Tuesday, April 29, 2008

First Meeting New Beginner's Jam

We had a huge crowd for our first Beginner's Instructional Jam last night. In attendance were Bobby, Fred, Annie, Carlee, Christina, Rebecca, Carl, Dennis, Denny, Craig, Shirley, Dolton, Marian, Bill, Cyndi, Sylvia, Linda, Mike, Amelia, Earl, and two other girls from Oakdale Baptist Church. (I'm sorry, I've forgotten your names!) I hope I didn't forget anyone. The session was absolutely great! We covered the Nashville Number System (which we're sure to cover again); tags; lead; breaks; kick-off; boom chuck, boom chuck, boom chuck chuck ending with long fiddle note on end; fake breaks (banjo players); vocals vs. instrumental keys; order of vocals; difference between verse and chorus; and a little bit about 7th chords. The songs we played were Skip to my Lou, Hot Corn Cold Corn, Worried Man Blues, I'll Fly Away, and Will the Circle Be Unbroken. Several more experienced and brave individuals took breaks for a few of the songs and did very well! We also did some group regular breaks and group fake breaks. Almost everyone participated in singing along with the choruses of the songs. I am super pleased with the turn-out and with the willingness to try that everyone showed. Can't wait for the next session!

Chris Talley Trio in Sparta Friday Night, May 2nd!

Looking for something to do Friday night? The Chris Talley Trio will be playing at the Shooting Complex in Sparta, IL from 6:30 - 9:30 p.m. There is a tournament all weekend, but you don't have to be part of the tournament to come out and enjoy the music! We will be playing at the restaurant there, so come have some dinner, snacks, or a few drinks! Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Kay Bass for Sale

We finally picked up the Kay bass that we bought last year and have it here at the shop. If you are interested in purchasing a great sounding vintage Kay bass, take a look here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tuesday Night's Jam

We had another nice crowd for our regular Tuesday night jam session tonight, with a total of 21 people in attendance. We played until about 10:30. Terry L. sang In the Pines, and Ron did the really high vocal melody break. I just love it when he does that. It sounds so good! We had some great fiddles tunes from John, Charlie, Chelsea and Ron. It's been a while since we had so many fiddlers here at one time. Nicole picked some great banjo breaks on John Hardy and Cripple Creek. I was very happy to see Gary G. come by. It's been a while, but he picked a lot of guitar and even sang a few songs though he said his throat was scratchy. I wish I could remember the name of the song Anna played on her dulcimer. I know it but I guess I'm getting older. It was a sacred song that I have never heard her play before. It was really wonderful on dulcimer. I could go on and on, but I'm afraid I'll say something about everyone except maybe one person, and I don't want to accidentally leave someone out! Here is a video clip so you can listen for yourself. Nicole had to leave early, so unfortunately you won't see her in the clip.

First Kid's Jam

Our first ever Kid's Jam went so well tonight! I think everyone had a good time. Participants included Mallory (guitar), Julia (guitar), Nicole (banjo), Jaclyn (guitar), Emily (mandolin), Makayla (fiddle), Haley (fiddle), Veronica (fiddle), Charlie (fiddle & guitar), and Rosemary (mandolin & guitar). I played the bass tonight, but the participants will have a chance to play bass if they want to learn. Some of the songs we played tonight included I'll Fly Away, Get in Line Brother, Cripple Creek, Bile Them Cabbage Down, Flop Eared Mule, and Old Joe Clark. We went over the Nashville Number system, song format, key changes, kick-offs, back-to-back vocal breaks, capo usage, lead breaks, endings, and singing into a microphone. I'm looking forward to the next session! We should have a few more kids at the next session, but we'll also be losing a few for a couple of sessions due to ball games. Great job everyone!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Tuesday Night Jams at The Bluegrass Shack

In an effort to make the Tuesday night jam information available to everyone any time they need it, I am posting all the information (hopefully) you will need for the rest of 2008 right here.

Every other Tuesday, we have an acoustic jam session that is open to the public. It is free and is open to all levels. (We are very beginner friendly, many times even having someone available to sit next to you for help if you ask.) The jams start at 7:30, and there is additional parking available at the landscaping business next door to us. Feel free to bring something to drink with you. We have coffee, tea and water available for no charge.

Here are the dates of the jam session:

April 1st, 15th & 29th
May 13th & 27th
June 10th & 24th
July 8th & 22nd
August 5th & 19th
September 2nd, 16th & 30th
October 14th & 28th
November 11th & 25th
December 9th (only one in December)

If you have any questions, please feel free to call or e-mail. Thanks!

Friday, April 11, 2008

New Group Classes Starting!

We have had many, many requests for new beginning jam classes. I am very happy to announce that they are finally starting. The two new classes are Beginning Jamming and Kids Jamming. Look below for more information and starting times:


Beginning Jamming - This is an instructional jam that covers everything that you will need to know to learn to play with others. You will learn jamming etiquette, very basic music theory including the Nashville Number system, how to tell what chords a song might have, hearing chord changes, using a capo, singing lead and harmony, how to play backup, how to go from backup to lead, what common terms like "kickoff," "turn-aound" and "tag" mean, order of songs, common differences in songs, and more! Participants will get materials, including CDs, chord charts, lyrics, and tab or notation, to help them with the songs that we will study. The songs that we study will be dependant upon what the participants choose, so you will have a voice in this! (Everyone will pick one song.)

