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There is a constant barrier between the reader and his consciousness of immediate contact with the world.

William Carlos Williams

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Monday, August 4th, 2003

Motivation is in short supply over here... I eventually got myself down to the basement this evening, looked at the wood and decided I did not want to chop any mortises. It was not such a bad thing though -- I realized I could mark all the joints at one go, which ended up taking about a half hour with all the futzing around I was doing. Tomorrow night I will start chopping.


Also I got some guitar practice in tonight; I worked out what I think will be a pretty convincing picking pattern for "While my Guitar Gently Weeps."

posted evening of August 4th, 2003: Respond
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Wednesday, August 6th, 2003

🦋 Here I Go

This is a fun song, by Syd Barrett. It is also quite easy to play on guitar, as I discovered this evening. I cannot guarantee the chords here are accurate but they sound alright. (Woops -- some of those chords were way off -- these should work a little better.)

 C                       G
This is a story bout a girl that I knew
She didn't like my songs and that made me feel blue
B♭ A G
She said a big band is far better than you.

C Am
She don't rock and roll
She don't like it
C Am
She don't do the stroll
Well she don't do it right
C C7
And everything's wrong
F F6
And my patience is gone
When I woke one morning
And remembered this song.
C Am
Kinda catchy,
C Am
I hope
C C7
That she will talk to me now
F F6
And even allow me
To hold her hand and forget that old man.
F C C7
I strolled around to her pad
Her light was off and that's bad
Her sister said that my girl was gone
But come inside boy and play play play me a song.

I said yeah
Here I go
She's kinda cute don't you know
That after a while
Of seeing her smile
I knew we could make it
A-make it in style.

So now I've got, all I need
She and I are in love, we've agreed
She likes this song, and my, others too
So now you see my world is...
Because of this tune.

What a boon this tune,
I tell you soon we'll be
Lying in bed
Happily wed
And I won't think of that girl
What she said.

The key thing in picking this song is that nearly every time there is a G chord followed by a C chord, you need to end the measure of G by hammering on from an open G string to an A. That will establish the mood of the song -- for everything else you can pick and strum pretty loosely. Keep a nice walking pace, a little faster in the middle of the song.

posted evening of August 6th, 2003: Respond
➳ More posts about Songs

Tuesday, October 14th, 2003

🦋 Open tunings

I've been interested for a long time in learning to play blues using alternate tunings. I may finally have found my avenue into this; namely dropped-D tuning. It is standard tuning, but with the lowest string tuned a full step down. I liked the key of D a lot already and this makes it a lot more fun. Specifically, I'm using it for "Down on the Corner" by Creedence; "Stagger Lee" by John Hurt; and "C. C. Rider" by John Hurt. A nice side effect of using this tuning is that it's encouraging me to play up the neck rather than staying in first position all the time. You can play really nice stuff on the G chord by fingering G bass on the 5th fret with your thumb and fingering the treble strings on the 3rd through 5th frets. (And don't play the A string.)

Mike told me he was having a lot of fun with open-G tuning and I'm looking forward to experimenting with that some.

posted evening of October 14th, 2003: Respond

Sunday, December 7th, 2003

🦋 Father Christmas

The Crooked Timber thread on annoying Christmas songs inspired me to think of "Father Christmas" by the Kinks, one of very few non-annoying popular Christmas songs. (Thanks to Apostropher for telling me which song I was thinking about. Google supplied me with lyrics and I came up with some chords that seem about right. The rhythm is still giving me a little trouble. Here is Tim Harris' transcription, which seems a little better than mine, he plays it in G while I prefer C.

posted morning of December 7th, 2003: Respond

Monday, December 15th, 2003

🦋 Tell old Bill

A song was running through my head all day; tonight I figured out (roughly) how to play it. The song is "Tell old Bill", which I know in a performance by the Chad Mitchell Trio. Here are the chords:

Tell old Bill, when he gets home, this morning,
Tell old Bill, when he gets home, this evening,
Tell old Bill, when he gets home,
   C          G        D
To leave them downtown women alone
     G             D           G
This morning, this evening, so soon.

The fingerpicking is kind of difficult to describe but basically you just play the melody. A lot of time is spent on open B, G string second fret, and open G; and in the alternate melody, a lot of time on E string third fret, open E, and B string third fret. A nice song.

