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Take it slow and easy if you want to get along with me - Jesse Fuller, Slow and Easy Blues

Author Topic: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?  (Read 6055 times)

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Offline natterjack

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #30 on: January 22, 2009, 07:57:03 AM »
I started by learning by ear from the records. When I found the video/DVD lessons I leapt right in because it's much easier and quicker to learn the tune you want to. However I found it eroded by ability to figure out stuff from the original recordings - or perhaps just my patience to sit there and figure it out... :o and I found my self obsessing over playing it exactly as it is on the DVD, which is perhaps slightly pointless.

I think DVD lessons are definitely useful to get you started on a particular style or artist, but for what is important in the music, you have to back to the source.

 

Offline dj

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #31 on: January 22, 2009, 08:05:05 AM »
Quote
However I found it eroded by ability to figure out stuff from the original recordings

That's the nice thing about audio-only lessons like the ones John Miller offers: they also function as a bit of ear training.
   

Offline waxwing

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #32 on: January 22, 2009, 12:27:11 PM »
I'm sorry, I guess I misinterpreted the original post, Mr. O'M. I thought your tone was that you were lamenting the fact that the internet seems to be bringing this music to more people and making it less esoteric/elitist than it was in the '60s. But I see from your later post that you do favor the more 'democratic' dispersal. So I apologize if my initial post was out of line.

Obviously, in the '20s and '30s the record companies treated the blues as if it were a pop music, at least among afro-american consumers. Far from esoteric. I don't know if I agree with you that all americans are involved in a subconscious conspiracy to keep the early blues as esoteric as possible, but I certainly see your point concerning a vast number of americans who live life relatively unconsciously. Fortunately here there seems to be strong sentiment against such a life style.-G-

Johnm, I wonder if you are comparing apples to oranges when you equate the popularity of Leroy Carr and several recording artists who were primarily vocalist piano players, or if they were guitarists, the vast majority of their recordings had piano or combo backing, to a few players who are popular among those trying to learn the solo guitar styles of the '20s and '30s. I think one thing that we have to bear in mind is that with the advent of the electric guitar and of the blues combo, the solo acoustic country blues guitar styles virtually disappeared from pop music. However the piano and harmonica styles (and even bass, really) went through no such death/rebirth. Sure, a slow evolution was effected by the addition of amplification to these instruments, but the styles and techniques of the early blues piano and harp players are still viable and still played by modern players (who are pretty much unaware of these roots), without anyone having to go and learn them from scratchy old records. Very few piano and harp players spend any time trying to transcribe old performances, because, they don't really sound that much different from modern pop blues performances on these instruments, except to the trained ear, perhaps. Those who wish to play the acoustic guitar styles however have no such modern pop models to emulate and are limited to the scratchy 78 recordings, or the hi-fi recordings of those who were rediscovered and recorded in the '60s. But I do think we have to bear in mind that this guitar style did just go away, dead, dead, dead, if you need to use that analogy, for at least 20 years, except for a very few practitioners well outside the pop culture. And many of those who have been attempting to bring the style to some kind of audience today seem to be torn as to whether to maintain the old styles intact or to allow their playing to be influenced by far more modern genres in ways that the style of guitar never was in its own evolution.

But I agree, wherever one falls within this question, just get out and play the music the way it works for you.

All for now.
John C
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

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Offline waxwing

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #33 on: January 22, 2009, 12:44:44 PM »
Of course, I'm totally forgetting the Jimmy/Merle/Chet thread of fingerpicking which one could certainly say kept the style going in a pop context, but I think we all understand the difference?

All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

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Offline dj

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #34 on: January 22, 2009, 02:00:57 PM »
A few other forum threads that are getting a lot of activity lately got me thinking:  what will lyric transcription and the availability of such transcriptions online do to the blues?   ;D

Offline blueshome

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #35 on: January 22, 2009, 03:25:10 PM »
Regarding the significance of the instruments played by the most popular singers pre-war. I think the most important thing for the original audience was always the vocals and lyrics, it's really us white boys who concentrate on the backing - especially if it's guitar or harp as both these instruments are accessible and easy to get started on - how many homes do you know with a piano and how many have the patience to learn.

