Improving Your Bluegrass Chop Beginner Mandolin Lesson

all right I'm out there mandoline LAN mic heading here I've got another bluegrass mandolin lesson for you today I had a request from someone out there if I could talk a little bit more about the bluegrass chop and more specifically how it fits in with the bass and the guitar so I'm gonna break down this lesson I've got five basic bluegrass songs I'm gonna play the practice tracks too and then talk about kind of getting into the weeds getting a little bit more into the depth about how to really get a solid bluegrass chop so I'm gonna assume that you know some of the basic chopped chord shapes if you don't you can check out another lesson I did called basic bluegrass chop chords so it'll break all those down but I'm gonna assume that you know the chords for this lesson and for this lesson we're going to talk about timing and getting a good chop sound and figuring out whether to do just straight chopped only or start filling it up for switching between chord shapes again kind of getting into more stylistically how do we keep the beat what's the role of the mandolin in the bluegrass band and how do we sync up with the bass player so that's what this lesson is gonna be all about and if you're watching the preview of this lesson you can head over to my website Mike heading music comm and grab the full length lesson you'll get access to watch all the videos and you can download the tabs and the practice tracks all right here's improving your bluegrass chop all right so let's start breaking down this lesson on improving your bluegrass chop so I'm going to kind of assume for this lesson that you know the basic chop shapes so if you don't know the basic chop shapes you can check out another lesson I did called basic bluegrass chop chords that'll break down each of these shapes in detail but I want to kind of move a little bit past breaking down the basic shapes and get a little bit more into the nuances of how to improve your bluegrass chop so again we're gonna use the basic bluegrass chop shapes this big this big chord this C chord shape moved up and then we're gonna use also our bar chord shape and then move to the middle strings as well so those are the shapes I'm going to use to start okay and let's start with a an easy bluegrass song rolling in my sweet baby's arms in the key of a so we're gonna use a D and E so a our first course a and then e then back to a d e a so a very basic bluegrass chord progression called the 1 4 & 5 so our 1 chord is an the root our D is called the 4 chord and E is our 5 chord so very common chord progression and bluegrass you might have heard of a one four five progression super common and bluegrass and very good progression to know in multiple keys because you're gonna be playing a lot of one four five s if you like bluegrass so let's go over to the practice track really quick and just listen to the bass part first and let's first listen to how the Chop fits in so I'm gonna play the role in my sweet baby's arms track at 80 beats a minute with just the base to start one two three four one two three four so let's just listen the bass recites maybe the bass is playing on one and three so it's 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 so that'd be the first thing is just hearing that timing 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 because a chops on the 2 and the 4 remember so here we go let's chop I mean one time through so that'd be just the straight to four chop with nothing you know no Phil in between so that works really good I use the straight simple chop usually in busier jam session so if there's a lot of competing sounds going on I'll really revert to just that super simple to fork chop I won't even play on the one and three like pick the chop I might do at a slower speed and I'll break that down in a second but remember again the more competing sounds you have in a jam or a band the the less you're probably gonna want to play you're gonna want to make room for everyone else sounds a really good way to keep the tempo up on the faster song is just stick to that really simple chop so what am i doing there to get that sound I like to let a little bit of the chord ring out and this is where different mandolin players play this a little bit differently some people completely mute the string so I'm not even pushing down some people do complete chord sound I kind of like a little bit of both so I like hearing a little bit of the chord and then cutting off the pressure it'll look like I'm squeezing in the video but I'm actually I have the pressure of the of the strings down and then I let off and what we really want to focus on is letting the bass have a space and the mandolin chop have a space so it's bass chopped bays chopped and you want to cut your jump off to make room for that next bass note on the one or the three so boom top okay you can experiment with again if you don't like that chord sound but I really like a little bit of the chord sound and I'd recommend that I don't think it's very musical to just just do that you know that you're not really playing in a key at that point you could basically do any chord so I like getting a little bit of the court to ring out and you really want to find that right no value so you're not letting it ring out too much otherwise it's gonna kind of run together with the bass part and it's gonna sound like you're you're kind of slowing the song down a little bit so and really cut off that chop the other thing I'd recommend is just be really powerful and confident with your chop and that takes a little bit of practice obviously but you're really controlling the band and the tempo with with your mandolin chop so you've got a lot of responsibility and power in the band to control the tempo so remember with great power comes great responsibility right so really make sure you're you know making the eye contact with the bass player making eye contact with the other band members or jam sessions and really leading that that bow with your chop if you're slowing everything down it's gonna make the bass player slow down because their bass next bass note is gonna be based on where you play your job vice versa if you're speeding everything up you know the bass player is gonna have to speed up as well so the mandolin player has a ton of power and a bluegrass band to control the tempo and that's really your responsibility as the mandolin player in the band or the jam session to control the tempo so let's go back and try the practice tracks again this time with just bass and I will practice doing a little bit more fill so maybe I'll start playing on the one and three I'll start adding a little bit of an up strum and I'll do this a little bit on a slower tempo or again in a situation where there's not as many people okay and let's add the guitar as well just to hear how the guitar fits in there one two zero four one two three four trying to keep my chops or Enoch Milligan go back it's a stranger back to they'll have more more time I'll switch back so got a four one two three a little bit the streets at that's holding mine so you can see once you get it down you can really go back and forth between just straight chop and then filling it up my right hand is doing the same movement every time I'm just choosing whether to grab the strings on the way up or just add a little bit more fills so one two three four one two okay so that's what I'm doing there that and I probably use a little bit more of that fill on a slower tempo right so 80 beats a minute is slower so you have the more space to fill on a super fast which will break down in just a second again I will play less fill just because it you know at a higher tempo it just becomes it's just busier and fills it up a little bit more than you need to all right let's try this 80 beats per minute practice track one more time I've added back the guitar and let's work on doing the straight chop with the basic guitar and then also switching between maybe filling it up a little bit more so maybe adding a pick on beats one and three or adding some up strokes there's a lot of things you can do once you get the timing down remember are we still thinking one two three four we're still always chopping up two and four even if we fill it up let's try it again one two three four one two three four this strain child are [Applause] they hey enough a father d began all right so you can hear how I did that there so again I might fill it up a little bit more in an ensemble that has less people so it's a smaller group you have to take more of the rhythm also if it's a slower tempo I might fill up the sound a little bit more just to help me keep the rhythm you know if it's really slow one two three you know sometimes it helps to fill it up a little bit more okay let's take that same song and crank up the speed to 120 beats a minute alright so let's start again with just bass here we go one two three four one two three four let's try adding the guitar back one two and four one two three four the cha-cha you you you you

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