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Leftwich Lessons: The Fun's All Over

If you've been holding your breath since my last post, my apologies to your family. It's hard to believe it's been more than three months. My only excuse is that I haven't had much banjo-related news to report, as the fiddle has been my main instrument as I continue to tackle the fickle beast.

Bertie the Bus on Banjo Road.
The few times I do drag out the banjo, it becomes part of  my son's playground. It most recently served as a road for his toy bus to drive along. His muting of the strings has actually led me toward a new staccato way of playing when I do manage to be left alone. The fiddle, though, reigns supreme.

This month marked a year and a half of working through Brad Leftwich's Learn to Play Old-Time Fiddle videos. Last week I started the final tune of the two DVD set, "Old-Time Blackberry Blossom" (aka "Garfield's Blackberry Blossom"). It's a real finger workout, but it's a fun tune.

After breezing through Lesson 1 in six months, it took me twice as long to get through Lesson 2. But now I can say I've built a nice little repertoire of tunes. Here they are grouped by tuning:
  • GDAE: Great Big Taters, Rocky Road to Dublin, Wagner and Garfield's Blackberry Blossom
  • ADAE: Sugar Hill, Old Jimmy Sutton, Blackeyed Susie, Johnny Don't Get Drunk and Chicken Reel
  • AEAE: Shortenin' Bread, Jeff Sturgeon, Breaking Up Christmas and Little Maggie
  • GDAD: Citico
  • DDAD: Boll Weevil

Now that I've completed my studies I'm left wondering where to go from here. I could begin working on Leftwich's book, Old-Time Fiddle: Round Peak Style, but I'm not sure that's the direction I want to take. It has more than 80 tunes, but they aren't the most popular ones in my area. I want to play what my friends play.

Since my last post, I started attending a local jam again. My friend encouraged me to leave the banjo at home to focus on building my confidence on the fiddle and getting used to playing it in a group. Experiencing the speed and groove of the jam has been a real shock to the system. I feel like a beginner all over again. Even the few tunes I know become Chinese finger traps as I attempt to keep up.

The big challenge now is learning to play more by ear and learning from slowed down recordings. I managed to add a rudimentary version of one of the tunes I picked up from the group, and I'm working on tracking down recordings of some of the others to learn. I'd also like to learn what I'm calling the "Ohio repertoire" from my last purchase from the Field Recorders Collective. I have a long list of tunes to work on, but I look forward to the journey.

I will do my best not to wait so long between this and the next post. I have an exciting post planned for the the near future that I hope you'll like. A hint: It's an interview with someone related to my last post. Let the speculation begin!

Until next time ...

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