Pre-war harp styles  metamorphised very rapidly following the advent of amplification and bear only a few similarities in style and technique to the new playing. As with electric guitar, the change led to players following different roads. I don't believe this was just because of changes in taste, but was rooted in the different possibilities and limitations brought about by electricity.

Of post war blues piano players it is difficult to name many who started post war and played in the pre war style -the exception is Otis Spann who firmly based his style on that of Big Maceo, probably from scratchy records mostly. The old style also died out in the new environment - try and hear much subtlety in the playing of Little Brother Montgomery on Otis Rush's Cobra sides. Seek in vain for variations in left hand technique amongst those old guys still playing electric bands - a shuffle's a shuffle - there is no room for anything fancy.

Many acoustic harp players I know have gone back to the source of the old records to broaden their vocabulary. Unfortunately most harp players can't wait to plug in and wail - probably to conceal their lack of technique. The couple of piano players I know listen mostly to the pre-war masters.

Whilst there was plenty of downhome blues music recorded in the 40's and early 50's by solo guitarists, harp players and pianists, little of it sold well. This was no real change from the 20's & 30's - most of the solo guitar backed blues sold poorly outside of Blind Lemon and Lonnie Johnson.

Offline waxwing

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #36 on: January 22, 2009, 04:17:28 PM »
A child of 10 could tell the diff between pre war finger picking and single note lead playing. I've never heard any piano player at PT say they were studying pre war blues piano, just blues piano. My point is, it's finger picking guitar players who are more interested in listening to finger picking guitar players than piano singers. Who do blues piano players listen to? Ramblin' Thomas? Are they creating tremendous demand for pre war teaching materials? Perhaps sheet music books exist for all the popular pre war piano players?

I think Fuller sold a few records, too.-G-

All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

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Offline Johnm

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #37 on: January 22, 2009, 05:13:40 PM »
Hi all,
My original point was that there was no reason not to think originally that the received assessment of the stature of the first generation of Country Blues players to record would stand as it did when the records were first released, commercial recordings in a Pop idiom of the time.  Measured by that standard, Lemon was a star, as was Big Bill, Leroy Carr, Memphis Minnie, Leroy Carr, Little Bill Gaithers, Blind Boy Fuller, Tampa Red and several others.  Based on the sales/reception of their 78 recordings were John Hurt and Gary Davis stars?  Absolutely not, for most people, even those interested in the music never heard their 78s (especially Davis's). 
The fact that John Hurt and Gary Davis survived into the '60s, still able to sing and play really well, made converts for their music among the guitar-centric youth who were fortunate to see and hear them play.  To the extent that the interest in John Hurt and Rev. Davis's music has continued, I believe the proliferation of instructional materials devoted to their music to be a major factor.  And I believe that there is currently easier access even to some of the obscurities of their repertoire than there is to instruction in the music of the original Country Blues recording stars.  This is not making any relative value judgement about the music of the original stars versus that of John Hurt and Rev. Davis.  I'm just saying that that if you had told anybody in 1939 that John Hurt's music would be remembered more than Tampa Red's in the latter portion of the 20th Century and into the 21st, they would have said you were nuts.  History yields unanticipatable results sometimes.
All best,
Johnm       

Offline Rivers

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #38 on: January 22, 2009, 05:25:37 PM »
It's apples and oranges comparing the old country blues singers with today's players. Whether you're a modern day pro or a so-called 'hobbyist', we're coming at it from a totally different direction. Not accepting that makes you try too hard all the time to be 'authentic', not very zen. We should all just accept it and embrace that which can help our progress.

BTW I take exception to the 'hobbyist' tag, it's too serious for that. It's a lifetime's pursuit and passion for most good players. If you can only get respect by the act of 'playing out' then you could substitute any number of meaningless qualifications, like having plowed a field behind a mule. That's a bit silly in this day and age.

