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Author Topic: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?  (Read 6054 times)

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Offline CF

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #15 on: January 20, 2009, 10:13:56 AM »
The instructional videos & tabs & etc. are aiding the preservation of country blues music as a study & historical artform & is the domain of mostly hobbyists & historians &, in this capacity, perform an important duty, I believe. I think the current availability of prewar blues has allowed a lot of us to understand it & become famaliarized with it to the point of absorbing it perhaps even more than those who pioneered the movement. Perhaps. The fact that I can sit down with Tommy Johnson's Paramount recordings & HEAR them more closely & sympathetically is no doubt a result of this. I hold that the form is still malleable & relevant & can be vital to new expressions. BUT, I am not convinced that instructional material that is out there is much of an aide to creativity & actual personal identification with this music. To my ears, most musicians who learn country blues from instructional material sound like that's exactly where they learned it & not, in my opinion, the sublime original. I think the fact that the value & art of the blues vocal is rarely or never a subject of instruction in this material is one of its biggest flaws. The instructor isn't a very good singer so we'll just focus on the guitar part (!!!). The original artists & recordings HAVE to be the template if you're to become an capital B blues musician & not a hobbyist. Only through this original source are you actually going to hear & become familiar with feel & rhythm & soul. The instructional stuff is great but it should only be a guide. As somewhat of an aside, I also think it very important that today's prewar-influenced players have a healthy & direct influence from the (good!) music of their times or of other times & other genres. If i only listened to blues 78s & lived in a bubble & broke onto the scene in 2009 an astonishing prodigy of pre-war blues I would be a historian essentially, & not an artist like Patton or Lemon. In this sense, a Neil Young or a Dylan actually have much more in common with Blind Blake than an Eisinger or Grossman.  
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Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #16 on: January 20, 2009, 11:31:30 AM »
I have often felt that Dylan's post-Folk stuff IS what the Blues evolved into (as opposed to Chuck Berry you ask? Different trajectory, different story but also great.). Also the thing that makes Dylan resonate so much with me is the fact that his music is so much an extension of Blues. His recordings with Mike Bloomfield (still my favorite electric white player) seem to me to be about the best Blues recordings ever by a white guy even though they are not ostensibly Blues. I've often felt that the only precedent in song for his lyric stream of consciousness thing is found in
old Blues stuff, he seems to have confirmed as much in his bio. Then there's his singing which in the mid sixties was every bit as strange as Skip James's. The problem is that he may have been an evolutionary dead end, a one off.
Thousands of replicants and imitators most of whom don't have the wind of the Blues at their backs and are therefore not so interesting. Michael Hurley is another singer songwriter who taps into the early Blues at a deep level and come up with the goods. He owns the entire Yazoo catalogue.
 BTW I fully intend to avail myself of youtube lessons to grab a lick here and there that I haven't been able to decipher. My interest in this comes out of the awareness that this music is moving on to another generation and that various forces will change it. I think it was inevitable that this music would become subject to a pedagogical approach similar to the way other musics are taught. I didn't anticipate the electronic aspect however. Ultimately a more democratic means of dissemination.

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Offline Rivers

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #17 on: January 20, 2009, 06:32:10 PM »
Fact is, a good way to get excited about a song or artist is to see and hear someone really good play it live. For example Wax and Uncle Bud blew me away at Port T a couple of years ago with renditions of McTell and Lemon respectively. They were both being pretty faithful to the original material at that point, that's a lot different from bashing out well known tunes and signature licks learned from DVDs.

I still think there's no danger of an overabundance of people out there into this music. If I ever go to an open mic where everybody is playing obscure country blues covers then I think we might have a problem. Even more of a problem if they can actually sing them, but a good problem. If I could sing as well as I play I'd be a superstar, in my own mind anyway. Too lazy.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #18 on: January 20, 2009, 07:31:59 PM »
Quote
Too lazy.

..to crow for day?
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline Rivers

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #19 on: January 20, 2009, 07:35:14 PM »
To work on my singing and quit my day job.

Offline Rivers

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #20 on: January 20, 2009, 08:36:57 PM »
Quote appeared in the oracle as I was viewing this, from our late lamented Jerry:

I would figure something out, then I would meet somebody and say "I have it!" and they'd play and I went "Huh?" [laughter] Yeah, what I had was I had the record. I didn't have THAT! -  Jerry Ricks, Port Townsend 97      

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #21 on: January 20, 2009, 08:41:26 PM »
Don't "work" on it just do it insanely.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline blueshome

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #22 on: January 21, 2009, 03:29:12 AM »
The original question by Mr.O'M was what will the technology do to the blues.

