Zac, with his dad Todd in tow, came by the Tip Jar Jam last night to say goodbye. This coming Sunday, after he gets off of work at 3 pm, he will head for Nashville where, for the next 13 months, he will be going to Diesel Mechanic School. He will, of course, be taking his banjo! But if I know Zac, he won't let his banjo playing get in the way of his school. He has been Raised Right and I'm sure he will Go Far. (To quote from Ferrol Sams!)
Zac couldn't even play his banjo last night because he'd just had some sort of vaccination (required for school) and his shoulder was sore and his fingers wouldn't work right. So he just sat and listened and read back issues of Bluegrass Unlimited. He did pick up my guitar for one number, Daybreak in Dixie, while I was playing banjo. Thanks, Zac! We're gonna miss you when you're gone!
We had 7 students at the Wednesday jam. Regulars Scott, Bob A, Bob Mc, and Barbara welcomed Gary, on guitar, who comes occasionally and Jon, on banjo, who had gone missing for quite a few months due to his work schedule. He's off now on Tuesday and Wednesday so we hope he will become a regular again. We also were happy to have one of Casey's beginning students, Mark, who was attending his first-ever jam. (And probably had no idea he would end up in this blog!)
It's gotta be scary--and intimidating--to attend your first jam (even a friendly student jam!) and Mark was content to sit and listen for a while. He does know his vamp chords (G, C, and D in the "F" shape) but, as you all know, it's one thing to know them and another thing to be able to actually MOVE them! He seemed to be doing well, catching on the the fact that most of our songs start in G chord and then change to C and back to G and then on to D! I tried to point out the one that didn't follow this pattern: John Hardy, Lonesome Road Blues, and even Blue Ridge Cabin Home. Since I control the jam with an Iron Fist (as I told him!) I made sure we stayed in the Key of G for a long time, so he could get familiar with this one key.
Finally, we capoed to A. Mark also did well here. He didn't need to use a capo since he wasn't going to be playing lead so I showed him how to move his G chord up two frets to make the A chord, and to move his D chord up two frets to make the E chord. Our first song in the key of A was John Henry (not John Hardy!) which Bob A has just learned to sing and it only uses those two chords--which is why I called for it! Mark really did seem to understand the concept, so now I'm thinking that when I teach chording in A, maybe I should FIRST have the students chord without the capo and call the chords by their real names (A, D, E) which is something I've always shied away from. Food for thought.....
Our C song singers (lovely alliteration!) weren't present so we didn't do anything in the key of C.
After Mark got a tiny bit more comfortable, I asked him if he would play a tune if the other banjos played lead with him. Doing that is an easy way to break into playing in a group. He was willing and chose Cumberland Gap. He set the pace and then we all sorta jumped in with him. Before we started, I reminded him that if he made a mistake he had to keep going because that's what the rest of us would be doing. He did very well. We did two other numbers that way, I Saw The Light (as an instrumental) and Cripple Creek, and it seemed like the more we played, the better and more comfortable Mark got. I hope you come back, Mark. You done good!
There was an interesting Gary moment when Bob A was singing Wreck of the Old 97. Gary can take a guitar lead on any song whether he knows the song or not. Naturally, if he has never heard the melody, his breaks tend to be "free form"--in perfect rhythm but with little melody. However, when he was taking his break on Wreck of the Old 97, all of a sudden I heard all this melody coming out. I looked up at him, and he said (while playing), "MTA!" I knew exactly what he meant: The melody of Wreck of the Old 97 is the same melody of Charlie and the MTA!
Gary also helped Scott and me out when we were playing Sally Goodwin. Scott has been working hard on Sally Goodwin, which, IMHO, is one of Earl's hardest tunes. It's hard to play and it's hard to HEAR, and few people can play it like Earl. (I get close, but no cigar, especially on that down-the-neck entrance to the B part. I can't "hear" it--but Casey can and plays it beautifully!) Scott is making great strides but he is having trouble coming back in for his break. So I told him we would play it in the jam and I would coach Gary how to play the rhythm on the guitar. The pattern is simple: G,G,G,G / G,G,D,G. Over and over and over. But if you lose your place--and don't know the song--it's really really hard to get back in. Gary was very receptive to being coached (especially after I let him borrow my Martin!) and he came through like a champ. Scott did really well, also, even though he was almost "banjoed out" from a two-hour lesson before the jam! We'll get 'er next time, Scott!
So this pretty much concludes my jam about the blog. What follows is some overly-detailed stuff about Sally Goodwin, a gross indulgence on my part. I'm not going to delete it because it took a lot of thinking to remember all this! And it was a pleasurable trip down memory lane, to the days of when I was first learning the banjo!
Sally Goodwin Stuff
I have a special spot in my heart for Sally Goodwin since I first learned to play it "wrong." I was using the Earl Scruggs BOOK (!) and the timing written on the page never made any sense to me. (I can read music just enough to hurt my playing, to mis-quote the old saying.) And the playing of Earl and the Foggy Mountain Boys on the record is SO confusing, with the bass playing "backwards" through much of the song. (Instead of "1, 5" it's "5, 1".) I could play the A part just fine, but not understanding the song or the rhythm, I altered my playing of the B part to make it fit with where I heard beat "1" on the record. (It's complicated!) My timing came out fine in the end, but I wasn't playing it like Earl, which eventually came to bother me, so I relearned it. But in order to relearn it, I pretty much had to count out the B part note by note: one-e-and-uh, two-e-and-uh.
I wasn't even aware I was playing it "wrong" until the Flint Hill Flash mentioned it to me. He said he had heard me play Sally Goodwin on stage and that when I started into the up-the-neck B part--which was "wrong" to his Earl-trained ear--he had wondered at the time how I was going to make up for those notes I left out! He said, "I don't know how you did it, but you were never out of time!" His comment led me back to some serious Sally Goodwin study! I can now play Earl's up-the-neck B part pretty much like he played it, but, truth to tell, I still can't "hear" Earl's first four notes in the up-the-neck B part! And I reckon I never will! I'll leave that to Casey.
IN CASE YOU CARE (serious navel gazing here!): In the up-the-neck B part, I had left out Earl's first three notes--the "one-e-and-uh"--and had started my B part on Earl's beat "2." I can still hear in my head how I played it. That meant I had to make up those notes at the end of my B part--which I did-- but without consciously thinking about it. I have since heard many excellent Scruggs-style banjo players play it the same "wrong" way that I did. It's nice to know that I'm not the only one who has had trouble with Sally Goodwin! So, all this to say that I feel your pain, Scott! Been there done that! In spades!
Okay, I got WAY too carried away and am including pictures! ARRRGGGHH.....What is wrong with me????