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Cripple Creek Backup

Posted by WayneConrad on Thursday, December 7, 2017

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I haven't practiced much in the last week.  When I did practice, it was to learn Mister Rabbit, Mister Rabbit.  No exercises, no metronome, etc.  I felt guilty about not practicing, which makes me want to not practice.  It's a terrible state to be in, and one that can only be broken by practicing.  Once I start practicing, after 10 minutes or so I start to get into it and enjoy it.  But it can be very difficult to get myself to start.  It feels like a specific form of depression, in a way, where a feedback loop is set up that makes it worse over time.  It's important to break the cycle.

I broke the cycle this morning and practiced before work.  The morning is my most productive practice time.  I'm alert, focused, and every minute I practice makes me later for work, which gives me incentive to keep at it.  Also, my sweetheart is still sleeping, so I'm not distracted by wanting to spend time with her.

I've been invited to play at a local folk festival with some musicians I like and respect both musically and personally.  I'm the weakest of the musicians in this group, so I've got a lot of work to do.  I spent much of my practice playing backup to Cripple Creek.  I'm not worrying about any breaks, because breaks don't matter if I can't even support the lead player properly.  I focused on knowing the chord changes intuitively.  Cripple Creek chord changes aren't hard, but I tend to mix up IV and V when I'm playing backup.  I also mix up the A part, which is I/IV/V, with the B part, which is is I/I/V.  Repetition will cement the chord changes in my head.

Because the lead has mentioned before that she wants my backup to sound "more banjoey", I made sure to use some drop thumb and fifth string in my backup.  My practice tools were A Backing Track on Youtube, and also The Strum Machine.  I use the Strum Machine a lot for practicing backup, because it easily changes tempo or keys.  But actual backing tracks are nice too.  They feel more realistic and give me more pressure to perform, if that makes any sense.

I played Mister Rabbit through just once, because I might perform it tonight and I want it fresh in my head.  But then I went back to Puncheon Camps.  I played it through a bit without the metronome, a little slower than fiddle speed, just looking to make it musical.  Then I put on the metronome and practiced at fiddle speed.  This went smoother than it has in the past, although there's still a spot where I tend to slow down and start lagging behind the metronome.  I had trouble with the soreness in my forearm, which I still don't know what's causing it.  My fingers felt pretty loosey goosey, and I was trying to play lightly on the strings, but perhaps I wasn't.  Then I played along with the Youtube video of Clyde Davenport playing the tune, and had a pretty good time.  Something about backing a fiddle makes it easier to play at fiddle speed.  Once I found myself lagging behind the fiddle, just as I do with the metronome, but for the most part I kept up pretty good.

I felt more musical playing Puncheon Camps than I have before.  I had more of that bounce and back-beat that a fiddle tune needs.  Not entirely--some spots I was still playing kind of mechanically, I felt.  This needs more practice.

After that I played exercises.  I played the easy drop-thumb exercise, but a bit faster, and found that when I drop-thumb the 4th string after striking the 3rd string with M, my timing is off.  I'm hitting the 4th string too soon.  I've got a raised fifth string on that banjo, so when aiming my thumb at the 4th string, I have to maneuver my thumb a little bit to avoid hitting the fifth string.  I've got the idea that this maneuver is throwing my timing off.  I'll have to try that exercise on one of my banjos where all the strings are at the same height and see.  In any case, I'll need to slow that exercise down and focus on the timing to make sure that it's right no matter which string I'm hitting with that thumb and no matter which banjo I'm playing.

I've got a lesson tonight that I haven't practiced for, because I didn't understand the notes I took during last week's practice.  Tonight I intend to practice right after my lesson, to help me remember what the lesson was about.  I've got time between my lesson and the Open Stage where I can just practice.

 



6 comments on “Cripple Creek Backup”

Boadicea Says:
Thursday, December 7, 2017 @12:52:09 PM

That is a great exploration of the stuckness with the whole practising situation Wayne!

Great news about being invited to perform! (Scary as well).

Solid discussion of your practising, I don't quite understand what you are doing, but your insight sounds good.

Interesting resources that you are using. Ty for the links.

I look forward to hearing about Mister Rabbit, if you perform it tonight.

WayneConrad Says:
Thursday, December 7, 2017 @1:20:22 PM

Boadicea -- Thank you for commenting. It feels good to know someone read all that, and you always have such positive things to say.

Yes, performing at a folk festival is plenty scary. But it's a good step, both for my banjo playing, and for my battle with social anxiety. I think my playing at the Open Stage has prepared me for this next step, anxiety wise. Playing-wise is where I have my doubts. But I have complete trust in the musicians I'll be playing with. They're great people--I like each one of them--and they're good musicians, too. The one thing they might lack is any kind of sanity in picking banjo players, but nobody's perfect.

I hope you have a look at the Strum Machine. It's one of my favorite tools.

USAF PJ Says:
Thursday, December 7, 2017 @1:29:57 PM

Hi Wayne,
Ah the spiral effect of not practicing. Feel bad, then it gets worse. We both have to remedy that. The early AM practicing, I only wish I could do that more often as that is when I am ready.
I have no doubt about how you will do. You are a diligent player and practicer, send me a clip if able. Enjoy this time, it will be fun no doubt.

Boadicea Says:
Thursday, December 7, 2017 @2:23:37 PM

Practising straight away after your lesson is at once wise and strategic WayneConrad! I used to do that for quite awhile!

StuartJohn Says:
Thursday, December 7, 2017 @2:48:36 PM

Trouble is Wayne, by not practicing reguarly, you're not rewarding yourself with the fruits of what regular practice provides, and so you feel less willing to pick it up and play. I know this from personal experience.

Regardless of how I feel, I make myself play for at least an hour a day minimum without fail. Progress is rapidly accelerated when you practice regularly instead of infrequently.

Enjoyed reading your post, and reading between the lines I think you're doing better than you think you are!

Good luck at the Folk Festival, I'm sure you'll have a ball.

pickn5 Says:
Friday, December 8, 2017 @6:27:17 AM

Wayne, I feel your pain. I just got back to practicing yesterday after a week of life getting in the way. It really felt great to get back at it. Keep picking.

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