Playing in B

This topic contains 41 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  John Cockman 5 days ago.

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  • #66794

    Angela
    Participant

    so…it’s time.

    ‘When you play in B, do you play in first position or 2nd? Or some of both?

     

    I know, John, B for Bluegrass.  😀

    #66795
    fiddlewood
    fiddlewood
    Participant

    In most of the things I’ve learned I’ve ended up playing in both positions I think.

    Seems to depend on what I’m doing and where I’m heading to at the time.

     

     

     

    #66798

    Angela
    Participant

    Dave,

    Thanks. Do you improvise at jams much in B?  If so how do you approach it?

    What’s a couple of breaks you’ve learned in B?

    #66799
    cricket
    cricket
    Participant

    I should be a smarty-britches here and say the answer is…you don’t play in B…ha ha ha ha…sorry…t’ain’t funny, I know….but I’m still busy with holiday cooking in the oven, so I better stop and pay attention to the food.  Angela, Good luck playing in B.  One of these days, maybe if I live past 100, I might learn it myself.  Let us know how it goes and play us a little something in B to amaze us all!  Hope you will get it down.

    #66800
    fiddlewood
    fiddlewood
    Participant

    Angela,

    I will imp. for a couple, but play very simply and get tired of it quickly, as it all sounds pretty much the same…

    My Blue Eyed Darlin (Audie Blaylock/Micheal Cleveland)

    Some Day We’ll Meet again Sweetheart (Ron Stuart lessons)

    Rebecca (Jim Mills/bluegrass college.com)

     

    #66801
    cricket
    cricket
    Participant

    I should add that if you get used to playing in both positions, it’s not that hard to do…I do not ever, not never not no-how, play in B, but I do play modal A tunes, while cross-tuned, in 2nd position for a lot of the tune and then go back to 1st for other parts, in order to pick up notes or drones I can’t get to easily in 2nd. I heard about old fiddlers who played using their fingers different or unusal, but had no clue…then, fast forward decades and decades…learned from this site that 2nd position is the low 2 position…started wondering if this was what the old folks meant and tried and found it very handy for modal tunes…yet you also need 1st position here and there for most of the tunes.  Try Cold Frosty Morning in 2nd position…works out great, but then you do need to go back to 1st during parts of it.  After I figured that out…I started using both while cross-tuned for these types of tunes and it got easier and easier.  This is probably way off from the original topic and uninteresting and unhelpful, but just throwing in my own experience that might be somewhat related, or maybe not…and maybe I’m burning something as I type, so maybe I should go.  Good luck, Angela!  Would love to hear you in B.  Always good to hear Dave’s take…you guys are both good, good fiddlers!

    #66803

    Angela
    Participant

    Thanks BG friends.  I have managed to avoid B, but my jamming buddies brought it up yesterday and threw down the gauntlet.  So…I’m going to give it a whirl.  I don’t know how successful I’ll be.

    Dave, I’ll take a look at those and see how much time I want to spend on it.

    It’s hard not playing those open strings.

     

    #66804
    cricket
    cricket
    Participant

    I still don’t understand why so many BG people love that key…good luck, Angela.  I hope you can get it feeling comfortable and sounding good!

    #66806
    Gunnar Salyer
    Gunnar Salyer
    Participant

    To play in b I put the capo on the fourth fret, and play out of g position. But that’s guitar anyway…  🙄

    #66809
    cricket
    cricket
    Participant

    Me too, Gunnar…the great cheater/capo…why don’t they make the doggone things for fiddles…lol!

    #66810
    Gunnar Salyer
    Gunnar Salyer
    Participant

    I actually put one on my fiddle once (bigger sin than using one on mandolin, and doing that already will send you straight to hell on a greased bobsled) and surprisingly, it actually worked ok. Don’t use one at a bluegrass jam though, as becruxification is the punishment for such crime 😆 🙄

    #66811

    Angela
    Participant

    Gunnar…..(BIG eye roll)….THAT was not helpful AT ALL!  LOL

    I secretly eye roll at jams when the singer calls out some strange key and just slips that capo up the neck (and I’m way beyond 16..LOL).

