Archive for January 11th, 2010

Well, this is tune number one.  Good ol’ JR.

I must admit it’s not a completely new tune for me, but it definitely needed some careful study. I guess my criteria for this ‘Tune a day’ experiment is that the tune is considered eligible if I don’t feel comfortable enough playing it with others and keeping up. In the case of Jerusalem Ridge, this involves making sure I pay attention to repeating parts (gah! embarrassing face plant a few weeks ago) and figuring out what happens in section C, which I guess is the third unless you count the bridge, in which case it’s section D and the fourth.

About Jerusalem Ridge:  A classic Bill Monroe instrumental in A minor pentatonic.  Of note, it’s crooked, which means in this case that there is an extra beat at the end of the bridge. A tune that is crooked just means it has an irregular number of beats.   And of course, this is a good time to brush up on what a pentatonic scale is, because it’s the basis for improvisation in blues and bluegrass (just add ‘blues notes’ to either the major or relative minor pentatonic and voilà [there are many different types of pentatonic scales, ie. any five note scale within one octave, but here we are dealing with blues scale]).

I am lucky to have a recording from my sometimes teacher A.D.,  slow and  medium paced and another recording once through of the guitar accompaniment which, in addition to practicing the straight tune, is great for experimenting with improvisation.  So I started by practicing my C major pentatonic scale and its relative A minor pentatonic, the key in which Jerusalem Ridge is played (whatever banjo players may otherwise say).  Then I listened to a bunch of different versions (see below) and finally played along with my teacher thanks to mp3s and then I played along with the guitar comp.  Lather, rinse and repeat tomorrow.

Some recordings of Jerusalem Ridge:

  • Tony Rice, ‘Bluegrass Guitar Collection‘: I can’t find who plays fiddle on this (Sam Bush?) but it is a classic.
  • Mark O’Connor, ‘Heroes‘:  In combo with all time great Kenny Baker, the fiddler to last longest alongside Bill Monroe, who wrote the tune in question. Some nice high and lonesome twin fiddle.
  • Darol Anger and Mike Marshall, ‘At Home and on the Range‘:  Meditative and jazzy newgrass take on this classic. Great for stretching out improvisational bottleneck!

A great resource is the Fiddle Hangout website, where you can search for members’ uploads of themselves playing tunes. They have a couple versions of Jerusalem Ridge.

So that was tune number 1. Now that I’ve written all this out, back to practicing (and stretching!) but I leave you with the incontournable Kenny Baker and Bill Monroe , playing Jerusalem Ridge for Aly Bain (awesome Scottish fiddler) on his 1985 TV series, Down Homehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpzoLAwZ-gs

PS: Big up to Meaghan for being the inspiration for this first tune!

Read Full Post »