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Wade Ward's "Old Joe Clark"

Posted by Brooklynbanjoboy on Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I’ve gotten into the habit of “documenting” my attempts to get closer to a new tune I am trying to learn by video taping multiple “takes” of my efforts, and posting them on my YouTube channel, clearly marked as successive endeavors to play the tune in a manner that (hopefully) demonstrates a capacity to improve. 

I suppose my efforts don’t always follow that trajectory.  I suppose successive efforts can get further from the tune.  When that happens, as it has in one recent instance, having the various “takes” allows me to see where I went off course.  Did I focus too much on capturing the entire melody without thinking how to translate the tune into clawhammer?  Was I too predictably rhythmic to the extent of leaving something out in a way that pushed me further and further from the melody?  Or have I simply not managed to integrate the elements of the tune, have I failed to find the tune’s core character, and missed its musical point completely?

I talked about one such effort in my Little Bear Banjo Hospital blog recently (8 August 2014):

In this musical adventure, I was trying to get at Wade Ward’s Old Joe Clark, inspired by Stephen Wade’s vigorous interpretation of the tune:

I think I’ve come further since that blog:

And in this instance, I’ve had Dan Levenson’s personal intervention in the form of his Banjo Hangout “Tunetorial,” a weekly informal teaching video that Dan posts:

I’m still not that much closer to understanding Wade Ward’s playing.  I still don’t have the equation in mind that will get me closer to the way Ward played the banjo, producing his own unique rhythmic sense that accented his fiddler friend Uncle Charlie Higgins. 

But I’m still intent on keeping up the chase.




2 comments on “Wade Ward's "Old Joe Clark"”

rgoad Says:
Wednesday, September 3, 2014 @4:59:34 AM

Lew, I will learn much from your posts and videos when studied in this context. In a classical style of learning the student studies and tries to reproduce, not merely imitate, the product of a master through use of the same techniques. The goal is the mastery of the technique so the student increases mastery of the media. Many people mistakenly think that the goal is to mould the student into the form of the Master and suppress the student as an individual. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mastery of a technique gives greater voice to the student as an artist by empowering another form of expression.

So mastering a tune in the style of Wade Ward not only allows the student to play Old Joe Clark as Wade Ward to the delight of his friends, but but more importantly gives the student permanent access to the techniques and sounds *at will* so he can create new music using the tools of a master.

Brooklynbanjoboy Says:
Wednesday, September 3, 2014 @5:07:02 AM

Very well stated, Rick. Thanks for reading, and commenting.
Play hard,

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