    I watched a Youtube of Charlie Walden teaching a workshop about tips for playing in B.  After awhile he said, “That’s enough.  B hurts my brain and my fingers.”  Well, there’s some satisfaction in hearing that; but, it also adds to the intimidation factor.

    Seriously, Gunnar….glad you’re feeling better too.  It stinks to feel bad, but even worse when it can turn serious quickly.

    Dave, I listened to the songs you suggested.  Phew.  It makes me very tired and I haven’t even picked up the fiddle to try it yet.

    #66814
    Gunnar Salyer
    Gunnar Salyer
    Participant

    Yeah, I’m only occasionally very helpful at all, but very often give occasion to eye roll. You could always tune differently, but that’s a hassle, risks breaking strings, etc. I can’t help on this topic, cuz I don’t know how to play in b. Gb however, is a different story (for a different day)

    #66815
    fiddlewood
    fiddlewood
    Participant

    If I had two fiddles I might be tempted to tune one down 1/2 step.

    takes care of Gb, Ab, and Cb (B). 🙄

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks ago by fiddlewood fiddlewood.
    #66818
    Gunnar Salyer
    Gunnar Salyer
    Participant

    Yeah, that’s a good idea, provided one had two fiddles. Also, face slap! I can’t play in gb I can play in g minor, which is VERY different

    #66819
    cricket
    cricket
    Participant

    Well I’m trying to roll my eyes but they are too old and stiff to go anywhere, but let me try to think, TRY, outloud here, after Dave’s most brilliant last comment:

    If you tuned down a half step…the whole thing…in standard tuning…when you feel like you’re playing in G, you’re in Gb…fair enough…our little secret.  So, when you feel like you’re playing in D, Db…right?  Am I right?  And when you feel like you’re playing in A, Ab…so where’s B fit in?  I guess you have to feel like you’re playing in C?  That’s not easy, to play in C…maybe playing in C is easier than playing in B?  I’m not sure.  Anyway, for me, those are the only easy keys on the fiddle…G, D, and A.  Anything else…well…hand me that capo!  I do sometimes play in D from a D tuning (Cumberland Gap tuning…ADAD), and I have really, really cheated by going down to GCGC on this in order to easily play with my cello and viola…who both like the key of C better than any other key right now.  But ADAD has its own set of issues, so…I think I’m traveling down the rambling path at this point…so I’ll stop here for now. I don’t play well enough to be a part of a B conversation anyway…lol.  Outta my league.

    #66821

    Angela
    Participant

    Well, I do have an old fiddle I bought online.  It’s not great, but not too bad.  I need some strings for it.  But, I have considered tuning it down to play in B.  Yes, C is not easy, but easier than B.  I think doing that would solve the immediate problem; but, I really do want to learn B, so I can jump in with more accomplished bands who play in B a lot.  Luckily, we’re pretty much in G, D, A and sometimes C.  But, I KNOW B is going to jump up and smack me some day, so I want to be ready.

    Gunnar, I appreciate your humor!  Glad you’ve joined the party here at BGD.  I like playing in most of the minor keys.  Which reminds me….I did see somebody say you could play in D but just end up on B and it would be a quick proxy for B.  I might try that with some videos and see how that turns out.

     

    #66822
    cricket
    cricket
    Participant

    Huh?

    #66823
    fiddlewood
    fiddlewood
    Participant

    Relative Minors…

    It only works to a point.

    using D scale you end up with:

    Bm

    an Em which would normally be major as the IV chord in B

    F# is dim when it would normally be major or 7th as V chord in B

     

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks ago by fiddlewood fiddlewood.
    #66829
    Gunnar Salyer
    Gunnar Salyer
    Participant

    Yeah, Bm isn’t too bad to play in. Just yesterday, I was thinking about this thread, and tried playing a tune in b. It wasn’t too bad cuz I only played on the first two strings, and played something very simple. I would not, however, be able at this time to fathom how one might play a bluegrass break from that key.

