comping on the top 4

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comping on the top 4

Postby justjack » Sun Dec 14, 2003 8:12 am

The more I learn about playing rhythm, the less I think this matters much, but still, I've got to ask (if it sounds familiar, it's because I've brought it up in the past). In a nutshell, I'm wondering how much of a place this type of comping has in gypsy jazz. The 6/9 on the top four seems to show up a lot, and I use the 7 and 6 forms often, maybe on a I-VI change, but it's never anything sustained; it tends to be more of a descending line. Is there anyone out there-either here or on record, or both-who uses this kind of comping as a regular sort of backup rhythm? I know it shows up often in mainstream jazz, but when I hear it in gypsy jazz it's almost always in a solo context (e.g., the great chordal work in Minor Swing). The question, maybe, then, is this: should I just stay out of the way?

I know, just listen. At any rate-if anyone's got something to say about this-good or bad-let me know.
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Postby djangology » Mon Dec 15, 2003 7:28 am

i posted something like this a little while back...

http://www.hotclub.co.uk/phpBB2Plus/viewtopic.php?t=482
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Postby justjack » Mon Dec 15, 2003 10:04 pm

Thanks, Jon. I think what I've got in mind is a little different, though-not exactly substitution, just using chord forms that omit the bass strings. I've seen and heard it used often enough for a tremolo punch, but it doesn't crop up too often as a regular backup style in my (admittedly limited) CD collection. And to be honest, I'm not sure I'd use it for gypsy jazz anyway; the bit I've done with it just doesn't have the right sound, except in short use.
I suppose I'm answering part of my own question, here, but I still wonder if there are players who have incorporated it into their rhythm style on a larger scale.
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Postby Cuimean » Mon Dec 15, 2003 10:41 pm

The Case For and the Case Against:

The baritone ukulele is tuned d g b e, just like the four high strings on a guitar. Perhaps you could check out some old Hawaiian music to see how that kind of accompaniment sits with lead guitar playing.

I used to tune my tenor banjo the same way but found that too much of what I was playing was exactly the same as what the guitarist in my band was doing. The tonal qualities of the instrument were different, but as soon as I switched to the standard tenor banjo tuning (c g d a), the blend of chords got a whole lot more interesting.
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Postby djangology » Mon Dec 15, 2003 11:08 pm

oh, i see, what you might be talking about is what is covered in page 138 of the Romane Espirit Manouche lesson book. If you have that I would seriously suggest analyzing it. Its eye opening. In that respect, its amazing what you can "easily" visualize on the 1-4 strings that is a bit harder to translate to the 5 and 6 string.
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Postby justjack » Mon Dec 15, 2003 11:53 pm

Thanks to both of you! I've got to order up one of those books...or get my wife to read this before Christmas. In the meantime, I'll retune my own tenor banjo-I'd been going the dgbe route as well. At least with a new tuning, I'll have an excuse for sounding the way I do.
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Postby djangology » Tue Dec 16, 2003 12:30 am

here is the page i am talking about. of course, this just shows you how to think about the basic concept, in this case major chords, but its pretty cool and useful idea when comping...

Code: Select all
pattern: CDCDCDC
-0--2--3--5--8--10--12---
-1--3--5--7--8--10--13---
-0--2--5--7--9--11--12---
-------------------------
-------------------------
-------------------------

pattern: DCDCDCD
---------------------------
-1--3--5--7--8---10--13----
-0--2--5--7--9---11--12----
-2--4--5--7--10--12--14----
---------------------------
---------------------------


notice how the charts fit together. i have wanted to take some time and write out a "minor" version of these two patterns, but i haven't got around to it yet...

now this is just a single page out of that book. if your too lazy, or if you can't read French, you'll never get anything out of it, but in my opinion Romanes book is a treasure chest.
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Postby Cuimean » Tue Dec 16, 2003 1:26 am

Jack,

Did I mention that when I switched to the c g d a tuning on the tenor banjo, I began to loathe the instrument? Playing those chords that stretch across miles of neck has been making me crazy.

Have fun! :)
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Postby justjack » Tue Dec 16, 2003 6:44 am

You didn't mention that, but I know what you mean. When I first got mine, I tuned it to the standard cgda, and hated it as well-that's what led me to the dgbe in the first place. Since then, I've also acquired a mandolin and had the same reaction. Still, I suppose it's worth it in the long run to learn it that way; otherwise I might as well play guitar. The plus is that my hands are on the enormous side. It may be that that's why the wide gypsy neck feels so comfortable, and hopefully that'll make the long stretches that much easier. And those mandolin frets are so friggin' close to each other, it's like I'm playing a toothpick.
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Postby Rene » Tue Dec 16, 2003 11:38 am

It may feel like a toothpick, Jack, but I always tell people just how easy it is to play compared to the guitar. You don't have to move your fingers over great distances. The strings have even intervals between them. The mandolin makes the guitar look like the awkward geek of the stringed fretted instrument. I always feel about 30% faster and smoother on the mandolin.

The downside is that it's rubbish for accompaniment. Sure you can play chords, but they're just in the wrong register to provide a solid backing.

As for your tenor banjo, why not tune it to GDAE? You'll only need to learn one set of chords, and tune fingerings.
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Postby justjack » Tue Dec 16, 2003 7:37 pm

Not a bad idea at that; thanks for the tip.
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Postby Cuimean » Tue Dec 16, 2003 8:08 pm

Do you guys know if you can tune a short-scale Irish tenor to CGDA? What string gauges would be best for this?

Also, if you have any advise for amplifying a banjo, I'd love to hear it. I'm the only goon in my band who plays acoustic instruments (tenor banjo and accordion) and I'm constantly fighting to be heard. Right now, I use a Dean Markley stick-on transducer run through a Fender tube guitar amp. The amp keeps the transducer from sounding brittle, but it turns the banjo into a gigantic feedback machine.
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Postby justjack » Tue Dec 16, 2003 8:16 pm

Cuimean wrote:Also, if you have any advise for amplifying a banjo, I'd love to hear it.


The problem is, nobody else would!
Sorry-hard to resist a banjo joke. I've never tried it myself, but I'll ask around. In the meantime, check out this site for some banjo related stuff; they might be able to answer your other question.
http://www.jbott.com/
Some nice stuff to be found there.
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Postby Rene » Wed Dec 17, 2003 12:33 pm

Amplifying banjos ?
Fishman Rare Earth p/u attaches to rods. However banjos are rubbish amplified. Their virtue lies in being loud acoustically, hence their popularity in the days of Musette, and in folk sessions, and in fretless form among Turkish Gypsies.
Irish short scale banjo is a short scale tenor banjo. Tuning to CGDA needs higher gauges. 30w 22w 14 10 should do it.
Why am I talking about this ?
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Postby Cuimean » Wed Dec 17, 2003 6:50 pm

Yeah, banjos are rubbish amplified. It seems like you have to eq out everything but their most annoying frequencies in order to keep them from feeding back. Unfortunately, I wrote a bunch of songs for my band which use banjo and the other guys insist on rocking out, so I'm stuck trying to keep up with them.

Anyway....

Jack, any luck with comping on the top four? Do you think that strumming up near the neck would change your tone enough to stay out of the way of the lead players?
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