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Author Topic: Tappin' That Thing: Blues Mandolin by Key  (Read 10313 times)

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Offline uncle bud

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Tappin' That Thing: Blues Mandolin by Key
« on: April 03, 2009, 10:12:53 AM »
The mandolin digression in the Blues in F thread and frankie's comments about playing different instruments in the Festivals thread prompted me to start a page in Weeniepedia of Blues Mandolin by Key. So far, it's limited to F.  :P But I thought I'd start a thread on the forum for collecting mandolin blues (and rags etc) and their playing positions. Let's keep it to the original playing position/key of the recordings, not the keys you might play something in, since this is meant as a reference and starting point. So if Charlie McCoy played it in Bb, but Steve James teaches it in C, let's list it in Bb for McCoy.

I imagine as the list grows it will include a fair amount of cross-over into old-time, "mountain blues" etc., since the mandolin pops up there often enough.

Asa Martin and Roy Hobbs
Wild Cat Rag - C

Birmingham Jug Band
German Blues - F
The Wild Cat Squawl - F
Birmingham Blues - F
Getting Ready For Trial - F
Giving It Away - F (pitched at E)
Kickin' Mule - F

Dallas String Band
Dallas Rag - F

Charlie McCoy
That Lonesome Train Took My Baby Away - Bb
Always In Love With You - E flat
It Is So Good (Part 1) - E flat
It Is So Good (Part 2) - E flat
Times Ain't What They Used To Be - F
Too Long - E flat
You Gonna Need Me - G

Charlie McCoy (w/ Jackson Blue Boys)
Hidin' On Me - B flat
Sweet Alberta - B-flat

Charlie McCoy (w/Alec Johnson)
Miss Meal Cramp Blues - G
Sister Maud Mule - G
Mysterious Coon - C
Toodle Doo - C

Charlie McCoy (w/ Bo Carter)
Good Old Turnip Greens - G
Corrine, Corrina - Bb

Charlie McCoy (w/ Mississippi Blacksnakes)
It Still Ain't No Good (New It Ain't No Good) - E flat
Easygoing Woman Blues (same tune as Times Ain't What They Used To Be) - F
Blue Sky Blues - B flat
Grind So Fine - B flat

Charlie McCoy (w/ Mississippi Mud Steppers)
Alma Waltz - F
Jackson Stomp - Bb
Sunset Waltz - Bb
Vicksburg Stomp - Eb
Farewell Waltz - B flat
Morning Glory Waltz - B flat

Charlie McCoy (w/ Sam Hill from Louisville)
Near The End - D

Charlie McCoy (Papa Charlie's Boys)
Too Long (100317-1) - Eb
Let My Peaches Be - G

Kirk McGee
No One Else Can Take Your Place - F

The Memphis Jug Band
Everybody's Talking About Sadie Green - F
He's In the Jailhouse Now - C
Round and Round - G
You May Leave But This Will Bring You Back - C
Move That Thing - G?
You Got Me Rollin' - F

Al Miller
Someday Sweetheart - F
On an Island All by Myself - F

Fiddlin' Doc Roberts
Take Those Lips Away - F

Three Tobacco Tags
Reno Blues - F

Three Stripped Gears
Alabama Rag - C
Blackberry Rag - C
Black Bottom Strut - F
1931 Depression Blues - F

edit: updated list April 18/09
« Last Edit: May 03, 2009, 08:04:38 AM by uncle bud »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Tappin' That Thing: Blues Mandolin by Key
« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2009, 10:44:41 AM »
Reno Blues by the Three Tobacco Tags is also in F.

Offline banjochris

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Re: Tappin' That Thing: Blues Mandolin by Key
« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2009, 04:06:19 PM »
Here's a few --

Mississippi Mud Steppers:
Jackson Stomp - Bb
Sunset Waltz - Bb
Vicksburg Stomp - Eb

Charlie McCoy
Too Long - Eb
Lonesome Train Took My Baby Away - Bb

Offline frankie

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Re: Tappin' That Thing: Blues Mandolin by Key
« Reply #3 on: April 03, 2009, 05:32:25 PM »
I worked out all the Charlie McCoy stuff a while ago:

Jackson Blue Boys:
Hidin? On Me - B flat
Sweet Alberta - B-flat

More Charlie McCoy:
Always In Love With You - E flat
It Is So Good (Part 1) - E flat
It Is So Good (Part 2) - E flat
Too Long - E flat

