Thursday, February 28, 2008

Beginner's Instructional Jam

This particular group of students has been meeting every other Monday to learn how to play music and jam with others. We cover just about anything you can think of in this instructional jam session, including song structure, chord structure (the Nashville Number system), taking breaks, "fake" breaks, singing lead & harmony, how to find your "key" to sing in, fill-in licks, jamming etiquette, etc.

We always have a really good time playing, and most of the time someone brings some food for us to share. Yea!!! I am posting a video of our latest session. Everyone looks like they are either scared to death or bored, but believe me, we were having a great time until I got my camera out!!! I am SO PROUD of everyone. Each person in the group sings lead on whatever songs they have chosen. We all sing on the choruses, and several sing harmony as well. It is amazing to see how far each individual has come since we started.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Simple Guitar Runs

I had an e-mail today from someone asking how to do simple guitar runs for the chords G, C & D. I thought I might as well just post it up here for everyone. This video is just a very short and simple explanation of how to make the runs. Look below the video clip for some more links.

To hear what the runs sound like, listen to these short mp3 files. They are good to practice with because they keep playing the individual runs over and over again.

G Run

C Run

D Run

All three runs - G C D G

Worried Man Blues with runs

Here is tab for the runs (click to make it larger or to print it):

Monday, February 25, 2008

Practicing or Playing?

Which one do you do? Did you even know there is a difference? How much time should be spent on each one? These are very valid questions, and certainly worth looking at to get the most out of your time.

In my opinion, "practicing" is time spent working on songs that need work. You are in the process of learning them. You have issues such as:
1) Memorization
2) Speed
3) Left-hand clarity and/or dexterity
4) Right-hand fingering or bowing
and so on...

"Playing" is the time you spend having fun with the songs you already know pretty well and/or maintaining what you already know.

As your reportoire increases, it becomes impossible to play through every song you know every time you play, so you must spend some time practicing and some time playing.

Generally, I work on (practice) several songs at the same time. I spend the majority of my time practicing. I may practice the same song, or part of the same song, over and over again 100 times in one practice session. If I'm memorizing something, then I like to do it while I watch the news on television. I work on memorizing a small portion of the song during the commercial breaks (with the TV muted), and then I watch the news when it comes back on. This works very well for me because I have to keep trying to remember what I did during the last commercial break. Since I have to keep dredging up what I just tried to memorize 10 minutes ago, I stand a much better chance of remembering it the next day.

If I'm having an especially bad practice session, then I might turn it into a playing session. At least I get some playing in that way and I can maintain some of the songs that I already know fairly well. It also keeps me from getting too upset with myself and not enjoying something that I usually enjoy very much.

If you are just starting to learn an instrument, then it is important to try to practice every day. Even if it's just for a short period of time. The most important day to practice is the same day as your lesson (if you are taking lessons). When you can come home after a lesson and go through what you learned in the lesson, you will find that you can remember much better what you are supposed to do. That will stand true for all of your practice for the remainder of the week, too. Several shorter practice sessions are better than one long one. For instance, practicing 15 minutes every day of the week is better than practicing for one hour one day a week. Your mind will be fresher, things will feel more natural, and your memory will be better. If you can't do this, then do whatever you CAN and don't make yourself feel bad about it. If your progress is slow, so what! At least it is progress however slow it may be! If you enjoy what you are doing, that is all that matters.

So, keep playing and keep practicing!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Angeline the Baker

This is a student of mine, Rick, playing the banjo. I just love the way he plays this song. Rick is very good about taking what I teach him and "making it his own." He uses his thumb on this song to strum down from the 5th string instead of picking just the 5th string by itself (Part B of this song). Also listen to the way he combines multiple hammer-ons and pull-offs with simple rolls. Angeline the Baker is an old-time fiddle tune, but I think Rick has just made it a great folk-sounding banjo tune.

Tuesday Night's Jam Session

We had our largest crowd ever for our last jam session. I counted 24 musicians and 5 listeners. More new faces again, too! It never ceases to amaze me that there are so many good musicians around here. What a great opportunity to meet new people and good pickers! Here is a video from our jam session.

Way Cool Banjo Valentine!

I received this Valentine from the Hall family. Many thanks to Emily for making it. It is simply the most unique valentine I've ever received. As you can see, it is a banjo, but even neater is the fact that the body part opens into a card that the whole family signed. Thanks so much! (Emily needs to get a job with Hallmark.)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Banjo Champion

We are very proud here at The Bluegrass Shack to have Justin as a student and a teacher. Justin has taken lessons from me for 8 years and is the most talented banjo student I have ever had. He has won the Illinois State Fair Junior Banjo Contest held in Springfield, IL for the past three years in a row. He is also blessed with the ability to teach, which is something that many good players lack. Justin and I were playing together last week and someone took this video of us, so I decided to post it for everyone to hear. Stay tuned to the blog, because what I really want you to hear Justin play is Jalapeno Flashback written by Winfield Banjo Contest Winner Jeff Scroggins. It's really incredible!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Practice Makes Perfect!

I just had to share these cute pictures from Dawn. This is Cole and Paige practicing fiddle together. Cole is 2 and Paige is 10.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Play That Fiddle, Rachel!

The Bluegrass Shack is proud to feature 16-year old Rachel! Rachel has been playing fiddle for only 3 years, and I think you'll agree that she has a fantastic start. Rachel's dad took this video clip of us playing "Gray Eagle" in front of the 24' banjo sign.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Youth Fiddle, Banjo & Talent Contest

Just wanted to make sure all the area youth know that they can enter these contests put on by MABC on Friday, March 14, 2008. The contests are at the Holiday Inn Six Flags in Eureka, MO. They are for youth ages 16 & under.

We are very glad that MABC is willing to sponsor and host these contests to give youth performers an opportunity to perform and compete. Even if you don't play or don't have kids that play, come on out and support this event. You'll have lots of fun! Holiday Inn has a special bluegrass rate that weekend of only $69.00 per night.

Here is a link to the rules in case you want to enter:

Youth Fiddle, Banjo & Talent Contest Rules

If you have questions, please feel free to contact me and I'll try to get you the answers!

Tuesday's Jam

The weather was pretty bad Tuesday night, but we still had quite a few folks come to jam. It's always good to see new pickers and the regulars coming back. Here's a video of us!