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Mandolin Lessons: Bluegrass Chop Chords

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[MUSIC]
>> Okay.
Let's start doing some Bluegrass Chop
Chords.
Now, the mandolin [NOISE] in a bluegrass
band functions like a snare drum in a,
in rock and roll or in country music.
It's often playing rhythm.
You spend most of your time playing rhythm
in fact,
you just have a break maybe once in each
song.
So [COUGH] good part of your role in a, in
a bluegrass band is, is playing rhythm.
And so, it's something to work on and
there's a lot to it actually.
My favorite mandolin players.
All have incredible rhythm.
And and the chop is a, is a big part of
it.
Whether you're talking about David Grisman
or Sam Bush or Ron McCrory,
any of the greats.
The way they play their back beats and
how it propels the group is really the
heart and soul of their mandolin playing.
[NOISE] So [NOISE] we've taught you the
open G chord where everything is ringing.
[SOUND] A open D [NOISE] and open C and
it's almost more of a folk way of playing
the mandolin or an old timey way of
playing the mandolin.
One of the [NOISE] things that Bill Monroe
invented when he [NOISE] started playing
the mandolin was this version of a G
chord, which is a very long stretch for
many people.
But I'm gonna ask you to go for it.
[SOUND] You have the two strings [NOISE]
on the upper part,
just like that [NOISE] chord, the G chord
you already know.
[SOUND] Place the third finger on the
fifth fret of the third string and
place the little finger on the seventh
fret.
[MUSIC]
So there it is.
And this is now a moveable G chord.
[MUSIC]
You can move this up to the neck.
[MUSIC]
To any key.
[MUSIC]
And the way the mandolin functions.
[MUSIC]
Just to play the back beat in the band.
[MUSIC]
The bass is playing boom, boom, boom,
boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.
And I'm just playing this little popping
chord.
[MUSIC]
And
when I was growing up they use to call
that bark.
And how do you get your mandolin to bark?
[SOUND] So [NOISE] as soon as you hit the
chord.
[SOUND] You lift your fingers.
That's one of the keys to it.
[SOUND] Because you don't want it to ring.
You don't want this.
[MUSIC]
You don't want that sound.
It's just gonna, it's gonna make too much
noise in the context of the whole band.
You want this [NOISE] little popping
sounds.
Just like hitting a drum.
[MUSIC]
And
you don't want it to sound too stringy.
You don't want to accentuate [NOISE] the
high part [NOISE] of the,
of the the mandolin.
[MUSIC]
The top two strings.
What you really are focused on [NOISE] are
those bottom two strings.
[MUSIC]
In fact, for
those of you who find this position just
too long of a stretch.
I've seen a lot of mandolin players
[NOISE] who just play the bottom two
strings.
[MUSIC]
[LAUGH] Seventh fret, fifth fret.
[MUSIC]
And you can get that [NOISE] bark,
you can get choppy sound.
You just have to mute the upper two
strings.
[MUSIC]
Now,
notice [NOISE] where the root is on this
chord.
[SOUND] It exists on the top string.
[MUSIC]
The third fret.
But it also exists [NOISE] on the fifth
fret on the third string.
[SOUND] So, [NOISE] this is now a moveable
chord.
[MUSIC]
You move it up two frets [NOISE] and
it becomes an A chord.
[MUSIC]
One fret and it's an A-sharp or
a B-flat chord.
That's now the [NOISE] eight fret and the
tenth fret.
[MUSIC]
Move it up two more [NOISE] and
it is the tenth fret and the twelfth fret.
[MUSIC]
Okay.
[SOUND] Now if I was to do this with the
full four finger version,
it would look like this.
Here's G.
[MUSIC]
And you move it up two frets and
it's an A chord.
[MUSIC]
So
I'm at the fourth fret with my first
finger.
[MUSIC]
Move it up two more [NOISE] to the sixth
fret with my first finger and it's a B
chord.
[MUSIC]
Because of that high B note.
[MUSIC]
Move it up one [NOISE] fret.
[MUSIC]
It's a C chord because of that
high [NOISE] C note.
[MUSIC]
Two more frets [NOISE] and it's a D chord.
[SOUND] Rarely would we use the D way up
there.
[NOISE] We primarily use it in this region
on the mandolin.
So now, let's look for our one, four, five
using this kind of position.
[SOUND] Here's your G.
[MUSIC]
Remember,
what I told about the beauty of the
mandolin.
Simply, moving everything over to the next
pair of strings, you've got a C chord.
So this is fifth [NOISE] fret.
Second [NOISE] fret.
Third [NOISE] fret.
[MUSIC]
And there's your,
[NOISE] your chop C chord.
[MUSIC]
Okay?