Alec Johnson:
Miss Meal Cramp Blues - G
Sister Maud Mule - G
Mysterious Coon - C
Toodle Doo - C

Mississippi Blacksnakes:
It Still Ain?t No Good (New It Ain?t No Good) - E flat
Easygoing Woman Blues (same tune as Times Ain't What They Used To Be) - F
Blue Sky Blues - B flat
Grind So Fine - B flat

More Mississippi Mud Steppers:
Farewell Waltz - B flat
Morning Glory Waltz - B flat

Sam Hill from Louisville:
Near The End - D

Offline frankie

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Re: Tappin' That Thing: Blues Mandolin by Key
« Reply #4 on: April 03, 2009, 05:53:03 PM »
forgot one Charlie McCoy:
You Gonna Need Me - G

and one Bo Carter:
Good Old Turnip Greens - G

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Tappin' That Thing: Blues Mandolin by Key
« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2009, 08:22:57 AM »
A few more Memphis Jug Band tunes:

Everybody's Talking About Sadie Green - F
He's In the Jailhouse Now - C
Round and Round - G
You May Leave But This Will Bring You Back - C
Move That Thing - G?

The reason for the question mark for Move That Thing is that it's pitched at Ab, which seems at least possible from a playing point of view, though my limited ear hears nothing so far that tells me there's anything being done here that needs to be done in Ab rather than G. If at Ab, it would also mean the guitar has to tune or capo up and the harp player has to dig out a flat harp - not out of the question. However, this was done at the same 2-song session as You Got Me Rollin'. You Got Me Rollin' is pitched at F# on Document Vol 3 DOCD-5023, but pitched at F on Document's Rags, Breakdowns, Stomps and Blues, a later compilation that may have been remastered and speed corrected. So if You Got Me Rollin' goes down a semitone, Move That Thing possibly would as well, placing it at G. Other ears most welcome. Anyone with the Frog Vol 3 disc to compare pitches also most welcome.

edited to add: I hear the voice of Rivers in my head asking "why aren't you doing this in a sortable table in Weeniepedia?" Yes, good point, I will eventually, after dealing with Lemon Lyrics (up to R now).  :P
« Last Edit: April 04, 2009, 08:27:42 AM by uncle bud »

Offline Rivers

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Re: Tappin' That Thing: Blues Mandolin by Key
« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2009, 03:43:48 PM »
I figured that UB. It's always best to do the iteration on the forum since it's so condusive and move stuff to wikipedia at a certain point. Great topic BTW

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Tappin' That Thing: Blues Mandolin by Key
« Reply #7 on: April 06, 2009, 09:08:35 AM »
I've updated the list. Another one to add while it's still fresh in my head:

Asa Martin and Roy Hobbs
Wild Cat Rag - C

and

Three Stripped Gears
1931 Depression Blues - F

edited to add a couple more Charlie McCoy tunes:

Charlie McCoy (Papa Charlie's Boys)
Too Long (100317-1) - Eb
Let My Peaches Be - G
« Last Edit: April 06, 2009, 10:59:25 AM by uncle bud »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Tappin' That Thing: Blues Mandolin by Key
« Reply #8 on: April 06, 2009, 11:31:26 AM »
Another Charlie McCoy w/ Bo Carter:

Corrine, Corrina - Bb

Offline waxwing

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Re: Tappin' That Thing: Blues Mandolin by Key
« Reply #9 on: April 06, 2009, 11:40:11 AM »
This thread has made me curious as to the possible use of a capo or tuning up or down to achieve certain keys, somewhat as UB discussed earlier. Could someone explain which positions are truly 'closed' and whether any of these seemingly closed positions work out nicely with open strings?  Does having only four strings, or courses, make playing in closed positions fairly commonplace? Sorry for my ignorance about the mando or if this is too much of a digression and should be in a different thread.

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Offline frankie

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Re: Tappin' That Thing: Blues Mandolin by Key
« Reply #10 on: April 06, 2009, 04:54:25 PM »
This thread has made me curious as to the possible use of a capo or tuning up or down to achieve certain keys, somewhat as UB discussed earlier.

Speaking here specifically of Charlie McCoy - no capos were used.  The differences in pitch may have many explanations, most of which you're already familiar, but he doesn't appear to have tuned specifically to enable himself to play in a particular key.

Could someone explain which positions are truly 'closed' and whether any of these seemingly closed positions work out nicely with open strings?  Does having only four strings, or courses, make playing in closed positions fairly commonplace?

