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CREATING MUSIC: Melody & rhythm skills are the essentials--banjo lessons are optional

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Having taken care of the fast track students, let’s get down to business and turn to those who can really benefit from a helping hand.  

 

If even the fast track students are made vulnerable by jumping into a particular style, then the beginners (with none of the passing qualifications discussed earlier) are even more vulnerable to choosing the wrong path.  It is very important that they first work on those musical fundamentals and improve those particular skills that prevent them from progressing.  The beginner will avoid years of frustration just by removing a few roadblocks.  

 

We are not talking about a long drawn out remedial effort.  Most of the missing skills were probably learned in pre-school days and perhaps neglected over the following years.  Some basic skills need to be resuscitated, that’s all.

 

Melody and rhythm (simple ideas when they reside in the brain) have to live in the body before they become musically operational.  For many people that is hard to do.  I can visualize a scale: do re mi … but that doesn’t mean I can sing a scale.  Rhythm is much harder: I see nothing but the letters of a word.  These two critical ideas and their visual or auditory images are only poor approximations of what they really are flourishing in their own musical dimension.  

 

To an individual student, these skills have no existence unltil they reside in your physical body rather than just in your mind.  The student must learn to actualize the musical space within himself.  The ideas will begin to live within you if your vocal chords can pipe out the proper intervals for singing and your body can make the necessary physical motions to generate a proper rhythm.

 

How about singing and dancing?  Or yoga?  There is a connection between the artistic spirit and the physical body that needs to be regenerated.  This connection is the foundation for a living being to create music.  These basic skills vary from person to person, depending on their own life history and even their DNA.  That is why some people have an easy time and others struggle.  The advantage that some people have is not that insurmountable when viewed as just two neglected skills that a student can easily rescue.

 

Studying a video of yourself engaged in these activities will show if you have made the connection or not.  A video is a handy diagnostic tool, because it is difficult for anyone to evaluate this condition from the inside.  A blind man can deny the world of color but the camera doesn’t lie.

 

What can the camera show you?  Does it show you a  Frankenstein with wild jerky movements?  A frozen statue?  Are the shoulders and neck locked?  Or does your motion flow along with the music?

 

Check out Curly Ray as he gets into OBS.  His music comes out of his body and into the fiddle--not the other way around.  If you made him stop moving the music would lose its life and fire.  You can actually see the living bluegrass music animating Curly Ray's body in this video.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tfq0OQXTdqc

 

Here is another visual of the music as a the physical movement of a human body:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SwjdX0cvZE

 

​Now you see the connection, right?  So what does your video show you?  Does it say you got the connection or not?

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Genre: Other
Playing Style: Other

Genre: Bluegrass
Playing Style: Bluegrass (Scruggs)

Genre: Bluegrass
Playing Style: Bluegrass (Scruggs)

Genre: Bluegrass
Playing Style: Bluegrass (Scruggs)

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www.youtube.com/user/dress821

Playing Since: 1964
Experience Level: Expert/Professional

Interests:
[Teaching] [Helping]

Occupation: retired Aerospace Engineer

Gender: Male
Age: 76

My Instruments:
[1] Gibson 1927 style 5 archtop (1950s Gibson hardware and pot with 1927 no-hole tone ring--neck & resonator made in 1990 by Paul Tester)
[2] Fender 1969 Emerson-style Artist model flathead with a Huber tone ring***both banjos fitted with a Bart Veerman bridge***

Favorite Bands/Musicians:
Scruggs, Adcock, Emerson, Stanley & Reno

Classified Rating: not rated
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Profile Info:
Visible to: Public
Created 3/20/2008
Last Visit 9/7/2015

RICHARD DRESS grew up "in the woods" near Darmstadt, near Evansville, Indiana. "Throw a rock and it lands in Kentucky," he recalls. The family listened to "the Grand Ole Opry" radio broadcasts on Saturday nights and recordings of Carl Sandberg and Burl Ives. Richard bought a guitar while in high school and learned to play from instructions in the back of Alan Lomax's book Folksongs of North America. As an Antioch freshman, he heard records by Flatt and Scruggs and the Stanley Brothers. He transferred to Evansville College and took guitar lessons from bandleader Les Smithhart, owner of a fiddle shop in Henderson, Kentucky. Richard saw a beautiful "Whyte Lady" banjo in the shop, bought it, and taught himself Scruggs-style banjo by slowing down Bluegrass records and picking out the parts. He and two Evansville neighbors formed the "Ohio River Valley Boys." Richard transferred to Oregon State, where the "Sawtooth Mountain Boys" quickly recruited him as a guitarist. Richard's admiration for the Country Gentlemen and their banjo player Eddie Adcock was a chief reason for his move to Washington, D.C. when he graduated. He plunged right in to "Bluegrass City," spending nights at the Shamrock, Birchmere, and Red Fox to see the Gentlemen, Emerson & Waldron, the IInd Generation and others. Richard studied banjo with Bill Emerson and Eddie Adcock, and D.C.'s Bluegrass bands were frequent guests at the small glass house he rented on the Potomac. The Seldom Scene previewed their first album at one of Richard's parties. When the Seldom Scene played their first public appearance at a club called the Rabbit's Foot, someone wheeled a big color TV near the bandstand and put on the Redskins game. Richard complained to the bartender and suddenly found himself out on the sidewalk watching a huge bouncer walk back into the club. At the Shamrock later that night, Richard was surprised when the Scene's bass player Tom Gray sat at his table. The band had given up and left their own premiere. Richard set aside music for a decade but, after banjo-playing relative Steve Moore moved to town, he began to rush home from work and play along with the afternoon Bluegrass show on WAMU-FM. After two years of this, he began picking at the CABOMA jams, where bass player Bill Taylor recruited him for the Sprouts of Grass, and he played with them for a year. Richard met Lynn Healey at CABOMA in 1997, and they joined Charlie Bean two years later in Orange Line Special. Richard has been teaching banjo and guitar at Clarendon's Music Loft since 1999.

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