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Author Topic: Off-genre learning pursuits  (Read 2043 times)

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Offline Rivers

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Off-genre learning pursuits
« on: June 03, 2011, 06:57:10 PM »
Several members here work on other musical genres outside (but likely related, complementary and intertwined with) country blues so I thought I'd start a thread on this. Tell us what you're up to.

I've tried and failed to nail a respectable arrangement of many Cole Porter tunes over the years. His chord melody is deceptive, subtle and challenging for self-taught developing amateur jazzers like me. Night And Day though I finally got it recently. Absolutely wonderful song and I just love to play it. I like the Fred Astaire recording which has an Eddie Lang-esque guitar solo and many other understated high points. I believe the version I got from iTunes is from the soundtrack to the movie The Gay Divorcee. The intro is a really amazing piece of work. Works great on acoustic guitar.

We (me and the missus) have also been working on some other old standards. East of The Sun West of The Moon has been in the repertoire for a while, great, great tune. How High The Moon I've always loved and am working on memorizing so I don't have to think about it, so many changes, tough but worth the effort. In the Hoagy Carmichael bag Stardust & Baltimore Oriole are now pretty solid. Both of those totally do it for me.

So, that's my standards and show tunes confession. What's challenging you in the other genres department?

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Off-genre learning pursuits
« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2011, 09:35:43 PM »
Sounds like fun Rivers. I can only play what you've all heard me do here though I am interested in learning and relearning Union songs by Woody Guthrie and others from the first three decades of the twentieth century. The time is right. The other music I'm passionately involved with , Baroque & classical, I have no way of playing, which I find kind of maddening, so I've taken to trying to memorize pieces in my head via sound only, I don't read, for internal playback only of course. At first this would just happen as a matter of course, I'd listen to a great performance of Beethoven's sixth symphony, Furtwangler with the Vienna symphony from the early fifties for example and large sections would rerun in my mind for days afterwards. After a while I began to enjoy this internal sound system so much that I began trying more deliberately to memorize sections of pieces, or even whole pieces a section at a time. At this point I can recall a good deal of all 9 Beethoven symphonies, his Piano concertos, a few of his quartets & Trios and a fair amount of Bach Choral and keyboard music particularly his B minor mass. I've got odd bits of Handel & Hayden, a good bit of Mozart, with emphasis on his piano concertos and late symphonies, some Schubert trios, and various other snippets from here and there. I tend to reproduce the actual recordings rather than just a melodic line. I also enjoy memorizing the differences in particular performances one from another though that gets pretty tricky and is probably not so reliable. On occasion I've tried to Glenn Gould hum my way through a piece usually with horrible results. I love having these things in my head however.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
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Offline Rivers

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Re: Off-genre learning pursuits
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2011, 09:52:35 AM »
O'Muck maybe you could dabble in classical & flamenco guitar a little bit. There are plenty of baroque guitar pieces out there, Vivaldi, Bach, Sanz, Sor. Reading would help but there are other ways to skin a cat as we all know.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Off-genre learning pursuits
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2011, 12:42:33 PM »
I've thought of that , but because i have some LD issues reading music is especially effortful (read impossible) for me. Plus I'm not a huge fan of classical guitar, or Jazz guitar. There is something about the aesthetics of the actual sounds being sought after by players in both genres that I don't love, as contrasted with the solid semi-percussive steely and big woody sound of our type of music here at Weenie. No if I were doing it I'd want it to be via piano and that just ain't in the cards at this late date. Its OK though, sometimes its nice just being a passenger albeit a backseat driver. But if i ever post a Gary Davis version of part of Beethoven's seventh symphony, don't be surprised. I've messed with it....ridiculous but kind of fun.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline Slack

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Re: Off-genre learning pursuits
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2011, 04:42:55 PM »
O'Muck's off genre dabbling sounds so erudite and sophisticated compared to mine, I'm a little embarrassed.   :P

I have an acoustic trio called 'Johnny Swingo' (also known as 'Johnny Swingo and His Drinking Problem') that play western swing and jump blues. We've only performed a few times. It is tough to get together (bass player lives 45 miles away and is busy)... and this music demands much practice. We don't exatly suck, but music is a challenge for us all, some of the keys are a bit beyond my vocal range (and you'd think I'd find a better key), but to give you and idea here is a one hour set list of a performance last Nov. 30th.