The mandolin (fiddle, too - different issues there, though) is tuned in fifths - that means that once you learn how to play a scale (or a lick, or a melody) without reference to open strings, you can play that scale (or a lick, or a melody) anywhere on the mandolin, in any position.  That's true to some degree on the guitar, but even more so on the mandolin, where the shorter scale works in your favor and, for the most part, you won't even have to change your fingering - just your starting point.  In other words, they're all "closed" positions, once you know the lay of the land.

...even though open strings are an important part of the three flat keys featured prominently in McCoy's recordings...  but that's another topic, really.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Tappin' That Thing: Blues Mandolin by Key
« Reply #11 on: April 06, 2009, 08:40:14 PM »
This thread has made me curious as to the possible use of a capo or tuning up or down to achieve certain keys, somewhat as UB discussed earlier.

I know you say "somewhat", so just so it's clear, I was talking about the guitar having to retune or capo. Not that tuning the mandolin to a different pitch didn't happen, of course. Yank Rachell being the main example, tuning down a step and a half so he sounds in E when playing a G chord. Playing in E, a favorite for guitarists, is apparently a pain on mando. I haven't actually tried, so can't put frankie's theory to the test. But, ordinarily, I would guess that the mandolin tuning would follow the pitch of a fiddle, horn, piano or harmonica first before it would follow a guitar.

I'm glad frankie answered, since he explains it better than I could. I really haven't played much at all in flat keys (or any keys aside from G and a little C!) on the mando. For "That Lonesome Train...", I will say that I find it a bit tricky to play the song in Bb, but that probably has as much to do with the trickiness of the song as the key - it's pretty tricky to play well in C too. I'm not certain whether there are more open stringsor less. I would guess less but haven't analyzed it.

One thing's for sure, I've discovered for myself how the key of F is indeed a mando-friendly key. Since this thread began, I have been figuring out Dallas Rag, in F, which fits really nicely under the hands and uses quite a few open strings. I've got through the first two sections with surprising ease, and am even able to play it badly up to speed on occasion - though am trying to resist that and practise sensibly.  :P

The other thing I've noticed is that the less I think of the mandolin as a weird-ass little guitar with 4 courses of strings that are tuned differently and the more I think of it as its own entity, the better off I am. Sure, some skills like picking and fretting are transferable. But really I'm having more success just trying to figure out tunes rather than applying any guitar skills or guitar theory to the instrument. I imagine if I was a fiddler that it would be different but, alas, I am not.

« Last Edit: April 06, 2009, 09:41:24 PM by uncle bud »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Tappin' That Thing: Blues Mandolin by Key
« Reply #12 on: April 06, 2009, 08:48:42 PM »
...even though open strings are an important part of the three flat keys featured prominently in McCoy's recordings...  but that's another topic, really.

Feel free to elaborate in another topic. :P

Offline GhostRider

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Re: Tappin' That Thing: Blues Mandolin by Key
« Reply #13 on: April 07, 2009, 10:39:28 AM »

Speaking here specifically of Charlie McCoy - no capos were used.  The differences in pitch may have many explanations, most of which you're already familiar, but he doesn't appear to have tuned specifically to enable himself to play in a particular key.

So your saying that McCoy plays in Bb at concert pitch and tuning, not, for example, tuning up half a step and playing A shapes. Why would he do this so often. Wouldn't Bflat be an awkward key for a mando as opposed to D or C or G? To use a guitar reference, players will occasionally play a tune in a guitar-awkward key like F, but even these do most of their playing in more guitar-friendly keys.

I understand that the fifths tuning makes singe note patterns reproducable all over the fretboard, but this does not at all answer the question, why so much Bflat? Ya gotta play chords as well.

I hope someone can 'splane it to me. Like Anti Bud I'm starting to fiddle around with the mando.

And yes, Unkie Bud, E does not appear to be a very Mando-friendly key.

Thanks in advance,
Alex
« Last Edit: April 07, 2009, 10:41:07 AM by GhostRider »

Offline banjochris

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Re: Tappin' That Thing: Blues Mandolin by Key
« Reply #14 on: April 07, 2009, 11:48:59 AM »
I have a feeling that one reason for McCoy and the Sheiks playing so much in flat keys is that they probably were often playing with pianos, and flat keys are piano-friendly. Things I've read about the Sheiks say that their usual performing band had more Chatmons in it that the records did, and didn't Harry Chatmon play piano?
Jackson Stomp, for instance, would be in B-flat because Cow Cow Blues is in B-flat on the piano.
Chris

 


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