[MUSIC]
Now to get to a D chord.
[MUSIC]
Just move it up two frets [LAUGH] and
there's your chop D.
[MUSIC]
And then you gonna get back to this G.
[SOUND] Which is a pretty big move to get
from this D [NOISE] third
finger on the seventh fret.
[SOUND] First finger on the fourth.
[SOUND] Second finger on the fifth, all
the way over here.
So what I do is I leave my finger in that
position cuz I know it's
gonna go back to this G.
It's the same position of my fingers, but
I'm moving over to the other, the high
strings.
And then I just have to place that little
finger on the low string there,
to give me that sound.
[MUSIC]
C.
[MUSIC]
D.
[MUSIC]
Back to G.
[MUSIC]
All right.
Now we're gonna move up to the key of A
and find the three keys,
three chords in the key of A.
And we know they are one, four and five,
A, B, C, D and E.
A, D and E.
[SOUND] So we've got our A chord at the
fifth fret.
[MUSIC]
Simply move over [NOISE] to the low
strings with this position.
And this [NOISE] becomes the D chord.
[MUSIC]
Move it up two frets and you gotta an E.
And then [NOISE] back to the A.
So, let's play Bury Me Beneath The Willow.
I'll do it really slow without the guitar
once.
[MUSIC]
One.
[MUSIC]
Two.
[MUSIC]
One.
[MUSIC]
Two.
[MUSIC]
Again the bass is boom [NOISE] boom
[NOISE] boom [NOISE] boom [NOISE] boom.
[SOUND] And we're just doing the pop.
[MUSIC]
And again,
think about [NOISE] really driving the
mandolin.
Think about driving the face of the
mandolin, not the strings.
I don't wanna hear [NOISE] any of this
kind of stringy bright thing.
I want to focus on the dark [NOISE] side
of the mandolin [NOISE] so
you get that bark.
[SOUND] And you're really trying to get
the back to vibrate and
the face to vibrate.
[MUSIC]
One.
[MUSIC]
Two.
[MUSIC]
One.
[MUSIC]
So let's play Bury Me Beneath the Willow
[NOISE] with the guitar player now at 75.
It's got a little bit of tempo on it
[NOISE] but
we're just kinda work on our chop.
>> A one, two three.
[MUSIC]
D.
[MUSIC]
A.
[MUSIC]
Here comes E.
[MUSIC]
Back to A.
[MUSIC]
Back to D.
[MUSIC]
A.
[MUSIC]
B.
[MUSIC]
Now I'll play the melody.
[MUSIC]
You chop.
[MUSIC]
B
[MUSIC] A [MUSIC]
D.
[MUSIC]
E.
[MUSIC]
A.
[MUSIC]
A.
[MUSIC]
D.
[MUSIC]
A.
[MUSIC]
E.
[MUSIC]
A.
[MUSIC]
D.
[MUSIC]
A.
[MUSIC]
E.
[MUSIC]
A.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
Okay,
now we're gonna take the whole thing up
half a step,
to the key of B flat, or A sharp,
[MUSIC]
but in bluegrass we call it B flat.
I believe it's at the same tempo.
So the chords are now B flat and when you
move over, you're playing an E flat.
And when you move that up to the five
chord it's an F.
B flat.
[MUSIC]
E flat,
[MUSIC]
and F.
[MUSIC]
And back to B flat.
Let's try that with the guitar player.
>> A one, two, three.
>> [MUSIC]
D flat.
[MUSIC]
B flat.
[MUSIC]
F.
[MUSIC]
B flat.
[MUSIC]
D flat.
[MUSIC]
B-flat, F, B-flat.
I'll chop it with you, here we go,
[MUSIC]
get that barking sound,
focus on the low strings.
[MUSIC]
Just the bottom two strings,
[MUSIC]
even though you're holding the whole
chord, just play the bottom.
[MUSIC]
Muting,
lifting your left hand in between each
chord, so you get that nice chop.
[MUSIC]
It should sound like a snare drum.
[MUSIC]
I
don't like to hear a lot of other stuff,
like this.
[MUSIC]
It just muddies up the sound of the band.
The banjo player will get upset with you.
[MUSIC]
We
don't want Tony getting upset, no, no, no,
it ain't pretty.
Okay.
Now we're gonna go to the key of B.
Gonna bring it up another half step, and
do the same thing.
Now we're in B,
[MUSIC]
so seventh fret with your second finger.
I always get my second finger on the note.
And then I find the chord from there.
[MUSIC]
F sharp is your five chord in
the key of B.
Don't ask me why, that's for later.
Here we go, Bury Me Beneath the Willow,
key of B at 75.
I'll chop with you first.
>> A one, two, three.
