Sunday, June 16, 2013

Whew! Now, what to work on next?

It's been a busy last couple of days...playing in Petersburg on Friday evening, Ashland Saturday morning, and Midnight Brewery Saturday afternoon in a four hour session that was one of the best I've ever taken part in.  I'm going to take today to rest and recuperate, and think of some things to work on next.
Petersburg performance, 6/14/13.
Me, Margaret, Kathy, Ken and Mark (L to R). Photo by Willie Graham.
For the last week or more I was pretty focused on better learning the tunes in the Petersburg set list.  Still some work to do there, but it allowed me to get better acquainted with a dozen or so standard Irish tunes that I should have already known.  Now that that's done, I can turn my attention to a few other things.

These of course include continuing to work on various trebles, triplets, hammer-ons, small chords/double stops and arpeggio variations, along with scale exercises.  Enda Scahill covers this really well in his Irish Banjo Tutor and the concepts can be applied to all tunes once you grasp them.  Another good exercise to transposing tunes to a lower or higher octave, and/or transposing certain phrases or tunes into other keys or modes.
Mighty Session at Midnight Brewery 6/15/13!
15 musicians and counting! Photo by Rick Sanderson.
I'd also like to direct my attention to improving my play-by-ear abilities.  It could just be playing along to midi files of common melodies such as When the Saints Go Marching In, or I might just jump to playing along with actual recordings.  For example, I just started listening to a great album by Norman and Nancy Blake with the Boys of the Lough called Rising Fawn Gathering.  It's got some nice tunes on it that I haven't heard before.  I don't even want to know the names of the tunes, what key they are in, or anything about them. I just want to listen and play along with a couple of them, trying to figure it out by ear.

I dig it when fiddlers get into Liz Carroll or accordion players get into Jacky Daly, for example, and then learn a lot of their tunes.  I'm almost ready for an influence like that.  Mine would be Angelina Carberry's An Traidisiun Beo CD.  I'd like to eventually make it a ritual of trying to soak up the tunes on that album, in her style.  For Oldtime, I could do the same type of thing with the Alan Jabbour and Ken Perlman album Southern Summits.
Now that I have a mandolin, it may be time to watch and learn from Norman Blake's oldtime mandolin DVD as well as Carl Jones' mandolin DVD, and Mike Seeger's CD/book on oldtime mandolin.  Anything I get from these can be applied to tenor banjo, my main instrument.  But it might be easier to initially learn on mandolin...the instrument the instructions are intended for.

Finally, or maybe at the top of my list, is learning the reel The Green Mountain.  It keeps showing up on CDs I am listening to.  I'm not sure if people locally play it, but I've got so many great versions of it collected - completely by random - that the tune must be calling out to me.  Today however, I am just going to relax and watch the US Open golf tournament with my dad.  I might play a little bit this evening to keep my fingers moving and continue my pledge to practice every day, but I will start fresh and focused tomorrow ready to apply some of the above mentioned tactics.

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