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Back to Sawstroke . . .

Posted by bj on Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Yes, I'm still working on Nashville Shuffle too, but after my weekend at Black Creek and listening to some mighty fine fiddling, I realize that sawstroke is really KEY to playing things the way I want to play them, it's KEY to getting that mojo going. It's pretty much the main ingredient, with slurs and other shuffles as the seasoning in the stew.

So I'm going back to reworking most of my well-known tunes by putting a lot more sawstroke into the mix, and in a couple cases doing the tunes almost completely sawstroked. That means things aren't up to speed, since my left/right coordination suffers when I speed up.

Good news with sawstroke is that I've got it down to a shake of the fingers. I can do it a lot faster with my right hand, than I can keep up with in good time with my left hand, and my right hand timing isn't bad at all. It's the left hand that vacuums. And the tension is trying to creep back into my left hand, when I'm really concentrating. The left/right seesaw just tilted the other way again. It will be nice if, someday, even if for only a brief moment, both my hands can keep up evenly! Is that too much to ask? LOL! Probably.

Black Creek Fiddler's Reunion, outside Albany NY, was a fabulous Oldtime event! Smaller and a bit more intimate than Lake Genero, but just as much fun. And the quality of the fiddling was just awesome. Got to play with a few of my favorite people from up north, with a couple of our regular jammers from the Easton area, and got to meet a few new folks who I like a lot and whose playing is stellar (hi, Mike, Mike, Julie and Larry! To name just a few.)

These events always leave me feeling really high on life and fiddling. I've still got a zillion new tunes running through my head, not that I can put names to many of them! There are some mixed feelings as well. After hearing such good fiddling, it makes me realize how very, very far I have yet to go. But the reaction to my playing was overwhelmingly good. After Art Bryan spilled the beans that I had been fiddling for less than 3 years, many seemed surprised. So I guess I've travelled at least a fair chunk of the journey, and I should think that now I've got some stamina and smarts and muscle memory, it's just a matter of just playing as much as is humanly possible. Not that the journey will ever be over, as long as I'm alive. Unless The Big Kahuna has other plans for me, I plan on going out with a bow in my hand sometime after I've hit 90 or so.

But being around so many great fiddlers does tend to put things in perspective. I'm still a toddler at this stuff.

In other news, Jane and I spent Memorial Day together, playing tunes near the riverside, planting things in her garden, eating ice cream, and just generally kicking back. She's got a really funky guitar, much like the one I had for my very first guitar (that happened to be a fingerkiller, and probably cost my parents ten bucks, if that.) The one Jane has is easier to play than my first, and she's been using it as a slide guitar. WOW! It is a hugely wonderful noise that comes out of that undersized and badly finished funky guitar (I think it's a stella, and it was bottom of the line.)

A guy up at Black Creek was playing a similar guitar behind one of the best two fiddlers up there, and it's a GREAT sounding oldtime guitar. Living in Martin Country, not far from Nazareth, it's sometimes hard to get past that whole label thing, especially when a lot of folks I know work there. But expensive guitars just aren't NECESSARY for oldtime, just like expensive fiddles aren't necessary for oldtime. Not that anybody in my jam group will believe me. It seems they almost ALL play Martins.

19 comments on “Back to Sawstroke . . .”

robinja Says:
Tuesday, June 1, 2010 @2:14:45 PM

Sounds like a fun weekend! I've been doing some similar stuff with sawstroke - I think the slurs in some of my tunes are due to pure T laziness (as they say down south), so I am sawing them up. Sometimes it sounds better the old way, but it's nice to have the option. I can also relate to those mixed feelings. When I went to Clifftop last year, I was reluctant to play for almost two days for fear someone would actually hear me. There's a whole other world of fiddling out there, which is inspiring and humbling.

Cyndy Says:
Tuesday, June 1, 2010 @3:12:48 PM

Ditto marks in 72 point to a lot of what you wrote in your post. I've been thinking a lot about sawing lately, too. And I know that "high on life and fiddle" feeling. And I also know what it's like to realize how far there is to go . . . I'm glad to hear you had a great weekend!

bj Says:
Tuesday, June 1, 2010 @5:05:33 PM

Inspiring and Humbling in 72 point!

