James - very cool man.
I thought I'd mention that there is a wonderfully in depth, informative, and entertaining extended interview/conversation with Chris on the Everyone Love's Guitar Podcast (a very recent episodeI. I really enjoyed it and highly recommend giving it a listen. I post it here, not only because I can but because Chris mentioned something during the podcast that struck a chord with me. Actually he mentioned a ton of things, and he's mentioned it to us here on occasion, but for some reason having heard it again during the podcast it's suddenly sinking in and that is to give yourself permission to be sloppy sometimes when practicing. I think following that advice will allow me to post something on this lesson soon. I hope you give it a listen.
Kip, thanks for mentioning the podcast! It was a fun interview for sure. Nothing like talking about yourself for 2 hours ;-)
One of the biggest lessons I've ever learned about playing and working on music is that it's important to extend compassion to yourself. We can really get in our own way and obstruct our own progress by being too harsh which can create blocks in the form of physical and mental tension.
Sorry about the light not being quite up to snuff ... it was dusk and I'm not much of a videographer (either). Here is my go at the first 2 lessons on this tune and maybe a little of the 3rd by accident. Everytime I improvise a little it turns into Copperhead Road ... sounds like an entirely different tune so we'll save that for later.
Sounding awesome Kip
What Bryan said! It sounds great and you changed a few things and did them in your own way, which I love. That’s the whole point of this thing. But you are playing with strength, conviction and fearlessness and those are attributes that have impact to the listener. I was totally rocking out listening to this. Great job, keep it up, and keep flirting with improvising, even if it does turn into Copperhead Road. Eventually it won’t!
I'm still with you on this man and I keep thinking back to something you said earlier ... maybe last lesson ... play like a child . You know when a child is sitting there playing with cars or soldiers and stuff just playing ... not thinking too much ... just moving stuff around .. knocking things over ... setting them up again ... trying stuff and having mindless fun ... just playing. Good stuff and a solid message.
Adding a little ever so slight thought to the process ... or maybe awareness ... or knowledge and I see things sort of conceptually coming together where I didn't think it would ever be possible in regards to "letting go" or 'improvising" ...
When I hear the word "IMPROVISE" in a sentence such as, How in the world does he improvise like that? It sends me the message that there is a formal procedural process that can be taught, memorized, and learned, and maybe after years and years of practice you'll get it right. Maybe that's why it's such a tough thing to teach ... when you say ... just play mindlessly ... eyes can glaze over.
I guess all I'm saying is you're doing a really great job teaching me this concept
None of which has anything to do with my fingers going where I want them too dang it.
Kip, thanks so much for this thoughtful comment! I think you hit the nail on the head when you wrote,"when I hear the word 'IMPROVISE' in a sentence such as, 'How in the world does he improvise like that?' it sends me the message that there is a formal procedural process that can be taught, memorized, and learned, and maybe after years and years of practice you'll get it right. Maybe that's why it's such a tough thing to teach...."
I think that's the thing - people tend to have a fundamental misunderstanding of what the essence of improvising is. And therefore that essence gets neglected because there is a lot of learnable information that, of course, can be applied: scales, notes, chords, etc. But the misconception is that if you know all of that stuff then you will be able to improvise. One needn't look beyond most trained classical musicians - who know their scales, notes and chords inside and out, but can't improvise at all because there was no room in their training for them to exist in that pure state of play - to see this borne out in real life.
unteachable yet learnable ... improvising over a vibe ... now you're talking my language ...
I know it sounds crazy, but it's true! Some of this stuff, especially the part where you can make the leap into real improvising, has to be learned by intuition. The fun starts when you begin putting the intellectual, teachable knowledge together with the intuitive knowledge.
Chris and Julian Lage have 2 tremendous records that I never put away. I'm hoping for a 3rd. Fngers crossed.
Chris - although growly and very cool .. your arrangement is elegant and beautiful. Great tune and I'll be having much fun with this.
If you're here I figure you like cool guitars and Chris .... a lot. So, I ran across this today on the Fretbnoard Journal Web Site. The restoration of an old Stella guitar and Chris plays it. I hope you enjoy ... and I don't know where to post this stuff so sorry.
This seems like as good a place as any!
Mike and Chris -
I think this single note picking advice on a G string is one of the most important lessons I have ever recieved during this journey. I spend at least 5 to 10 minutes everyday during the course of my practice to warm up in the beginning and cool down at the end. Although I won't be playing as fast as you are anytime soon ... I play tempos at interval of 5 bpm ranging from 75 to 95 spending about a minute or so at each. I've found some days are better than others but the mindfulness aspect is always helpful to stay loose and relaxed. Accuracy is also a by product but secondary to form and technique. Thank you!
