First let me apologize to both Ben and the “ol’ Tymers” around here that know me from the old site. I’ve been absent for awhile. Doesn’t mean that I had given up. But there’s really no excuse for me not showing up more often. Sorry!
Now for the Confession:
I pretty much abandoned bluegrass licks and learning fiddle tunes for the past two years. It had absolutely nothing to do with bluegrass music…it was all due to me.
You see I skipped a large portion of my learning before diving into trying to flat pick at a million miles an hour. My goal was to be able to jam while in the middle of a bluegrass tune and have it sound like it fits.
I’ve been banging on this 50 year old Martin nearly everyday over the past year…and I have not changed the strings in well over a year. Gotta be at least 1000 hours on them. Past year has not been about “tone”. It still stays in tune, although a little dull.
Two years ago I herniated a disc in my neck and was pretty much bedridden for 3 months. I didn’t sulk, I decided instead to take advantage of it. I laid there and studied music. Between youtube, google searches, etc I tried to consume as much info on “Music Theory” that this old beat up noggin’ could handle. I also studied musical improv. At the end of the day I settled on Jerry Garcia as being probably one of the better guitar players I’ve ever heard when it comes to moving around the neck and picking out a lead while still maintaining the discipline to to make sure he hits those qtr notes on the first beat of the measure that corresponds with the chord it’s in at the time. The other thing that stuck out differently was his ability to move across the wide range of the fret board in large leaps.
So I backed up a bit. I backed up and said “self you have to know the note you are on all the time”…ie “master the fret board”.
Scales, scales, scales, scales, scales, scales, etc. So I practiced scales hours and hours on end. I called out each of the notes by name and in tune. I studied their shapes. I practiced arpeggios…over and over and over and over and over.
Today I really no longer have to look. My mind’s eye sees the frets and strings (little white dots and all). My left and right hands just simply jump to the right fret and position all while being verified and/or corrected by the ear. The other side of this ol’ noggin that isn’t the side seeing the fret and strings is basically tracking where we are in the song and trying to be both whitty, funny, sinister, sad, happy, etc in creating something musically that fits. It’s also tracking the note that I’m on. To top it off it’s also showing me my options of notes above, below, in front of, and behind that are part of the triad I am in at that time. The amount of brain power is astronomical to me in the process. There’s 4-10 things running through my head at any given split second while it’s all understood, comprehended, and acted upon by my left and right hand.
I can jam!
It’s now time to once again sample those tasty BanjoBen licks and work those those tasty suckers into some of the places I can make them fit.