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Showing posts from March, 2014

Leftwich at the First Quarter

A day after my six-year banjoversary, this is the three-month mark for my attempt to learn the downbow style of old-time fiddling as taught by Brad Leftwich. As you may remember, Christmas brought the gift of his two-disc Learn to Play Old-Time Fiddle DVD set on Homespun Tapes and his Old-Time Fiddle: Round Peak Style book and CD set. It seemed fitting to mark my banjo anniversary along with a quarterly update on my fiddle pursuits.

The first DVD (Lesson 1) has consumed me. Leftwich focuses the basics of downbow fiddling with long and short sawstrokes, the Nashville shuffle, and a series of beginning and ending licks to keep the rhythmic emphasis on the down stroke. These methods are taught via six tunes: "Shortnin' Bread," "Sugar Hill," "Jimmy Sutton," "Black-Eyed Susie," "Great Big Taters in Sandy Land," and "Jeff Sturgeon" (in that order).

Leftwich teaches the basic melody and then how to add drones and basic variation…

Six Years in Six Days

Despite it being more than two months since my last post, this one comes early. The idea has been brewing since the beginning of March, when the realization that my banjo anniversary (banjoversary?) was this month. It was six years ago on March 24 that my banjo journey began.

For the first six months, my fingers flailed at Scruggs' style picking because that was the only way I knew of to play the banjo. When I bought my first banjo, I promised myself I wouldn't quit like I did with guitar back in high school. (These days I've really been wanting a guitar.) However, after half a year and meeting the woman who would be my wife, my banjo playing days were almost through. But then, hello, clawhammer!
I was still learning the difference between what was bluegrass and what was old-time music back then. It seems so obvious today, but I didn't really know anybody then who could have shown me the path. I had to find it on my own. When I did, the whole world opened up for me.
My…