Saturday, January 28, 2012

Big Mon

Big Mon is easily one of the coolest Bluegrass tunes every written, and of course, it was written by Bill Monroe on his Gibson F5 Mandolin, and that, of course, is the source of the name.  I've no idea if Monroe would have named it that himself and for himself, but more than likely, someone else called it that - and it stuck.

Big Mon is not truly a complicated tune to learn - like all Bluegrass tunes, it can be made as simple or complex as you wish to make it, but what it is is something meant to be played VERY fast, and because of the herky jerky melody, it's just really a head bobbing, and funky masterpiece of a song.

Now Big Mon is a bit different in it's history as this song was written by a mandolin player for the mandolin, and so here's the awesome Andy Leftwich version with him playing the song on the mandolin.  This performance wasn't ...the mic wasn't set up for the guitar to sound like much here, so you don't get a great idea of how the song would sound on the guitar so much as you should get the idea of the melody from the Leftwich mandolin!

But in the following video you can see a good looking chick and a little (very young) boy playing the fire out of Big Mon on flat top guitars!

And here you have a very basic idea of the melody in tab for the guitar:

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Turkey In The Straw.

When I was growing up and learning to play the guitar a bit I learned to play some rhythm and flatpick some from my grandfather.  I absorbed a ton of information about music and acoustic guitars over the years from just being around him and listening to him talk so enthusiastically about the subjects, and really, I had no idea just how much I'd picked up until many years later.

The first tune that I ever learned to flatpick was The Wildwood Flower, and of course that is the perfect simple but memorable tune to be a first one for a flatpicker, or a rhythm guitar piece.  I might have learned that one first on rhythm, but I doubt it.

The second song that I learned was The Turkey In The Straw, and that's another well known tune from the fiddle tune melodies of Appalachian or Scotch Irish music.  I'll always remember that my grandfather taught me one arrangement of it, but when we'd trade off playing, he'd play a different version of it.  He wouldn't teach me HIS version either!!!  He said something like,

"No, that one is mine, you can make up your own though."


Well, It's a great song to learn to play, and everyone under the American sun has heard this song at one point or another.  It's most often heard as the song that the ice cream trucks patrolling neighbourhoods play as they creep through selling their wares.  Let's hear it, shall we?

You really can't beat the version above - that's a super trio of musicians there, and they play a splendid and true to the original melody rendition of it.  But let me find a much simpler version of the tune for anyone that is interested in learning the song on guitar with tab.

Now the link above is great because it's up the neck instead of in the first or open position.  When you're a youngster learning guitar - you might think that playing in the open position is less technically challenging - but to an electric guitarist - playing open position numbers on acoustic is more challenging - that's the perspective that I lacked when I was younger.

And the link above here is another one up the neck - learn the neck my friends, and the best way to do that is with a single tune moving it to different positions and in different keys.

Are you more comfortable reading music?  Well the above link is for you.

I hope that this has been useful to you.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Elixir Acoustic Guitar Strings

The Best value in Guitar Strings, and No Doubt About It.

Elixir brand acoustic guitar stringsare the strings with the highest value that I have ever used. I say that without the slightest reservation, and without a second thought. There's simply no doubt about this in my mind. I've had my sweaty, grubby, hard working hands on guitars, and guitar strings for the past twenty four years. I started playing guitar at twelve years old. I used to wear out a brand new set of string in less than a week . . . .and then they started making Elixer.
When I started playing guitar, strings like Elixer brand strings did not exist. If they did, then I surely didn't know about it. I always got my strings through my grandfather, who ordered them though Musician's Friend catalog, he always bought strings in bulk, and he'd decided, wisely, to use phosphor bronze wound strings.

Phosphor Bronze vs. Brass

Chances are that if you are reading this you are an amateur musician or a non-professional guitar enthusiast. If you are new to guitar playing, and new to changing or installing a set of strings on a guitar-then you probably aren't good at it, and you know that it's sometimes a royal pain in the rear. You don't want to have to change strings very often, and neither does anyone else that I know. This is why Elixer guitar strings for acoustic guitar-are the right strings for you, me, and really, everyone.
Here's the thing, or maybe I should slyly say, "hear is the thing."  I've got WAY better hearing than most people, or maybe, I've got ears that are more in tune to music, and especially guitars.  I can hear really quickly when a string is out of tune, or if that string is "dead."
Brass wound acoustic guitar stings are the strings of choice for a studio, or professional acoustic guitarist when he is going into the studio to record something-but at no other time will he or she use brass wound guitar strings.  Why is that?  Brass wound guitar strings sound really, really great at first-and then they "die," or get really dull sounding really quickly.
Phosphor Bronze wound strings don't quite sound as "bright" as brass wound guitar strings-but they maintain a new string sound for a longer period of time than do brass wound guitar strings.