This class will meet every other Monday starting April 28. It goes from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and the cost is $10.00 per session, payable at each session.

To participate, all you have to know is a G, C and D chord on your instrument. This is a BEGINNER's class. Instruments that may participate in the jam include fiddle, guitar, banjo, dulcimer, upright bass, mandolin, and dobro.


Kids Jamming - This class is open to kids 16 and under who want to participate. Participants need to know G, C and D chords on their instrument. Please do not send your child to this class if they don't want to come, or if your child is not able to follow instructions in a group setting for one hour. We will cover all topics that are listed in the Beginning Jamming class (see description above). Some students will have the opportunity to learn how to play the upright bass during this class.

This class will meet every other Tuesday from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. starting April 15th. The cost is $10.00 per session, payable at each session. Our public jam session meets immediately following this class and is free and open to all ages and levels.


To participate in either of these classes, please just show up on the first day of the session. If you have questions, feel free to call the shop at 618-475-3678 and ask for Chris. You can also send me an e-mail.

Jenny Plays Cincinnati Rag

I wanted to feature Jenny this time on her fiddle. Jenny is 16-years old and is a student and a teacher here at The Bluegrass Shack. Her contest record this year has been very good, including two First Places, a Second Place, and a Grand Champion. Jenny is a great teacher and we are very proud to have her here. I think you'll enjoy her version of Cincinnati Rag.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Violin and Fiddle Setup Differences

I had a phone call from Coy yesterday asking me about different bridge curvatures for fiddles. He had mentioned taking his fiddle to a violin shop for a repair, and the repairman commented on the curvature of his bridge. Coy told the luthier that he was learning bluegrass, and that was probably why his bridge was curved a little bit differently. Coy wanted to know a little bit more information about this, and since this isn't the first time someone has asked me about this, I thought it would be a good time to elaborate on this. It is one of those areas where people have some very specific likings; many times it depends upon what kind of music they play.

Let me start out by saying that a fiddle and a violin are the same instrument, but that the setup on them can vary depending upon what kind of music you will be playing. Here are some very general and common differences:

Classical Violin -
More curved bridge, which helps with playing individual strings.
Perlon or gut strings, which produce a softer (not necessarily quieter) sound than steel strings, that blends better with all the other stringed instruments in an orchestral setting.
Classical players generally look for an instrument that will blend well with others, with no hint of harshness.

Bluegrass, Country & Folk Fiddle -
Flatter bridge, which makes it easier to play two strings at the same time (double stops).
Steel strings, which produce a sharper tone that helps cut through in acoustic settings. Steel strings also stretch less, which is a good thing since most of these musicians will be playing in many different settings that include indoor, outdoor, high humidity, sun, high heat, cold, etc.
Non-classical players will many times desire an instrument that has a bit of an edge to it and is loud. This allows the instrument to be heard over the rest of the instruments in an acoustic setting.

Now, having said all this, it does not mean that everyone who plays will agree 100% with what I have said. This is certainly not meant to be a blanket label that will fit all musicians.

Common strings for classical players include Dominant (which is probably the most common) and Helicore. Some players still use gut, though I haven't personally met anyone yet. Probably because I don't play classical music much.

Common strings for bluegrass players include Super Sensitive Red Label (the most economical string and probably the string of choice for many old time fiddlers), Pirastro Chromcor, and Prim. I have met bluegrass players who also use Helicore, Zyex and Dominant. So you see, there can be a lot of different strings that many people like.

Too bad fiddle strings cost so much. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to try a bunch of different brands? It isn't fair that you can purchase a set of guitar strings that are actually decent strings for $5.00 or less, but you certainly could not purchase a decent set of fiddle strings for that. (Mom always told me life wasn't fair!)

As far as bridge curvature goes, there is a "proper" curvature that is taught in violin making school and also listed in violin repair books. They even sell templates to help create this ideal curvature. The height of the bridge is also an exact science, though I like mine lower so that the strings are closer to the fingerboard. The height of the bridge will be in direct proportion to the neck angle of the instrument and thickness of the fingerboard. (Of course, there are "ideal" heights for all of these, too!)

Many instruments will not fit these exact measurements, but that does not mean that they are not decent instruments. In fact, they can sound mighty good! Setup can also be a personal preference, but that is usually more for non-classical players. If you have taken your instrument to a nice violin shop and had someone "shoot it down" so-to-speak, don't worry. As long as you are not preparing for your solo debut with the orchestra, your instrument will probably do just fine!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

O'Fallon IL Jam Session on Friday

I just wanted to let you know about a local jam session that happens every 2nd Friday of the month in O'Fallon, IL. Mac Patterson is in charge of the acoustic bluegrass jam, and it is held at the O'Fallon Library. The approximate time of the jam is 6:00 to 10:00 p.m., and it is free to all.

Monday, April 7, 2008

O'Fallon Fiddle Contest

Hi Everyone! I went to a fiddle contest in O'Fallon, IL on Friday night along with two of my students. We did very well. 9-year old Colton won Most Improved Fiddle Player, and 16-year old Jenny (who teaches here) won 1st place in the Junior Division and Grand Champion. I won 1st place in the Open Division. Many thanks to Roger Popwell for sending me this great picture. I was playing Sally Goodin when he took this...