Open Circle – Wednesday Aug 10

It’s been a long summer and much of it we spent away from home.   I re-learned a few old songs in Ireland and I confess to taking my time about recording new material for the channel.

I have just uploaded a couple of songs that I’ve been playing lately.  They are here

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNwOS_wn2SrA5iPW3OjGHzg/videos.

Some changes to the format of the circle are in order:

1.  I will no longer record the entire circle.   Recordings will be made only by request.  That means if you want to see how you look on Zoom please request permission to record.   I’ll record or give you permission for your turn only.  This change will save me a lot of work producing video but it will make it more difficult for watchers to time shift the session so feel free to just join the Zoom session.   Beginners and listeners are always welcome.

2.  Here is the Zoom link.   Wed Aug 10 7pm.

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86219901564?pwd=cHdDY0dUa2R5aEFqdDZTenRqcExVdz09
Meeting ID: 862 1990 1564
Passcode: 521218

3.  I’m still interested in producing videos so let me know if you have an idea that I could pursue.

4.  I am going to spend some time recording my upcoming presentation for  the VFSS retreat.  I’ll post those videos in the workshop playlist.

Becoming a Musician

How hard is that?

We were talking the other day about what it takes to be a professional musician. I remarked that being a professional just means that you have had at least one paid gig in your lifetime – it may not be paying the rent. A friend responded that many of the finest players make very little money compared to engineers and computer geeks. He thought this was unfair and I tend to agree. Life is unfair in many respects. Let me count the ways.

If you spend time at any competitive sport you will always find the same small group in the winners circle. When I used to run the Robert Hamilton ten mile event in Calgary I always met the same four or five runners at mile four. They were already at mile six on the return lap. This would happen around thirty minutes into the race. I ran a seven minute pace; they ran a mile in five minutes.

Now a pace of five minutes a mile is world class running so only a very few people out of the thousand or so who enter these events will ever run that fast. What can we say about the folks who were still a minute faster than I was. Well, they were mostly professional athletes, people who could make a living on the the playing field.

The moral of the story is that you have to be very very good to get paid for doing some fun gig like running ten miles, or playing professional soccer or ice hockey. My only claim to being a professional athelete is that I taught skiing at Paskapoo ski hill in Calgary for a few years. I became a Level II instructor. I was not a ski racer or a manual groomer. Those are the real pros on the hill. Level II ski instructors are often paid minimum wage, but they have one of the best jobs in the world.

In my case the difference between my efforts at seven minutes a mile and the pros who were a minute faster was likely wind sprints. To become a Level III instructor, a real pro, would have taken at least a year running race courses and becoming a Level II coach. I thought that was just too much work and besides I had a day job. I was content with my pace; it was about a minute better than average and I was there to have a good time.

Rick Beato says all you have to know to be a real pro, a session musician, is the three hundred or so tunes in the “Real Book” — in every key. These are all Jazz standards so you don’t get to use a capo. I don’t expect to ever be that good but that is the way I’m going.

Three Chords – Now what?

Beginners are always welcome at a circle. Simple songs are a place to start. So what can you do with three chords? First, you can play hundreds of songs. Much of the Folk, Rock and Country repertoire can be played with only three chords. You can always learn another song. So what else is there? Here are some things to explore in no particular order.

How about rhythm . Many folk songs are in 2/4 or 4/4 time. We count them 1 2, 1 2 or 1 2 3 4 to keep a steady beat. Waltz time is 3/4 counted 1 2 3, 1 2 3. We still only need three chords but there are many dance rhythms we could explore. Even more important is the idea that a steady constant rhythm is the basis of everything we play.

Maybe try finger style? Most beginners use a simple strum. Almost all lessons recommend using a pick and guitar is often only a rhythm instrument. Playing melody notes finger style seems to me to be easier than cross picking. Simple finger style patterns are all in the right hand. Any chords will sound good.

Jerry Silverman wrote, “If a blues guitarist you would be — learn to play the melody”. That is really excellent advice. Barney Kessel said you should learn to play simple songs a note a a time by ear then learn to play them all over the guitar in every key. By the time you can do that you will be playing jazz, but not like Barney.