Update: I'm playing it in D now, which is a lot easier on my voice, but I have yet to come up with as nice a picking pattern with the different shaped chords.

posted evening of December 15th, 2003: 2 responses

Wednesday, December 17th, 2003

🦋 At the open mike

I played the open mike at the Dancing Goat tonight, the first time I have performed in a few years (not counting the time I played in West Orange, which I am trying to forget) -- and the first time in several years I have performed on stage, with mikes. It went all right; I felt a little like I could not get into my groove and my timing was a little rough; but people in the audience said it sounded fine, Janis said it sounded just like when I am playing at her house, which is about what I was aiming for. I played "Stagger Lee" and "C. C. Rider" in a medley, and "Prodigal Son".

The band 13 Scotland Road played before the open mike, and were terrific.

posted evening of December 17th, 2003: Respond

Saturday, February 21st, 2004

🦋 Drop-D Tuning

I've been meaning for a while to post a note about drop-D guitar tuning. If you aspire to play finger-style blues guitar, I think this tuning is one of the first things you should find out about. (The other first thing you should find out about, is to get some recordings of Mississippi John Hurt, a master of the genre and IMO the most accessible of the Delta blues guitarists.) By finger-style blues I mean basically, picking alternating bass notes with your thumb or a thumb pick and a melody line with your first, first and second, or first through third fingers.

Drop-D is the simplest of the alternate tunings, all you do is tune the top string down a whole step. All the other strings have their standard pitch. You don't need to learn much in the way of new fingerings, but you suddenly have a lot more freedom. Here are the first-position chords (I play in first position just about all the time):


No difference.


No difference, except that the top string is your root. In standard tuning I am usually fingering an F# on the top string with my thumb, now I can just leave it open and pick an alternating bass between the top string and the third string.


Hold down G# on the fourth string with your first finger and E on the third string with your second finger. Leave the second string open (and never play it) and hold down E on the top string with your thumb. Now you can pick an alternating bass between the top string and third string, and two fingers are available for melody stuff.


Barre the bottom two strings on the first fret with your first finger. Hold down A on the fourth string with your second finger and F on the third string with your third finger. Leave the second string open (and never play it) and hold down F on the top string with your thumb. Now you can pick an alternating bass between the top string and third string, and one finger is available for melody stuff. (Note that you can move this barre chord up and down the fingerboard as you desire.)


G is where things get wild -- All you need to do for G is hold down the fifth fret of the top string with your thumb, all four fingers are available for melody stuff. You're pretty free to roam between the third and sixth frets of the treble strings, and throw in open strings (except for the bottom string) as desired.


No difference.


No difference. (Actually I usually finger B7 in first position, you can do either one.)

I discovered this tuning while working on "Stagger Lee", since then I have used it on a lot of other songs in the key of D -- lately I noticed it would work well for songs in G too, and yesterday I worked out "Lay me a Pallet on your Floor", which is in C and sounds very nice indeed in this tuning. And the other day I tried playing "Prodigal Son" (in E) in drop-D and though it took a little while to get the hang of it (partly because I've been playing that song for such a long time in standard tuning), it ended up sounding really nice too.

posted afternoon of February 21st, 2004: Respond

Wednesday, March third, 2004

🦋 Double drop-D tuning

Ooh! I just discovered, you can also tune the bottom string down when you play in drop-D tuning. I discovered this when I was looking for lyrics to The Ballad of Hollis Brown, while formulating my own list of top 5 Dylan songs. I can't wait to try it out!

Update, later on: One thing you have to be careful about with this tuning, is that you don't tune the bottom string back up to E too rapidly; otherwise it may break. I have no replacement strings! Hopefully I will be able to buy some on Saturday.

posted afternoon of March third, 2004: Respond

Friday, March 5th, 2004

Pursuant to some thinking I've been doing about Dylan lately (inspired in large part by this Crooked Timber thread) I have tracked down a couple of good Dylan links.

  • Bob Dylan Musical Roots: These pages have a lot of interesting stuff about Odetta and other blues and folk singers that Dylan listened to.
  • Bob Dylan Chords: Pretty comprehensive, with information about alternate tunings and picking patterns. This site was originally called "My Back Pages".
  • Discography, etc. And lotsa links.

posted afternoon of March 5th, 2004: Respond

Saturday, March 6th, 2004

🦋 The Ballad of Hollis Brown

So it turns out to be easier for me to play The Ballad of Hollis Brown in straight Drop-D tuning than in double Drop-D. It's sounding really nice although I have not quite got down how to sing it without whining. Or how to remember all the lyrics.

posted evening of March 6th, 2004: Respond

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