We held another in our Spring 2013 series of weekend workshops helping others learn to play
basic fundamental old-time music better as we have come to understand it from our
experience. Rhythm & Repetoire can mean different things to different people based on
their experience and who has led it at summer week long music camps like Mars Hill. In our local area a vibrant freestyle flatfoot dancing tradition
has evolved and existed for several generations along with lively dance music played on
banjos, and fiddles primarily. We have come to realize that old-time music played with a sense
of rhythm and a strong beat is what gets the most dancers excited when they hear a group or individual play.
A major part of the weekend musical experience that we are offering to participants
the opportunity to be on-stage at the famous Floyd Country Store and actually play their instrument before
a crowd of enthusiastic flatfoot dancers and listeners.
Our hope is that participants who choose to play along behind the band on the stage will actually realize the importance of matching up to the beat that is coming both from the old-time band that Mac leads as well as that coming from the feet of the best dancers. A good dancer can easily sense a good beat and deliver it back for the band to respond to in their steps. Therefore, it is important for
the music played by the band to have a good pace and a solid rhythm to set up a steady beat.
As a musician its so much fun to play music that just cruises along powered by
the rhythm of experienced dancers who can latch on to this beat and give it
back to the band in the sound of their feet hitting the floor. We don't take this for granted
as we are so fortunate to have such a venue in our part of the world that promotes
such a deep rooted American tradition. Good flat footers develop their skill and steps by
being around lively dance music.
The Friday workshops in our latest weekend (May 2-5 on Rhythm & Repetorie) were about getting ready
to play for dancers at the Floyd Country Store's Friday night Jamboree. More important than
what tunes to play, instead, we worked on just how to 'feel'
the beat with a foot pat that hits the floor on the downbeat and remains pressed against the
floor until the back beat or up-beat has passed. Pressure builds up this way so that the
next downbeat is rushed to and felt with more of an emphatic snap. Coordinating one's strum
and to this is a secret to success in becoming more mechanical and energized while keeping
time. Fast and slow tunes were discussed, chords shown both on guitar and banjo, and melodies played
that would be part of the program during the 7:30 - 9 PM set. We next set out for town as the we had the
early set starting at 7:30. Not much time to warm up the rest of the band.
The program we presented included some young JAM (Junior Appalachian Musician) students in addition to the
R & R students that had come for the weekend. Luckily, there was an abundance of good dancers keeping good time so everyone got a good sense of what fun can be had when everyone, musicians and dancers really get on the beat and cruise. What a party!! This very unique band was creatively coined Mac & Cheese for one night anyway.
Back at our class in the cabinet/ banjo shop on Saturday we worked on some regional
favorites of ours like Old Molly Hare, Carroll County Breakdown,Shoo Fly, Hawks and Eagles and others stressing
good timing, danceable pace and interesting chord patterns. Good basic guitar runs
while keeping a strong sense of rhythm was reinforced in tunes like Barlow Knife, Sandy River Belle
and Last Chance. The alternate G tuning of gDGDE was used for the banjo on those tunes to give a more low
drones in the sound while driving the beat.
We took a break to watch a video of Hick and Sue Edmonds playing fiddle and guitar at their home in Smyth County. The participants were directed to note Sue's impeccable timing in her guitar strums and minimal but very effective use of runs in the key of G. Country guitar at its best from a true country musician.
Looking, as well as, listening
is so important to one's progress in understanding and appreciating the music of other
musicians. Patterning after older sources is a great way to get musical ideas to incorporate
in one's own playing to sound better overall.
Thanks for your interest in reading all this. Please this pass this blog or any of our contact info on to anyone you think might be interested.