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Guitar practice season

Now that my monster translation is out of the way, I can really get back into my guitar playing again. The problem is that I have no focus to my practice and my time is limited, so I really need to put a schedule together.

Here are the things I would like to work on:

  1. Accompaniment – working through my Frank Kilkelly book (Accompanying Irish Music on Guitar), first brushing up on the four sets of tunes I’ve already worked on and then getting onto another set;
  2. Open mic stuff – since finding the local open mics and meeting a bouzouki player, I’d like to start playing with him more. This will involve accompaniment as well as some flatpicking and fingerpicking. I also need to keep working on my songs and have asked a girl at work if she’d be up for joining me on some vocals. I also know a violin player whom I’m trying to turn to the light of trad music. She’s coming around I think!
  3. Flatpicking – I noticed at a recent UK gathering I attended that if one does not practice flatpicking, one gets rusty. I thought I’d share that, just in case you didn’t know. My Parking Lot Pickers book is a heck of a lot of fun to work from, particularly playing along with the CD. This will cover accompaniment too.
  4. Fretboard knowledge – I really would like to finish Volume 2 of the Skeptical Guitarist, work through Steve Kaufman’s Figuring out the Fretboard DVD and work through Mary Flower’s Fingerstyle Ragtime DVD.
  5. Sight reading – I’d like to progress through my Fred Noad book. I’ve started going through it from scratch about four times, and each time I get a little farther. I’m about a third of the way through it and it gives me a great sense of achievement when I learn a new tune from that book. I know it will do a lot for my playing.
  6. I really must work on El McMeen’s arrangement of The Mist Covered Mountains of Home. It’s one of the most moving arrangements I’ve heard and I could play it fairly well a couple of years ago. I’d like to get it to performance standard.
  7. New tune to learn – I’ve had a desire for a long time to learn El’s arrangement of Fanny Power. There’s just something about it that moves me (as is the case with a lot of El’s arrangements, but this one in particular).

Fanny Power

So I’ve put together a spreadsheet of things to practice each day and will try to get in 30 minutes a day of what it says on the spreadsheet for each particular day. That will take the thinking about what to do when I get the time each day and should go a long way to helping me to progress.

Web 2.0 in under five minutes

This was Amber’s web pick on this week’s episode of CommandN (a video podcast on technology). It’s a great little video and shows how we got from writing on paper to Web 2.0 sites (like Vox, for example!)

Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us

 

 

Vox Hunt: Rocked My World

Audio: Show us cover art or share a track from the first band or solo artist you flipped for.
Submitted by Red Pen.

That would be Adam & the Ants. My dad had Kings of the Wild Frontier on tape and I loved it. The first “album” I bought (it was a cassette tape) was Prince Charming. I had Adam Ant posters all over my wall and was a big fan. Definitely the first band I “flipped for”.

Stand and Deliver
Adam & The Ants

Mist Covered Mountains of Home

I first heard this tune on El McMeen’s CD, Playing Favorites. El’s music has been an inspiration to me ever since I discovered his playing. It began when I downloaded a sheet of hand-written tablature for a tune called My Mary of the Curling Hair from his web site. El plays a lot in the tuning CGDGAD and Mary was the first tune I learned in that tuning. I just loved the way it sounded and began to play more in CGDGAD.

I struck up an e-mail dialogue with El and found him to be the most approachable and helpful of players that one could hope to find. I ordered a CD of his (Dancing the Strings) and, after hearing it, ordered his entire back catalogue as a Christmas present to myself in 2003.

I did a couple of video lessons with El, where I would record a video of myself playing a tune, send it to him over the Internet and have him critique my playing. That worked quite well, but obviously was nothing like as good as the real thing.

In October 2004 I flew to the USA for my first Little Brother Jam and, since I was there, I decided to take a trip to El’s house in New Jersey for a lesson at his home. It was a great experience and one which I would very much like to repeat one day.

