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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Where do these guys learn to play like that


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/74092

Philj200 - Posted - 02/10/2007:  09:56:26


I had expected the bone-numbing cold to hold down the crowd. And maybe make some of the orchestra members reconsider leaving their homes on a night like this. Windy, a damp cold in the mid-teens feeling like the a lot less.

For me, I had to drive 45 minutes to the place where the dance was taking place, an historic barn deep into the next county set on a small historical pressure.

It may have been a barn at some earlier part of its life. I saw a large white clapboard structure glowing with light. The inside was basically one large room with nothing it but a few dancers. At the end was an actual proscenium set into the back wall. That’s where about a dozen band members were setting up and tuning.

They waved me over and I set up next to two guitar pickers. Between tuning and juggling chairs, music stand (purchased for the occasion), instrument stand for the alternate banjo making room for more members time began to fly.

A caller began to joss up the crowd… and I noticed they had become a crowd. He was instructing them in the steps and I noticed that their were a lot more and a lot more complicated than I expected.

And when I looked up, the few dancers had grown to an impressive room filling number. At least 60 of them.

The orchestra leader announces which set… they are all number J23, R32, W10 would mean the three jigs grouped for J23, the four reels for R32. Waltzes are one to a customer. One of the fiddlers kicks off a four bar introduction, the caller sets to work, the dancers are dancing and the orchestra is into it. About an eternity later… with several tune changes which for me means changing banjos. We’re finished. The dancers are whooping and hollering… everyone is grinning... and I realize we sounded good. Better than good. We sounded fine.

The evening progresses. The caller gave the mic to another caller and joined the dance. One of the orchestra members put down her guitar and danced a set. A ten minute break occurred sometimes during the night. That’s the time I went over to my bag o’ tricks for the plate resonator I made for the Vega LN I was playing in D. The Vega, beauty of an instrument isn’t very loud. The little Gibson open back was tuned to open G. It started life as a tenor in 1920, has been a 5-string since the 60’s with a Vega neck. projects better.

A note on playing. With all the chord changes these robustly and accurately pieces required frailing just didn’t do it. Playing at speed, changing chords and trying to sound good at the same time was a non-starter. I figured that out at rehearsal. While I did some frailing on one set that had three tunes (first in G, second in D, third in G) that I had written a note to frail the whole thing on the G-tuned banjo, it worked, but I wasn’t satisfied.

Mostly used fingerpicks and mostly played is a bluegrass style. The picks gave me the volume I needed and helped remind the dancers that they were listening to more than seven fiddlers. (One left early, I think she had a date.)

Six or seven fiddlers, hammered dulcimer, three guitars, keyboard, tenor banjo/octave mandolin (same person) and me on 5-strings. The orchestra leader said that controlling such a small group was much easier. Small?

We filled the stage. I don’t think we would have room for the penny whistler and the flute player, much less the bass, or the accordion guy.

The organization gives two of these dances a month if I understood them correctly. But it seems that there are at least two other bands besides this biggish orchestra that alternate the gigs. Just as well. Playing that often and with that intensity approaches something called works (Is anyone doing Maynard B. Crabs or whatever the character’s name was) at this point.

I worked just about enough for last night. The future hasn’t happened yet. I’ll probably be a member of this orchestra for the next whenever.

--
Sidebar:
The guitar picker necked to me is a part time luthier and has theparts I need to fix an old cello someone out on the curb for adoption. Neat.






Philj200

vrteach - Posted - 02/10/2007:  11:08:26


Thanks for the vivid description. It has been fun following your participation in this, and I wish I could have been there to hear the orchestra.


Erich
-------
http://vrteach.freepgs.com/banjo/

Philj200 - Posted - 02/10/2007:  11:31:16


Thanks Erich.
I wish they did record the performance. I'll ask. It is good stuff even if I say so myself. The had a sound setup with someone riding the gain on a few mics. There was one near me for the guitars that picked me up a little, I think. And at least one for the fiddles. Maybe another for the dulcimer which seemed to project pretty well for such a delicate instrument.

I'm told that miking for recording is different than for perfromance. So I don't know if a tape deck could be patched off the PA. Somethign to ask about. A reheasal is coming in a few weeks.

One of the callers actually fronts another and much smaller group. I wonder what his take on the size of this orchestra is?

