How to play Lead Mandolin?

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    Smile How to play Lead Mandolin?

    Hello, I'm pretty much a newbie when it comes to playing a musical instrument. After my husband began playing acoustic guitar and singing, i purchased a mandolin just over a year ago, and proceeded to learn to play it (self-taught). I'm not going too badly - after a very rough start - and now can play a few relatively simple solo melodies etc, and i can now read very basic music. My husband would like me to play 'lead mandolin' behind him. I can play an intro (using the last line of the verse or chorus, as a play-in) and i can play a Lead Break, but - - i'm having trouble working out what to play what seems to be called 'fill' notes. I've been told that as long as i play notes of the scale of the key the song is in, and as long as i play the root note of each chord change at the right time, it should be easy. I'm blaming the fact that i'm blonde, but it ain't easy! Can someone help me please, and explain how i should work out exactly what notes to play so that it enhances and blends with the melody, rather than souding like totally foreign notes?? Thank you so much for any help you may be able to give me - Ally from Oz.

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    jbmando RIP HK Jim Broyles's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to play Lead Mandolin?

    Welcome, Ally. What you want to achieve is only done by practice. If you can play intros, and lead breaks it is just a matter of doing it more and becoming more adept at hearing the changes so you can play the right notes over the chords and working on decreasing the "foreign" notes and increasing the "native" notes during your fills. You are already better at it than you think you are. Try this: repeat the last few notes of the vocal melody line as a fill.
    "I thought I knew a lot about music. Then you start digging and the deeper you go, the more there is."~John Mellencamp

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    Registered User Earl Gamage's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to play Lead Mandolin?

    Hello Ally: one way is to do just like you do on the intros, or in other words, repeat phrases of whatever the singer does. Listen to country music from the 50's- 60's-70's. I'm sure you will get a lot of answers on this one.

    Have fun

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    Default Re: How to play Lead Mandolin?

    Hello Jim, Thank you for your welcoming message! And thank you for the tips - it looks like i'm kinda on the right track. At first i was just playing the melody quietly behind my husband's singing - we play mainly Aussie Country Music, but trying all sorts really - but one of the other country musos told me not to do that 'cos apparently it tends to put the singer off?? I find it fairly easy to play the melody, but it seems as if i really have to work on playing the right notes over the chords as you suggest. I just tried out your suggestion re repeating the last few notes of the vocal melody line as fill - and it works a treat! Thank you!

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    Default Re: How to play Lead Mandolin?

    Hello Earl, Thank you for your helpful reply - it has certainly clarified to me what i can do to create 'fill' notes. Yep, i'm havin fun learning to play this mando!

    By the way, are 'fill' notes known by any other name?

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    Default Re: How to play Lead Mandolin?

    Fill notes are called that because they are used to fill gaps in the music being produced. Your mate who advised you not to play the melody while your husband sings it is spot on - very distracting, not only for he singer, but the audience. But playing around the singing, without calling attention away from it, is a goal to shoot for. Even with that, though, less is more. You want to embellish, not distract. Best to concentrate on solos until you get comfortable enough with stringing notes together to be able to fit in a few here and there around the singing. Keep in mind, though, that a lot of times that empty space is useful in its own right, giving the singer room to breathe, and overdoing fill can make the whole seem too busy or cluttered. Balance, give and take - these are important considerations.

    As to solos - quoting the melody is a good way to start and especially end a solo - that way, you establish yourself, improvise and express yourself for a while, then bring it back together and set up the singer to continue. An example of this is Willie Nelson - All Of Me. He and Mickey Raphael (harmonica) double a riff adapted from the end of the melody to use as an intro and again to bring it back at the end of his solo. He starts the solo with the melody, improvises a bit, then he and Mickey play that riff to end it. He actually sticks close to the melody longer than needed to illustrate my point, but that's just fine with me. Really sweet, actually; great tone. Note also his lead-in riff and the little bit he uses to tie in at the end. Sweet!



    You needn't concern yourself with hitting the root note of a chord; in fact there are those who contend you should avoid them, too pedestrian or something. Joni Mitchell was big on doing that. Each chord has at least three notes anyway. One thing you can do is observe the way chord changes suggest melody notes. Say you're playing a three chord song in C, about to change to F. You could play an E note just before the change, then an F note with the change - anticipation and resolution. That kind of stuff. Then there's passing notes ...

