Monday, April 6, 2009

Whistling Dixie

Well, I'm back up in the northern hemisphere. No moss growing under my feet, I spent a few days at home and I'm traveling again. Next up MerleFest in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. In the meantime, I'll be visiting with friends and rellies in the American south. Yes, I am very lucky to be able to do all of this traveling. There's about 1600 miles on the trip odometer now. That's about 2,575 km's for you metrically inclined readers.

I've been spending a bit of time reviewing my last chunk of time in Oz and the tunes I learned along the way. I'm liking that Possum's Tail is Bare and Crow Little Rooster. Working on Jeff Sturgeon and John Henry. And, Laughing Boy is a big favorite back in Albany, NY. I have to say that it was extremely impressive to see the way musicians pulled together to raise money for the bush fire appeal. I'm always impressed at what non-commercial music can do to bring people closer to each other for the sake of being together and not necessarily for the sake of making money. But, here was a stellar example of music being the focal point for bringing relief to folks in need.

And, hey thanks to the folks who made a banjo handy for me to play with along the way. I've got a fretless back home, but played on fretful ones in Oz. Very good for my technique, if you can call what I do technique. I seemed to have picked up an easy natural bum-ditty style from the past 10 years of hanging with my banjo playing buddies. Then, with some YouTube lessons from Cathy Moore and others, I've got a sense of where the chords and melody notes might be. Enough for a recipe for some banjo fun.

No worries, I'm still more of a fiddle jammer than a banjo jammer. But, if you're wondering about taking up a second or third or fourth instrument, here's my opinion.... it's all good. When I come back to the fiddle after doodling with the banjo, there are things that become clear about the fiddle. Like the uke, the banjo is helping me to get a stronger gut feeling about chords and chord changes. There are rhythmic things that I can try on the fiddle now that I understand what it takes to get that rhythm on a banjo or uke or mando. Rather than taking away from my fiddle skills, I find that learning about other instruments adds to my fiddle skills. Sometimes it's the paradox that makes the most sense.

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