Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Wolf Is At The Door

Here's another tab with a canine theme again from Rambler's Choice's Blue Side of the Blue Ridge CD. This time it's in B, and it's a fairly straight ahead break. I think it demonstrates nicely how to create some interest and variety while keeping mostly around the same position on the fretboard. It contains a lot of the classic staple stuff you need to play in B.

Tab for The Wolf Is At The Door.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

You Let The Dog Off The Chain

Here's the whole break I was talking about in the post about the B to E lick. Here's the tab. This is from the Junior Sisk and Rambler's Choice CD Blue Side of the Blue Ridge. This isn't one of those masterpiece solos, it just demonstrates some good options and first position scales for the key of E, and although it presents a couple of small challenges, you don't have to be Chris Thile to play it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Shady Grove

Here's a version of Shady Grove. I changed the chords a bit to make it more blues-y. See what you think.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

John Diamond's mandolin videos

It's well worth taking a look at John Diamond's channel on YouTube, where he goes by the name of dukeofearlbanjo. He's got some great new mandolin videos posted, mostly covering a monroe-style approach. He also has some excellent material on other bluegrass instruments, and some of his original songs posted. I believe he has had songs recorded by Spring Creek.

He also has a collection of banjo fingerpicks - until I saw his videos I did not even know people collected them. It turns out that certain ones will fetch a high price, so don't throw them out until you've checked, banjo pickers!

Midnight On The Water

Here's a version I did of this old time song by Luke Thomasson for the Mandolin Cafe group. My version is based on Butch Baldassari's from his CD "A Day In The Country".

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Useful Lick - B to E

Here's a great little lick that takes you from B to E very nicely (for songs in the key of E) and will spice up the end of any break. You can take it down one string and it will lead from E to A in the key of A, and move it around a bit to make it fit in G, C or D and all the other keys. Work it up until you can play it at a good speed like 110 or 115 bpm, then slot it in your next improvised break. It has a great rhythm and feel.

You can hear this played on "You Let The Dog Off The Chain" on Junior Sisk and Rambler's Choice's CD Blue Side Of The Blue Ridge. I believe the mandolinist on that album was Chris Harris. Maybe the lick sounds like a little dog barking - that's a good way to remember it.

It's very tempting to use too much left hand finger pressure when playing a lick like this - avoid it at all costs, it hurts your fingers and makes it too hard to play the slides. I've found it worthwhile finding and practicing the minimum pressure I need to make the notes ring out, but not sound clipped or whispery. It takes me a lot of practice.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Albino Skunk Bluegrass Festival

I went to the Albino Skunk Bluegrass Festival in Greer, SC this weekend, and it exceeded my expectations. I used to have quite a romantic idea of what a bluegrass festival was like, until I started going to a few, but the ASBF really took me back to what I hoped it was all going to be about.

We couldn't leave town until late on Friday, we got there just before 9pm. It was dark and raining and the parking lot was a muddy field - but no so bad that I couldn't park pretty easily. We walked down the hill and between a stand of bamboo and some trees we could see fires lit and smoking in the rain. I'm not good at estimating crowds, but there were probably about 100 people around the stage and several dozen more hanging out under cover. People were camping in tents nearby, and everyone had brought their kids and their dogs. The band I really came all that way to see, the Infamous Stringdusters, came on at 9pm. Even though there was no cover near the stage I had to go down there and stand in the pouring rain to hear them along with all the other folks. The Stringdusters were excited to be there - they are all excellent musicians in their own right, but they work together so well. Jesse Cobb on Mandolin, Andy Falco on guitar, I don't think I should need to say more. Jeremy Garret's fiddle work is totally distinctive and right on. They created a great atmosphere, and that along with the falling rain, the bonfires, and the excitement of the fans made it well worth the trip just for that set. I suppose you might see a better bluegrass band in your lifetime, but the odds are not in your favor.

We stayed the following day, and saw the Steep Canyon Rangers (just off their tour with Steve Martin), Junior Sisk and Rambler's Choice (awesome straight ahead bluegrass), and Town Mountain (well worth checking out), among an assortment of other bands - a few with electric instruments and doing country or roots type music rather than strict bluegrass, but the mix was enjoyable.

If you were only ever going to go to one bluegrass festival, then you know I think I would make it the Albino Skunk. You couldn't really do better. It was kind of rainy and kind of cold, but it just added to the great atmosphere. The crowd was enthusiastic and well behaved, and it didn't hurt that you are allowed to bring your own cooler filled with whatever makes you happy for the show. The only thing that was missing was some off-stage jamming, I hope the organizers will do more to encourage that in future. Maybe next year...

Rambler's Choice

Steep Canyon Rangers

Town Mountain

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Up In The Woods

Here's a new tune I'm working on. This is from John Reischman's CD of the same name from 1999. It's a collection of bluegrass instrumentals that are not so blazingly fast and tricky, with slower tempos and more emphasis on tone and dynamics. Although instantly appealing, the collection doesn't set the world on fire, but it certainly repays some careful study. I'm going to try to do my own version of the song, but in the meantime here's the tab for Up In The Woods. It's still not quite perfect but I think it's closer to the CD version than any other tab I could find out there.

Here's me trying to play it:

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Rights Of Man

Here's a great little tune that I learned for the Mandolin Cafe Song A Week group - if you're into celtic music this tune will be old news to you but it's new to me. What I play is similar to the tab on mandozine, with a few differences and an improvised middle section. Here are the chords, which are just what I made up:

A part
|: Em / Em / Am / Bm /
Em / Em / Am Bm Em / :|

B part
|: Em / Em / Am / Bm /
Em D G Bm Em Bm Em :|

If you are new to celtic music, I should point out that my version is not much like what you will hear at a traditional session.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sausage Biscuit

Here's a new tune I wrote this week. I've called it Sausage Biscuit. I'll develop a nicer version with an improvised section eventually, but I just wanted to get the main head down and see what people think of it. Here's the tab.