I have spent a good amount of time learning fiddle tunes, very fun indeed, but found that when the singing stops I don't know what to do. I can play the melody of the song, but this leaves a lot of rest notes. How can I keep a flow of notes going while still maintain the melody? Lets say " Footprints in the snow" I do not want to play a Carter Style break, I want to play something more " single string " like maybe Bryan Sutton or Tony Rice would play.
Any suggestions in getting me on the right track would be greatly appreciated! Thanks John
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This is where the Bryan and Tony stand out: creativity. When playing the guitar, we can't do long bow strokes to fill in the melody like a fiddle or even a mandolin ("tickling"). We have to do something with that empty space so we use fills, runs, licks, etc. How can you learn those?
My advice is to get a couple books and/or videos with tab in there. I already hear the cries from the naysayers, but hear me out: the tab will let you see and learn SPECIFICALLY what it is that Bryan/Tony/Doc/Norman/whoever is actually doing with that empty space. Also, it will teach you at least a handful of those fills, runs, licks, etc. and place them into your 'muscle memory' allowing you to bring them up and drop them into any fiddle tune.
Tab accompanied by the tune or a video will be a plus. Another option is to slow down the song (waaaay down in most cases) and try to pick out the tunes phrase by phrase by ear. The easiest way to do this for me is to use a program like Audacity (free and freely available) to slow down the mp3.
Either way, the trick is to learn lots of songs and practice, practice, practice. The more songs you learn, the more "sounds" (runs, licks, etc.) you will be playing and the more effective your practice time will be. Before long, you will be learning new fiddle tunes and creating your own method of filling in those gaps.
Edit: I forgot to mention crosspicking. It's easier than it looks/sounds, but like everything else, requires lots of PRACTICE. Most instructional books include at least a little something on this.
Whatever you do, remember our main motivation for playing: it's fun! Remember to enjoy yourself and to do a little random fooling around after your serious study.
I was thinking about this this evening..... If you think you can play the melody, the way I start my improvisations (and mind you, they're not terribly amazing or anything) is with the opening 'phrase' and then as you fall into the solo, you'll feel more comfortable with where you're headed, and you might even be able to get ahead of yourself and think a couple notes in advance. I know I'm having a good day when this happens. Also, I use a lot of canned openings. If I can't quite place the melody, I'll whip out a stock opening. I think of them in my head as the G run opening (not just for endings anymore), the banjo opening, the floating opening, and a mandolin opening (a little tremolo on the high notes). I often think that my improvised solos all sound the same, but when I play them back (if I recorded them) they tend to sound better than I had originally thought. Since you can pick out a melody, I'll assume you know some scales, but they can often help when you're looking for some different 'colours' in your breaks.
I sometimes think that crating a break to a "singin" song is harder that a fiddle tune too. You have to be creative to fill the space. There are a few dvd's that address this issure. Creating Solo's for Bluegrass songs by Chris Jones is one. He starts by defing the melody He next finds which scale note starts the song (usually 1,3 or 5) Finds a kickoff that ends with that note adds what he calls conector licks that, well, connect the melody notes, and usually ends the break with something of a hot lick. His breaks sound good, and he had a big selection of licks on which to draw.
Scott Nygaard addresses some of this on his dvd's as well. He likes to use arpeggio's made from smaller chord forms to fill in the longer spaces found in singin songs. I would say his aproach sounds like Tony's sound.
Norman Blake likes to use smaller strums of the chord to fill in the spaces, along with his own style of a 3 string roll.
I wish that I could create a terriffic sounding break on the fly, but I can't. If I hear a song at a jam that catches my ear, I have to go home and fiddle around with it until I find something that sounds good to me.
any dvd (or help from a teacher that understands these players style) would be a good place to start.
Chris Jones DVDs are distributed by Musicians Workshop, but I searched on Amazon.com and found a used on there. That 1 click shopping at Amazon is killing me. Chris' wife Sally who plays backup isn't hard to look at either.
a break if you listen to it usually is centered around the melody with added notes between usually right out the scale with certain beats emphasized for dramatic effect and rythm support. Licks are ussually scale notes between themelody notes,like the g- run mentioned earlier.for instance if in g and the melody is on the g note and the next is a c, just play g-a-b-c,but try to make it interesting by sliding to the b note and hammer on the c,anther good lick is to crosspick the chord adding the 7th or other notes.All you are trying to do is get from on scale note to the other with finesse and flair without hitting a sour note.and ending at the right plce and time.remember to enjoy the ride.