10-string in a band

  1. Tom Wright
    Tom Wright
    I'm now in a trio doing "Americana" (I guess), Dylan, Rolling Stones, but also Merle Haggard and John Hiatt, also Dan Hicks, the Band, and including Everly Bros and the Blasters. Using my Buchanan, mainly, with its mag pickup. It is a good rhythm instrument and it solos fine, fitting in nicely with a standup bass and guitar player that switched from resonator to electric. I can deliver a very acoustic sound, or adjust my picking slightly and it sounds more electric, but the trio is drumless so the acoustic presence is very nice for filling the spectrum. A nice sound when the bass player switched to flattop and the other guitar was playing his tri-cone resonator.

    Nice to look forward to rehearsing!
  2. Tom Wright
    Tom Wright
    After a shakedown-cruise gig---backyard benefit for a charity---the 10-string Buchanan proved itself a useful rhythm and solo axe, good for accompanying as well as solos, and the pickup system sounded great without PA reinforcement. I am pleased that the best characteristics of the acoustic, its dynamic range and sparkle, come through fine in what is basically a guitar amp rig. The thump of strummed chords and picked single notes makes it sound rather less electric, and the bottom is very rich and strong. Compared to my 10-string solid-body, it has a more solid and deeper bottom, and, surprisingly, fatter tone going up the neck on the A and E, where the solid-body tends to be thinner in tone. My 5-string has a good tone but lacks the fullness of doubled courses, and also the fat bottom of the Buchanan.

    I am always pleased that the C course is so strong on a mandolin-scale instrument. I play plenty of bass lines, and chords using the lower strings work well behind vocals. The short scale allows me to use chord shapes impossible on even a mandola, much less an OM. This means freedom to replicate much guitar playing, while enjoying the facility of the handy small scale steps. The basic triads of (in scale steps) 1-3-5, 3-5-8(1), 5-1-3 can be played, although the root triad, 1-3-5 is a stretch in the low frets.

    No effects were needed for a full tone, reverb and echo being a bit redundant given the built-in chorus of doubled strings. I am working toward playing with only right-hand dynamics, using a very light strum to allow jumping out on a solo without any electronic boosting or volume control twiddling.
  3. Tom Wright
    Tom Wright
    We found the time to record some live takes of three songs. I think the 10 is a fine rhythm instrument. We had three vocal mikes and three direct inputs from amps. Happy that the 10 sounded very natural using the Ryder magnetic pickup.

    The first is Tracy Wiebeck's original blues, and two covers, Rte 66 and Shine.

  4. Tom Wright
    Tom Wright
    Another use for my 10-string is English Country Dancing. I am joining a changeable mix of two or three players, reading from printed collections of traditional and contemporary tunes. The 10 amplifies well, a bonus, for helping piano or piano plus clarinet or violin. The wider range lets me improvise bass lines and richer chords. Since we typically run through a tune 10 or 12 times to fit in the dance moves, we improvise a lot. We look for a cue from the caller as to 2 or 3 more times through, and then finish with the melody.

    The tunes aren't complicated, but are usually more involved than a fiddle tune. Some early music has unexpected phrase lengths, and some recent tunes have their own surprises, so the written music is necessary. It's a nice challenge for improvising, and the sound is apparently a hit---I'm getting compliments on the instrument and questions about it. Topping it off, I get paid a modest but useful fee.
  5. Tom Wright
    Tom Wright
    After trying out a few guitar players my bass player and I decided to simply work as a duo. We had our first real workout as a paid gig, a memorial service that wanted upbeat, comforting songs, and not somber stuff. We did play Amazing Grace, but other wise it was Americana, ranging from Grateful Dead to Rolling Stones, and going back for Jimmy Reed and Champion Jack Dupree. About 2.5 hrs playing time.

    We used small amps, and sends to our PA (15" Eons). Only vocal mics. The client was loving it, and we had a great time. For me the only complaint was that I had to play without using a bruised pnky. Three fingers was ok for some things, but I dropped a few songs I would have liked to play. The good news is healing is happening, and I am going to be fine for some real gigs coming soon.

    I found a maker that supplied us with a magnetic pickup system for the upright, Antonio Surdo, in Italy. It made a huge difference in the sound of the duo. It is more focused, more dependable, no EQ needed, no feedback. We are both using magnetic pickups now.

    I did learn that I should switch to a lighter pick, as I tend to over play and don't need acoustic power in amplified situations. I thought maybe compression or overdrive to smooth things out, but realized it was just a heavy pick making a heavy sound. I am really playing more as a guitar, so a Fender medium makes a better-managed dynamic range. It encourages a light touch, which I need.

    I posted our next two gigs in the Cafe calendar, in June and July.
  6. Tom Wright
    Tom Wright
    I survived a really long day of playing, four hours at a winery in the duo, plus three hours playing English Country Dance. Perhaps I had been practicing too much, or perhaps I'm still developing accuracy, but I felt tired in my left hand for much of the first gig. More likely the cause is trying to spend too many choruses taking solos. My bass player is used to stretching repertoire this way, but I am going to press for fewer solos and more songs. We did not use all our list, even in that long gig.

    When I am soloing over the bass I feel a need to fill up the sound, be very busy. I'm not at a place where I can do that all the time, and I am sure I don't need to, now. The crowd was mostly folks on wine tours, although a few friends dropped by. My partner switched between bass and guitar. Here is the set list we used:

    Set 1-start w/bass

    Ain't That Lovin' You Baby - E
    Bye Bye Love - E
    Cripple Creek - G
    King Of The Road - C
    Sea Cruise - A
    Gone - C
    change to guitar/Tom solo (I used Shenandoah)
    Sugar Babe - G or Can't Let Go - C (easy Lucinda Williams song)
    Paradise - D
    Crossing Muddy Water - G
    Ring of Fire - C

    Set 2-start w/guitar

    Yer So Bad - G
    Crazy Mama - A
    Buckets of Rain - E
    change to bass/Tom solo (Zappa's Twenty Small Cigars)
    Hot Rod Lincoln - C
    Miss Ann - A
    Friend of Devil/I Know You, Rider - G/D
    Do It Again - Em
    Rockin' Pneumonia - C
    Drive My Car - D
    Shine - A

    Set 3-start w/ bass

    Domino - G
    Rainy Day Women - E
    I Don't Want Love - D
    Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez - G (original from Tracy Wiebeck)
    Wagon Wheel - G
    Mind Your Own Business - E (skipped)
    Shakin' Shakes - G
    change to guitar/Tom solo (Leo Kottke's William Powell)
    Willin' - G
    Long Black Veil - G
    You Got The Silver - D
    Stuff That Works - C

    Set 4-all bass

    Ophelia - A
    This Could Be The Last Time - E
    Cinnamon Girl - D
    All Blues - G (skipped)
    Keep That Coffee Hot - D (skipped)
    Marie Marie - G
    You Ain't Getting No Younger - E
    Cissy Strut - D (skipped)
    Tell Everybody I Know - A
    Hip Shake - A
    Not Fade Away - E (This last one had them dancing.)
  7. Tom Wright
    Tom Wright
    Another video from the above date, this is Tracy's original song "Laissez les Bon Temps Roulez", which we play in a nod to Cajun style.

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