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Showing posts from December, 2013

2013: Year in Review

Having just looked back on the progress I've made playing the fiddle this year, it seems appropriate to revisit some of the other blog-worthy events of 2013. This has been a momentous year. By far, the biggest highlight of the year was becoming a father, but there were some pretty cool things happening in my old-time music realm as well. Here are a couple notables.

We kicked off the year with an interview with Chris Valluzzo of Horse Archer Productions about the upcoming documentary on the Highwoods String Band. At the time, the documentary was scheduled to be released in the spring or summer, but a wild goose chase for more footage of the Highwoods playing live has delayed the project. Valluzzo provided an update in October on Facebook, saying the film should be ready around Christmastime.

In March, Greg Galbreath of Buckeye Banjos spoke to the Glory-Beaming Banjo about creating custom banjos. Since then, Galbreath has closed his custom orders list to begin focusing on …

2013: Fiddle Year One

A few years ago, I read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, which propagates the idea of "the 10,000-hour rule," whereby it takes 10,000 hours of practicing a certain task to become a master of that task. This idea planted a seed that led me to create a spreadsheet to track my banjo playing. I already tracked my running on another spreadsheet, so it seemed natural to carry over the practice to quantify my musical pursuits.

Since 2008, I've logged 1,010 hours (and counting) of banjo playing, so in another 45 years I'll have mastered the instrument. I'll be 79 years old. It seems hopeless to think that way, but having the spreadsheet helps me keep track of my progress, regardless of whether I ever actually reach that gilded 10,000-hour mark.

A year ago, I bought a fiddle as a Christmas gift to me from my wife, and you'd better believe I created a spreadsheet to track my playing. I made some great progress in the beginning of the year, but then the weather got nice…

Old-Time Music Gateways: Iron Mountain String Band

When I was finding my way into old-time music, there were a few seminal moments I can remember thinking, "This is the stuff." Like my remembrance of my fist time hearing this music live at the hands of David Bass and the Forge Mountain Diggers, "Old-Time Music Gateways" will be a recurring feature focused on highlighting my early forays into this musical style. 
* * *  It was for the tracks by Dock Boggs, Roscoe Holcomb and Lee Sexton that I bought the Smithsonian Folkways compilation "Classic Old-Time Music." Those names had been recommended as good sources of different banjo playing than the likes of Earl Scruggs. But those three old-time pickers would have to wait because it was the very first track that grabbed me.

The sudden burst of driving fiddle almost startled me on the recording of "Sugar Hill," by the Iron Mountain String Band. The lilting banjo tickled my ears, and the nasally singing made me smile in approval. This was good stuff.