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FREE MANDOLIN LESSON 16 - by Bradley Laird Bookmark and Share

This song, in the key of A, is heard at almost every bluegrass jam session.

salt creek mandolin tab

Here's a little YouTube video of my playing this with the band Cedar Hill. It's not exactly the same version, but will give you some of the "gist" of this tune.


Some thoughts on this tune:

You will notice that there are a couple of chord changes that happen in the middle of the measure. For example: Measure one is all "A" so that is two beats. Measure two is one beat of "A" and one beat of "D", then you change to a G chord for three beats, and then to an "E" for one beat.

I think you will find the 2nd part easier so you might want to start there. Try to put a little extra "oomph" on the first note of each group of four. That really builds in the pulse of the beat rather than "machine gunning" all those streams of 8th notes with all of them sounding the same.

When you encounter long streams of 8th notes imagine this. Suppose you were playing 100 measures of a single note. That's 800 notes. Now, imagine that you were halfway into playing it and I walked into the room. Would I be able to tell where the downbeat was? Can I hear that the first note of each group of four is a little stronger than the other three in each set of four? If not you are "machine gunning." When you pull the trigger on a machine gun all the bullets come out evenly and at the same power. We don't want to play the mandolin that way. Hit the notes that come on the beat (notes 1 and 5) a bit harder or take a bit away from the rest. (Same end result.) This creates some dynamic variation and makes it easier to hear the beat.

(To carry the machine gun analogy a little further... Think of tracer rounds. Tracers have some phosphorus compound on the bullet which lights up and creates a bright line through the dark sky as the bullet flies. Tracers are not generally used on every bullet in the magazine. Imagine that your "on the beat notes" are like tracers bullets inserted in the magazine every 4th round.)

Playing along with a bass and guitar makes that effect somewhat automatic since they hit those notes and that adds overall group volume to the notes on the beat. But, your solos will sound more musical when you add a little more power to the notes on the beat too! If you can "hear" the beat in your playing, especially when playing alone, you will really cook with the band. Remember that the bass player and guitar player are trying to lock in to the beat of what ever you are playing and they can find the groove better when you pulse the beat instead of machine gunning the notes.

By the way, I have a 29 minute video lesson which teaches Salt Creek and some hot improvisation ideas which you can get at freemandolinvideos.com. I only get a small royalty when someone purchases one of their video lessons but I have put a lot of effort into making them well organized, clear and easy to understand. They also come with MP3 rhythm tracks and a PDF file with all the music in tablature and standard notation. I think they are well worth the ridiculously small price they charge for them. Most instructors charge 5 times that amount for a half-hour private lesson and, sadly, most folks forget 99% of what they did by the time they get home. You can watch these video lessons a million times if you need to and only pay once. The down side of video lessons is that I can't see what you are doing and snicker at you and holler "Whoa, dude! What the freak was that???" at you and stuff like that. To you, that may be a good thing.

You sort of owe me after getting all this good stuff for free, eh?

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beginning mandolin ebook download package


This download lesson package contains 3 eBooks, 36 tracks and 3 Video lessons specifically designed for beginners.

This will get your ready for the jam sessions! See everything it contains by clicking this link.