Philj200

dbrooks - Posted - 02/10/2007:  15:08:48


I'm glad to hear the contra dance went well. Your event sounds similar to the weekly dances here in Louisville, though yours may be structured a bit more. The caller and the lead fiddler at our dances may consult briefly about the type of tune that would best fit a dance, but mostly the fiddler just picks two tunes right before we start playing. The dances run from 8:00 to 10:30 with a short break about 9:20. We play a waltz just before the break and one as the last dance of the night.

In addition to the weekly dances, there is a larger monthly dance with a featured caller and a hired band to provide the music.

By the way, I just picked up the Winter issue of Sing Out! magazine which has a cover story on contra dance. There's a fair amount of history covered in the article, none of which I knew.

I've played with this little volunteer band for nearly two years (with a year's break due to a class I was teaching). It has really helped my playing. I'm sure you'll find the same benefits.

David

banjo_brad - Posted - 02/10/2007:  15:18:45


Phil-
Made me feel like I was there! Sounds like your earlier fears were groundless.
Keep it up.

Brad


"Banjos and Fiddles and Guitars, Oh My!" (me)
http://ezfolk.com/audio/bands/5
www.PricklyPearMusic.net

Philj200 - Posted - 02/10/2007:  16:54:13


Thanks Brad. You right. Neither the white (in my hair) or the white threatened on the ground) seemed to factor. The crowd dancers and musicans by the way, were all ages from teens to grandpas/mas.

Dbrooks. We ended the first half and the evening with a waltz as well. But in our case we have a rehearsed set list that the caller and the orchestra leader may (or may not) have agreed upon. There was very little spoken between them other than short hand signals. And they were obvious: slow it down, pick it up, two more choreses and out.

This was three solid hours of dancing, minus a ten minute break.

I have a stack of the small, old Sing Outs! I refers to every so often. I don't care for the politics that infuse the current editions. Albeit, their politics have remained constant. I think my tolerance has thinned. A friend passes along his copies of Sing Out!. I'll ask him for this one. That should be good for a raised eyebrow. Neither one us is a fan of theirs these days.

Philj200


Edited by - Philj200 on 02/11/2007 07:56:27

Philj200 - Posted - 02/10/2007:  09:56:26


I had expected the bone-numbing cold to hold down the crowd. And maybe make some of the orchestra members reconsider leaving their homes on a night like this. Windy, a damp cold in the mid-teens feeling like the a lot less.

For me, I had to drive 45 minutes to the place where the dance was taking place, an historic barn deep into the next county set on a small historical pressure.

It may have been a barn at some earlier part of its life. I saw a large white clapboard structure glowing with light. The inside was basically one large room with nothing it but a few dancers. At the end was an actual proscenium set into the back wall. That’s where about a dozen band members were setting up and tuning.

They waved me over and I set up next to two guitar pickers. Between tuning and juggling chairs, music stand (purchased for the occasion), instrument stand for the alternate banjo making room for more members time began to fly.

A caller began to joss up the crowd… and I noticed they had become a crowd. He was instructing them in the steps and I noticed that their were a lot more and a lot more complicated than I expected.

And when I looked up, the few dancers had grown to an impressive room filling number. At least 60 of them.

The orchestra leader announces which set… they are all number J23, R32, W10 would mean the three jigs grouped for J23, the four reels for R32. Waltzes are one to a customer. One of the fiddlers kicks off a four bar introduction, the caller sets to work, the dancers are dancing and the orchestra is into it. About an eternity later… with several tune changes which for me means changing banjos. We’re finished. The dancers are whooping and hollering… everyone is grinning... and I realize we sounded good. Better than good. We sounded fine.

The evening progresses. The caller gave the mic to another caller and joined the dance. One of the orchestra members put down her guitar and danced a set. A ten minute break occurred sometimes during the night. That’s the time I went over to my bag o’ tricks for the plate resonator I made for the Vega LN I was playing in D. The Vega, beauty of an instrument isn’t very loud. The little Gibson open back was tuned to open G. It started life as a tenor in 1920, has been a 5-string since the 60’s with a Vega neck. projects better.

A note on playing. With all the chord changes these robustly and accurately pieces required frailing just didn’t do it. Playing at speed, changing chords and trying to sound good at the same time was a non-starter. I figured that out at rehearsal. While I did some frailing on one set that had three tunes (first in G, second in D, third in G) that I had written a note to frail the whole thing on the G-tuned banjo, it worked, but I wasn’t satisfied.