    Remember, there's more than one way to skin a cat. More than 1000, really.

    BTW, I have spent a lot of time playing with a fellow named Phil - Phil the Tip Bucket. Too often he's a silent partner.
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    Default Re: How to play Lead Mandolin?

    Hi Journeybear, Thank you for your excellent and informative reply! Hey, i love Willie Nelson's 'All of Me' - i played the video and can see what you mean. it's excellent the way he plays it in and then plays it out with some of the melody. Really works well! I reckon i can just about do that, and i'm determined to one day get the hang of the 'fill' notes too! Your suggestions will help me immensely. That bit about playing an E note just before the chord changes to an F - that really makes sense!

    I can see i'll have to give up the ironing, the vacuuming, the dishes . . . in order to practice more!!

    Again, thank you!

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    Default Re: How to play Lead Mandolin?

    Hi Ally - I'm working on exactly the same thing as you.After 46 years of playing almost nothing but instrumentals on Banjo,i'm concentrating more on 'back-up' Mandolin,an art in itself. Jim Broyles has it covered in what he says. The business of playing the last few notes of the vocal part,is a typical Banjoey thing that i've been doing for ever (it seems !) & it works just as well for Mandolin.
    You're very fortunate to have a regular person to practice with,your husband,& again,as Jim says,you're better than you think you are,you just need to get it onto the Mandolin. I've found that playing along with I'net Bluegrass radio (ie. The Bluegrass Mix / Front Porch Bluegrass) has helped me a lot,who cares if you make a few mistakes as you pick along ? - good luck & enjoy it,
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    Default Re: How to play Lead Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by ally View Post
    I can see i'll have to give up the ironing, the vacuuming, the dishes . . . in order to practice more!!
    Glad you've got your priorities straight. Attitude is half the battle!
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: How to play Lead Mandolin?

    Many thanks, Ivan for your reply. Aah, the banjo is a beautiful instrument. If i ever manage to master this mandolin, i'd love to have a go at a banjo. I've been picking along with some of our CDs, trying to put in fill notes and playing the lead breaks etc. When i think back a few months, i guess i am getting better at it, but i tend to be a bit impatient - i want to play everything right now! But it don't work that way, hey. Like i said in an earlier post, we play a lot of Aussie Country, but i'm also picking some bluegrass as well, cos i love the sound of it. My husband backs me on his acoustic guitar, and it don't sound too bad. Main thing is we're havin fun tryin! All the best with your mando.

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    Default Re: How to play Lead Mandolin?

    Maybe pull up, on youtube, an Aussie country player and play along. Listen to the notes and work at doing the same. It will eventually become second nature.

    . . .and continue to have fun at it.

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    Default Re: How to play Lead Mandolin?

    Ally...You've already got the most important element of success, someone to pick with...makes it more fun and much ore of an incentive to learn. Listen to albums...Listen to bluegrass more than other stuff, because in bluegrass they take the art of backup very seriously. (it's more than just mindless chopping)...Then from bluegrass you can import the licks and ideas into almost any other form of music. Best wishes, keep with it...
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    Default Re: How to play Lead Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by D C Blood View Post
    Ally...You've already got the most important element of success, someone to pick with...makes it more fun and much more of an incentive to learn. ...
    Very true, especially in what you are working on. Practicing backup alone, or to a CD saps me of inspiration. Practicing the same things with a live musician, getting all the smiles, and musical interaction - priceless in its helpfullness.
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    Default Re: How to play Lead Mandolin?

    I think you'll find that working with the major scale and understanding major and minor penatonic scales will go a long way in moving you towards your goal quickly.

    An harmonized major scale (double stops) works really well for leading to the next section of a song and the ability to play the same penatonic scale through most of the chords of most songs will be an eye opener. Then add some 'blue' notes to the penatonic and try to create some melodies.

    Personally, I'm trying to move away from what I'm suggesting but it is a fast way to begin to learn how to solo.

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    Registered User Perry's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to play Lead Mandolin?

    Ally

    As mentioned above the major pentatonic scale will get you a long way on being able to hit the right notes on most diatonic progressions. Diatonic progression refers to songs whose chords all belong to the key. Country music is by and large very diatonic in nature. So the major pentatonic scale gives you a great tool to start with.