B.
[MUSIC]
E.
[MUSIC]
B.
[MUSIC]
Keep it clean.
[MUSIC]
F sharp.
[MUSIC]
B.
[MUSIC]
E.
[MUSIC]
B.
[MUSIC]
F sharp.
[MUSIC]
B.
I'll play the melody.
[MUSIC]
I always like to let it ring at the end a
little bit.
Okay, so this has all been thinking of the
mandolin one,
four, five, as this chord, G or the main,
the,
the chord that has the top note on the top
string, as the root, okay?
Your root is here, your four is there,
your five is there,
no matter where you start.
Your relationships are always gonna be the
same.
Again, that's why we play the mandolin.
We're now gonna start looking at it a
little differently.
If we were in the key of D, we wouldn't
wanna be way up here for a D chord and
our G and our A.
What we do then is we use this lower
position chop chord,
this kinda D chord as our root.
And then the question is well where's the
four?
D, E, F, G.
Where's the five?
A.
D, G, and A.
[MUSIC]
So this is D, this is our home base.
And we go to this chord.
The G chord.
How do we get to A?
Bring that up two frets.
How do we get back to D?
Jump over, with this shape, okay?
To review, D.
[MUSIC]
G.
[MUSIC]
Is that position.
A comes up two frets.
[MUSIC]
D,
you take the upper part of that chord back
over to the lower strings.
[MUSIC]
So, here we go with Bury Me Neath,
Beneath the Willow.
And you're probably asking why do you have
to play Bury Me Beneath the Willow in so
many keys.
Well every singer's gonna want it in a
different place.
Everybody's got their vocal range.
Ladies sing a lot higher than guys, some
guys sing really low.
So, gotta find that place that fits your
voice perfectly.
And this will give you a chance to just
focus on one simple tune,
and always playing the same one, four or
five patterns.
But we're taking it through all these
different keys, so I mean,
that's really the way you learn, is by
taking a simple concept, limiting
the number of variables and what it is
that you're trying to, to teach yourself.
If you're working on right hand, then just
work on the right hand and
keep the left hand really simple.
You know?
If we're trying to play three chords in a
bunch of different keys,
let's not play a different song at every
new key.
Cuz then your thinking about the chord
changes.
You're thinking about the.
Too many things at once, so.
[MUSIC]
Here we go, Bury Me Beneath the Willow,
key of D at 75.
>> A one, two three.
[MUSIC]
G.
[MUSIC]
D.
[MUSIC]
Here comes the A.
[MUSIC]
Back to the D.
[MUSIC]
G.
[MUSIC]
D.
[MUSIC]
A.
[MUSIC]
So I'll play the melody now.
You chop.
[MUSIC]
Okay?
Now, gotta go one more, key of E.
[MUSIC]
Here we go.
Everybody ready?
E.
[MUSIC] A.
[MUSIC]
And.
[MUSIC]
B, are your three principle chords.
Right now, you are probably getting the
hang on this.
Kick it off.
>> A one, two, three.
>> [MUSIC]
Almost getting to my key now.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
Here comes the melody.
[MUSIC]
You chop.
[MUSIC]
A.
[MUSIC]
E.
[MUSIC]
B.
[MUSIC]
E.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
A.
[MUSIC]
B.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
All right, and
I'm gonna make you suffer just a little
bit, key of F, what do you say?
[MUSIC]
Going up a half-step from there.
[MUSIC]
To the,
the root of the F chord is on the ninth
fret.
Three principle chords of F are F, G, A, B
flat, and C.
F.
[MUSIC]
B flat.
[MUSIC]
C.
[MUSIC]
And F.
[MUSIC]
Here we go.
>> A one, two, three.
[MUSIC]
B flat.
[MUSIC]
Back to F.
[MUSIC]
C.
[MUSIC]
F.
[MUSIC]
B flat.
[MUSIC]
F.
[MUSIC]
C.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
Okay.
Well, hopefully that wasn't too painful.
Very fun, though, and it worked something
through a whole bunch of keys like that.
I can't say enough about how important
that is.
Especially as we get into some other, more
advanced things.
And I start yelling at you to play in F,
and B flat.
Now you have a concept, good luck with
that.
Okay, well I've given you Bury Me Beneath
the Willow in a whole bunch of keys so,
I'm gonna to ask you to send a video.
I want to hear your chop.
I wanna hear if you got that nice, fat
tone, mostly focused on
the low strings, and really in time with
that guitar, nice and steady beat.
Now not too much jingly jangly stuff.
Not too many high strings, and really
muting.
Muting the strings.
Lifting your left hand in between each,
each bar.
[MUSIC]
So send me in a video,
let me hear what you got.
[MUSIC]