The Mist Covered Mountains of Home is a tricky tune to play and I’ve never played it live. In some ways it’s more difficult than the Humours of Ballyloughlin, also one of El’s arrangements in CGDGAD, as it really requires emotion. The Humours requires emotion too, of course, but the essential part of the Humours is the timing; you really have to get the groove of that one going and get the feet tapping.

I haven’t practised Mist for a while and I have a chance to play it out at the forthcoming 10th RMMGA UK gathering at Hargate Hall in March. February should be a relatively quiet month for me (translation deadline is end of Jan) so I plan to spend some time working on Mist and see if I can get it to a playable state. I know from experience that playing a tune in front of people is the baptism of fire method of discovering if you really have it down as well as you think you have.

Mist is one of those tunes that can really bring tears to my eyes, even my own playing of it, and that’s something that happens all too infrequently for me.

This video of it was recording some time ago, around November 2004 if my post on my Celtic Guitar Talk forum is to be believed.

The Mist Covered Mountains of Home

This is the Sea

This is the Sea is the third Waterboys album and most probably my favourite album of all time. It’s certainly the album in my collection that has been listened to the most. I’ve bought it probably four or five times. I’ve had two cassette tapes bite the dust, bought the CD then lost it, bought it again and, this Christmas, I was pleasantly surprised to find the remastered edition in my Christmas stocking (from my loving wife).

The remastered version also includes a second CD of extended versions of the songs and songs which never made it onto the original 1985 version. It’s nice to hear the extended versions of Medicine Bow and Spirit, my two favourite tracks from the CD. It also has some liner notes written by Mike Scott which are illuminating.

It’s interesting to note that the tunes do not seem to date. Since I went into Alcoholics Anonymous back in September 2004, I’ve increasingly tried to live a more spiritual life and this has given a whole new meaning to Mike Scott’s lyrics. I know from having pretty much everything Mike Scott has written that he himself is a spiritual person, so it’s nice to have that perspective on songs with which I am so familiar. Spirit and Be My Enemy are two polar opposites of the spiritual side of Mike Scott’s writing (at least in my interpretation).

This was pretty much the culmination of the “Big Music” concept of Mike Scott’s writing – they “went folk” after this one with the fantastic Fisherman’s Blues album in 1990.

As a musician, it’s interesting to note that This is the Sea shows the power of the three-chord song. I have recently come to the conclusion in my own guitar playing that, at least in this genre, the music serves the song. Old England is a case in point. I’ve recently started performing Medicine Bow and may start playing The Pan Within a bit more too!

So, for now, enjoy Spirit (the original version).

The Waterboys

 

Amrit Sond: Genius or nutter?

This performance of Amrit Sond was recorded at RMMGA UK9 gathering at Hargate Hall in 2005. I heard him play this twice and, on each occasion, it was the same. At first I was like, WTF, but the more I listen to it, the more I see its musical merit. He’s pushing the boundaries of music on the acoustic guitar, and making us question the western conception of music. Amrit has an interesting background and it is manifesting itself in his music.

Oh, and he’s a humble and friendly guy with a great sense of humour. And he can also play more “conventional” music very well indeed. In fact, he won a Grammy for it.

So here’s Amrit:

RMMGA UK9: Amrit Sond

 

 

Black Water Side

While my wife and kids are away, I thought I would cheer myself up and take the opportunity to play guitar around the house at night! I don’t often get to do that quite so freely as the kids are asleep. I had fun playing the little Brook Bovey in the bathroom, where the acoustics are great.

Last week, I played out at an open mic and messed up a favourite tune of mine pretty badly, Black Water Side. For some reason this tune continues to elude me when under the spotlight, so I decided to try recording a video. I find that recording something simulates to some extent the pressure of playing out. And since I was playing the Bovey, I thought I’d do it on that. It has an incredible sound for such a small guitar!

Enjoy!

Black Water Side

Short Hamish Video

I shot this on my Minolta Dimage F100 and realised that the sound isn’t working 🙁

Hamish 7 December 2006