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Getting Focused- sorting out the distractions.

Posted by fiddlepogo on Thursday, January 24, 2008

I think many of us have tried to do too much, if not EVERYTHING... but there is a natural sorting out process.

 1. I used to play mandolin                                                                                  A. Good mandolins are expensive, and I'm usually poor, and I only like good mandolins.                                                                                               B. I have a tendency to tendonitis, and double strings are the last thing I need, especially on a poorly setup cheap mandolin which is all I could afford. Scratch mandolin!

 2. I used to try to play complex fiddle tunes on clawhammer banjo... but decided that it was really more effort than it was worth, so I switched to fiddle. Now, I use banjo for simple banjo or banjo and fiddle songs. If I got in a situation where I was playing banjo to another fiddler's fiddling, I would keep it simple, and not try and play all the notes.

3. I used to try and flatpick fiddle tunes on guitar- again, I decided it was more trouble than it was worth, since things aren't laid out so logically as on fiddle or mandolin- and I already play fiddle. Besides, flatpick guitar players can hardly be heard in a jam, (even after buying guitars which I can't afford) so why bother?

 4. I used to play classical guitar, and got fairly good, but I just don't connect with the music emotionally like I do Old Time and other folk-based music. And it's a huge amount of work for something I don't have much passion for. It's history.

 5. I know how to fingerpick a guitar, but I prefer to use a flatpick for song accompaniment, maybe because I have a loud voice, and I can play louder with a flatpick if I need to. Plus I can flatpick arpeggios that sound a lot like fingerpicking, but I can switch to a flatpick rhythm or lead seamlessly... fingerpicking is history.

6. I can play autoharp, but I have no real desire to own one or really get good at it... and there are sooooooooooooo many strings to tune, and I am picky about tuning.

 7. I can play harmonica, but my lips get chapped... forgetaboutit!

 8. I tried accordion... it drives me nuts trying to play a keyboard I can't see! It's gone!

That leaves me with:

 1. Old Time Fiddle tunes with dabbling in Celtic and Bluegrass

 2. Simpler rhythmic clawhammer banjo for songs

 3. Singing with flatpick accompaniment

4. Flatpicking electric lead guitar (low volume with a bluesy/jazzy tone)

That's PLENTY to try to maintain, both in terms of techniques, and keeping the instruments with playable strings and repaired. I can take 3 of them to a solo gig, and offer the audience a of variety, more than enough, really. Anyway, as time goes on, I think most of you will sort out some of these things in a similar way. Some things will just give you maximum satisfaction for the amount of effort required, and also other people start to enjoy your efforts more in those areas, so it snowballs.  And the economics of "

2 comments on “Getting Focused- sorting out the distractions.”

FiddlerFaddler Says:
Sunday, January 27, 2008 @9:59:45 PM

I thought electric guitars were things to be gotten rid of once a person got into old time music.  Other than that aberration, it all made sense to me.

fiddlepogo Says:
Sunday, January 27, 2008 @11:30:20 PM

Well, yes, I used to feel that way... so I kind of understand. I suppose if I had strong fingers I might have kept my Takamine acoustic and might have never gotten an electric guitar...maybe. The real problem with electric guitars isn't that they are electric- it's that most of the guitarists have poor taste... they are not actively trying to create beautiful music... they enjoy making noise too much! ;-P With a tube amp, and the right tubes, you can get some astonishingly sweet, beautiful sounds out of an electric. A couple times I also tried plugging my electrics into acoustic guitar amps, and somehow, sometimes, the combination was exquisite- very ethereal, kind of combining the best of a mandolin, a harp, and an acoustic guitar. I think life has also knocked some of my youthful romantic notions out of me. I am not some mountaineer from the 1870's- the year is 2008, and I'm using a ...COMPUTER! (horrors!) Digital madness! Why, at least my electric guitars and amps are analog! ;^) And I drive a car, I'm not riding some mule around, hollering "Whoa!" I play music because I like it, and if my tastes embody some apparent contradictions, I'm okay with that now. I didn't always accept those contradictions, and it caused problems. I am who I am, in many ways. I still like Old Time, still like blues... and because I like the two, I now like something I never thought I would like- bluegrass! Because to me, Bluegrass is essentially a fusion of Old Time and Blues. I also woke up and realized that I was never going to fit into the mold of the current blues scene- just because I play some blues doesn't mean I have to accept the whole nine yards... the blues scene has it's crazinesses for sure too! There is this human tendency to turn music genres into quasi religions, with a certain set of "Thou shalt nots"... I don't think it's healthy. I enjoy the people I've met through playing electric, and I've enjoyed the people I meet through playing fiddle and banjo... except for the ego-weirdness among both that seems to be a side effect of being human, especially a talented human. An odd cross fertilization- I'm sure my electric guitar playing and phrasing has been shaped by being a fiddler- and when I do attempts at bluegrass improv on fiddle, I see that my fiddle improv has been shaped by my electric guitar playing. I almost talked about this on the "Guilty Pleasures" thread- but then I thought- why? That would imply I feel guilty about it, but I don't feel guilty about it at all! I was privileged to have met and talked with Tommy Jarrell. He was very much his own person, very much who he was, and not about to pretend to be someone else. If I were to pretend to be like Tommy Jarrell, I would actually be less like him. If I'm just honestly who I am, I'm actually more like him!