02 03 Nerd Lunch: Old-Time Music: It's Better Than It Sounds 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Old-Time Music: It's Better Than It Sounds


Me and the wife and the baby drove down to Shelbyville to check out the monthly Old Time Fiddlers jam session. Unlike bluegrass (which developed in the late 1940s), this older stuff is mainly fiddle-driven, with no improvised instrumental solos --- just variations on the tune.

So the fiddlers took turns, and there was a large rhythm section --- four or five guitars, bass, two banjos, and a couple of dulcimers --- backing them up. After a few tunes, I got the guitar out of the truck, tuned up, and played a lot of slop.

Nice bunch of folks, mostly older guys, including a ninety year old playing a nice old F-hole archtop. I was the only lefty, and about a half-dozen guys came over and joked that I was playing that thing upside down.

The default guitar style for this kind of music is alternating bass-strum ... boom - CHICK - boom - CHICK. With that many guitars, it sounded pretty muddy, and I started just hitting the "CHICK" on the 2 and the 4 as crisply as possible . . . that's the job of a mandolin in a bluegrass band, it which context it's called the "chop".

I'm eyeing a tenor guitar, which would be a nice option for hitting that "chop". It's a small-bodied four-stringed instrument that's been out of style since the 1930s or so, but it's still used for backup in certain styles of Texas/Oklahoma fiddle playing. Seems like it would be a nice addition to these sort of jams --- something that can punch things up rhythmically without sticking out too much. Anyway, I always kinda like to be the oddball. I also think I have a good shot at being the best left-handed tenor guitar player in the tri-county area...

So, I'm gonna go back next month, if the good Lord's willing and the crick don't rise.

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