    #66830
    cricket
    cricket
    Participant

    So you hunt for common notes inside of the minor key?  Hmmm….never thought to try that.  I guess I rarely play in actual minor keys, or mainly I just go modal…but that’s probably really minor, sorta…not entirely of course.  I mean I play minor on guitar, but banjo and fiddle dI feel like I just go to modes…and I don’t think of them as relative minors of a major key…just modes of their own key.  Anyway…gonna have to think about that some.  Sounds like it might be an interesting plan!

    #66865
    rodger
    rodger
    Participant

    I’m doing some upgrading, and my instructor today was mentioning how in her orchestra (she is a professional player and plays in an advanced level orchestra) they were given some music in B, which she had never seen or heard and they had to play it just cold turkey.  So in the brief pause while everyone was getting set up, she was running her finger over the board and hitting the A# and D# to fix it her mind…the C#, F#, and G# is just like playing in the key of A, so they come more easily.  And this is a pro that plays in all keys, major, minor, etc. but she still wants to run through something like this to help her the first time through.  So B major will definitely take some work if it’s new for you.  I’d say if you want to develop this key, just add B major scale & arpeggio exercises every day to your development program, along with some simple, short B major tunes and in due time it will come along as well as most everything else in your repertoire.

    I can’t find music for anything written in B major, so I’m guessing you will have to transpose for the most part, to practice in this key.  Does anyone know of any simple tunes written in B?

    #66933

    Angela
    Participant

    Yes, the A# and D# are the trouble children.  So, I’m wondering whether to play them with low 1’s or high 4’s

    #66934
    fiddlewood
    fiddlewood
    Participant

    depends on the position you’re using and the sound you prefer in each instance.

    #66936
    rodger
    rodger
    Participant

    Well if you’re used to playing in Bb Angela, then the A# is the same as a Bb & the D# is just a Eb, so it’s easier for me to play those with the same fingers as I do playing in Bb.

    #66941

    John Cockman
    Keymaster

    Yes, B for Bluegrass! I know bands that seem to ONLY play in B, believe it or not! It is a great key for those high, lonsome, male leads. You can run, but you can’t hide from the key of B!

    If I’m playing B, it is almost always in the first position, since a B scale can be played in first position on the A and E strings.

    One great option (if you aren’t playing straight bluegrass) is to play using a blues scale, which in B only has one flat (as opposed to ALL the sharps).

    B Major Scale: B, C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A#

    B Blues Scale: B, D, E, F, Gb, A

    #66981
    rodger
    rodger
    Participant

    I guess I’m missing something in definitions here.  When you say B, I’m thinking the key of B major, which has 5 sharps.

    #67003
    fiddliferous1950
    fiddliferous1950
    Participant

    B Major scale is comprised of B C# D# E F# G# A# B (there isn’t a Db, Eb, Gb, Ab or Bb in it) 😎

    #67005
    fiddlewood
    fiddlewood
    Participant

    The concept is easily understood either way.

    The notes in question are all the same to those with an open mind.

     

     

    #67007

    John Cockman
    Keymaster

    Rodger and Fred (and Dave) are right, of course. 🙂  I amended my post accordingly. That’s what I get for posting too late at night lol.

    #67008
    Gunnar Salyer
    Gunnar Salyer
    Participant

    Ummm, Fred, those notes are the same. You said b doesn’t have Db Gb Eb Ab or Bb, but those are the same notes as c# f# d# g# and a#. The difference is the optimist says the notes are half sharp, the pessimist that they’re half flat

    #67010

    John Cockman
    Keymaster

    Haha Gunnar I like the optimist/pessimist idea.

    When writing the notes of a scale, listing a letter twice should be avoided if possible. In this case, you don’t want to write the letters E and B twice while skipping the letters C and F. Notice the difference:

    B, Db, Eb, E, Gb, Ab, Bb

    vs

    B, C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A#

    #67012
    rodger
    rodger
    Participant

    Heifetz used to ask his students to play in a certain scale double flat or double sharp just to see how fast they could think…

    #67015

    John Cockman
    Keymaster

    Brutal! But then again, with students like these you have to keep it interesting. At least he didn’t make them play in the key of B!