What Kills Your Strings?

What causes strings to loose the new string sound?  That's easy, your sweat kills the new string sound, the oil's secreted from your skin kills the sound as well.  There's nothing much you can do to stop that.  Washing your hands works, of course, but that only slows the process of fading new string sound down a bit.  If you are using brass wound, or phosphor bronze wound guitar strings, take a good quality paper towel, or a wash clothe that you don't wash with anymore-but still a clean one, spray some WD 40 onto the clothe, and gently wipe down your strings with it.  That little trick will bring your strings back to life for a little while, and you can even do that a few times with some degree of tonal benefit.

Elixer Polyweb Coating, THE Solution.

Elixer brand acoustic guitar strings have a polyweb coating that is the solution to the dead or dying new string sound problem.
Once I heard someone say,
I just don't see paying that kind of money for strings!
My unsaid thoughts were this,
Well, just keep spending more money for strings that will die fast, you less than bright fellow, you will SAVE money in the long run, LOTS of money if you spend a bit extra for the Elixer brand strings with the polyweb coating that prevents you from NEEDING new acoustic guitar strings!
It's absolutely true, and I'm completely correct - if you use Elixer, then you won't be spending nearly so much money towards maintaining that new string sound on your acoustic guitar, you will save money, lots of money.  The strings on my Santa Cruz have been on it for over a year, and they still sound fresh, and they still sound better than a set of two day old phosphor bronze strings, or one day old brass wound strings.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Blackberry Blossom

One of the old standby tunes in modern flatpicking is Blackberry Blossom, and this is not likely to change any time soon.  If you're going to pursue flatpicking, playing the mandolin in a bluegrass music setting, the banjo, the fiddle, the acoustic bass, or any other instrument that can or is ever used ...such as the dobro, or harmonica, or others that I'm not thinking of, then you need to know this tune.

Now Blackberry Blossom is considered a traditional tune, and to me that simply says that it's ancient, and nobody knows any more who wrote it.  Basically, tunes such as this one are what we call public domain, and that means that you can arrange it and transcribe it and customize it without fear, and without crediting someone else.  But you need to be aware that if you are going to play Norman Blake's version or Tony Rice's version or arrangement of the tune, that you should make known to your audience who's arrangement it is so as to not imply that it's YOUR arrangement.

Blackberry Blossom is also, of course, the name of an album by Norman Blake, and this is where Norman's arrangement became known both far and wide.

For the reader's pleasure and in an effort to pay due tribute to other persons who support, spread, and love this very kind of tune, here's another link where you can get lesson material for this very song, The Blackberry Blossom:

And with the following link, an arrangement that seems to be half that of Norman Blake, and half someone else's.  Again, this tune is public domain, and a traditional that is surely older than most folk's knowledge of their own family history:

Now, I hope that someone somewhere has been served by some of that, but I like to listen to music more than I even like to play music (most of the time) so let's see what the grand old youtube has to offer:

This first video is set up for a lesson, and gives you a pretty good look at the left hand fingering in the first position and beyond for a right handed guitarist.  I do not particularly learn well that way, but that is a handicap of mine, and no one should tell another how it is that they should learn to play music, as that will create a passing on of an instructor's own handicaps, LOL!  Don't fall for that - learn, and employee new ways of learning if possible.  You'll only keep your brain young that way.

This second video is important because it contains, well, a very attractive woman playing the fiddle!!!!  I also like the way she works the crowd, and I tell you, there's nothing more visually inducing towards one's desires than an attractive woman with the crowd's attention.  She does a fine job here, and it's important to realize that all guitar arrangements for such traditional tunes in the public domain originated from someone transcribing fiddle music to a guitar.

And finally, I give you Banjo Ben - who is one kick butt guitarist!!!!  I'm excited about this guy, and if someone like him lived locally, then I'd beg that person or pay the price for one on one lessons with the guy - this cat can just straight up PLAY THE FIRE out of a guitar, and puts out a great and continually improving presentation as well.


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