Saturday, May 10, 2008

On and On

On and On - in the key of G.
This is an old favorite and very common in jams. Mike transcribed Bill Monroe's solo and it's really interesting. The intro and first few bars are fairly standard and typical of a Monroe break. Mike pointed out that as the progression moves from G to C, you almost don't think Bill's solo is going to work out. There won't be enough time to get through that descending G scale. But of course Bill knows what he's doing and he jumps straight from the descending G scale to a low C and makes it work.

A few bars later Bill does an interesting jump up to some double stops that descend from the D to the G followed by really cool rhythmic harmonics played on the D and G strings.

Anyway, here's Bill Monroe's version:

and here's me playing it as transcribed by Mike Compton.

First slow:

and then faster. This is still only about 70% of Bill's tempo. He makes it sound easy, but he's really cooking.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Travelin' Down This Lonesome Road

This next recording is Bill Monroe's break on the recording of Travelin' Down This Lonesome Road found on Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys - All The Classic Releases 1937-1949 (Disc 4).

Mike wants me to move to the key of F next. Playing out of this key requires mostly playing in second position with the root F found by your index finger on the third fret of the d-string. You can easily get lost if you don't learn your positions for playing out of F.

In this song, there's a pretty cool section where Bill plays a series of double stops, from second position using the pinky and ring, to first position with the index and ring sliding back up to second with the index and ring.

The song has a great, bluesy feel to it. It reminds me some of True Life Blues and Sugar Coated Love. Lot's of down strokes and slides. You can really here a bluesy precursor to rock and roll in this break.

Here's Bill's version.

And here's my attempt.

Back from Vacation and ready to pick some

Well when Mike got back from down under and I had my first lesson again, it was obvious I had not practiced the last couple of songs he gave me to work up. Of course, I have plenty of excuses - as my other posts show, I have been working on other stuff and learning to record, etc.

Mike: " sure, sure, I see how you are :)"

So I decided I better start working on some of Mike's material in earnest.

My first challenge is Monroe's Hornpipe. It's a straight forward fiddle tune in A that has a really driving dynamic to it. I still don't have it nearly up to Mr. Monroe's speed, but I hope I at least have the "feel" of it. It'll take a year (or a lifetime) to get it up to his speed.

I also am trying a new recording approach. I took my Michael Kelly to the beach (Vieques - an island off the coast of Puerto Rico) as my travel mandolin. I decided to remove the pickup so that it wouldn't get lost or corroded in the sea air. I haven't gotten it back together yet, so I decided to just record with iChat using the built-in iSight camera and built in microphone. The recorder is called the conference recorder from eCamm. I also use this to record my online lessons with Mike, which is great. I can review the lessons over and over.

For this recording, I used my Silver Angel F5 by Ken Ratcliff. This was the first really nice mandolin I bought - with proceeds from a poker tournament!

The mandolin sounds great, and has a really strong bluegrass chop. Don't let the poor recording equipment and my mediocre playing fool you. This mando is a hoss.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Break for vacation

Sorry the practice blog is getting a little stale. Not because I haven't been playing (I have!) but just not recording lately. I'll be recreating on a sunny beach on Vieques (little island off coast of Puerto Rico) for a couple of weeks. New posts to follow directly!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The First Whippoorwill

The next one is from Mike Compton too. It's a Bill Monroe tune, The First Whippoorwill. I think it was originally done in G# but with the mandolin tuned to play in standard intervals.

I included two versions of this, one pretty slow and one a little faster.

The song has some very characteristic Monroe's moves. Like the slides from Bb to B and the pull offs from F to E. Lot's of good material to work into my vocabulary here.

Lessons with Mike Compton

Back in the Fall of 2007 I started taking online lessons from Mike Compton. Anyone who is on my practice blog probably knows Mike already - but just in case. Mike is one of the best Monroe style mandolin players in the world. He's also great at teaching this style of playing. So don't let my mediocrity fool you - Mike is the real deal and can really teach.

This first video is one of the first things I picked up from Mike. It's the solo to Blue Yodel #4. Bill Monroe plays this tune lightening fast. I offer it here at (much) more modest speeds. I included two version here, one slow and one medium. I don't attempt Mr. Monroe's speed.

The solo is played entirely with down strokes played near the bridge, except for the triplet phrases which are picked dud. So you get a bunch of those characteristic dud d phrases that Monroe loved so much.

This next one is Sugar Coated Love.

It's got some interesting timing in it and is also picked with down strokes except for the triplets and the tremolo.

When I first learned it, Mike told me I played it "real purdy," and that I had better stop doing that if I wanted it to sound right! He reminded me it was about love gone wrong and that Bill played it angrily with a very strong attack back at the bridge.

I've had about 6 weeks off from my lessons with Mike while he was traveling in Australia with Steve Gilchrist and Dasspunk. I suspect that would have been one helluva trip.

My lessons start back next week, so I'm working on that material again to knock the rust off before Tuesday.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Crosspicking Wildwood Flower

This week, our classes at the Folk School started back up. I'm taking 2 classes on Monday nights, Advanced Mandolin and Bluegrass Ensemble, both instructed by Dave Mueller. He's a great instructor and player. His regular bluegrass gig is The Grass Pack.

This week in the mando class, Dave introduced us to crosspicking. We used a version of Wildwood Flower from the Mandolin Cafe. As I understand it, crosspicking was developed by Jesse McReynolds to sound like the 3-finger banjo roll. I think it allows you to play something unaccompanied that sounds nice and full. In many cases, and in this song particularly, the melody is played on the lower notes, which ring out, while the additional two notes are put on top. The picking pattern generally is either d u u d u u d u (reverse roll) or d d u d d u d u (forward roll). There's also some interesting departures from these two used to create the correct rhythm of the melody.

Without further delay, here's my crosspicked version of Wildwood Flower.