    #67084
    fran h
    fran h
    Participant

    So Angela, this is how I play in B. First you make an ugly face and say you really don’t like B.  I actually watched a mandolin training video about playing in B and I don’t remember where or when I saw it, but this guy had created what he called a “box”.  I tried to put a picture up here but that didn’t work. Maybe I can draw something.

    •       •

    •      •       •

    •      •       •

    WOW. That came out well. . . .Anyways this guy was saying he places his hand on a certain fret and plays the dots (notes) in that box shape and he can move the box around still play the same box shape but in a different key. So he was talking about B and the first row will be the A and E string. So what I do is I bar the A and E with my first finger on the B and F# note and never unbar it. So that only really leaves finger 2 and 3. The 2nd row of dots represents F# (on D string) C# , and G# .  the third row notes are G#, D#, and  A#.  So once I plant that first finger I think of the box, and that all the 2’s are high and the 3’s are high and just bounce around among those notes. This is just a most basic way of getting through some breaks in B. I have not tried moving the box around to other positions. I do sometimes bar the first finger on the D and A string ( note E and B) to play in E, and use the same box.  I downloaded some songs from Spotify in B just to play along with for practice. I’ll Fly Away by Ralph Stanley in a nice one in B. Maybe this will help you some. Nobody likes B

    Well the computer wants to move my spacing on the drawing . . . there should only be 2 dots in the first column, 3 in the 2nd and 3 in the third

    I can’t fix it.  lol

    • This reply was modified 1 week ago by fran h fran h.
    #67091
    Gunnar Salyer
    Gunnar Salyer
    Participant

    That’s a good method, Fran! The other day I tried playing a few tunes like that, but was told to stop (by family who prefer the sound of a) I’m not sure which you are referring to as the first column, but now its a square (ish) with the top right corner gone. It does make sense anyway though

    #67097
    rodger
    rodger
    Participant

    Well, I’ve been trying to follow this, but not sure I see the problem.  Evidently the problem is that in B major there are no open strings, and folks see that as a roadblock.  The simplest method is to just learn to use the 4th finger (stretch) which takes a little work to do, for the D# and the A#.  The option is to slide the first finger as a shift between B and A# and between E and D#.  I’m not sure you would want to slide the 2nd finger all the way down to A# and D#, as that would seem to be a clumsy way to do it and it gets way too far out of position.  Which ever way, practice this scale, just like learning any other scale and get used to it.  Yes, it is easier to learn a scale that has open strings, but with B it’s not really too hard to hit those extra notes with just a little consistent practice, and then you got it for the rest of your life.

    But as always, if you have your own way that works for you, then use it.  I’m just saying what I think is the most commonly used and easiest for most people.  Or maybe I’m missing something else that is the issue.

    #67102
    fran h
    fran h
    Participant

    Okay. . . I managed to find the instruction video. It is quite long, but informative. I have skipped through and just worked on bits at a time that my brain can handle, but is is much more helpful than anything I can try and explain. And I like the part about not using your brain. I realize its mandolin. . . . but the fiddle and mandolin are mostly interchangeable.

    #67104
    fiddlewood
    fiddlewood
    Participant

    My biggest problem with B is the lack of reference on the instrument itself for intonation.

     

    #67105
    rodger
    rodger
    Participant

    Exactly Dave….and it’s really the same at the beginning of learning any key.  That’s why we have to train our fingers with repetition.  As we expand our depth the learning curve comes much faster.  It is truly amazing how that muscle memory thing kicks in.  So many people have expressed astonishment at what they could develop as far as hitting those notes without any real reference to go by.

    I think part of it is determined by our initial and long term priorities.  Some players aspire to play blazing fast without much thought to intonation.  But many place the priority at the beginning, of intonation, with the policy of whatever they are capable of developing, they want it to sound as good as possible.  I think all this is determined by that inner love for whatever we are working so hard for and aspire to obtain.

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