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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW--Skating on the Harbourfront


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/251008

JanetB - Posted - 12/07/2012:  05:42:49



Sometimes new tunes have an immediate old-time appeal.  Skating on the Harbourfront by Chris Coole is such a tune.   I luckily discovered it when a BHO friend recently posted it on a video.   Written in 2006 using Cumberland Gap tuning (fDGCD), it’s been a fun one to learn and share, and contacting Chris via BHO has enhanced it for me.   It portrays outdoor ice skating well—graceful, smooth, crisp.



Chris wrote the song as a Christmas gift for his father, a past avid hockey player who still skates.  Here’s the story of the tune in his own words via our email interview:



How did you come to write the tune?  



I was a little tight in the money department around Christmas 06, and decided that it would be nice (and economical) to write everyone in my family a tune, record them and give the discs as Christmas presents.



I wrote a whole whack of tunes in the course of a couple weeks. It was a great exercise, in that because I wasn't writing for a "real" album I was really free with the writing.  I was writing tunes, that had I been putting on one of my albums, I might have thought were too simple. I was just trying to capture simple feelings.



I was quite happy with the results and it re-taught me that when you're writing, it's best to go with instinct and not over-think things. Sometimes you need to let things be simple. What you don't write is as important as what you do. For every great tune, someone had to decide to stop writing it at some point. Think of all the great simple melodies that would have been messed up if whoever writing them hadn't had the courage to stop writing and just let them be simple.



Were all the tunes written in this format, with an A and B part?



Yes, from what I remember...mostly I write A/B



Was this the only one in Cumberland Gap tuning?



Yes, I think it was. I was just getting into that tuning around that time.



Were you in that tuning and just happened upon the melody or was it in your head first?



I probably just found it while messing around. That's usually how it works for me.



Do you consider it old-timey or another style?



I would let the listener decide. Old-time has probably had the greatest influence on my music, but it's hard to say what makes something "old-time". I think each person might have a different take on that...which is fine.



Why do you think it's been learned by many players?



I guess it's a pretty tune and it sounds nice played solo, that probably helps...again, you'd have to ask the people who've learned it.



Are the guitar chords F, Bb, C, Dm?



That sounds about right.



Do you ever capo when you play it?



No, but you certainly could. If you were playing it with other folks, it might be easier to play it in G (capo on the 2nd fret)



How long have you played clawhammer banjo and how did you come to learn it living in Toronto?



I've played for 21 years this Christmas. I just fell in love with the music in my late teens, learned mostly by ear from records. Once I met Arnie Naiman, I picked up alot from him. There was a local folk musician named Rick Fielding that taught me how to do basic frailing. I became really obsessed and just sort of went for it.



Are there many opportunities to play in your area?



Yes, there is a very active old-time scene in Toronto.



Do they draw a lot from the repertoire of our "mountain music?"



Yes, for sure.



Does your father play music, too, or like a particular type of music?



No he doesn't play, but loves all sorts of music.



You can learn more about Chris on his website:   chriscoole.com   He’s a Banjo Hangout member and teaches banjo as well.



Here’s a sound clip from the Old Time Banjo Festival CD (which I highly recommend!):  Chris Coole's Skating on the Harbourfront



 



Chris’s tab and some notes:  Bar five (first bar of the b part) the fingering is ring finger on the 7th fret of the g string and index on the 5th fret of the high D...use your baby finger for the 7th fret of the high D. Then move that same position down for bar 6...on bar 7 index handles the the G string, middle plays the hight D on the third fret and I think ring plays the high D at the 5th fret.



                          



And finally, the Banjo Hangout video and MP3 recordings to already enjoy:



Travis Brink and Andy Bond video:   banjohangout.org/myhangout/vid...?id=12688



 Dusty Elmer



 Andrew Smith



I know British member Dave Marshall plays Skating on the Harbourfront, too, because I luckily found his tab on-line as I struggled to learn it.  Hope to hear others give this engaging tune a try.   



I asked Chris for photos that show the chilly Canadian weather which inspired this tune. 



Edited by - JanetB on 12/07/2012 05:52:00



Chris on the ice


The ice on Chris


Murray Coole and nephew Jake


Skating on the Harbourfront

flailing - Posted - 12/07/2012:  05:59:58



I really enjoy Chris Coole's music and have not heard this one before.  You play it very nice - thanks for posting it. 


stevel - Posted - 12/07/2012:  06:14:49



love this tune! its on the old time banjo festival CD....



 



oldtimebanjofestival.com/



Edited by - stevel on 12/07/2012 06:16:47

jduke - Posted - 12/07/2012:  06:18:39



Great tune, write-up and recorded versions!   I liked to story of this tune and your interview with Chris.



Although my repertoire of old time tunes tends to stick with the more commonly played jam tunes, I do appreciate listening and learning about some of the more obscure or less common tunes, and I appreciate all who share them with us in the TOTW.



Good selection, Thanks.



Jeff


raybob - Posted - 12/07/2012:  07:37:50



Thanks for posting this, JanetB.  I've liked this tune from the first time I heard it.


blockader - Posted - 12/07/2012:  07:47:13



very very cool, janet. and great playing as usual!



