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Thread: the mandolin in bluegrass?

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    Default the mandolin in bluegrass?

    Hello, all,
    A few days ago we went to go buy some plants for our backyard and wound up buying this cool-looking grass that was a blueish-grey in color.
    I laughed and made a joke about bluegrass. Then started wondering: How is the mandolin used in bluegrass? I don't listen to it much but really love the name and would like to listen to it more, but not sure where to start. I know in ITM the mandolin is mainly used for melody, but know little to nothing about bluegrass.
    thanks

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    Registered User Jordan Mong's Avatar
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    Default Re: the mandolin in bluegrass?

    The mandolin, to me, seemed much more primarily a bluegrass instrument, and never thought about it being used in many other genres of music outside of folk and various country. The mandolin in bluegrass is melody, mainly. Fast picking just like a banjo, tough to miss.

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    Default Re: the mandolin in bluegrass?

    The mandolin, in bluegrass, also provides that characteristic bluegrass "chunk" on the off-beats, known as "chopping".
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    Default Re: the mandolin in bluegrass?

    According to my wife, it is also responsible for that tedious but signature "deedle-deedle" noise, along with a fair bit of "plinky-plinky".

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    Default Re: the mandolin in bluegrass?

    Guess its time for you to listen to bluegrass. Just as important as the lead playing as the ability to give a good-solid rhythm... As a rhythm instrument, the mandolin takes the place of the snare drum in bluegrass. Not hard to find or hear...

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    Default Re: the mandolin in bluegrass?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jordan Mong View Post
    The mandolin, to me, seemed much more primarily a bluegrass instrument, and never thought about it being used in many other genres of music outside of folk and various country. The mandolin in bluegrass is melody, mainly. Fast picking just like a banjo, tough to miss.
    Quite the contrary: in the early 1920s, Lloyd Loar originally created the F5 mandolin for classical music. Traveling mandolin orchestras were very popular in the 'teens and 'twenties, and the F5 "Loar" was intended to give more focus, clarity, and projection over the F4, which had an oval hole and short neck rather than the f holes and 15th fret neck joint of an F5.

    However, mandolin orchestras began to die off and the mandolin was more commonly used in old-time and Irish Trad, occasionally blues, then bluegrass in the post-WWII era. The mandolin in Trad Bluegrass is often associated with rhythm, being used for percussive "chop" chords on the offbeat, essentially filling the role of a snare, and even melody breaks tend to have a very percussive sound that cuts through the mix. The mandolin has and is also occasionally prominent in jazz, and it can be somewhat common in folk or country, though usually in a reserved role of rhythm strumming while other instruments or vocals take the lead.

    The playing of melodies and distinction of tone can vary immensely in bluegrass depending on style, subgenre, and interpretation. Sam Bush, Bill Monroe, David Grisman, and Chris Thile all have a very different and distinctive sound, using different licks, right hand technique, etc., etc.

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    Default Re: the mandolin in bluegrass?

    I was speaking from an ignorant state of mind I had when I first started getting into it. However, I had no idea the Irish Trad and other genres were being played first after the classical music. Interesting.

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    Default Re: the mandolin in bluegrass?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jordan Mong View Post
    The mandolin, to me, seemed much more primarily a bluegrass instrument, and never thought about it being used in many other genres of music outside of folk and various country. The mandolin in bluegrass is melody, mainly. Fast picking just like a banjo, tough to miss.
    The mandolin dates back several centuries before bluegrass. Even several centuries before there was a place called, "The United States of America." Most mandolin playing in contemporary American music is in bluegrass, but its origins go much further back in history.

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: the mandolin in bluegrass?

    I think one doesn't really see mandolin being used in Irish trad until the 1960s.
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    Default Re: the mandolin in bluegrass?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    I think one doesn't really see mandolin being used in Irish trad until the 1960s.
    "Irish traditional" has really changed over the decades. Where did it start? Originally with the tin whistle, fiddle and uilleann pipe? Then guitar, then banjo and mandolin were added? The original tunes largely remain the same but as the music traveled "over the water" and back again, all sorts of interesting and quite welcome improvements were added.

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    Default Re: the mandolin in bluegrass?

    Well regardless. The overwhelming majority of mandolin players in the world today do not play bluegrass, and the mandolin has seen various levels of popularity much higher per capita than today, long before bluegrass was invented. Dem is da facts.
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    Default Re: the mandolin in bluegrass?

    Quote Originally Posted by vegas View Post
    "Irish traditional" has really changed over the decades. Where did it start? Originally with the tin whistle, fiddle and uilleann pipe?
    No, none of those are original ITM instruments. ITM started with the harp. The pipes don't show up until the late 1700s, and the fiddle and tin whistle make their entrances in the mid-1800s. Certainly there were whistles/flutes in use in Irish music before then, but not specifically tin ones.
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    Default Re: the mandolin in bluegrass?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    No, none of those are original ITM instruments. ITM started with the harp. The pipes don't show up until the late 1700s, and the fiddle and tin whistle make their entrances in the mid-1800s. Certainly there were whistles/flutes in use in Irish music before then, but not specifically tin ones.
    Exactly. I once wandered into an Irish 'session' with an F5. I was told "You can't play that here!" - this from a bunch of folks with "Irish" bouzoukis , dreadnought sized guitars and Fylde flat-top mandolin

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    Default Re: the mandolin in bluegrass?