Thanks Chris ... challenging crooked song to play and so far impossible for me to sing. As with most things I'm hoping to solve with time and practice. Great lyric. I had dismissed John Hartford for years based soley on appearance and banjo ... what a mistake that was. Thanks again!
You're gonna have to help me with a couple lyrics - I can't find them anywhere. For instance,
people come out in the Mississippi Valley - Western Kentucky ??????? in south St. Louis
Have a good ride on the ?????? Swango?
Thanks - I just can't seem to piece those together.
Hi Kip, these may not be right because I couldn’t ever find an official lyric sheet. But the first word you’re looking for is Cairo (a town south of St Louis that locals pronounce Cay-row).
The other words you’re looking for are ”the Julia Belle Swain” which was a steamboat that John Hartford used to write about in a lot of his songs.
You can take me back to a good old home I love
And the people that taught in that Mississippi Valley
Even on a Sunday morning you know that I'll be there
And we all come back for to be with you good neighbor
Live a good life in the Mississippi Valley
Down on the river you know that's where I want to be
And the night comes on like a blanket, chilly winds,
People come out in the Mississippi Valley
Western Kentucky, Cairo, over in South St. Louis
There's a baseball game at the Legion Post on Tuesday
Have a good ride on the Julia Belle Swain, go down to the river
And you know that's where I want to be
And the fields of corn and the banjo music
Catfish fry and a towboat payload
Pushing upstream against the stars
And a letter come back from a girl in Calhoun County
Here in the middle of the Mississippi Valley
I'm in love and you know that's where I want to be
Everytime I look at this I just think wow.
Hi Chris -
I should be cutting the grass but here I am picking on Billy in the Lowground. Always a work in progress.
Kip, as always you’re just killing it. You seem really calm and relaxed as you’re playing. That practice of mindfulness has really paid off and it’s awesome to see. I think it’s time for you to graduate to your metronome clicking half as much (so just on beats 1 and 3 instead of 1, 2, 3, 4). Try and maintain your sense of flow as you play. If that seems easy, have it click half as much again so that it is only beating on the first beat of every measure. This can be a GREAT way to work on both your own internal sense of flow and mindfulness/relaxation.
Great reminder and lesson. To a relative newbie to flatpicking - can I still say that after 3 years - I find that tension is one of the single biggest hurdles to overcome. It is essential to just about everything including speed, flow and even tone. I don't know if it is ever entirely overcome, as it requires constant mindfulness and attention. I suppose the key is to get to a point where you're not thinking about it but to someone like me who gets out of bed in the morning tense, I need to always think about it. The one string ... single note stream ... that Bryan Sutton preaches helps immensely and I have devoted a lot of time to that exercise and in my mind it really helps. I would recommend that all of your students do that for a bit everytime they pick up the guitar as a warm up and reminder to stay loose.
Looking forward to the rest of the Billy in the Lowground lessons and may post one soon.
Beautiful ... I first heard this on a Bryan Sutton record and it really knocked me out. I was not aware it was a John Hartford tune. Thanks for always broadening the horizon.
Hey Kip, absolutely. It’s on John Hartford’s Aereo-Plain record, which is one of the all time great bluegrass/new grass records. You should check it out!
Happy to see this and the concept of incomplete/partial chords mixed with a slightly altered tuning and the vibe it sends. Really cool rock'n stuff. Rygar has me baffled but I can see this helping with that if that makes any sense. Thx for putting this one on here.
Indeed. By putting different extensions into a chord or leaving out certain notes (often, but not always, a third) you can evoke different feelings and colors. The search for interesting chord voicings is a wonderful rabbit hole to go down!
Chris - way cool ... way outside of my time zone but I'm having a lot of fun messing around with this. I can play the "A" part and sort of play a hybrid mix of the easier version and more difficult version of the "B" part .... at about quarter speed LOL but I don't feel comfortable enough to put up a video. You nailed this song when you wrote it and your hands are like watching magic. I'm hoping and really looking forward to your next record with Julian.
Thanks Kip! Keep working on it and you'll definitely get it, just as you've gotten so many other things so far!
Although the subtle details are probably down the road for me someday, it is a great example of why you need to remain relaxed, loose and fluid. : )
Hey Chris -
Thanks for doing this. I'm sure you can't imagine how cool it is to see you play and teach Rygar. I've watched you all play this on videos and in person but this is way cool. Being a founding member of the pessimist club I have serious doubts about being able to play it but I'm psyched try.
Way to go man.
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