1. Cotton Patch Blues (Bflat)
2. Miss Molly (G)
3. Down Boy Down (C)
4. Basin Street (Bflat)  (<= Johnm helped set me straight on this one)
5. Six Pack to Go (A)
6. T-Bone Shuffle (G)
7. Sheik of Araby (G)
8. No More Hard Times Blues (D)
9. Humming to Myself (A)
10. Ain?t Misbehavin? (G)
11. Milk Cow Blues (A)
12. Saturday Night Fish Fry (G)

And then a rockabilly group called 'Slackabilly' - rockabilly and jump blues.  Lots of fun, easier to play and drink beer at the same time.  :P  Swingo is on hiatus (bass player out for the summer), so the other guitarist (who is primarily a blues guitarist) and I fill the time by working on Slackabilly stuff.  He is in both bands and we overlap some of the repertoire.  Here is a link to Slackabilly's version of Saturday Night Fish Fry (off the mixer, hadn't been playing long, but not bad)

http://kenstuff.weebly.com/uploads/4/9/2/0/4920325/saturday_night_fish_fry.mp3

For solo fooling around I've been switching between working on a few Sheiks tunes (Frankie has such a great resource), trying to get a few tunes ready for Port Townsend and Them's version of 'Baby Please Don't Go'  (I'm revisiting my adolesence :P )




« Last Edit: June 04, 2011, 04:44:37 PM by Slack »

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Off-genre learning pursuits
« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2011, 06:36:38 PM »
I'd say thats a pretty damned ambitious musical agenda Mr. Dodson! Sounds fun too. Lots of plates in the air!
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Slack

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Re: Off-genre learning pursuits
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2011, 06:48:41 PM »
Too many plates, country blues has suffered greatly, but i really enjoy playing with others and you are right - it is a ton of fun, pure recreation.

Offline eric

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Re: Off-genre learning pursuits
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2011, 07:03:33 PM »
Oh yes:

Quote
Gary Davis version of part of Beethoven's seventh symphony
--
Eric

Offline dj

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Re: Off-genre learning pursuits
« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2011, 05:43:50 AM »
Hey, O'Muck, get yourself a viola da gamba.  Six strings, tuned in fourths, with one third thrown in, frets - sound familiar?  You just have to learn to bow.  And if you can't read music, there's the English lyra-viol repertoire, which is mostly written in tab. 

Buying a viol and relearning how to play is number 15 on my list of 1,000 things to do when I retire in 8 or 10 years.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Off-genre learning pursuits
« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2011, 10:20:53 AM »
Ya' know I'm gonna look into that viola da Gamba idea. There must be some decent cheap Chinese ones being made and a friend of mine imports violins and their larger cousins from The People's Republic. Hmmm. Bowed like a cello but with a higher arched bow right? Tied on movable frets?
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline dj

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Re: Off-genre learning pursuits
« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2011, 12:21:50 PM »
Quote
Bowed like a cello but with a higher arched bow right? Tied on movable frets?

Yep.  The bow is a bit less taut than a cello bow, and held underhand with a finger on the hairs so you can vary the pressure on the hairs.  Slack it off and you can get a good three string chord.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Off-genre learning pursuits
« Reply #11 on: June 05, 2011, 07:14:46 PM »
Slack, great you're still doing the rockabilly thing, I miss my last band but it just didn't work out. Still rocking out regularly to Johnny Burnette, Carl Perkins, Ronnie Hawkins, Brian Setzer, on and on, on the stereo though. My Gretsch '59 reissue single cutaway is hanging on the wall, looking at me sadly, as I type.

IMO blues, jazz and rockabilly are a nice triangle, skills learned in each area enhancing the others.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Off-genre learning pursuits
« Reply #12 on: June 06, 2011, 07:27:02 AM »
I'm learning old-time banjo. I've been working on clawhammer and some two- and three- finger picking styles, and while I always knew I would like to learn the banjo, I didn't know I would like it so much. It may seem odd given the number of ain't-them-banjos-obnoxious sorts of jokes in the universe, but I find it a very contemplative instrument to play. It can get pretty trance-y, and boy is it fun.

That said, I don't consider old-time really that much off-genre and a lot of material in the two types of music is obviously closely related. I've been dabbling in some black banjo styles too, so the blues is all over that stuff.

I need more hours in the day though.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Off-genre learning pursuits
« Reply #13 on: June 06, 2011, 08:50:24 AM »
I once had a nice Fairbanks from the turn of the century but never put the necessary time in to learn. It got passed along to one of my students. I regret not getting it down however. I do know what you mean about the contemplative trance like quality it can impart.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline lindy

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Re: Off-genre learning pursuits
« Reply #14 on: June 06, 2011, 09:22:23 AM »

My road to trance-like nirvana goes through West Africa. I've been spending a lot of time working on material taught by Cheick Hamala, Mohammed Kouyate, and Moussa Konate at Port Townsend three years ago.

It is very different from country blues in that the licks and riffs I'm practicing are meant to serve as a bed for solos by other guitarists, bolofon players, etc. In African pop there's always at least one guitarist whose sole function is to pick a basic pattern with variations throughout the tune--but that guitarist does not play solos, that task is given to someone else. Variations are subtle and layered. It's nothing like learning a set of individual songs in country blues or other idioms.

My capo now lives somewhere between the 5th and 7th frets, and my B string is often tuned up to C, where it serves as a drone note. My fingerpicking skills have benefited big time by the requirement of combining two independent rhythms into a single groove, I am training my middle finger to act independently of my thumb and index finger. Adding a third rhythm is really tough.

As the three teachers emphasized again and again, tempo is central to African music, so this is really supportive of my country blues playing.

