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Learning Tunes On The Fly
Jody Kruskal posted a topic in Teaching and LearningLearning tunes on the fly is great fun and I’ve learned many Old-Time and English session tunes that way. Regardless of the the genre, when trying to learn a new tune at tempo, my strategy is to join in as soon as I can to pick up the harmony, rhythm and melody in that order. That means I can contribute and start playing right away, even if it’s just a few notes. I prefer to learn tunes from fiddlers, but Lisa Alcott from Up-state New York is such a fine banjo player that Uncle Charlie Lowe’s Tune soon became clear after a few passes. Listen to Lisa teach me this great old American D tune right here. http://jodykruskal.com/uncle_charlie_lowes_tune.html Notice how I play nothing at first, but soon come in with low chord notes to start. I fill in the chord root notes with guesses, then with more conviction as I get confirmation that my guesses sound good... or not so good with adjustments needed. Then I start getting the rhythm details and melody in snatches. I join her in bits and pieces and over the course of many repetitions I connect the dots and start exploring the contours of the tune on my G/D Jefferies Anglo concertina. All the time, I’m attempting to make music and join Lisa’s playing. I want my fumbling around in learning the tune to sound plausible as an accompaniment, at the very least. Like the Hippocratic oath, I am trying to learn the tune on the spot while not doing any harm to the music. I remember that at the time of this recording, my main concern was to play quietly enough to keep from drowning her out and to let the banjo lead. After six minutes, I still didn’t get the whole thing with all the details, only 90% or so. A few melody notes eluded me but I found all sorts of Anglo-centric ways to embellish the tune and play around with it. Lisa and I both traded octaves, playing high and low in turn, that was fun. The next step would have been for me to learn Lisa’s version slowly, note for note, just the way she plays it... but we ran out of time. Old-Time has become my favorite session genre because the learning curve is so easy. Old-Time musicians rarely play medley's and they are happy to play the same tune over and over ‘till they’re done. This makes learning on the fly so much fun at an Old-Time session. Even a session of two. Uncle Charlie Lowe’s Tune can be heard on a few youtube pages and I like this one the best: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-emvmP4_BSk Some interesting discussion about this tune can also be seen here: http://www.fiddlehangout.com/archive/28906