Sunday, March 26th, 2006
Yesterday morning I went to Sylvia's school to help build a garden for the students to cultivate flowers and vegetables. Fun working and meeting some other parents. And by a stroke of luck one of the parents I met was Matt Hauser, drummer for Felt. We got to talking about music and I asked if his band could use a fiddler. He responded pretty enthusiastically and said they were playing at St. James Gate in the evening, I should come by and check it out.
So when I got there, Matt's bandmate Tarquin asked me "Where's your axe?" I hadn't been thinking I was going to play and begged off, but Tarquin talked me into it (pretty easy to do actually.) I drove back home and returned with my fiddle. I ended up playing two songs with them, "Pass You By" by Gillian Welch and "Deal" -- I haven't really figured out how to play into a microphone though, so I was totally inaudible on "Pass You By" -- on "Deal" I was getting it a little better and people in the audience could hear at least some of what I was playing.
Leaving aside the issue of whether anyone off the stage was able to hear it, I was able to keep up with the band and improvised some really nice licks. They asked me to play with them again. (I need to get a pickup!) And: 13 Scotland Rd was in the audience and played a couple of songs at the intermission -- I have jammed with Aaron and have their CD, but have never listened to them live -- they just blew me away! And Bill was interested by what he could make out of my fiddling, and asked me to practice with them. Update: ...And, I just ordered a pickup for my fiddle. Looking forward to my next opportunity to use it.
Tuesday, March 28th, 2006
Tonight I practiced with 13 Scotland Rd, which is Bill Binford on guitar and vocals and Aaron Seglin on harmonica, flute, percussion and vocals. I have jammed with Aaron before at Bob and Janis' house, but had never heard him playing 13 Scotland Rd songs, and never met Bill. The music was just lovely. I played coherent, pretty solos with two of their songs, and less together stuff with a couple of other songs. I did "John Hardy" with Aaron. Anyway -- they were happy enough with what I was doing, to ask me back -- so I will be practicing with them for a while, and if it goes well, performing with them! I'm very excited about this -- I've wanted to be in a band for as long as I can remember.
Tuesday, April 4th, 2006
I was jamming again tonight with 13 Scotland Rd, and got a lot of good stuff on tape. Where last time I felt pretty up-in-the-air about whether I was playing with or against Bill, tonight I was starting to click and hear what I was doing right or wrong. Bill was also teaching me the songs in a way he was not doing last week, which was really helpful. Between Bill and Lisa Gutkin I feel like I have really happened on two ideal music teachers. We played:
- "Dream", which we had finished out the evening with last week, with me playing a really pretty intro. Had a hard time getting back there, but after a couple of times through I broke through and started getting it.
- "Used to be" -- just blew me away, a beautiful song. Aaron taught me an intro that I picked up fairly quickly. On the solo I'm having a hard time really going into it aggressively without also being sloppy.
- "If You Were Mine", which I've been practicing most of this week.
- "Always", which is really difficult for me to hear the key of.
Thursday, April 6th, 2006
Tonight for the first time I felt myself starting to get comfortable in the second and third positions. All along I have been trying to work them in to my playing without any real luck. On Tuesday, Bill and Aaron were saying how they'd really like to hear the high notes and advising me to practice scales up the neck -- aagh! my bane! repetitive practice! -- so I set out to try it.
Last night I was playing the scales but without any real clue what I was doing. But tonight I changed my strategy a little. First, I decided only to work on the key of G for now, since the songs I've been playing with Bill and Aaron are primarily in G. And second, I decided not to worry about the bottom string since I was having a lot of trouble there.
I started playing some scales, sounding a little better than last night; and after a little while I moved into playing melodies and solos -- mostly in third position. Still having to hunt for notes a bit and sometimes drifting away from the proper position. I'm trying to figure out how to move between positions now.
Tuesday, April 11th, 2006
Rehearsal with Aaron and Bill (and Mark, who will be playing lead guitar) went really nicely this evening. I'm starting to understand "Always". I was spot on with two songs, "Used to be" (which I've been working hard on all week) and "Dream" (which I haven't touched since last time), and was doing really well on "If you were mine" until I screwed up massively where I shift to third position. We played a couple of new songs, including one in E flat! Very peculiar key for the violin. I got a copy of their CD (having lost track of the one I bought last year) which should help with learning the songs.
Friday, April 14th, 2006
Well it looks like the thing that will ultimately give me confidence in playing in third position, is going to be "Sometimes" -- it is in E♭ which is horrendously difficult to play in first position. But I was practicing it tonight in third position and came up with a pretty solo that is all in third position, easy to play and I think it will be easy to remember. So that's great -- I will play it with Aaron and Bob and once I get comfortable with it, I should be able to play up there in G and D as well.
Monday, April 17th, 2006
Tonight I worked out a really satisfying solo to play with "Always". That's sort of the second song I've done that for since joining 13 Scotland Rd. -- for a couple of the songs nice solos come pretty naturally, but the two that I've really worked on and think of myself as knowing a fiddle part for, are "Used to be" and "Always". I'm particularly happy about "Always" because for the first couple of weeks I was totally in the dark about this song.
The process is approximately: figure out what key the song is in, and what note to start the verse and chorus on. Then find a couple-of-note phrase that fits into the music at a couple of key junctures. Then work out how to echo that phrase up a fourth and a fifth and an octave. Then play the melody with the phrase different ways until everything comes together. It is satisfying when it works.
Friday, November second, 2007
Belle inspires me to figure out where my iPod is and listen to some random songs so I can post them here. I'm getting lots of blues and lots of Robyn tonight.
- "Alma Waltz", Mississippi Mud-Steppers
- "Singin the Blues (Till My Daddy Comes Home)", Fletcher Henderson Orchestra
- "Broken Bed Blues", Kansas City Blues Strummers
- "Flavor of Night", Robyn Hitchcock -- this shares the quality of many of the songs on I Often Dream of Trains, where the song totally sounds like it's going to be amazing, fantastic, you can't miss its potential greatness, but somehow it doesn't quite make it.
- "Hard Way", Taj Mahal -- Janis gave me this CD in an effort to make me see how great Taj Mahal is; but I'm afraid his greatness eludes me. The instrumentals are occasionally awesome.
- "Sometimes a Blonde", Robyn Hitchcock. A solo acoustic performance at Maxwell's, in the catastrophic month of November 2004. I like this a whole lot. After the song, patter about waitress Desirée.
- "Terrapin", Robyn Hitchcock. From the second set of the April 2007 Games for May concert. With cellos!
- "I Miss You More", 13 Scotland Rd. I don't think this is my favorite song of theirs but after the long instrumental at the beginning finishes, it might be their best vehicle for Bill's voice.
- Medley of "Good Morning" and "In the Midnight Hour", by Robyn Hitchcock, who so much should not try to cover the Beatles. Oh man, this is a train wreck. What the fuck's going on Robyn? You have a really amazingly good singing voice when you're not trying to sing like John Lennon. (Though the cellos are a nice touch.)
- "Sittin' on Top of the World", Taj Mahal. Nope, still not getting it.
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