L


Offline Rivers

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Re: Off-genre learning pursuits
« Reply #15 on: June 06, 2011, 06:31:47 PM »
Very cool lindy, keep at it. I love that stuff but have never gotten my fingers around it. I like to dabble with Zimbabwe roots rock guitar party triplety stuff on a strat though. It's tough finding a band that is willing to get anywhere near it.

UB, so you have sold your soul to the clawhammer devil. You have inspired me to have another run at it. I got the clawhammer pattern down (it took ages) and love that percussive feel of bopping the thumb on the banjo head, but everything I end up doing is in sawmill tuning mainly because it's how I hear what I want to produce. Also I positively hate retuning it to different tunings all the time which is career-limiting in the banjo world. But I've got a good really clawhammer banjo so I should just get on with it probably and resign myself to doing my own thing.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Off-genre learning pursuits
« Reply #16 on: June 07, 2011, 05:19:55 AM »
I'd say I am playing clawhammer around half the the time, and then playing other picking styles.

One can always acquire more banjos for dealing with tunings.  >:D But I guess I've gotten used to it and am more willing to retune the banjo, moreso than a guitar, because of the different tuning requirements of the songs I want to play. From G tuning, Sawmill is just a question of raising one string, C tuning to play Gus Cannon is a question of lowering one string, and even something like Dock Boggs' f#CGAD tuning is quick enough to get into, though does sometimes make me think "bring me another banjo."

Offline dj

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Re: Off-genre learning pursuits
« Reply #17 on: June 07, 2011, 06:12:54 AM »
Quote
C tuning to play Gus Cannon is a question of lowering one string

Interesting.  I've been playing around a tiny bit with Gus' music in a totally uneducated way, and have been doing so with the banjo tuned as if the top 4 strings were Vestapol - DF#AD.  What do you use for the C tuning?

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Off-genre learning pursuits
« Reply #18 on: June 07, 2011, 07:32:59 AM »
dj, the tuning Gus uses on a lot of his songs is gCGBD. So to get into it from standard G tuning on the banjo, you just drop the 4th string from D to C. I haven't check them all, but songs like Jonestown Blues, Wolf River Blues, Tired Chicken Blues, Riley's Wagon and others use this tuning at various pitches (sometimes pitched a bit lower, if I recall correctly). It is apparently less common to use it these days than it was back in the 19th century and start of the 20th, with Double C tuning (gCGCD) often preferred now, though I am no expert. C tuning means you have the root on the bass string, and your home position for the I chord is o0012.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2011, 07:35:30 AM by uncle bud »

Offline dj

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Re: Off-genre learning pursuits
« Reply #19 on: June 07, 2011, 07:55:58 AM »
Thanks, uncle bud.  You've just cleared up a lot of mystery and tripled my banjo knowledge.    :D

Offline eagle rockin daddy

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Re: Off-genre learning pursuits
« Reply #20 on: June 07, 2011, 06:29:47 PM »
Interesting thread, my first instrument was clawhammer banjo, I have a beautiful old Gatcomb, and play it sometime, and sometimes (rarely) I learn a new song on it, because that's how I hear it in my head.  Most recently, Jim Ringer's Rose of San Jauqin, and Utah Phillips 'Ship Gonna Sail.'

I have a great dreadnaught guitar, with a high action, medium strings and I love to pound on it with a heavy pick and play bluegrass and real country, and I generally do this once a week with some friends. I recently have started going to a local old-time jam, and I really really love playing rhythm guitar for old time music.  Playing simple bass runs, and driving the groove is just so much fun, I sort of go into a trance.

O'Muck, I would dearly love to hear you interpret the classical pieces you mention through the lens of Rev. Davis, Son House, and all the greats that you channel so well.  Your technique is amazing, and you are so musical and musically creative in these genres that I know your would blow us away.  I mean if Rev. Davis can play Sousa marches, I am 110% sure you could play Beethoven.  You have already done the hardest part, you have the music in your head.

Mike

Offline Rivers

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Re: Off-genre learning pursuits
« Reply #21 on: June 17, 2011, 05:43:59 PM »
I want to see O'Muck fingerpicking Beethoven's 5th on acoustic complete with cannon fire, smoke machines, fireworks, the Marseilles, the whole nine yards...

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Off-genre learning pursuits
« Reply #22 on: June 17, 2011, 08:37:23 PM »
I think you just described Tchikovsky's 1812 overture there Rivers....hmmmmm now that's an idea!
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Rivers

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Re: Off-genre learning pursuits
« Reply #23 on: June 18, 2011, 07:12:03 PM »
Well of course I totally knew that, in the back of my mind. 1812 O/T, of course, what a dope I am sometimes. Should listen to more CM on a regular basis.

Still into jazz standards here. I need more Cole Porter in my repertoire. Played informally at an informal wake after the service for a good pal who passed unexpectedly last week in Blanco TX. We got some really nice unsolicited comments during- and after which was touching and motivating. Played a bunch of blues, jazz and related forms.

People here don't know quite what to make of me, a Brit deep in the heart of Texas playing pretty eclectic material, but I seem to be accepted, so that's pretty cool. Really nice people. Texas rocks, it ain't all rednecks.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2011, 07:40:07 PM by Rivers »

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