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Getting into Bluegrass Mandolin by Dix Bruce (Book and CD set)
Below is an sample lesson from "Getting into Bluegrass Mandolin." This particular lesson teaches you how to play the "Moveable Blues" in a closed position. "Moveable Blues" is one of the last tunes in the book, so it's fairly advanced but the material that preceeds it will prepare you to understand it and make the best use of it.
"Moveable Blues" will help you learn some very bluesy bluegrass licks on the mandolin and, more importantly, how to move a melody to any key. Yup, ANY key.
Click the "Moveable Blues .pdf" link below to view and print a copy of the music and TAB. You can hear an MP3 sample of "Moveable Blues" by clicking the "Moveable Blues audio" link below. The audio example is mono, to save space, and presented only at the slow speed. On the CD included with the book, all tunes are recorded in full stereo and played at both slow and regular speeds.
"Moveable Blues" is written is a closed position so we can move it later on. So, all the notes are fretted and suggested fingerings and pick directions are indicated. Stick to these suggestions and it'll be easier to move the whole melody later. Your pinkie will get some exercise as it frets notes high on the first and fourth strings in measures 1, 2, 9, and 10.
"Moveable Blues" also includes our first triplets in M 3 & 11. With triplets we fit three notes in the space of one beat. Think first of a quarter note. We'd count quarter notes in a 4/4 measure like this: "one, two, three, four" and each quarter note occupies the space of one beat. If we filled that same measure with eighth notes we'd fit two eighth notes in the space of each quarter note and we’d count them like this: "one and, two and, three and, four and." With triplets, we fit three notes in the space of one beat and count them like this: "one-trip-let, two-trip-let, three-trip-let, four-trip-let." We pick a note on each syllable: "one-trip-let." Listen to "Triplet Demo" on the CD. I suggest you play triplets with a "down-up-down, down-up-down, down-up-down, down-up-down" picking pattern.
Once you have memorized "Moveable Blues" in the key of G and its fretting hand position, try moving it up the fingerboard to different positions and keys. I'm sure you’ll hit some clinkers now and then, but give it a chance. If you get stuck, go back to the G version and review. If you can play it in Bb, you can play it anywhere you can reach! The obvious next step is the key of B, one more fret up the neck. As a Bluegrass mandolinist, you’ll be expected to be able to play in B so now’s a good time to explore the B position with this and other melodies. Be sure to try A, C, Ab, D, etc.
If you really want "Moveable Blues" to have that Bill Monroe-esque feel, try playing all the notes, except maybe the triplets, with down strokes. That's how Bill got that almost rock and roll intensity from a little acoustic mandolin.
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