Realize that everything on the guitar is a movable shape. Every lick, every melody, can be moved down a fret or over a string. At that does is change the key. Every chord shape is moveable if you don’t play open strings. Learn it once move it around. Use a capo if necessary.

You can explore scales. A major scale is only seven notes. Do – Re – Mi – Fa – So – La – Ti and Do. I learned the melody of many tunes, starting with Freight Train, long before I learned to play a scale. To play by ear you need to know the scale of the key that you hear so that you can know which notes to play or sing. You don’t need to play scales from sheet music. Starting with Do the next note is always two frets higher except for Mi – Fa and Ti – Do which are only one fret apart. It is very helpful to be able to play the scale of the key you are going to sing or the scale of the song you are trying to learn.

Learn to use a capo. Music theory is not just for piano students. Guitar players should know a I – IV – V from a ii – V – I. These are just the scale notes Do Re Mi expressed as numbers. Theory tells you what happens when you move a note up or down a fret, or to an adjacent string. You start by learning a chord scale, which is how to play Do Re Mi all in chords. This is easy in the key of C, needs bar chords in other keys, but is useful to understand even if you can’t play bar chords. Theory is what allows you to know what happens when you move a capo up a fret. It is always useful to understand things that you are learning to perform on the instrument.

You can do any or all of the above before you learn another chord. The chords to learn for beginners are C Dm Em F G Am Bm. That will give you thousands more songs which brings us around to the start. Sometimes you want to learn a song and to learn it you need something from this list.

I Ain’t Marchin Anymore

Phil Ochs
        G            C         D
Oh, I marched to the battle of New Orleans, 
       G          C             D
at the end of the early British wars 
    G                    C
The young land started growing, 
       Am                Em
the young blood started flowing, 
       Am       C    D
but I ain't marchin' anymore 
 
         G                  C
For I've killed my share of Indians,
       D
in a thousand different fights, 
      G            C          D
I was there at the Little Big Horn 
    G             C           Am        Em
I heard many men lying, I saw many more dying, 
    Am        C         D
but I ain't marchin' anymore 
 
          Am     C          G              Em
     It's always the old to lead us to the wars, 
     Am         Em       Am
     it's always the young to fall 
         Am                              Em
     Now look at all we've won, with the saber 
                                          and the gun, 
     C             Am       D
     tell me is it worth it all?

For I stole California from the Mexican land
Fought in the bloody Civil War
Yes, I even killed my brothers
And so many others
But I ain’t marching anymore

For I marched to the battles of the German trench
In a war that was bound to end all wars
Oh, I must have killed a million men
And now they want me back again
But I ain’t marching anymore

Chorus

For I flew the final mission in the Japanese skies
Set off the mighty mushroom roar
When I saw the cities burning
I knew that I was learning
That I ain’t marching anymore

Now the labor leader’s screamin’
When they close the missile plants
United Fruit screams at the Cuban shore
Call it peace or call it treason
Call it love or call it reason
But I ain’t marching anymore
No, I ain’t marching anymore

Convoy 2022

This is an annotated protest song. Links lead to the stories in the news that support the text or to documents from reliable sources. Thanks to CW McCall for the inspiration:

