I’ve been in a sort self-imposed musical exile for the past 2 months. Two of my closest friends in the world announced that they were getting married and asked if I would play ukulele at their Hawaiian/island/tiki themed wedding. While I am far from being a ukulele virtuoso, there was no way I was going to refuse such an honor. As such, I made the conscious decision to put down my banjo and fiddle and focus almost solely on practicing ukulele as much as possible until the wedding. I ended up playing Beyonce’s “Halo” (just chorded accompaniment) as the bride walked down the aisle and did a fingerpicked version of the traditional Hawaiian song “Aloha Oe” after the couple’s kiss and presentation. Overall, I was pleased with my performance, and the bride, groom, and guests all seemed to enjoy it. While I missed playing my banjo and fiddle, it was definitely a learning experience.
Strangely, it also united me with a long lost musical love (not the ukulele). I am a member of the Coharie tribe of Native Americans, and growing up my family was always really into practicing and preserving our culture. My grandma made regalia, and all my cousins danced. I played the Courting Flute (also known as “Native American Flute”). Honestly, I hadn’t touched my Courting Flute in probably a decade or so. However, sometimes I’d need a break from the uke, and the flute started calling to me. I hadn’t realized how much I missed playing it, as well as the cultural connection I felt with it. Having finally set a date for next fall for my wedding, I have decided to incorporate flute playing into the ceremony. My fiancée is African American, and we kind of both wanted to incorporate something from our respective cultures into the ceremony .
That having been said, man I missed not being able to play my banjo and fiddle. As soon as the wedding was over, I couldn’t wait to get home and start frailig and bowing. Now I have the daunting task of figuring out what I want to work on next. I think music can be like exercise, sometimes. If you exercise too much every day without taking rest days, you won't make progress and might even get inured . You have to take rest days to let your muscles heal and then grow. Similarly, sometimes when I practice intensely everyday, I feel like I get in a rut where I am not making progress. Then I take some time off, and when I come back there is progress or something clicks into place. That is what it felt like coming back after my respite.
One thing I took away from my ukulele experience is that I really enjoy fingerpicking. I have never considered myself a great fingerpicker, but it can be fun. It is a great tool to have in your arsenal and can help break up the monotony of playing the same style when you get in a rut. That, combined with some encouragement from Jill and Aaron from the Old Time Practice Group has made me think I want to experiment with some 2 and 3 finger Old Time stuff. I am not giving up on frailing, nor am I going over to Bluegrass (I have nothing against bluegrass/Scruggs style, but I’ve tried it, and it is not for me). I just want to learn some about traditional Old Time 2 and 3 finger techniques, just to mix things up and have some extra tools in the toolbox. I think I am going to check out some of Mike Seeger’s videos and Art Rosenbaum’s books and see how it goes.
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Playing Since: 2012
Experience Level: Novice
Occupation: Export Coordinator
Mike Ramsey Zebrawood "Woody" open back
Chuck Lee Honey Grove "Woody" open back
Bell & Sons Boucher Minstrel Banjo
Carl Edwards Fiddle
Pono Mahogany Tenor Ukulele
Pono Acacia Tenor Ukulele
Carolina Chocolate Drops, Joe & Odell Thompson, Tommy Jarrell, Fred Cockerham, Roscoe Holcomb, Dock Boggs, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Beirut, The Decemberists, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman,, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Django Reinholt, Post Modern Jukebox.
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Last Visit 7/26/2021
I am trying to learn Clawhammer banjo and Old Time fiddle. I recently started back learning the banjo and fiddle after a long hiatus. I also play a little ukulele and Courting Flute (aka Native American flute). I'm always looking for folks to jam with and learn from, so if you are in the area, hit me up! Musically, I dig, Old Time, folk, and Jazz.
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