Saturday, April 16, 2011

Tishomingo String Band, Sarah Wheeler and Fantini, Wood & Wells playing Vancouver BC on May 27th

Anyone whose going to be in the Vancouver area in a moth's time is invited to a concert featuring two groups I play with. Here is the poster...

Tishomingo String Band is high energy offbeat bluegrass, Fantini, Wood & Wells is somewhat of a classical/bluegrass hybrid and Sarah Wheeler is a fantastic singer/songwriter.

Not sure if I'll be joining Ms. Wheeler onstage on the 27th but have played with her in the past. This is a video clip from a Haiti Benefit a little over a year ago...

If you're going to be in town at that time be sure to mark it down in the old calander.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mr. Mouth

This here is an instrumental I wrote that goes by the name of Mr. Mouth.

We play this one regularly with The Tishomingo String Band but I thought I would record a solo banjo version for those of you that are into that kind of thing.

Here it is...

If anyone is interested in the tab let me know and I'll put it up.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Exploring Blackberry Blossom - Part IV Abstract Break

So far in this micro series we've covered a simple backup arrangement, a low single string break and a high break. For this, the forth and final chapter, we'll look at what I'll be calling an abstract break.

Perhaps abstract is not the most correct term. Fantasia? Noodlefest? Whatever we call it what I am refering to is a break which is not tied down to the melody. It uses the melody in quite a few places and the melody remains the bedrock foundation on which it grows but from that place it sort of meanders into the twilight zone (not much, just a little).

Have a listen here and then I will explain a little.

The first part of the break picks descending chord inversions with a forward/revers roll. I pick a dead note (muted with the left hand) on the 'and' after the 2 beat. I like the sound of dead notes occasionally. Here are the pros and cons of dead notes as I see it:

Pros: Creates a nice contrast with the more common ringing notes and provides an interresting percussive effect

Cons: Can sound like you messed up while trying to fret a note

The next part begins ascending chord inversions with some chromatic sliding movement on the third string.

After that it returns, for the most part, to single string melody playing for the rest of the A section.

For the B section I begin with an Em arpeggio which ascends a fair ways up the neck. For the B chord I play B diminished tones. The second time it returns to the B chord I also use B diminished chord tones only this time in triplet form.

That's the general gist of it. Hope you enjoyed these posts on Blackberry Blossom. It was suggested on the Banjohangout forums by Grumpy7 that we do more of these 'Exploring' series with different standards so I am going to try to do that as well and as regular as possible.

Write a quick comment if you have a favourite standard you think might be good for the 'Exploring' thing.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Exploring Blackberry Blossom - Part III High Break

The last post in this series covered a low single string break for Blackberry Blossom. Once you've gone as low as you possibly can there's only one to go: up.

For the high Blackberry break we begin with some single string way up at the 17th fret of the first string. We stay on the first string for a while, shifting the index finger back whenever neccesary (to the 16th and then the 14th fret) and then use a bit of a melodic escape at the end of measure 2 to skip back to 7th position. The 2nd half of the A section (measures 5-8) is the same as the first only with a slightly different ending.

The B section veers away from the single string technique to a forward/ reverse roll barring at the 12th fret and adding and removing the 14th fret on the first string as neccesary.

Because I wanted to make this high break as high as humanly possible I put a jump up to the 22nd fret on the first string over the B chord.

The end of the B section returns to single string on the melody.

Here is the arrangement in tablature form (click for a larger image)

And here is what it sounds like.

Also, for anyone looking for backing tracks to play the break along with there are some in mp3 form here;

NEXT: Exploring Blackberry Blossom Part IV: Abstact Break

Monday, April 4, 2011

Exploring Blackberry Blossom Part II: Low Break

Last post we covered a simple backup arrangement for the Blackberry Blossom. In this post we will explore some single string picking with a sweet and low Blackberry break.

For those of you not familiar with single string playing it is a technique similar to scalewise guitar playing whereby a single string is often plucked several times in a row (in Scruggs and melodic styles the same string is rarely plucked twice in a row) traditionally alternating the thumb and index finger of the picking hand.

Some players prefer using the thumb and middle for singlestring playing and others favour a TITM pattern. I find the TITM pattern is best for generating speed but tend to use TITI for most everyday single string.

This arrangement brings the melody an octave lower than the standard Keith style arrangement. Because the banjo runs out of lower notes at the D I bring things up the octave when necesary.

The break stays somewhat true to the original melody in the A section and then steps a little more into its own in the B section. I really love playing on the low D string; something about the big wound string and how it just crackles and pops.

Here is the arrangement for you in tablature form (click on the image to make it larger).

Here is what it sounds like slow.

And here it is a little faster (threw in a couple alternate licks in this one)

As always let me know if you have any questions.

NEXT: Exploring Blackberry Blossom Part III: High Break

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Exploring Blackberry Blossom Part I: Simple Backup

Blackberry Blossom is one of the most common and popular bluegrass instrumentals. It's melody posesses both an intangible 'prettiness' and an infectious cadence which set it apart from the hordes of similar tunes.

It was first popularized on the banjo by Bill Keith and was one of his very first melodic arrangements. It has since become a standard almost every bluegrass banjo player learns at some point in his education.

The purpose of the series of posts I am writing on Blackberry Blossom is not to teach the standard Keith derived banjo arrangement (I will cover it breifly for those not familliar with it) but to explore various possibilities for playing banjo on the song. Anyone reading this blog is welcomed and encouraged to try out the ideas and arrangements presented in these posts in any and all playing scenarios as well as to play around with the concepts and develop their own variations.

For this, the initial Blackberry post, we will look at a simple backup arrangement using a diatonically descending bass line. It is easy enough to play and I personally find descending basslines quite appealing. (This arrangement also works for the Greatful Dead's 'Friend of the Devil' with a few minor adjustments).

Here is the arrangement in tablature form (click on it to get the larger image)

And here is what it sounds like.

As always let me know if you have any questions.

Bonus: Here is a standard Keith Style version of the melody.

NEXT UP: Exploring Blackberry Blossom Part II : Low Single String Break