Mostly used fingerpicks and mostly played is a bluegrass style. The picks gave me the volume I needed and helped remind the dancers that they were listening to more than seven fiddlers. (One left early, I think she had a date.)

Six or seven fiddlers, hammered dulcimer, three guitars, keyboard, tenor banjo/octave mandolin (same person) and me on 5-strings. The orchestra leader said that controlling such a small group was much easier. Small?

We filled the stage. I don’t think we would have room for the penny whistler and the flute player, much less the bass, or the accordion guy.

The organization gives two of these dances a month if I understood them correctly. But it seems that there are at least two other bands besides this biggish orchestra that alternate the gigs. Just as well. Playing that often and with that intensity approaches something called works (Is anyone doing Maynard B. Crabs or whatever the character’s name was) at this point.

I worked just about enough for last night. The future hasn’t happened yet. I’ll probably be a member of this orchestra for the next whenever.

--
Sidebar:
The guitar picker necked to me is a part time luthier and has theparts I need to fix an old cello someone out on the curb for adoption. Neat.






Philj200

nihilist37 - Posted - 02/06/2007:  07:21:22


Can I just say 'WOW' I just watched this clip ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeBVCGIwtx4 ) and I'm just in awe. It near brought me to tears. Listening to players like Adam Hurt, Zepp Mike Iverson, just really brings out the feelings in me (i guess we all get it). Question is how do they go from just simple tunes into something so darn purty.

Skill?
Practise?
Wisdom?
living in the right place (ie not so remote from where the OT is)

I don't know where it comes from but I sure hope someday I get it.


uncledelphi - Posted - 02/06/2007:  07:32:50


quote:
Originally posted by nihilist37


Skill?
Practise?
Wisdom?
living in the right place (ie not so remote from where the OT is)



All of the above. Just keep at it!

Austin Rogers

RCCOOK - Posted - 02/06/2007:  07:56:04


Hi Friend:

I have never come across an instrument that plays to your soul like a clawhammer banjo does. It just gets you somewhere deep and hangs on until you can't hear enough of it. Clawhammer reminds me of my ancestors from the hills and the old country.

These fellows that play so well are very gifted. I believe if you practice daily and keep at it, someone will say the same about you too..........Rod

tonehead - Posted - 02/06/2007:  14:01:28


Watching that video a few dozen times wouldn't hurt either. =)


Be significant.

scottee - Posted - 02/06/2007:  15:09:55


Very instructive--for the right hand motion especially for me.



Edited by - scottee on 02/06/2007 15:25:04

rinemb - Posted - 02/06/2007:  15:11:19


While I was raised in the MIdwest, my family settled a Ridge in the (now) West Virginia Panhandle in the late 1700's. I keep hoping a little of that "hardscrabble" soul will creep into my playing. Brad

May not the incidence of success, nor the pretense of retirement-Lessen the want of enlightenment.

jasperr - Posted - 02/06/2007:  15:49:57


I'm a newbie, so I can ask this question. Who's playing in the clip?

Jim

ZEPP - Posted - 02/06/2007:  15:56:26


That's Captain Johnny Rawls of the Mississippi State Highway Patrol. (and a good friend and customer )

Cheers,
ZEPP


* zepp@zeppmusic.com website: http://zeppmusic.com/ Skype us at zeppmusic *

jasperr - Posted - 02/06/2007:  16:15:30


OK Zepp, I walked into that one. Anyway, beautiful playing.

Jim

ZEPP - Posted - 02/06/2007:  16:25:06


No kidding--that is Johnny Rawls, and he is a Captain in the Mississippi Highway Patrol! Really!

Cheers,
ZEPP


* zepp@zeppmusic.com website: http://zeppmusic.com/ Skype us at zeppmusic *

brokenstrings - Posted - 02/06/2007:  21:59:55


He's wasted on the Highway Patrol!

Jessy

Frailaway, ladies, frailaway!

LEUllman - Posted - 02/06/2007:  23:18:26


What a glorious sound. And he makes it look so effortless! I think I'll go practice now . . .

"Ring, ring the banjo, I love that good old song."

wrangler - Posted - 02/07/2007:  09:07:49


I have a hard time with people saying "I am not musically inclined." I really believe that anyone with 2 hands can learn to play. I believe that some folks learn easier but I firmly believe that talent can be acquired.