    Jordan Mong must have lived a sheltered life if he thinks the mandolin is primarily a bluegrass instrument, he should try listening to Mike Marshall, Caterina Lichtenburg, Chris Thile, Simon Mayor and David Grisman to name a few, to find out what can be played on this beautiful instrument.

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    Default Re: the mandolin in bluegrass?

    Quote Originally Posted by almeriastrings View Post
    Exactly. I once wandered into an Irish 'session' with an F5. I was told "You can't play that here!" - this from a bunch of folks with "Irish" bouzoukis , dreadnought sized guitars and Fylde flat-top mandolin
    I don't know about all the sessions in Seattle, but at least the folks at Murphy's on Monday nights are fairly tolerant of unusual instruments. One chap shows up there pretty regularly with a Puerto Rican cuatro.
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    Default Re: the mandolin in bluegrass?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hanson View Post
    Jordan Mong must have lived a sheltered life if he thinks the mandolin is primarily a bluegrass instrument,...
    I think Jordan is referring to how he saw things in the beginning of his mandolin journey.

    Our world is pretty esoteric, as I keep finding out from new friends who almost always say "a what? you play a what?"
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    Default Re: the mandolin in bluegrass?

    We can have mandolin music without bluegrass but, can't really have bluegrass music without Bill Monroe using the mandolin to drive it.
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    Default Re: the mandolin in bluegrass?

    Bill is dead but Bluegrass goes on.

    I think of mandolin in Bluegrass as a melody, a lead, a supplier of percussion (through the chop) along with the bass to drive the music. Understand, I don't have a very orthodox view on Bluegrass and am not locked into a strict interpretation of what constitutes a Bluegrass band or instrument line up. The IBMA attempted to define what constitutes a Bluegrass band and was met with a lot of discussion a few years back. Here is the IBMA version of the History of Bluegrass.

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    Default Re: the mandolin in bluegrass?

    Uh oh.

    Where is that dang blue chip thread?

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    Default Re: the mandolin in bluegrass?

    The reason there is bluegrass music, is Bill Monroe; it takes its name from Monroe's band, the Blue Grass Boys. (Always made me wonder what the music would be called if he'd named his band the Rosine Rhythm Hounds, or some such…)

    Monroe played the mandolin, so ipso facto the mandolin became integrally featured in bluegrass music. Monroe's obsession with "time" (rhythm/beat) led him to use his mandolin as a metronomic off-beat-playing closed/damped-chord rhythm component of the band, when he wasn't soloing. Hence the "chop" so characteristic of bluegrass mandolin.

    While Jeff D may be right that worldwide, most mandolin players don't play bluegrass, in the US the focus of mandolin playing is bluegrass or bluegrass-related. The mandolins sold here are to a large extent clones of Monroe's Gibson F-5, or are related in some way. Gibson mandolins have become the template for mandolins in America, largely due to their historical association with bluegrass; while it's been correctly pointed out that their original design was not to play "hillbilly" acoustic country music, over the years their use in that realm, has become paradigmatic for both the Gibson company, and the many other firms and individuals who made "Gibson-like" mandolins.

    A musician could get interested in mandolin, and use it for many non-bluegrass styles, never getting "into" bluegrass at all. I'd venture to say that the great majority of US mandolin players have had some exposure to the genre, however.
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    Default Re: the mandolin in bluegrass?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hanson View Post
    Jordan Mong must have lived a sheltered life if he thinks the mandolin is primarily a bluegrass instrument, he should try listening to Mike Marshall, Caterina Lichtenburg, Chris Thile, Simon Mayor and David Grisman to name a few, to find out what can be played on this beautiful instrument.

    Dave H
    I was talking about what I knew getting into mandolin. I have always either seen it in bluegrass or folk, more so bluegrass, once entering. And down here in Charleston, where the music scene is solely radio pop, you don't see many mandolin players. As someone's signature pointed out, it would be mistaken for a ukulele immediately, and try to bought up for $20.

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    Default Re: the mandolin in bluegrass?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hanson View Post
    Jordan Mong must have lived a sheltered life if he thinks the mandolin is primarily a bluegrass instrument, he should try listening to Mike Marshall, Caterina Lichtenburg, Chris Thile, Simon Mayor and David Grisman to name a few, to find out what can be played on this beautiful instrument.

    Dave H
    And more than a few of the names above got their start in bluegrass. If you can play bluegrass you can play anything. It is the furnace that hardens the steel of an accomplished musician.

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    Default Re: the mandolin in bluegrass?

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanN View Post
    Uh oh.

    Where is that dang blue chip thread?
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    Default Re: the mandolin in bluegrass?

    Quote Originally Posted by bjewell View Post
    If you can play bluegrass you can play anything. It is the furnace that hardens the steel of an accomplished musician.
    This is a load of caca de vaca, of course. I don't buy it for a second, but, man, I love the way you put it.

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    Default Re: the mandolin in bluegrass?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hanson View Post
    Jordan Mong must have lived a sheltered life if he thinks ...
    Oh, come on! Jordan's only sin is having lived a fairly short life, thus far.
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