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creating music as opposed to replicating it

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Sep 23, 2020 - 8:00:57 PM
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6980 posts since 2/14/2006

After over 40 years of playing the banjo, in all types of situations, the most satisfying situation for me is to avoid replicating what I've heard others do, and instead to create the music as I'm playing it. It takes a lot of work to move from copying to creating. And there usually isn't an alternative path but to start out copying. But wow, when you start being able to improvise and create the breaks as you are playing them, and everyone in the group is doing the same thing on a song, what happens is amazing. The music becomes a musical force that moves you. The music becomes inspirational and carries you away to good places. And you never want to go back!

Sep 23, 2020 - 8:22:51 PM
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100 posts since 9/19/2005
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I agree. I’ve only been learning tab but recently in a lesson with Tony Trischka he asked me to learn Blackbird which took about a week but he told me to do my own improvisation at the end of the song. That was much trickier but very satisfying!

Sep 23, 2020 - 8:28:05 PM
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11140 posts since 6/2/2008

It's what I miss most this year. The last time I played with anyone else was early March.

Sep 23, 2020 - 9:37:04 PM

chuckv97

Canada

52876 posts since 10/5/2013

I “improvise” at jams, but actually I’m just playing phrases I’ve played many times before. I don’t plan what I’m going to do but I revert to well-worn licks and passages. Once in a blue moon I come up with something more original, by chance, but I can rarely duplicate it later.
Doug, you’ve played with very good musicians so I can see how you can get to that exciting level of playing.

Sep 24, 2020 - 3:37:26 AM
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3666 posts since 12/6/2009

That's the difference between real bluegrass and those who argue that everything with a banjo is bluegrass.....and we are all grateful for those like Doug Knecht who knows how to keep Bluegrass alive.
Bill Monroe said it best " today they play a whole lot of notes about nothing"
Thanks for those like Doug who will keep this great American music alive and well.

Sep 24, 2020 - 3:40:51 AM
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beegee

USA

21905 posts since 7/6/2005

One of the aspects of today's banjo players is constant overuse of repetitive tag licks. It seems as if everybody wants to emulate the foremost pro players and it ends up sounding like canned laughter on a TV show. Kinda like the Lester Flatt G-run which I have modified to suit my own style on guitar, although I sometime play that lick on banjo.

I had an English teacher who told me,"Write to express, not to impress." I try to apply that to my music, as well.

I find great inspiration in the playing of Eddie Adcock, Sonny Osborne, Alan Munde, Bill Emerson. I think it is fun to come up with various surprise licks as the spirit moves. I was playing a gig one time and came up with a little back-up lick that seemed to fit behind the melody. After the show, a local mandolin picker came up to me, raving about how much he liked that lick.

What bothers me is that sometimes I come up with a lick I like, but then I don't use it and forget what it was.

Sep 24, 2020 - 4:35:09 AM

3151 posts since 9/12/2016

I like both ways,.I like good music and the good parts of some bad music. My mood changes my taste

Sep 24, 2020 - 6:29:53 AM

3880 posts since 5/1/2003

There is an occasional gathering of jazz enthusiasts around here and they make a point of not rehearsing the performances. I think they probably have a song list before they start but that's all.
They are all super talented musicians,like the ones Doug jammed with. I have also picked with Robert and Wil a couple times. Yes,it was a treat.

Sep 27, 2020 - 5:11:38 AM

5744 posts since 10/13/2007

With your recent release of songs you are showing what you mean.
ken

Sep 27, 2020 - 7:00:32 AM
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841 posts since 6/30/2020
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This is an important topic that should be addressed by all musicians during their musical journey. The joy of creating music that flows from the essence ones being and expressed through a musical instrument is very satisfying in many ways, both to ourselves and possibly to others.
I have played guitar for 56 years (+ - a few days) and have gradually made the transition from learning songs verbatim to changing up a few licks, passages, words, and musical phrases, within those songs to make them into my renditions. My Style. I also have written some music and songs as the mood strikes me. I have gravitated to be primarily a fingerstyle player and currently working on my renditions of of some old Robert Johnson and Big Bill Broonzy blues songs.
Now, I have not been playing banjo as long as guitar and as such I am not to the stage of banjo improvisation that I am with guitar but I can feel it coming. I am beginning to use some Travis picking patterns on banjo as well as some of my other blues licks.
But with Blue Grass banjo I feel it’s Important to learn the old standard songs note for note and lick for lick before any improvising is done, at least in the presence of other players. It’s an expected appreciation of tradition and totally different than ripping off a lead guitar solo using my favorite licks.
That said, in the privacy of my personal surroundings, I am free to express myself on any of my instruments as I see fit and I must admit that it’s an exiting and extremely rewarding experience.

Thanks to Doug the OP for sharing his thoughts and emotions on this topic.

P-A-L

Sep 27, 2020 - 5:12:56 PM

21 posts since 11/8/2017

And yet it is so much great and satisfying!

Oct 1, 2020 - 6:48:38 AM

2171 posts since 2/10/2013

Many of us just attempt to recreate what we have heard. For hobbyists, the attempt only gets "part way there". I don't think I can detect all the subtleties in a top notch banjo players version of a tune. An average player can only "spot" commonly used licks because the instructional material or a tab provides the information, and they hear them used so often.