Cyndy Says:
Tuesday, June 1, 2010 @6:25:56 PM

"It's the left hand that vacuums." You didn't get that use of the word vacuum from me, did you?!

bj Says:
Tuesday, June 1, 2010 @6:32:43 PM

Yes, I did steal that from you. ;-) You didn't notice that I've been using it ever since? LOL!

Cyndy Says:
Tuesday, June 1, 2010 @8:23:26 PM

I love it. I love it! We started saying that way back when our kids were young (in place of that other word that most people use) and somehow it became a keeper. Maybe it'll make the dictionary some day. (laugh)

janepaints Says:
Tuesday, June 1, 2010 @8:46:31 PM

Martins are for upper-class show-offs with belt buckles. Gibsons are for middle-class show offs with elastic-waist 'comfort jeans.'. Fenders are for souvenir collectors with mullets. Samicks are where it's at. And Dano's, Supros, Harmonys, First Acts and Kays. (P.S. it was a Kay. I'm keeping the Harmony. Now I retire to await outraged replies such as "Hey--I resemble, uh I mean resent, you remarks about guitar owners." I'll endeavor to reply to such replies about as quickly as BP is capping that oil leak at the bottom of the Soon Dead Sea, uh, I mean the Gulf Of Texaco, uh, I mean Mexico.

mudbug Says:
Wednesday, June 2, 2010 @12:46:42 AM

I've got a cheap guitar and a nice guitar. They serve different purposes. I play the nice guitar when I want to hear nice tone. The cheap guitar is for when I'm going to be playing with people who play cheap guitars, and who assume that noone else cares about their instrument either, so are constantly swinging their instruments so as to whack yours.

Mandogryl Says:
Wednesday, June 2, 2010 @3:21:14 AM

I remember my first guitar when I was a kid. It was a Harmony F-holed archtop, and was a finger killer. I don;t know how I ever learned to play on that thing. Ugh, my fingers hurt right now just thinking about it.

fiddleiphile Says:
Wednesday, June 2, 2010 @3:38:03 AM

I want some of those elastic waist "comfort jeans". I play a 69 Fender Strat but I'm looking to move up to middle-class show off statis!

bj Says:
Wednesday, June 2, 2010 @4:24:16 AM

I never did have a memory for guitars. Now, if it was a Juzek or Hopf fiddle . . .

bj Says:
Wednesday, June 2, 2010 @4:25:46 AM

Oh, and I gotta wonder what owning a Taylor means in the scheme of things. Jane owns a Taylor. ;-)

mudbug Says:
Wednesday, June 2, 2010 @12:17:02 PM

BJ, you're bad!!!!! :-)

bj Says:
Wednesday, June 2, 2010 @12:30:30 PM

Worse than Jane? I don't think so . . .

Humbled by this instrument Says:
Wednesday, June 2, 2010 @9:55:18 PM

I've a Taylor.

playmorebluegrass Says:
Thursday, June 3, 2010 @7:49:10 AM

you make me jealous, girl! i've always wanted to head up to new york for the old time music there. thanks for all your encouragment you give me on fiddlehangout! it helps to have friends like you guys! It also sounds like you are on the mend.....Good luck on the nashville shuffle!!!☺

Humbled by this instrument Says:
Friday, June 4, 2010 @10:50:12 AM

And take the time to learn the Georgia Shuffle. It's a hoot! Watch "Uncle Penn" being played with ol' Bill Monroe's band. The fiddler will use this shuffle. Then go to Pogo or Whassisname's homepage here and they've got it slowed down, easy to follow. Anywhooooo, it took me a year to get it "under my fingers," but now I throw it in Whiskey 'fer Barkfest (how my dog pronoounces it) and Sailor's and all over.... Have fun!

bj Says:
Friday, June 4, 2010 @11:04:55 AM

Umm . . . I've been playing the Georgia Shuffle since my first lesson . . .

Jen, I'd be happy to have you play with us up here in the Northeast, we'd love to have you!

Humbled by this instrument Says:
Friday, June 4, 2010 @1:42:40 PM

Oh...never mind.

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