Mike

To peace, happiness, banjos that stay in tune and people likewise.

Copo - Posted - 02/07/2007:  13:33:38


This topic is driving me crazy. Im stuck in work for another 3 and a half hours and the computer has no sound. Please stop writing about how great the clip is.... at least til i get home to watch it :-)

Limax - Posted - 02/07/2007:  17:45:47


Watching that video reminds me of how much I'm still suffering from "flying thumb" syndrome... :-/ Need to practice more...

A salted slug gathers no moss.

mainejohn - Posted - 02/07/2007:  19:01:12


The movement of his right hand is as pleasing to the eye as the sound of his banjo is to the ear.

Cheers,
John
Scarborough, Maine

nihilist37 - Posted - 02/08/2007:  04:24:53


Ok so I'm getting there with playing this tune. how is he getting all these nice little pieces of different timing into it? Is he playing a dead note then accenting the next 16th? It nearly sounds as if he's up picking on some of those accented notes. I know it should go in the tab section but is anyone willing to tab up a version of this? Is the tuning what people call cumberland gap tuning? gEADE?

chasgrav - Posted - 02/08/2007:  08:22:22


quote:
Originally posted by ZEPP

No kidding--that is Johnny Rawls, and he is a Captain in the Mississippi Highway Patrol! Really!

Cheers,
ZEPP



Which brings us to the question: what's the chance of a couple of Zepp videos out there? (For medicinal purposes only, of course)!

ZEPP - Posted - 02/08/2007:  13:19:59


Sure thing, Charlie--whachoo got in mind?

Cheers,
ZEPP


* zepp@zeppmusic.com website: http://zeppmusic.com/ Skype us at zeppmusic *

chasgrav - Posted - 02/08/2007:  13:50:56


quote:
Originally posted by ZEPP

Sure thing, Charlie--whachoo got in mind?

Cheers,
ZEPP


* zepp@zeppmusic.com website: http://zeppmusic.com/ Skype us at zeppmusic *



Zepp, as long as you're sporting the dreads, pretty much anything's gonna fly! How 'bout the 'Chicken Medley'?
(OTOH, the shell suit didn't look too shabby on ya!)


Edited by - chasgrav on 02/08/2007 14:02:08

ZEPP - Posted - 02/08/2007:  15:06:42


um... Just what "Chicken Medley" might that be? Sounds like a lunch dish at a chain restaurant...

Cheers,
ZEPP


* zepp@zeppmusic.com website: http://zeppmusic.com/ Skype us at zeppmusic *

brokenstrings - Posted - 02/08/2007:  19:25:50


Wrangler, I don't think talent can be acquired, but you sure can do a lot to compensate for the lack of it.

Jessy

Frailaway, ladies, frailaway!

chasgrav - Posted - 02/09/2007:  08:57:24


Zepp, I seem to recall that the chicken medley included Cluck Old Hen / Chicken Reel / C-H-I-C-K-E-N and maybe another one we came up with. Who remembers...? But actually, I think I like your "Cuckoo's Nest" and "Staten Island Hornpipe" as well as any I've heard. You've got a million of 'em.......Surprise us!

Besides, once you break into video, it's much more about how you look. The music becomes secondary. Not to worry, though, the shell suit'll get you through just fine. ;)

ZEPP - Posted - 02/09/2007:  15:37:01


Hmmm... Guess I'll have to work on that. Meanwhile, here's a demo file I did for an 11" Custom Chuck Lee A scale that's partially fretted. Thought it might be fun to broaden the "Shady Grove Series" a bit.

http://zeppmusic.com/Clearhead/shady_12cherry2.wmv

A larger mpeg is on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAf0JoHxfQg

More photos of- and info about the banjo at http://zeppmusic.com/lee.htm#lee12a

Cheers,
ZEPP


* zepp@zeppmusic.com website: http://zeppmusic.com/ Skype us at zeppmusic *

chasgrav - Posted - 02/10/2007:  09:22:21


Outstanding! And greatly appreciated Zepp! Cheers!

flatfoot - Posted - 02/10/2007:  18:27:57


.

Notice the contrast between meliody and chords. One of my problems is the "bum" and the "titty" are about the same volume, so its hard tro separate the two and I get a mushy, indistinct rhythm. The player in the video holds the "titty" way back so that the melody on "Bum" comes through clearly.

.

Lewis! Do you hear a Banjo? Paddle Faster!

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