Oct 1, 2020 - 6:57:59 AM

55755 posts since 12/14/2005
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I am a very simple sort of picker.
I may create a tune, or create new lyrics to an old tune, but I am OBLIGATED to improvise the picking part with the few basic moves I know, because I am not good enough to COPY anybody else's fancy moves.

Oct 1, 2020 - 7:21:59 AM
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Owen

Canada

6515 posts since 6/5/2011

I "create" stuff with my banjo all the time .... but nobody mistakes it for music.   crying

Oct 1, 2020 - 10:27:22 AM

263 posts since 10/4/2018

After over 40 years? That seem like quite a long time before starting to do this.

Oct 4, 2020 - 2:23:10 PM

3439 posts since 5/6/2004

Doesn’t it come down to whether your improvisations are lick-based or melody-based? Licks are inherently repetitious. Melodies, less so. So the closer your improvisation sticks to the tune, the less generic it will sound.

Oct 4, 2020 - 9:36:16 PM
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6980 posts since 2/14/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Good Buddy

After over 40 years? That seem like quite a long time before starting to do this.


To be more accurate, after 40 years I continue to do this.  I began noticing the feel of creating music on the banjo after about 10 years into it all, when I was 18.  I was involved with a band called Shady Mix from Carbondale, IL, playing music with Mark Stoffel on mandolin, Wil Maring on guitar and vocals, Kelley Simms on guitar, and Geoff Maring on acoustic bass.  They played such good music, and they taught me a lot about staying out of the way when I needed to, and playing when it was appropriate.  I finally started to feel the music.


 

Edited by - Doug Knecht on 10/04/2020 21:40:48

Oct 6, 2020 - 4:41:28 AM

3666 posts since 12/6/2009

" I finally started to feel the music."....the day you became a bluegrass banjo musician......some never do, no- matter how hard they try.

Oct 6, 2020 - 6:25:41 AM

265 posts since 2/22/2010

Good topic, at some point every musician wants to create something of their own and it requires enough skill and learning other people's songs in order to understand how songs are created, then apply those things which we have learned. Song structure, theory, which I know, scares people, but necessary, study of different styles, and close examination of songs that you love, all make for better playing and practicing, and repetition improves your ability. Like any craft or skill, you have to invest some work and time. It surprises me how many people can quote sport stats endlessly, yet find it hard to invest some time into the study of music that they are trying to learn. It is a long tedious journey that can be learned and today with so much computer software it is fairly easy to learn how to write songs that you can't even physically play.
Here is an example of a fun song I created years ago called Jed's Theme found in the tab section that came from just playing for fun, trying different things, and this is the result. Dedicated to Jed Clampett. I can picture him dancing to this little tune.

hangoutstorage.com/banjohangou...62010.tef

Edited by - Jethro Aberdeen on 10/06/2020 06:26:27

Oct 7, 2020 - 4:07:45 AM

3666 posts since 12/6/2009

Jethro
Song writing is more than just learning some notes on a computer program. A good song writer has an inner feel for life. A song writer is a poet, a painter, a philosopher in a sense….he / she has a life of experiences to draw from. And the really outstanding writers do not copy anyone. Whatever they do is theirs alone. There’s a song that should be heard by all who aspire, because it has a huge road map and a life realization. If you listen deep into and can understand its true meaning…..”The Boys Who Make the Noise On 16th Avenue…..sung by Lacy J Dalton….profound

Oct 7, 2020 - 7:04:42 AM

265 posts since 2/22/2010

I was not implying any music created by simply leaning on computer software was a good thing, on the contrary,
most music created this way is heartless, lacking on so many levels. Unfortunately most radio play music is uninspiring due to this technology, but it does open up the ability to create most of what we want in our own studio. You still have to know how music is written and played, theory etc. and some artistic ability to create something worthwhile.

Oct 7, 2020 - 7:51:32 AM

484 posts since 2/15/2015

Back in Middle school I was learning guitar licks... I would learn them and then at the next jam I would try to fit them into what ever song we were workin on... it rarely worked and it usually sounded terrible.

I had a long way to go, back during my rock star "career."

Oct 16, 2020 - 5:50:40 PM

18 posts since 2/7/2019

quote:
Originally posted by overhere

Jethro
Song writing is more than just learning some notes on a computer program. A good song writer has an inner feel for life. A song writer is a poet, a painter, a philosopher in a sense….he / she has a life of experiences to draw from. And the really outstanding writers do not copy anyone. Whatever they do is theirs alone. There’s a song that should be heard by all who aspire, because it has a huge road map and a life realization. If you listen deep into and can understand its true meaning…..”The Boys Who Make the Noise On 16th Avenue…..sung by Lacy J Dalton….profound


I couldn't agree more. A truly great  inspirational  song.  i like it as much today as i did thirty or so years ago. yes

Oct 16, 2020 - 6:07 PM

55755 posts since 12/14/2005
Online Now

I like a song which tells a story.
Townes Van Zandt's "PANCHO and LEFTY" doesn't run a whole 5 minutes, four chords, four verses and a chorus, but it COULD be made into an hour or two of motion picture.

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