Basically it's a false dichotomy, it is what it is and we have what we have, good and bad.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2009, 08:34:19 PM by Rivers »

Offline Slack

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #39 on: January 22, 2009, 05:33:17 PM »
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BTW I take exception to the 'hobbyist' tag, it's too serious for that.

A serious hobby then.   :P

Offline Rivers

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #40 on: January 22, 2009, 06:06:03 PM »
Exactly, yes. 8) Here's a definition:

hob?by
n. pl. hob?bies
An activity or interest pursued outside one's regular occupation and engaged in primarily for pleasure.

It's much more serious than that if you're me but otherwise that's a fair description. So if it's not your primary means of earning a crust, I mean real $$, not open mics and blues societies, it's a hobby, apparently. Or a part time job.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2009, 06:10:49 PM by Rivers »

Offline blueshome

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #41 on: January 23, 2009, 02:13:46 AM »
Waxwing,  How many pianists are there around compared to guitar and harp players - 1%?, less?

BTW, a child of 10 could tell that Lightnin Hopkins, Muddy Waters etc were not single note players - downhome styles continued after the war, they just weren't massively popular especially when compared to the R&B singers backed by small combos or larger groups.

Yes BB.Fuller was a good seller but it doesn't change the thrust of my argument that in the main, solo guitarists were not the biggest sellers and that the black audience, both by their purchasing decisions, and from the bits of evidence we have from interviews, were interested in the lyrics and singing mostly, not the playing.

Hobbies - they quite often take over one's life, mine has! Still have to work though - to support the hobby.

Some people enjoy playing for their own satisfaction or that of family and friends, others get pleasure from playing in front of others - one is not "better" than the other, it's what works for the individual. Happily, we are all different or the world would be a boring old place with nothing left to discuss.


Offline Richard

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #42 on: January 23, 2009, 04:48:42 AM »
Quote
Well put, Phil.  Your points are clearly stated, coherent and make sense.

Damn, I must have missed that  ::)

As for learning (whatever the subject) personally I want to know what makes things work be they practical or theoretical and then with luck I can start figuring things out from examples. I also apply that to music so basically I'm with the Natterjack premise that you have to start somewhere and if you can see\listen to where it's coming from then it's a good start and then you have to work on your own. 

What else, ah yes, the old question. As for slavishly doing a copy of an original, well for a musical challenge great and probably very nice to listen to, but at the end of the day who's actually playing it? As an extreme example one of my daughters can sight read a jazz piano piece at 400 yeards upside down on dark night and (sometimes) sound like Ellington, but can she string two bars together on her own to put her own stamp on it - no chance!

Finally, come on Rivers if I can do it (badly) then so can you - post a little song on the back porch for us :P
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline dave stott

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #43 on: January 23, 2009, 05:40:30 AM »
Personally, I think that the country blues guitar players died out as a result of the advent of the juke-box.

Most players played to home parties, juke joints, etc... and they play loud to be heard over the noise of the dancing...  in some events, it probably did not matter what notes were played as long as it was loud and had a back-beat.

What I have seen by today's standards, most "hobbyist guitar players", would prefer to join in a group to jam.. Fingerpicking does not tend to allow for jams......

Where as country blues and fingerpickering players are still solo players by and large, you won't see 4-5 guitarists sitting around playing the same RGD or Big Bill tune at the same time.

What you do see is typically one person playing the tune and 4 others intently watching.

DVD lessons give me a window into a ton of musical genre's that I might not ever be exposed to in person.

Say what you will but I have yet to be able to learn by ear...

But give me 15 minutes in front of a person playing the tune or my watching the DVD or You Tube video and I can figure out the rest.

Dave

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: What will DVD and online instruction do to the Blues?
« Reply #44 on: January 23, 2009, 07:44:54 AM »

Happily, we are all different or the world would be a boring old place with nothing left to discuss.



When I was a student (back in the Dark Ages) on my bus journey home I used to pass a church in Bradford which often had words of wisdom on a noticeboard.  The best one I ever saw was;

"No two men are alike, and both are glad of it."
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
Barbecue Bob

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