Skip to main content

Leftwich Lessons: Second Quarter

It's been six months since I started working with Brad Leftwich's Homespun two-disc DVD series Learn to Play Old-Time Fiddle. This is my second quarterly report on my progress.

You already heard from me earlier this month when I switched over to Lesson 2. There hasn't been much progress in the intervening two weeks since then. I've been listening hard to a couple different versions of "Citico" to get the rhythm of the tune better fixed in my head.

I'm starting to hear how my slow playing will eventually become the up-to-speed version I'm listening to from Lowe Stokes, Leftwich and Marcus Martin. However, the Martin version is reportedly in AEAC#, aka "Calico" tuning, not GDAD as the Stokes and Leftwich are.

My biggest problem so far with this second disc is getting the feel of the syncopation on "Tommy's Lick." I'm hoping that it will click the more I play the tune and get closer to the sound, but it may require slowing down and getting the rhythm right by either synchronizing my bowing and foot tapping, which I don't do well, or (GASP!) busting out the metronome.

Last week, I plugged "Citico" into my trial version of the Amazing Slow Downer and tried to bow along. It's the first phrase of each part that I've having a hard time matching. Somehow or other, I'll get it close to my idea of right.

The next tune is "Breaking Up Christmas," a tune I've long loved to play on banjo. Of the tunes from Lesson 1, I still have some kinks to work out with a few of the tunes, especially "Sugar Hill." I don't know why it gives me the fits, but it does.

What tunes are you working on? Any bowing advice?

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…

Erynn Marshall, Mark Olitsky, Doug Unger: An Old-Time Smorgasbord in Peninsula, Ohio, for Music on the Porches, Sept. 23

Old-time music and banjo fans alike would do well to aim their GPS units toward Peninsula, Ohio, the historic village nestled in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park between Cleveland and Akron. This Saturday is Music on the Porches, which features a number of musical acts playing all around town, starting at 11 a.m. 
The showcase event is Saturday night at the G.A.R. Hall, an evening concert that will feature fiddler Erynn Marshall and multi-instrumentalist Carl Jones, the married old-time duo based in Galax, Virginia; followed by Sean Watkins, formerly of the progressive bluegrass band Nickel Creek; and finally headliner Tim O'Brien, who has recorded with everyone from Steve Martin to Dirk Powell, including the excellent "Songs From the Mountain" album with Powell and John Herrmann (one of my all-time favorites). Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with Marshall and Jones set to start at 7 p.m. Tickets are available online via Eventbrite
But wait, that's not all! 
Marshall wi…