    If some of your Aussie country get's a little bluesy here's a YouTube lesson on a simple
    blues box pattern that you can get a lot of mileage out of:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/mcmule20.../4/6VPlos0ECTs

    Finally I found the section on the "K" position in this book to be very helpful when playing double stop fills. Double stop fills can be a very effective tool for playing behind the singer's melody without stepping on him. Think of double stops as little partial chords that can be combined into little moving "lines"

    http://www.halleonard.com/product/vi...57&menuid=519&

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    Default Re: How to play Lead Mandolin?

    This is something that you will just learn over time as you progress. You will begin to "feel" the music and anticipate what to do without really thinking about it. Main thing as was said above, practise, practise, practise.

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    Default Re: How to play Lead Mandolin?

    Like most have said, learn the melody, learn the melody. When it is second nature you will be able to stretch out and play off the melody and develop fills. Listen to players you like and try to copy them. Have fun.

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    Default Re: How to play Lead Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Perry View Post
    on a simple
    blues box pattern that you can get a lot of mileage out of:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/mcmule20.../4/6VPlos0ECTs
    I heard that and thought someone is steeling my stuff! I figured out something very much like that and have been doing it for years and didn't realize it could be so easily explained. I visualize kind of a different moveable pattern with different "essential" notes and different "color" notes, but its the same thing really. Same fingers in the same places. Its just how you think about it.
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    Default Re: How to play Lead Mandolin?

    Hi Roscoestring, Thank you for your reply and helpful suggestion. And yes, i will continue to have fun with it! (Mind you, last year when i was first trying to figure what i then referred to as the 'mongrel mandolin' out, i wasn't havin' fun.) But now it's all finally starting to come together, and with all the excellent tips i've gained from the helpful members of this forum, it's fun, fun, fun all the way! And yes, i really love my cute little A-style F-Hole mandolin! It's not a Gibson or a Kentucky, but an inexpensive second-hand Samick but it sounds great! - Again, thank you

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    Default Re: How to play Lead Mandolin?

    Hi DC Blood, Thank you for your reply, and yes i agree - having someone to pick with definitely makes it more fun (most of the time??) We've had our moments, especially when i get a bit frustrated that i cannot do anything remotely what the likes of our Aussie girl - Virginia Coad - an incredible mando player - can do. But the more that I DO do, the more satisfaction i'm achieving, and the jam sessions with my husband are much more fun now. I watch bluegrass players on youtube a lot, and they are just soooo talented - what a great sound!

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    Default Re: How to play Lead Mandolin?

    Hi Jeff, Great to read your reply, but i had a little giggle to myself while reading it ---- '........getting all the smiles ........' That didn't used to happen, believe me! But as i mentioned in my reply to DC, it's good fun now.

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    Default Re: How to play Lead Mandolin?

    Hi 250sc, Thank you for your reply. I'm working on learning the scales, but so far i only know some of the major scales - C G D A E B F. I still have to learn the others, the names of which are a bit confusing at this stage, names like minor penatonic, harmonized major scale (double stops). I know that i really have to knuckle down and concentrate on learning them . . . I probably sound dumb, but what is a 'double stop'. Gosh, i have a lot to learn, but thanks to forum members like you, i'm gonna get there!

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    Default Re: How to play Lead Mandolin?

    Hi Perry, Thank you so much for your informative reply. I'll check out the youtube links you sent me - i think one of the links sounds like it might answer my previous question on 'what are double stops?' I refer to the few scales that i do know as 'major' scales. Is that the same as 'major pentatonic scales'? I don't have time at the moment to click on the links - you should see my house - i really do have to go do some tidying up! (i'm trying to give up vacuuming, ironing etc, but there comes a time when a little bit must be done).

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    Default Re: How to play Lead Mandolin?

    Hello 300win, Thank you for your reply, and yes, i really do think i am beginning to progress. When i think back to August last year, i was just barely playing. Our cancer support group asked me (and my husband) to play at what they call their 'Pink Party' (raises funds for breast cancer research). I very shakily got up - first time in public - in front of 60 people, and played ONE little song - Little Brown Jug - and managed to get thru it! It does me good to think back a year, cos it proves to me that with lots of practise, i have progressed. Yep, still have to practice more though - shame about that vacuuming i gotta do today!

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    Default Re: How to play Lead Mandolin?

    Thank you Denny for your encouraging reply. It's been great that so many of you experienced mando players are coming to my aid with helpful tips and encouragement.

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