If we stand back a little from our own fanaticism(!!!) it is possible to see that there is clearly quite a reasonable market for video/dvd bluesinstruction or Homespun and Grossman wouldn't waste their time issuing the stuff.

One  question is, who buys it and why?   From meeting folk and attending blues camps, as well as hanging out on various message boards it is apparent to me that most of them are unlikely to have major performing ambitions, do not sing, or if they do see it as less important than the playing, and are not really very familiar with the music outside of a narrow range. In short, they see it as part of a guitar playing hobby which they wish to advance, I don't see anything wrong with that as an end in itself, and as others have said it may increase the audience for those of us who try to perform. They see these aids as a convenient way to fit instruction into a busy lifestyle, especially in the absence of teachers who have an interest in our music. They are really happy to be able to measure their progress by counting what stage they are at in an instructional programme.

When I started to try to play, not being any kind of musician (still not) I remember the revelation when I found a couple of Grossman's books - there was something out there to help get started. I still can't play through them but I can perform many blues songs to my own, and occasionally, an audience's satisfaction. But they did help unlock the door. I think it's wonderful to have access on video or at a class, access to instructors who have unlocked some of the intricacies of the old performances that may be beyond us, or would take months or years to figure, and we would be foolish not to take the opportunity to learn to extend the base of our own knowledge.

As to the original question, it's not the hobby players who base themselves on this material who will influence what the blues becomes, except in their expectations as audience, but those who are individual enough to put a recognisable stamp on what they do, who have broken free from the "walking jukebox" idiom of attempted exact reproduction. These folk may or may not have exposed themselves to instructional material, but if they have they will have transcended it.

Offline Rivers

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #23 on: January 21, 2009, 05:43:27 AM »
Agree with most of what you've said there Phil. I don't see any real difference in McTell shamelessly copping licks and endings from Lemon's 78's and a contemporary player copping licks from a DVD, it's all the same old folk process, just a bit richer on a sensory level, if not on an aesthetic level.

At the end of the day we're all going to end up sounding different anyway. The biggest danger is getting into bad habits. Not singing is a bad habit I've resolved to get over. Someone who's judgement artistically I trust, who does not play anything, a visual and sculptural artist, recently sat through me running some songs and complimented me on my singing and expressed genuine surprise I had a lot of doubts and fears in that area. That's another area DVDs and other media are of zero help, there's no feedback or support structure.

Not a problem if you recognize there's something missing when you're woodshedding and get out and play in front of people you trust.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2009, 05:46:03 AM by Rivers »

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #24 on: January 21, 2009, 06:48:59 AM »
Well put, Phil.  Your points are clearly stated, coherent and make sense.
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
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Offline Stuart

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #25 on: January 21, 2009, 09:32:05 AM »
This medium is another source of information. Each individual should use it as he or she sees fit and for his or her own purposes--which is what they most probably do anyway. As to how many doors or eyes it opens or how many (artificial) limitations it places on guitarists and other musicians, I'm hesitant to speculate. I do think that for the most part the instructional videos are a valuable resource, and the performance videos are both entertaining and enjoyable and I value them as well.

The videos are not all the same, nor are the musicians that appear on them. The same is true for the people who watch them. The last thing we want to do is to treat this phenomenon as an undifferentiated, singular monolith. To each his or her own. Play and let play, sing and let sing.

P.S. I'm waiting for our own Johnm to put out a performance video with "Pork Chops" and "Spittin' On The Sidewalk" prominently featured!

Offline lindy

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #26 on: January 21, 2009, 10:37:20 AM »

Short anecdote that I think says something about all this. Don't know for sure.

For a little over 2 years I gave lessons 2-4 times/month to the 10/11-year-old son of my landlord. The kid heard me playing Mississippi John Hurt (how many of us first got the fever from that sound, eh?) and "Boats Up the River" by John Jackson, and wanted to learn how to do that.

During the time I spent with him he had absolutely zero interest in any of the video lessons that I loaned to him, although he loved watching the non-lesson Vestapol videos, "Devil Got My Woman," "Legends of Country Blues Guitar," etc. He was happy to sit and noodle and mix things from my lessons with Bob Dylan stuff that his Parisian uncle was teaching him.

I had forgotten what sponges we are at that age. Six months into our lessons he was "getting" Skip James songs in less than an hour, grooving on Jerry Ricks' "Change Your Ways," and learning simple solos in open G with a slide.

That the kid should even be interested in that kind of music is miraculous, and his parents had done a great job of teaching him that there's all kinds of fun stuff to do that doesn't involve a television. So he was happy experimenting, and after a few months he was showing me stuff that he had "made up" since I had last seen him.

