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August 1:
 I still have remaining work on the last 5 or so tunes in vol. 1, but I am on to volume 2. I think I will start working the songs in parallel with the ear training material at the beginning of the book (as perhaps should have been done for vol. 1).  I am also looking to use some of Dan's simple fiddle tune melodies from Vol. 3 and ASD for some remedial ear training (more fun than Twinkle-twinkle. . .)  Have fun, play lots!

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Hi Gannon, Thank you for keeping us going! I am ready to move on as well.

Ear training is something I desparately need. One of my challenges has been that I am not familiar with Old Timey and Bluegrass music -- I grew up listening to rock. But since I moved to the mountains of western North Carolina, I have fallen in love with it. Music and dance heritage here is probably some of the richest in the country. I mention this because it is obviously hard to play something by ear that you don't know! So I plan to use Christmas songs to help me with my ear training. I've been hearing those year after year all my life! And by the time the Holidays roll around, I should be all set! I mention it in case others need some song suggestions as they get started.

I do have a question for you -- what is ASD that you are using for fiddle tune melodies? Thanks again.
Hi Lora,

ASD = amazing slow downer. Software that slows down (or speeds up) audio tracks without changing pitch Also, very precise loop control so you can repeat single phrases (or even notes). Evaluation copy is free and will work on the first 1/4 of a song, up to 3 minutes. For a long time I just pasted together 4 copies of a song so that I could access the whole tune, but finally paid the $50 for the full version, since I use it a whole lot. You should be able to find the demo version at


Christmas songs sound like a great place to start ear training - must be a large number that are deeply ingrained.
Thank you, Gannon. I will check out ASD. I have quite a number of songs recorded from local jams. Slowing them down would certainly come in handy to help learn versions unique to this area. Sandy River Belle is played in D around these parts, for example. Thanks again!
Usually played in G? I didn't know it before (?) - but I do now. Found a hammered dulcimer version that my ear tells me is in D:


Seems a great candidate for learning by ear . . .
Good idea, Lora.

Did you purchase volume 2? In it, Dan recommends picking any song that you know, and figuring (fingering) out the melody on your guitar, in 4 different keys. Do this with a different song every day. Some of his suggestions are simple school kid songs. The point is that the exercize works best with songs you know already. Practicing in the different keys has been valuable for me and
quite an eye-opener.

I'm in the situation vis-a-vis knowledge of BG and OT tunes. I'm using the immersion method to learn these songs. I don't listen to rock anymore - I only listen to music that seems like I might be able to play it. I find that figuring out the chords and getting proficient at playing rhythm is a good way to learn a song before trying to learn how to play the melody. Singing the lyrics is even better. All that is part of Dan's advice, too.

Do you like Townes Van Zandt's songs? They fit well with BG techniques, simple melody playing, and learning how to fill instrumental breaks into the melody.

Those OT melodies are very simple amd catchy when I hear them played by contemporary OT bands (No scratchy fiddling/singing). This month's favorite OT band is Uncle Earl.

I travel up to WNC one or two weekends per month. Any good events happening up in your neck of the woods in the next few months?
Hi Jim, Thanks for your thoughts on practicing!

As for good music events . . . if you are in the Asheville, NC area, be sure to check out Shindig on the Green. It runs every Saturday night until September (every Saturday except this coming weekend). Lots of very talented local musicians show up to play. Most of the music is old timey with a bit of bluegrass, country and gospel. One of the regulars is Roger Howell, Certified Old Time Fiddler winner at Union Grove. He is our local expert on mountain music and has recorded over 350 old timey songs in an effort to preserve them for future generations.

This weekend we have the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival. It is the country's longest running folk festival -- started by Bascom Lamar Lunsford himself. There will be lots of fiddle music -- this area has some of the world's best fiddlers. And a couple guitarists you may have heard of include Bryan McDowell and Jerry Sutton (Bryan Sutton's dad). Check out the Folk Heritage website for more information about Shindig and Mountain Dance and Folk Festival -- http://www.folkheritage.org/

And if you are in Marshall, NC (20 miles north of Asheville) on Thursday night from 7-9pm, be sure to stop in Zuma Coffee. Bobby Hicks hosts an open bluegrass jam. Yes, Bobby Hicks -- multi-Grammy winner of Bill Monroe and Ricky Scaggs fame. In addition to bluegrass, there will be old timey and western swing msuic. It just doens't get any better than this. The place is packed, so you'll want to get there early.

If you do make it to the area, please be sure to let me know.
Ear training: the 'kiddie songs' don't seem to work for me. I apparently have poor long-term tone memory - I can remember the rhythm, words, and general flow of the melody; but the actually melody I end up with is usually only loosely rated to what it should have been. On the other had, fiddle tunes that I am familiar with (but haven't learned) seem to go pretty well. To that end, for several years I have cursed the Brad Davis Flatpick Jam series because they didn't provide TAB for the slow (simplest but still interesting and challenging) versions over the last 2.5 volumes. Now they have become a blessing for ear training - speed, clarity, and arrangements are great; but there is no chance to cheat and peek at the TAB (many times I have proven that given the opportunity, I will cheat despite best intentions).

Back to 'Rueben' . . .
Trying to bring discussions back to discussions, rather than comment page -

Jim Wing said ". . .I like the new-to-me technique illustrated in "Old Joe Clark," but I'm having trouble going from the Bluegrass G-chord to the barre-F-chord. I suppose it's time for me to master that demon."

I just got to Old Joe Clark, and also like the technique. Regarding the barre-F: have you tried the baseball-bat F (wrap thumb over the top for F on 6th string)? I find it a lot faster. But maybe that is because I hardly ever play barre chords, particularly at the first fret. On the other hand, perhaps you are right - time to tackle the demon. Just have to throw the chord change of few thousand times - I need it for bluegrass G anyway.
Once I started playing BG, I stopped playing full barre cords. So for the B part of Old Joe Clark, and other tunes that need an F, I only barre the B & E strings and simply avoid striking the E or A strings. Naturally, I don't totally ignore them for the other chords, and because they play such an important role on the instrument, but when I use the movable "f" shape chord, that's what I do. I think it is much faster, and no one confuses you for a folkie
Doug (good to see you here and thanks for the input),
That is what I usually do for F in a BG rhythm setting, except that I use a 5-string F (ring on 5th, pinkie on 4th) so that I can get a strong I-V alternating bass (4th, 5th strings) in the same register as the other chords. However, in this particular instance of Carter Style we need to get to the low F on the sixth string to carry the melody in the bass line.

But, I don't know what is more common or better: wrapping the thumb, or playing a full barre. I expect it may have something to do with hand size. Dan Miller - any thoughts?
Thanks for the tip, ganon. I've been practicing both ways, with equally slow results so far. My new strategy is to use a capo at the third fret; when I get the change smooth, I'll move the capo to the second fret. That seems to be accelerating the progress.

Some pick-hand technique I discovered practicing this arrangement: My upstrokes were not smooth and did not sound good until I rotated the pick a bit clockwise so that the tip points slightly toward the nut. Also on the upstroke, I rotate my wrist so that my palm is a bit open to the floor and my thumb-forefinger are leading and pulling the tip across the strings.
Hi folks,
How is everyone doing on Vol. 2? How far along are you Ganon (and all)? I just started "She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain" and am working now to incorporate some runs, pull offs, etc, per Dan's suggestions. I am finding it very helpful to return to Vol. 1 and draw back upon the many G runs, C rhythms, etc. as I move through Vol. 2. Much more rewarding to use these in context.

Happy strumming!


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