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Thread: How does it work when people are playing together?

  1. #26
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    Default Re: How does it work when people are playing together?

    I was playing Old Time with a bunch of people last weekend, in groups of 2 to 25, and was trying to pay attention to Sue's original question: How does it work? I noticed a couple of thin1gs:
    1) Everyone is *trying* to play together. Meaning everyone wants to have fun and play together, so they are trying to adjust to others. Once the jam got big, you couldn't really hear everybody anyway, so that didn't happen as much, but was still OK. But imagine when someone starts a tune slower than you are used to...you adjust your playing to the new tempo to make it work.
    2) When playing melody, I had some tunes where my version was different from the others. I noticed a couple of things: when I tried to adapt to their playing, it didn't always work, but it did work when I played my own thing, and they played theirs. Sure for two measures or so, we were playing different things, but it was fine. It strikes me as an kind of like learning a tune on the fly in a jam, which I am not great at. But at least for me, the first parts I pick up are the beginnings and endings of phrases*, and when those parts line up, that's half the battle of playing together.
    3) Almost everyone is playing at least a slightly different version of the tune. I know that i rarely play a tune the same way as it repeats over and over, and that is true for others, too. Sometimes that is intentional!
    4) The hardest time I had was a one-to-one jam, when we weren't really clicking together, but we only got two tunes in before we were called away to a bigger jam. I think a few more minutes would have gotten us somewhere, but who knows?

    *Have you ever described a tune to someone as "something, something, finish on the root"? I have, for tunes I kind of know.

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  3. #27
    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: How does it work when people are playing together?

    In OldTime, I think the problem arrives when there are variations in the harmony of the tune.
    When we are playing a OT tune that has a strong harmony with say a D major chord for one measure then most of the different melodic variations will fit for that measure.

  4. #28
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: How does it work when people are playing together?

    Quote Originally Posted by tmsweeney View Post
    I have found my self taking .... packing it up when "that's not how it is in the bluegrass fake book" comes out.
    YES. It doesn't happen often at least in my experience, but when it does I am gone, and not likely to come back.

    I bristle at any appeal to any authority to criticize a particular version as being wrong, be it a particular tune book, a particular recording, a particular instructor, a particular old time player. Depending on who and what and context I may stick it out or listen for my own edification, maybe I am curious as to how did Melvin Wine play that tune, etc. But often enough I am out of there.

    What I have to get a handle on in myself is when I bristle at someone else's version of the tune and/or my own impulse to blurt out "that's not traditional" or worse. A prime example of this is the tune "Bonaparte's Retreat". Some jam communities play an "ali-baba" section, which drives me far more crazy than it should. Yea it sticks out. Yea it has nothing to do with the tune, yea it came from a pop singer, singing about the tune, yea, yea, yea! But still, we are folks coming together to play music, which in the scheme of things is a miracle, and I need to keep a level head and close my mouth and be patient.
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  5. #29
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: How does it work when people are playing together?

    Another case where appeal to authority is forgivable would be a specifically identified type of jam. And old time jam that some mandolinner gets all bluegrassy in, for example, or any genre specific jam where "that's not what we are doing here" might be an appropriate criticism. "Today we are playing in A, that is a G tune." for example.

    Yea I have been on both sides of this one, and entirely due to insufficient listening on the one hand, and insufficient patience with a newbie on the other.
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  7. #30
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: How does it work when people are playing together?

    [QUOTE



    What I have to get a handle on in myself is when I bristle at someone else's version of the tune and/or my own impulse to blurt out "that's not traditional" or worse. A prime example of this is the tune "Bonaparte's Retreat". Some jam communities play an "ali-baba" section, which drives me far more crazy than it should. Yea it sticks out. Yea it has nothing to do with the tune, yea it came from a pop singer, singing about the tune, yea, yea, yea! But still, we are folks coming together to play music, which in the scheme of things is a miracle, and I need to keep a level head and close my mouth and be patient.[/QUOTE]

    Huh, I did not know that part came from a pop singer! Might be worth looking into.
    Charley

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  8. #31
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: How does it work when people are playing together?

    This discussion reminds me of a story where a guitar player in an old time jam started playing swing changes behind a common fiddle tune. One of the fiddle players looked at him and said "it's in D!".
    Charley

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  9. #32
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: How does it work when people are playing together?

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    This discussion reminds me of a story where a guitar player in an old time jam started playing swing changes behind a common fiddle tune. One of the fiddle players looked at him and said "it's in D!".
    That guitar player might have just returned from Weiser or similar. I met a phenomenal contest style fiddle years ago but we could not really play together. In some ways OT is closer to bluegrass.

  10. #33
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: How does it work when people are playing together?

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post

    Huh, I did not know that part came from a pop singer! Might be worth looking into.
    Kay Starr made had a hit single back in the 50s about the tune. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQLiqebiDuQ Her song later became a hit with Glen Campbell and I think Willie Nelson. It was the arrangement that Kay Starr sang where the "ali-baba" verse came from.

    So today, we hear traditional version of the tune, A and B part as William Stepp originally played it, and as it has evolved through Tommy Jarrell ("Here is the "bony part") and others. In parallel Aaron Copeland in Rodeo, the Hoedown section, and even Emerson Lake and Palmer who made it famous for another generation. And "Beef, its whats for dinner" ad on TV.

    All of these versions are interesting to hear, and I quite like them.

    But for some reason in jams, there is often a C part " ali-baba" section, which comes from the Kay Starr song and not anywhere else. It just sounds glued on to the tune. Like "here is this great old legendary fiddle tune, that even entered pop culture as is, and here is this irrelevant and simple minded riff stuck at the end for no apparent reason."

    The thing is I should not get so exercised about this. Things don't have to evolve the way I want them too. Of course. But every time we play it I feel the frustration. Its to the point where my jam buddies point to me and say "before we do Bonaparte's Retreat is there anything you would like to say?"

    Grrrrr.

    All these versions are somewhere on Youtube, and the story is told on line and in a few great books. I learned the story many years ago in a workshop at Old Time Week at Swannanoa.
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  12. #34
    Registered User Bren's Avatar
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    Default Re: How does it work when people are playing together?

    You will often hear Bonaparte's Retreat played in sessions here in Scotland.

    It will almost always be based on Aly Bain's slow version.

    There is a great live version on YT from The Transatlantic Sessions with Jerry Douglas et al, but sound quality is poor so I've gone with this studio version from Phil and Aly's CD "The Ruby":

    Bren

  13. #35
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: How does it work when people are playing together?

    The "ali baba" section around here was mainly played by a banjo player and fiddler who passed too soon. When I attended the local old time jams, someone would occasionally play the tune with that 3rd section or as we would call it "like Steve played it".

    And don't get folks started on Waiting for Nancy.
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