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Posted by AndyW on Tuesday, June 4, 2019

like this

Over the last couple of months I have not really progressed my current goal of learning multiple new tunes for our monthly session.  Our session last month was cancelled and that rather removed the impetus.

I have however been playing my banjo plenty.  A 'dropped goal' once the session close by me opened up was learning tunes to sing along to.  I've pretty much focussed on that over the last two months.  I've learned the words to a few tunes and practiced singing them out loud, and learned one new tune to sing and play.  I've also taught myself to use my index finger as well as my middle, and recent nail issues have seen me grind down a metal bluegrass type finger pick to use for clawhammer.  I don't really need it as such, but I thought it would be useful to learn how to use just in case.  Turns out like using the index it's not too difficult.  I've also recently tended to tune up my banjo to A/DD instead of capoing to learn to play it like that.  A was easy, but I found some fingerstretches in the DD.

My next 'thing' is to revisit Fred Cockerham's Roustabout.  I tried to learn it a year ago, but to be honest I just wasn't able to play fast enough at the time to give it a proper crack of the whip.  This time round should hopefully be better.  The melody though is pretty much buried in amongst the flurry of notes, so I'm guessing that once I get the tune halfway decent it will prove pretty difficult to learn to sing.

Session on Sunday so I'd best go over all my session tunes this week too. 

11 comments on “Latest Update”

pickn5 Says:
Wednesday, June 5, 2019 @5:13:38 AM

Andy, I've watched a few of your playing and singing videos. You do a really nice job of it.

AndyW Says:
Thursday, June 6, 2019 @2:26:23 AM

Cheers pickn5.

I'm definitely seeing improvement in my 'Roustabout'. I'm just playing it through over and over now at a constant 100bpm c/t(200 4/4), until it gets right under my fingers. Once I'm happy I'll ramp up to playing speed which I think is about 135bpm c/t(270 4/4). The tune itself is actually quite easy to play, I just didn't have the required skill/speed last time I tried it a year ago.

Then I'll have to start really listening to the tune as Fred doesn't play quite as straightforward as the Bob Carlin banjo newsletter tab I've got, but chops some of the phrases in half etc as well as throwing in clucks. Difficult to listen on the County clawhammer version as the singing is so loud, but I've discovered yesterday a youtube Bertram Levy recording where the playing can be heard much more distinctly. So cross fingers I can hear it properly and get it down before what I think will be the really difficult bit, linking in the singing.

WayneConrad Says:
Friday, June 7, 2019 @6:11:49 AM

I agree with pickn5. And 135 ct is moving right along in my book.

AndyW Says:
Friday, June 7, 2019 @6:59:08 AM

Thanks. I also think 135 c/t is shifting. It's a bit faster than I normally play, but the song is almost sung at half speed to the tune (If you catch my meaning) so the tune needs to be shifting along to accomodate it.

AndyW Says:
Monday, June 10, 2019 @1:57:33 AM

Well my speed on the tune is building through constant short practice sessions. I played reasonably comfortably at 260(130) today before a short not quite there yet bash at 270(135). My base practice speed has upped from 200 through 220, 240 and now 250. It's a slow process as I rarely play anything so notey at quite this pace but its getting there and my right hand seems to be relaxing to accomodate.

WayneConrad Says:
Monday, June 10, 2019 @8:58:50 AM

Fantastic progress!

AndyW Says:
Monday, June 10, 2019 @12:03:08 PM

I have also had a short go at matching singing to the tune. It's gonna be pretty difficult.

WayneConrad Says:
Monday, June 10, 2019 @2:31:57 PM

Singing while playing is the most difficult skill I've learned. I can only really do it when my playing matches the melody very closely, but with more rhythmic playing, I can't. I think the tunes you are playing are very rhythmic, so are in the territory where I have lots of trouble. I'm not surprised it's difficult! When you get that figured out, I'd love hearing how you did it; maybe you'll have some insight for me.

AndyW Says:
Tuesday, June 11, 2019 @1:26:51 AM

I'm learning these tunes from tab. Mostly roundpeak, the melody(or partial melody, certainly key notes at the beginning of singing phrases) is in there amongst the flurry of notes. I have to slow right down and 'find' the melody. Then match the singing, usually pretty slowly, and then bump up the speed. The trouble with slowing down is you can find a false melody line at half speed(or double depending on how you look at it), and it's then doubly hard to break away from that and get the correct melody line.

It seems almost impossible at first (but then as you well know, so does playing a new tune). The fact I have done it a few times now means that although I haven't got it immediately for this tune I'm pretty sure I will eventually though with this one I think it will take some time. The singing ambles along whilst the underlying tune races.

The worst tunes (from guitar experience singing along to strumming) to learn to sing to is where the singing line starts just before the musical phrase almost like a lead in. I think this might be a little like that in some parts.

AndyW Says:
Tuesday, June 11, 2019 @6:33:35 AM

Freds tuning for Roustabout on the County clawhammer CD is nowhere near the GCDBD that Bob Carlin has on his tab sheet. Neither is it ADAC#E. I think it's probably somewhere inbetween but I couldn't quite work it out.

Luckily the FRC version is straight out ADAC#E. I now think my best chance of learning to sing it is maybe to learn to play alongside the recording and sing at the same time as Fred.

I had a bash and can play along at the same speed(I think circa 130/260 bpm), but he throws in an extra couple of beats every time before singing verses that he doesn't have when merely playing. Once I get those worked out I should be good to go.

AndyW Says:
Wednesday, June 12, 2019 @5:49:54 AM

Ok. So I have binned my last approach, getting in sync with all the various differing amounts of bum-dittys(FC style) is an end in itself as my laptop hasn't got much volume and is refusing to sync with bluetooth.

I have gone to a system of playing away at full speed and trying to sing at the same time. I am using the tab to force me to play the little awkward passages(which don't really sync with the words) correctly whilst singing over them. In a way this is the opposite to my norm (for guitar strumming anyway) where I would play a tune whilst reading the words and singing. I think I am going to almost have to do every singing line seperately and literally force myself to 'play through'. My internal sense of timing is good enough I think that this approach will work. It's gonna be a long haul of short sharp practices as it's quite intense trying to do this. I think it'll take a couple of weeks, but this has been a long standing goal of mine.

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