He once asked me if it was OK that he had taken a lick from one song and put it into an MJH song I had taught him. I told him the same thing that I head John Jackson say: "There's no limit to where you can go with this stuff, one road goes into another into another, and you don't know where it's gonna go," to which Roy Book Binder responded, "There's no rules to this stuff." Some of you will recognize that exchange from the Homespun video :P, "The Music of John Jackson."

OK, what point am I trying to make here . . . something having to do with passing down this music (could be lots of other skills) on a human-to-human basis, something about the right chemistry between a teacher and student, something about starting at a really young age when that sponge can still soak everything up, and of course, something about having to be really captivated by the music in order to be willing to put the time into it when you could be playing soccer with your buds. My student was captivated, and he wanted nothing to do with on-line/DVD/VHS lessons, he wanted to figure stuff out on his own. 100 years ago, a 10-year-old wouldn't have had any choice, it was either be lucky enough to find someone willing to be your teacher, or you were completely on your own. And I think it was equally rare for a 10-year-old back then to be sufficiently captivated by the music to be willing to spend time messing around with it, I don't think that has changed at all, please don't ask for supporting evidence for that opinion.

Me? Started playing when I was 40, large chunks of the sponge had dried up or broken off, I had the captivation but not the patience, and became hopelessly dependent on audio and videotapes. I know better now, but for several years those things served a real good purpose, and I can't help but think that anyone who sticks with the music for a while will eventually recognize the wisdom of weaning themselves off the technology and using the ear. Some will get to that point faster than others.

Last little aside: my student's Mom was the director of something called "People Power," which was a continuing ed school for people 57-years-old and up. They paid a flat fee once a semester and could take as many different classes as they wanted. Teachers were all volunteers, and I got recruited to teach guitar. So picture this, me in front of a classroom of 10 adults, the youngest 64, all of us playing "Baby please don't go, back to New Orleans, you know I love you so . . ." and getting down! No on-line/DVD/VHS for these players, only two owned computers. The best part? Three of my students were African-Americans in their 70s. Here I was, white guy who had learned all kinds of stuff from John Jackson, Honeyboy Edwards, John Cephas, Jerry Ricks, Eddie Kusic, et al., passing it back.

All this being said, be prepared for a new thread later this week, I'm interested in figuring out the first break of Cherry Street Blues by Little Hat Jones--a break that Uncle Bud rightfully calls "demented"--and thanks to the Web, I've got access to some people who care about that kind of stuff.

Lindy

Offline blueshome

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #27 on: January 21, 2009, 10:52:43 AM »
Lindy,  I too started at a similar age. Without doubt the best way to learn is person to person - but this is usually impossible due to our geographical isolation from other country blues players and to our temporal isolation from those who were the source of the music.

You were lucky in having a youngster as a student. My own more mature students have always taken a long while to get going and break away from the tab/video culture.

Offline Johnm

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #28 on: January 21, 2009, 01:24:47 PM »
Hi all,
Thanks very much for the good sense that has been posted here since I last looked at this thread last night.  I know that I think that doing exact transcriptions, or as exact as I am able to get them, is worthwhile, but sometimes I forget why, apart from the enjoyment I derive from the activity itself. There is so much to be learned about how to use your hands on the guitar by studying the greats of the past--not just the notes they played, but how they struck them in the picking hand.  I have been in the process of preparing two new instructional DVDs for Stefan Grossman that I will be filming this spring, focusing on Memphis Blues and Texas Blues, with an anthology approach, and different artists featured, rather than focusing on one artist only.  One thing that has particularly impressed me as I've worked through tunes by Lemon, Willie Reed, Funny Papa Smith and others, is how often the thumb in the right hand is used to play the first three strings of the guitar.  It's not something I listened carefully enough to pick up on when I was first learning to play this music.
Anyway, as others have said before me, the most important thing is not to be a star or the saviour of the Country Blues, but rather to participate and to take part in making the music in whatever way feels most natural and provides enjoyment for you.
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: January 21, 2009, 01:39:55 PM by Johnm »

Offline dave stott

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #29 on: January 22, 2009, 03:57:14 AM »
I love this posting and topic!!

There are a limited number of folks that can play country blues, let alone those that might be able to teach it.

I have not found any versions of RVG residing in apartments in CT, NY or the surrounding area waiting for guitar students to come ring their doorbell for lessons.

DVD and on line instruction is the next generation for those of us interested in country blues guitar playing.

It gets us started in the genre and if we want to pursue it further, we go to guitar camps like fur peace, PT and others. Or do like I do and go hound Roy Book Binder after his local concert here in CT for tips.

I'd still like to compile a nationwide listing of guitar instructors that teach this style.

Dave Stott

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