Seriously Chris, your improv chops are ludicrious. Talk about nailing and outlining the changes.
Ok Chris, here's my shot at the A part with some of the syncopations. It is all about flow!
Sounding really great, James! You're right, it's all about finding a good flow. One thing for you to consider in the quest for ever better flow: it looks to me like you are holding some extra tension in your right forearm. Maybe try exaggerating a loose movement there for a bit, just to help learn what it feels like. Then slowly try to integrate some of that feeling into your playing of the tune.
p.s. Sounding really good on the repeat variation! It's tricky and you're doing it well!
I took on this piece a couple of months ago. When I first heard it my jaw dropped. I think I dropped a few swear words actually. I also skipped the intro and focused on the main tune. It kicked my butt. Had to take chunks and slow them down and listen to them a hundred times. When I heard you play it I realized how much I was over thinking it and was uber focused on the exact "dipsy doodles" as Kip calls them and lost the overall feel. You make it sound so effortless and easy!
Like Kip, I got into and really learned to appreciate Norman through your lessons and fell in love with his style. So thanks for that, and I'm looking forward to the rest of this series!
Love this, thanks James!
Ha! As you started playing through those open voiced triads, I started thinking "Hey, that sounds like what Eric Johnson does". Then you broke into Cliffs of Dover lol. Nice lesson!
Nice little arrangement there of Chris Thile's "Jesamyn's Reel"!
Why thank you! I've always loved that tune and it is mostly built from arpeggios.
This is not by any means a perfect take, but the overall goal was to keep the structure of the song in mind. It gets pretty blatant in the B part. Keeping the structure of the melody in mind is something I'm trying to focus on more. Otherwise I lose my place and fall apart.
That's really cool!
James - very cool man.
Yes James, exactly! This is great! I can hear the tune but I can also hear that you are stepping out of the well-worn tracks. Keep it up. The one thing that I would suggest is that you do this at a variety of tempos. Play it quickly like this sometimes, but also play it slow and give your lyrical intuition a little more chance to get involved. If you give it a chance to sing at slower tempos, you’ll learn good stuff that will stick with you at faster tempos. But this is good. 👏
When you talked about learning with your ear first, then applying the intellect, you were spot on. That is essentially what we do in elementary school music classrooms. The kids experience the concept first through play--singing games, etc-- then it gets labeled. Then it gets more directly applied.
Exactly! How cool! Thanks for sharing.
LIke Kip said, great reminder and lesson. A few weeks ago I was preparing to play a series of gigs with a bluegrass band---my first ever paid bluegrass gigs!!--that liked to play pretty quick tempos. One day I was working on Dear Old Dixie and was really intent on trying to play fast, not paying much attention to much else. By the end of my practice session my right hand /forearm was killing me, which freaked me out. So I went back to basics, slowed down, and went into that awareness mode that you talked about. In fact I focused on the very same spot you mentioned at 7:00! It made a huge difference.
Another thing I've found that helps with relaxation is, kind of like you said, having an internal groove or click to play to. I tend to think of a mandolin chop, so I'm kind of playing to an imaginary mandolin player. I find that when I do that my right hand goes into that groove you were talking about and gets that nice flow that I'm aiming for.
You're spot on about getting to that point where you trust your technique and just allow it to happen. I'm not nearly there yet but that is certainly where I want to be. I think Eric Johnson calls it getting out your own way and allowing yourself to make music.
Thanks for the great lesson and tips!
Wow, sounds great!! Excellent picking, and fantastic singing!
Been having a great time working this one up. Took a lot of passes before I finally got one where I didn't totally blow a lyrical or guitar line. Hope you like my take on the extended solo (minus the minor clunker).
Hey James, great job! I especially dig the way you are phrasing the vocal. ”He likes her red dress and pearly white teeth.” That syncopation is hillbilly-funky and I love it! Also, nice job outlining the chords on your solo. My one piece of constructive criticism on this is that you might use bluegrass rhythm guitar as more of a jumping of point rather than the full on accompanimental feel. Of course, it sounds good the way you did it, but see if you can, in a musical way, get a little of the vibe in your rhythm playing from your vocal approach. I tend to feel this song with almost a cut-time bluegrass feel, if that makes sense. Like there’s Anyway, mess around with it and see if you can find a slightly different feel that you like.
John Williams thanks you for the quote ;)
Church Street Blues is one of my desert island albums. Masterpiece from start to finish.
Wow, it really is incredible how much dynamic contrast you can draw out of a flatpick, Chris. Looking forward to diving into this. A very belated Happy New Year to to you.
Nice version. Thank you for playing the C#s and using the B7 chord. I've heard versions of this that stay full-on minor (natural, not dorian), including on the V chord and it's always bothered me.
Thanks James! I know, it’s no fun if you keep it all natural minor.
I stuck pretty close to the melody, but had some fun. Not bad for first thing in the morning. Hence the stubble.
Sounding great James! Now, as a challenge to yourself try playing it for 2 mins without ever playing the F on the 1st fret of the 1st string. It can be really good to give yourself assignments like this to help break out of a box. Having to play that note in a different position might cause different phrases to pop out as well!
James - come on man I can't even get my stubble to look that good - I'm just trying to learn the tune over here. Great job!
My high school band director told us my sophomore year told us once that the best thing about the Mixolydian scale is that it allowed you to sound really smart without a whole lot of extra effort.
For kind of a fresh take on this tune, this is Jake Workman, Ricky Skagg's current lead player. Pretty sure this is Red Haired Boy, he's kinda Django-ing it in that he's basically improvising around the chord changes. Some very cool licks here and a nice substitution (Am-Dm I think) in the first B section.
Hi Chris, another meta-question (sorry, I'm full of 'em right now). Big picture, do you approach improvisation from a chord position based perspective like this, or more geographical region based type thing? Jack Pearson is real big on chord position based improv (and he's a beast), but when I was real into jazz I found a lot of success with Jimmy Bruno's whole 5 Regions concept (picking one area of the fretboard and learning every key within it). For the record, I've gravitated towards a mixture of both. But I kinda suck at improv lately so that's why I'm on this site!
Hey Chris, always been curious about this-- regarding the the melody for "I'm too old to ride the rail..." The first version (and as a professor once pointed out to me, therefore the definitive one in my mind) I ever heard of this tune was Tony Rice's, and he sings that part differently, so that became the "correct" way in my head. Now hearing your version, and going back to Norman's original, I know you use Norman's original melody to it.Just curious about your thoughts on these kinds of differences in interpretation, especially when it comes to stuff like this where its more than just a lick or two or a chord substitution.
When I learned this song and knew that I would likely be performing it, it was important to me to check out both versions just to see if there were certain parts I liked better, or if hearing both versions might suggest something that I might do that was different from either one of them. I definitely knew Tony's version first, but there was something so straightforward about the way Norman sang that part that I found to be more appealing, especially without the benefit Ricky Skaggs singing harmony! So really, my version of the song is nothing more than an amalgamation based on my personal tastes.
Thank you so much Kip! That means a lot. You are a great picker. Play on my friend!
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