Thursday, May 16, 2002

Realized that when I'm on the computer I don't think about music... it's only when I log off and get up that I think "Oh, I wanted to enter something in that practice blog...."

Had a good middle-of-the-night session, starting with "Didn't He Ramble" in D. I hit the bass note only on the "one", sometimes with bass runs on the "four" and "four-and". The left-hand chording implied a 12/8 without being a literal statement like Fats Domino or Jerry Lee Lewis, more like a clave kind of spacing. After that I did a few fiddle tunes, moderate tempo with good timing, paying attention more to the beat and implied rhythm than to melodic complexities. After that I went back to sleep for a bit.

Still listening hard to Don Reno on Starday, and reading Trischka & Wernick's book of interviews with top banjo players. There are some good quotes:

"(Q) What do you think makes a good banjo player?" "(Don Reno:) The ability to fit himself in with the group he's playing with... You can never hear a banjo standing behind one the way somebody else can standing in front of it, and I've always had the fear of overriding somebody or playing too loud... I started singing and I couldn't hear myself myself for [another banjo player], and I thought to myself, 'Lord, am I doing that to other people?'"

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Music in Afghanistan: USA Today has an article on how the ruling political party, under the guise of religious righteousness, destroyed instruments, beat musicians, and imposed five years of silence on Afghanistan.
Monday night was a session at Ireland's. We actually started some tunes spontaneously.... ;-) Later on the group grew large, and "The March of the Kings of Laois" was a good one to sit out on. I've got a conflict with playing full-of-life, and playing straitlaced and rigid... when playing alone I vary phrasing and accenting constantly, but I can see how when playing with others it's good to pare all that stuff away.

Listening pretty much exclusively to Don Reno, and seem to be succeeding in wiring it in. I can't hit banjo phrasing consistently yet, but I'm playing with good note separation and accenting more often than not. I still need to grow an idiomatic vocabulary though.

New jigs include "Scatter the Mud" and "Smash the Windows"... both fun, good drive, haven't yet started them cold from memory. Still throwing in musette tunes... could pull back "Retour des Hirondelles", but totally lost the B section on "Jeanette". Getting 2-2.5 hours a day.

Monday, May 13, 2002

Fewer sessions this weekend than usual (I've spent a lot of time writing for work), but the time I did have was good. Went yesterday to a Berkeley potluck and sang more than I had before, also got a little bit of banjo-style playing in. Tempo was still an issue though... slow songs tend to speed up, fast songs tend to slow down, in a group there's a pressure to converge all tunes on a single tempo. When I'm trying to resist a change in tempo it's hard to keep singing. Still, it was a lot of fun, good folks.

Been listening to Reno & Smiley, and have been consistently thinking through banjo-style licks. On the accordion so much would depend on note duration, spacing, and accenting... it's a tough job. During the BART ride I was practicing-without-instrument by reading through a collection of Irish session tunes, hearing the melody and working out fingering.