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Showing posts from October, 2014

An Open (D)oor

It seems preposterous that after more than six years of playing banjo that I've never gotten very adventurous with tunings. Barring one or two instances, I've remained within the three most common intervals for old-time music: G/A, sawmill and CC/DD. Last night, I opened a new door and tried Open D tuning.

For those unfamiliar, Open D is f#DF#AD, whereas I usually play D tunes in Double-D (aDADE). That versatile tuning is well-suited for playing in a group setting, as the tunes seem to lay out easier and keep the scale notes and chord positions within easy reach. The thing is lately I've been confined to playing at home alone.

Now seems like the perfect opportunity to branch out a little.

Open D is sometimes called "graveyard tuning" — a perfect tuning with Halloween around the corner. To my ears, it has a bluesy quality and seems better suited for playing on the lower strings. Or maybe that's my own bias. Just from exploring the fingerboard, it seems I can g…

Keeping Warm Outside in the Cold

Every weekday since the spring, I've taken my lunch break in the park down the road from my office and brought along my fiddle. For the past few months, these half-hour sessions have accounted for about 90 percent of my practice time. Now that fall has arrived, these lunchtime sessions have begun to get a bit brisk.

The main problem is my fingers. Left exposed to the elements, my digits start to feel like icicles after a time. I had hoped learning to fiddle faster would keep them warm, but it seems I didn't account for the added windchill factor. One of those outdoor space heaters restaurants use on patios would be ideal, but not easy to transport. My only other solution is gloves.

The first image that pops into my mind is a pair of bulky mittens mashed against the fingerboard, the bow being gripped like an ice cream cone. That wouldn't work. Those gloves with cutoff fingers would be great if it weren't for the fact that the fingers remain exposed to defeat the whole pu…