Skip to main content

Sittin' Next to Walt Koken in the Catbird's Seat: New Book

Aspiring banjo players are often told to go learn from the masters. One such master has made that task a little easier with the release of a new book of tunes.

Walt Koken's upcoming release is a transcription of the tunes on last year's "Sittin' in the Catbird's Seat," his first solo album in 15 years. Koken, of course, is well known in old-time music circles as a former member of the Highwoods Stringband, a current Orpheus Supertone, and co-conspirator of the "Milliner-Koken Collection of American Fiddle Tunes."

"Sittin' in the Catbird's Seat" features original and old-time tunes and songs played in clawhammer and three-finger banjo styles. Sources include Dock Boggs, Hobart Smith, Mississippi John Hurt, Frank Hutchison, French Carpenter, and Scott Joplin. The companion book is 48 pages long and printed in an oversized, easy-to-read format with spiral binding so that you can lay the book flat.

The book is suitable for all levels of clawhammer players, as long as they're familiar with the basics, and bluegrass players will find it interesting for the arrangement of Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" and Koken's original "Peaceful Times," which was inspired by the playing of Earl Scruggs.

The book will be available May 15, for the list price of $30, but pre-sale orders will be offered a discount of $25 for the book or $35 for the book and CD. Visit Mudthumper Music for more details and ordering information.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Getting Blitzed with Tom Collins

A little more than a year ago, Salem, Massachusetts-based banjo player and teacher Tom Collins embarked on a yearlong project he called Banjo Blitz. The weekly YouTube series provided short banjo lessons on technique. Each video is about five minutes long, give or take, and presents a short pattern — or “ostinato” — designed to teach and improve a specific aspect of banjo playing.

The mission was to get the audience “to practice clawhammer in discrete chunks every day without the burden of trying to memorize tunes,” Collins says. He wanted to build skills rather than repertoire.

“Let’s take the tune off the table,” says Collins, who has been teaching banjo for 11 years. “Let’s focus on a simple, mantra-like ostinato that can train your body how to execute a technique properly, while training your ears how to hear it properly. Let’s also make it so that you can do this every day without it sucking every spare minute from your life. The big dirty secret about learning how to play an ins…

Clawhammer Picks and You: A Review

Clawhammer picks are a useful tool for increasing volume or to overcome fingernail challenges, such as broken, too short or weak nails. There are all sorts of commercial and homemade solutions available for banjo players, but it can be difficult to decide which options to choose. Thankfully, I've already done some of the work for you.
Just to be clear, I prefer my natural fingernail for frailing. However, there was a time when I experimented with regularly using a pick, and there are instances now where I find that a pick is necessary. Today, I'll take you through the five options I've tried. These are all available online at prices ranging from about $1 to $13.

Reversed/Reshaped Dunlop Pick ($0.75)
This was the most common suggestion before other companies started addressing the gap in the clawhammer pick market. Take a bluegrass pick, flatten it out and wear it backwards. The problem is that it's hard to get the fit right. While Dunlop picks are cheap and readily avai…

The Ongoing Search for Ohio's Old-Time Fiddle Repertoire

Since the beginning of my journey into old-time music, I have sought to find a connection to my home state. After studying the recorded repertoire of a dozen old-time fiddlers who spent a majority of their lives in Ohio, I have compiled a master list of more than 300 tunes. By cross-referencing this list, there were 12 tunes that I identified as “common,” based on their appearance in the repertoire of at least three fiddlers. The results of my findings follow.

This is far from a scientific method or academic study. I do not claim to be a musicologist or folklore scholar. I welcome any feedback.

Common Tunes:
Arkansas Traveler BirdieCumberland GapDurang’s HornpipeForked DeerGrey EagleJune AppleLeather BritchesMississippi SawyerRaggedy AnnTurkey in the StrawWild Horse At some point I would like to put together a list of tunes that are unique to Ohio or have a particular connection to an Ohio locale, such as Lonnie Seymour’s “Chillicothe Two-Step” or Arnold Sharp’s “Anna Hayes.” However,…