-Justin


Tatersoup - Posted - 12/07/2012:  08:38:43



What a great write up and your beautiful playing, Janet! Thanks so much!


SCclawman - Posted - 12/07/2012:  08:50:27



Janet,



We can always count on you for a great selection for TOTW and a great write-up about the tune. Loved reading and listening. That is a great tune for sure. I don't think I could ever dream of writing a clawhammer tune like that. I've actually never really played around with Cumberland Gap tuning, and this sounds like a good reason to try it out. I've had a broken string since thanksgiving weekend and haven't restrung the banjo yet to play much lately.



Loved the interview as well. This was real inspiring and though provoking  "it re-taught me that when you're writing, it's best to go with instinct and not over-think things. Sometimes you need to let things be simple. What you don't write is as important as what you do. For every great tune, someone had to decide to stop writing it at some point. Think of all the great simple melodies that would have been messed up if whoever writing them hadn't had the courage to stop writing and just let them be simple."



Great post Janet. Thanks for sharing with us.



 


Coole - Posted - 12/07/2012:  11:36:28


Thanks for posting this Janet. what an honour!

Bdka - Posted - 12/07/2012:  14:26:20



Thank you for posting this tune and your interview to Chris. This is my favorite tune from the Old TIme Banjo Festival Album and I really enjoyed reading about how it was written. 



I'll work on that during Christmas holidays.


JanetB - Posted - 12/07/2012:  17:56:28



Skating on the Harbourfront is the first track of the Old Time Banjo Festival CD and we've all agreed that it's a winner.  Chris does another great one there--Hail Against the Barndoor.  Other Banjo Hangout members are recorded on it, too.  Kudos to Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer for their work on this 2007 project, which is called the "first volume." 



Thanks for your kind comments.  I hope others will post their versions of this tune, too. 


mbuk06 - Posted - 12/08/2012:  01:55:08



Nice pick Janet. It's lovely to learn about a completely new tune. This one has a great skating rhythm to it and an interesting story behind it too.


SCclawman - Posted - 12/08/2012:  15:50:58



Got a good start on this song tonight. Felt real good to put some new strings on the banjo and play for awhile. Not up to a level to record and share yet, but hopefully i'll have time this upcoming week! really really lovin this tune. 


Jay K - Posted - 12/09/2012:  18:30:30


Great tune, very familiar with it from the Festival CD. Looking forward to giving it a try. Thanks!

hayesdt - Posted - 12/09/2012:  19:10:56



Great tune and a great version of it, Janet.  Very well played.  Interesting information about how Chris Coole came to write the tune also. 



I heard this tune about a year-and-a-half ago (on the Old Time Banjo Festival CD mentioned in this thread), and subsequently got a tip from banjo player Brad Kolodner at a Paul Smiths College Mountain Arts Gathering / Music Camp in July, 2011, about playing in this tuning.  One of Chris Coole's best.  Nice guy too; he also sent me his banjo tab for the tune.   I play it with just a very slightly different fingering and string order in part B (just easier for me), but it maintains the gist and "chording" of the "walkdown" that is one of the great things about the tune.



Edited by - hayesdt on 12/09/2012 19:13:45

SCclawman - Posted - 12/10/2012:  07:03:26



quote:


Originally posted by hayesdt




Great tune and a great version of it, Janet.  Very well played.  Interesting information about how Chris Coole came to write the tune also. 



I heard this tune about a year-and-a-half ago (on the Old Time Banjo Festival CD mentioned in this thread), and subsequently got a tip from banjo player Brad Kolodner at a Paul Smiths College Mountain Arts Gathering / Music Camp in July, 2011, about playing in this tuning.  One of Chris Coole's best.  Nice guy too; he also sent me his banjo tab for the tune.   I play it with just a very slightly different fingering and string order in part B (just easier for me), but it maintains the gist and "chording" of the "walkdown" that is one of the great things about the tune.






 I'd be interested to know your fingering. I also agree that the walkdown is one of the best things about the tune. The B part is awesome.



I'd love to hear your version of it. I know it would be awesome.


stevel - Posted - 12/10/2012:  11:19:33


not to speak for others, but in the B part, i often replace the note on the 3rd string 7th fret with 1st string open, and 3rd string 5th fret with 2nd string open.

depends upon my mood.

carolynf - Posted - 12/11/2012:  12:58:58


Very nice write up for the tune of the week, and a pretty recording you have made!
I always find tunes more interesting and memorable when I know some history behind them.

SCclawman - Posted - 12/11/2012:  15:19:58



Here's my take after practicing it for a couple of days. 



I would love to get a better take than this one. I've got a bad drop thumb mistake a few measures in. I only had time for a few takes before I had to leave the house and won't be around much more this week to have any time record. I love this song though and have really enjoyed playing it. My goal is to keep getting it up to speed and clean it up and post an arrangement with guitar in the next few weeks. It's hard to beat the original though and Janet's recording. Those are 2 perfect recordings in my opinion. 



Chris, thanks again for writing a great song, and Janet for telling us more about it and sharing your version.




Skating on the Harbourfront (TOTW)

   

JanetB - Posted - 12/11/2012:  15:31:13


Very nice, icy smooth, Travis.

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