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Contra Dance Mandolin: Chords II

August 9th, 2014
mandolin, contra, music

Three years ago I wrote about percussive mandolin playing. Since then I've gotten a bit better and added a few things to my playing. After someone commented on my previous post and reminded me I'd written it, I thought I would go back over an evening, make some clips, and discuss a bit.

reconcilliation-mando.mp3 reconcilliation-all.mp3
coriente-mando.mp3 coriente-all.mp3
These two are examples of probably my most typical rhythm for playing reels. Simple, complements the piano well. It only works if there's another rhythm player hitting the downbeats; otherwise you need to hit at least the downbeats at the beginning of the phrase. While the tonal hits stand out, the other two sub beats are getting light muted scratches. This is standard for me: playing reels at least I just move my hand back and forth and nearly everything gets something tonal or a muted scratch, hard or soft.
colemans-mando.mp3 colemans-all.mp3
Groovier. Works by itself or with the piano. Strong muted scratches on the second downbeat of each measure give it a half-time feel.
danforth-mando.mp3 danforth-all.mp3
Entirely scratches, supporting the piano rhythm. All light scratches except, again, the second downbeat of each measure which is strong. And again this gives you some half-time feel.
sandyboys-mando.mp3 sandyboys-all.mp3
Starts with the first rhythm above (Corriente / The Reconcilliation) but adds the high strings as part of the build. I usually play only the lowest two (pairs of) strings when I play tonally, but occasionally for emphasis and excitement I'll add the higher notes. Then we roll over the tune, I play a triplet (whee) and go into the second rhythm above (Coleman's). I haven't yet figured out how to play a triplet without leaving space after, which sounds a bit weird on its own but I think it's fine with the piano.
oldgreycat-mando.mp3 oldgreycat-all.mp3
For comparison, the beginning of this is what it sounds like when I only hit some of the sub-beats. We're having fun emphasizing the "old grey cat" nature of the tune. The rest is a mixture of the other styles.
fleur-mando.mp3 fleur-all.mp3
This one is kind of all over the place, mixing several of the approaches above.
seanhamac-mando.mp3 seanhamac-all.mp3
toothfairy-mando.mp3 toothfairy-all.mp3
In general I'm less happy with my jig playing than my reel playing. I have a few things I've worked out but nothing I really love. Here are two different ways I might back up a jig. In "Seanamac" I'm working with a piano rhythm, trying to fit the minor somewhat jazzy feel, while in "Toothfairy" I'm the primary rhythm instrument.

Just a bit of explanation of what I'm doing up on stage!

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