  1. A – Its been two years with the place locked down
  2. G – and everybody wearing a mask
  3. D – You meet your friends – you can’t see them frown
  4. A – Are they happy? Don’t even ask
  5. A – John Hopkins says lockdowns don’t work
  6. G – World Health says the same about masks
  7. D – Justin says we’re a tiny fringe
  8. A – We better take him to task.
  • ‘Cause we got a little ol’ convoy     F    C
  • Rockin’ through the night             G    C
  • Yeah, we got a little ol’ convoy    F    C
  • Ain’t she a beautiful sight?          G    E
  • Come on and join our convoy           F    C
  • Ain’t nothin’ gonna get in our way   G    C
  • We gonna roll this truckin’ convoy   F    C
  • Ottawa all the way                       G    E
  1. A – The conservatives ditched that fool O’Tool
  2. G – Maybe things are goin right
  3. D – Some say, “What we need is a case in court”
  4. A – Brian Peckford says he’s in the fight
  5. A – Constitution Act of ’82
  6. G – Stick that in yer craw
  7. D – Freedom to Travel is a human right
  8. A – Supposed to be the bloody law
  • So we got a little ol’ convoy     F    C
  • Rockin’ through the night             G    C
  • Yeah, we got a little ol’ convoy    F    C
  • Ain’t she a beautiful sight?          G    E
  • Come on and join our convoy           F    C
  • Ain’t nothin’ gonna get in our way   G    C
  • We gonna roll this truckin’ convoy   F    C
  • Ottawa all the way                       G    E
  1. A – Was the dark of the moon on the sixth of June  
  2. G – In a Kenworth pullin’ logs                     
  3. D – Cab-over Pete with a reefer on                  
  4. A – And a Jimmy haulin’ hogs                        
  5. A – We is headin’ for bear on I-one-oh              
  6. G – ‘Bout a mile outta Shaky Town                    
  7. D – I says, “Pig Pen, this here’s the Rubber Duck   
  8. D – “And I’m about to put the hammer down”          
  • ‘Cause we got a little ol’ convoy     F    C
  • Rockin’ through the night             G    C
  • Yeah, we got a little ol’ convoy    F    C
  • Ain’t she a beautiful sight?          G    E
  • Come on and join our convoy           F    C
  • Ain’t nothin’ gonna get in our way   G    C
  • We gonna roll this truckin’ convoy   F    C
  • Ottawa all the way                       G    E
  • A –
  • G –
  • D –
  • A – more to come put your verses in the comments.
  • A –
  • G –
  • D –
  • A –

       

Stick it to the Man – Feb 9

Protest Songs.

Seems like we all need to vent a bit now and then.   Anyone with a suitable song can protest whatever they dislike the most on Feb 9 at 7pm.   If you  can play a tune, you are welcome to set your favorite rant to music.   

Those looking for a world class source of opinion journalism can hardly do better than to read the Resignation Letter of Bari Weiss from the New York Times.  If you have an hour to spare you can follow that up with an in depth discussion on you tube.

Another Year Another Circle

For the first circle of 2022 I thought it time to “thank whatever gods there be. . .”, with apologies to WEH, for events of the past year, since my GOD is music and his prophet is J.S. Bach.

Thanks to Amanda McClean, for hosting Sharps in Isolation in London during this difficult time. Sharps set the standard for efficient use of time, for recording and cataloging every performance and for grace and tolerance of diverse points of view.

Thanks to Tim Mar and Stoo Born for continuing to host Music and More off main. This is an eclectic collection of musicians who usually allow their features to be recorded and who provide weekly entertainment for the community.

Thanks to John Wade for help and advice with the operations of our circle and for hosting the Brock Music circles in person where possible. We have had many good meeting in the tent in good weather and hope to Zoom on during the winter.

Thanks to Eric Hartman and the folks at PBOMS for keeping music alive on Zoom and for their recent efforts to reopen the ANZA club for music.

Thanks to Steve Deering for managing the Vancouver Folk Song Society and providing much needed technical expertise. Thanks to Christina Rae and Leona Axbey for organizing the bi-weekly Zoom sessions and keeping the folk alive.

Thanks to Watson Seto for suggesting I start a website for beginner guitar players and for his efforts to convince the board of VFSS to consider reopening the Quaker Hall. And a special thanks for continuing to run the in person song circles at Trout Lake. I will try and attend more often.

A very special thanks to John Lyon of the Deep Cove Coffee House. John has provided advice and support to both our circles and our website. He has shown us how to make music together over the internet using Jamulus and Sonobus and he is the most popular performer on the Pickers Circle channel.

