Thursday, April 7, 2011

Beginner's 'How-to' workshop

Hey, did we ever have a good time at the Yarra Junction 29th Fiddler's Convention! It's not just for fiddlers, of course. Lot's of other stringband instruments are played. Lot's of jamming. A steady flow of concert brackets. A few hopping dances, both Cajun and Old Time. Oh, and workshops for all the common instruments and styles. Yeah, and a gospel sing on Sunday morning. Although, I don't partake as such.

I led a beginner's 'how-to' workshop that went so fine. We had a one hour session whereby I talked about some jamming strategies. Identifying the structure of the tune, finding similarities and differences with other tunes, lather-rinse-repeat with lots of listening, singing along, and finding other examples of the same tune. And, so on. Then, we jammed on Melvin Wine's Sugarbaby for awhile. I'd learned it from my friend, Justin, at the Blackwood festival in February. I love it when I learn an American tune from an Aussie, and bring it home with me. Sugarbaby is in the key of G, which I think is an accessible key for newbies. Easy open drones, and uncomplicated finger patterns

But, I do love to preach alternate tunings, so I was really hoping that we'd progress enough to get a D tune in. Yeah, we did quite well on Sugarbaby, so I proposed we try Uncle Henry in D from Violet Hensley. And, even though, it's a bit irregular, we noted that and proceeded.

Now of course, not everyone hit all the 'right' notes. But, folks persevered and found more and more 'right' notes as we repeated the tune over and over and over. And, you should know that we played at a good clip. Just slightly slower than I'd usually play it, but not much. And, not everyone tuned their G string up to an A, for what is called high bass tuning. And, being it was not a cross tuning workshop as such, I just wanted folks to notice that it was something that folks like to do, and understand a little bit more about why we love it.

A big thank you to my friend, Sue Dilley, for holding up the chord section of the workshop. Relatively new to guitar, Sue was a very clear help for people who were there to use chords. She coached on chords that fit, but also explained when some other chord variations would work as well. And, really clear about accentuating the bass runs. And, best of all, she organized folks to come back later for more jamming. Excellent. And, don't ya know, she organized them to come back the next day for another session. Most of the 30 from Saturday's workshop showed up again at the next 2 sessions.

Well, Sunday there was a blackboard concert on while we had our last session. The MC came by to ask if we wanted to take a bracket. Blackboard concerts are like open mics, in case you hadn't heard that term before. "Who wants to be in a band?", I asked. Just about all of them. Cool. So, we agreed that we'd play Sugarbaby, because by then, we'd played it in 3 differents sessions. "How about and Australian tune?", was my next question. We learned Railway Hotel. So, that got me to thinking, "How about a French Canadian tune?" So, we learned Fraises et Framboises.

Even I was amazed that the group was able to get up on stage and jam quite well after jamming on 2 brand new tunes for an hour. Exceptional. So, here's some sound files from that concert. Enjoy. Or, if you're one of the folks who attended the workshop, here's your souvenier and a reminder of the tune names and melody.


Railway Hotel

Strawberries and Raspberries

Thanks all !

Follow the link to 'Festival Recordings' on the right side for more festival recordings. I think I got some really good ones at this year Yarra Junction, so stay tuned for more new tunes.

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