Archive for January 16th, 2010

Tune 6 had to be an easy one to learn quickly, because there’s a bluegrass show starting in an hour and I’ve spent three hours already working on tunes one to five. I’m starting to think perhaps this ‘tune a day’ experiment is a little ambitious.

So Turkey in the Straw it is. It’s such a familiar melody that I think it took a grand total of 20 seconds to learn. Now compared to the already three hours in the past two days I’ve spent on Minor Swing, and the several hours left to bring it up to speed and really get it in the bag…makes me want to learn more old time tunes.

Kelly is the reason this tune was chosen. Her insight, in preparation for an upcoming bluegrass workshop, was to learn as many tunes of that kind (simple, well-known and fundamental, really, to the repertoire) so as to be able to use them as a basis for developing improvisations. I guess it comes down to learning how to spell before you try to write sonnets.  So thanks Kelly, for a valuable suggestion.

This is the video I used to learn it. The greenery and accidental wind chimes that accompany the fiddle are a nice touch.

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I got so caught up in learning the tune I forgot to write an account of it, so really this should have been posted yesterday.

And because I have to finish learning it today and learn tune number six as well – and practice tunes 1-4, oh lord – let me just quickly write what learning a Grappelli solo is like:

Using the Amazing Slower Downer, speed set at 60% of original: Play recording for 6  seconds.  Stop. Repeat fifteen times. Practice that two to ten times, and on to the next 6 second nugget. Good thing there’s only 125 seconds of Grappelli soloing to learn!

I think it might take three hours to learn and memorize the whole thing, and I have no idea whether that’s a lot or a normal amount of time for this sort of thing. But I do know it takes way longer if I’m thinking about other things while trying to figure out a passage, unsurprisingly. And, I noticed, looking at my left hand fingers helps me focus, which in turn decreases the amount of times I have to repeat a passage from about ten to five or six.

The recording in question, which you can find linked below, is early Django and Stéphane, playing in their signature bebop influenced style of the late 1930s (later Grappelli, just as beautiful, is less, well, bebop-y, and super smooth). The inspiration for choosing this tune in particular is manifold: beautiful tune; sweetheart played it very nicely at a jam a few weeks ago (and surprised me with his jazz fiddle skills, which I’d never heard);  and my lovely, incredibly inspiring, crazy swing fiddle player, world traveling platonic lover, childhood friend and sistah from another mothah (but from the same violin teacher) blew my mind with this tune when she played it for me in her kitchen – Ah, Eman, c’est pour toi, celle-ci – “Stéphanuelle, c’est chaud!”.

Back to the Grappelli Minor Swing Meditation. Tune six coming up later today.

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