Thanks to everyone who attended a pickers circle. Graham Baldwin has attended every circle and has been a valuable source of ideas for the organization. He is a man who will always do a request. Alan Sherman is an amazing guitarist with a fine background in early music. Garth Gibson has an endless repertoire of blues and country music. Don Gilbert has brought us many fine songs from the southern states, Nigel Bell has brought his blue grass collection to the circle and Stoo Born entertains us with country blues and Jazz. Stoo was kind enough to host a workshop on open tunings when our circles were just starting out. William Jordan has played us a tune or two and Amalah and Penelope Johnson have livened up what might otherwise become an exclusive boys club as have Di Skippen, Leona Axbey and Bibien Pierce.

Thanks to Rumi for putting up with the noise in the basement and many thanks to those who simply enjoy the videos and share them with their friends.

2020 Early Circles

Here are the first few circles of 2020.

Dec 23rd Songs for Christmas with Thomas Mathieson. session highlights https://youtu.be/eGbMKohGRf8 

Dec 9 I got Rhythm – session highlights on YouTube

Nov 25 3-5 pm Open Tunings — Stoo Born. Video Workshop and Session Highlights.

Nov 11 Bluegrass — Doc’s Guitar – Video workshop and Session Highlights

Oct 28 Train Songs — Freight Train — Video workshop

Oct 14 – Joe Turner — Lyrics and chords . Session Highlights on You-Tube.

Chromatic Scales The names of all the notes on the Fret board.

Sept 30 – Froggy Went a Courtin

Diatonic Scales Do re mi fa so la ti do. Everywhere in every key.

12-bar-blues

Lesson for Right Hand

  • The object is to achieve independent action of P, i, m, a and to learn which sounds go with which finger.
  • Thumb(P), index(i), Middle(m), Annular(a)
  • Guitar Strings are E, A ,D, the bass (P) and
  • G, B, E the treble and belong to i, m, and a

Their are a variety of patterns that can be employed to arrange any piece of music for which you have the chords. One of the simplest in 6/8 time is P – i – m – a – m – i where P plays the bass and i – m – a – m – i are plucked on the treble strings. This is the pattern for Silkie as played by Joan Baez. Its a good place to start if you like the song. Here are the chords:

D  C  D // G  D  C  D  / C  Em  Am D — // means repeat first line / means new line.

Silkie is in 6/8 time. One beat, one string at a time. Play each chord for six beats. Use a metronome and count 1 2 3 4 5 6. Same patterns for Hallelujah but more difficult chords.

Two alternatives for 4/4 time are:

  • P – i – m – a Bass 2 – 3 – 4. Play the root of the chord in the bass.
  • P – m – i – a as above play the root of the chord with your thumb.

Alternating these two patterns makes a more intersting arrangment. Note that this technique gives you a distinct sound for each finger on each beat. If you hear the melody in your head you can always change the pattern to play it, but it is best to start out simple and just get control of each finger.

When I play 900 miles I use the second pattern and play the melody with my thumb in the bass.

Charlie Byrd recommended the Guilliani 120 studies for the right hand as a way to mastery. These studies will be familiar to anyone who has studied classical guitar. I have done page one. People who have had piano lessons may be concerned that they don’t learn any notes. True enough, but this approach will connect your ears to your fingers.

There are a few weeks of work here. The next logical step would be Travis picking which requires a completly independent thumb playing alternate bass. Freight Train is a great place to start as the melody is all on the b and e strings.

Themes for Future Circles

  • Anti-war
  • Australian
  • Seasonal
  • Canadian
  • Irish
  • Scottish
  • Comedy
  • Cowboy
  • Farming
  • Gospel
  • Hardship
  • Harvest
  • Hunting
  • Injustice
  • Love
  • Work
  • Protest
  • War
  • Australian
  • Seasonal
  • Canadian
  • Irish
  • Scottish
  • Comedy
  • Cowboy
  • Farming
  • Gospel
  • Hardship
  • Harvest
  • Hunting
  • Injustice
  • Love
  • Work
  • Protest
  • War

Thanks to Graham Baldwin for the list above.

  • Train Songs
  • Political Songs
  • Blues
  • Country
  • Bluegrass
  • Dylan
  • Joe Hill 
  • Jazz