Contributed by Tom Bailey
Thanks to every one of you who came out to Make Music Rochester on June 21st. We gathered in the park across the street from Bernunzio’s Uptown Music. We were a small but enthusiastic group, one of over 5100 music sites internationally this year, the largest program ever for the Make Music event. Mark June 21st on your calendar –Summer Solstice — for next year’s event.
We have been talking about the Erie Canal Heritage Connection at Genesee Country Village Museum on July 27th for quite some time now. The purpose of the gathering is to discover and explore life in the 1800’s along the Erie Canal. The days events will include lifestyle presentations; the Towpath Drum and Bugle Corps; wagon tours; Macedon Historical Society displays; Rochester English Country Dancers performing period dances; Historic Houses; butter making; period food and drink; old fashioned toys; an 1816 museum and … the Fiddlers of the Genesee will be playing twice! It is a real honor for FOG to be included in this event. After the less than acceptable gig at the Library on June 15th, I was almost surprised they would still have FOG participate. We need everyone available to come out and join in. This could be the most important event we have ever played for in recent memory, so we need your help.
After the problems at the Macedon Library gig on the 15th — an out of tune fiddle, less than enthusiastic starts, and it seemed we could not agree on endings as they were all over the place — we are going to try something different. This is not a change in bylaws, just something we want to try. Anyone wanting to play a gig MUST be signed up two weeks before the scheduled entertainment date. The set list will be determined three weeks before the gig and WILL NOT be changed after the two-week date. We think changing things on the set list the Friday before the event added to a lot of the confusion at the Library; that won’t happen again. Please look at Ron’s workshop write-up in this newsletter. It ends with a list of things to do to make sure one is ready for the gig. We have to take the paying gigs seriously; the folks paying us have a choice of who they want to have come play. Obviously, we would like it to be FOG and we owe it to the folks paying us to play the best we possibly can.
We are still getting requests to come play this summer, one in July and two in September. I don’t see how FOG can do the July date but we would like to do the September events. We will send out an email blast as soon as the dates are set. Don’t forget the July 20 gig at the Friendly Home. This was a good gig last year and I am sure this year will be the same. We are using the Mumford Set List #1 for both play times at the Friendly Home. By the way, we are still trying to work up Welcome Whiskey Back Again; it has a catchy syncopation that we are stumbling around with. Come on out and help us play it!
One final thought: We had such a good response with selling FOG caps last year that this year we have embroidered denim visors available for purchase. They turned out very nicely.
Hey Rich! Just to let you know we are thinking you. Hang in there and come join when you can. Or we might have to come join you!
Until next time, Play Nice!
FOG Tune of the Month: Blackberry Blossom (Tune Fix)
Contributed by Deb Abell
FOG Music Update
As voted on at the general meeting in December, there will be no more new tunes for 2019, as it was felt that four new tunes per year are plenty. But if there is a significant fix of a current tune needed, please let Deb know. Deb will be stepping down from providing music for FOG at the end of 2020. She is happy to help train a successor between now and then, so please contact Deb at email@example.com if you’re interested.
Making a Tune Your Own
Contributed by Debbie Baldwin
At Michelle’s recent “Making a Tune Your Own” workshop, I learned steps to take that would allow me to be creative and add my unique style to a tune.
- Break the tune down to its most simplistic state
- Then add double-stops from the chords (phrases in the music) to be in the same key
- Play a variety by playing double-stops at two different octaves
- Play the song in its simplest form then progress by adding the other ideas and may be even a change in rhythm or emphasis to specific notes using the bow
I look forward to finding my own style and experimenting. A source that would be helpful to fiddlers would be the book Learn to Fiddle by Hope Grietzer, which is an introduction to basic fiddling techniques using material from Bluegrass, Irish, Scottish, Old-time, and French Canadian styles. I have attended one of her workshops in the past and I plan to give more attention to her book. There are two accompanying CD’s, so you can hear what she is explaining, which include some tunes familiar to FOG. Also, there are numerous practice ideas in the back half of the book: scales and arpeggios in each chord, that explain the notes in the various keys to know what notes a fiddler can harmonize with. When a chord is written on the page, the fiddler must play two notes that go with what the guitarist is playing. One cannot just select any two notes they think harmonizes. There are also bowing/shuffle exercises that I need to learn, and dexterity exercises, drone, fourth finger, and dynamic exercises.
I have found that being involved in various musical groups has resulted in an expansion of knowledge, but to improve my playing requires time set aside to learn from a book like this because I have it at hand, can see the notes and read explanations, and hear on the CD what is being taught and refer to it again and again. I highly recommend this book, because I know it will help me.
Mandolin Workshop Summary
contributed by Ron Perry, Certified Wernick Method Teacher
This is a summary of what I covered during the Mandolin Workshop held on June 19. I also added a few “Author’s Notes”.
Instrument, Picks and Straps
- Use a very heavy pick to get the most volume.
- Your strap controls the angle at which your pick hits the strings.
- Your forearm should be approximately parallel to the fingerboard to keep the pick parallel to the strings. Your volume is thus maximized.
- Whether it’s over your shoulder or around your neck, the strap will have an effect on your volume, your pick angle and your comfort
- Experiment with the length of the strap
- Dirt and corrosion rob your strings of life! Wipe down your fingerboard and strings with a rag moistened with WD-40 after you’re done playing, which will keep your strings clean, brightly colored and crisp sounding, free of corrosion caused by sweat.
- Strings die. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly without you noticing. Professionals change strings frequently, sometimes daily. Consider changing your strings as often as every week, but never more than a month, depending on how many hours you’ve played.
- Rhythm keeps the fiddlers in line. They need all the help they can get…they have a fiddle blasting in one ear. Good strong rhythm should be filling their other ear! Play loudly!
- The bass controls the entire ensemble! The bass should be considered to be the common metronome of the players! Listen to it, feel it. Don’t ignore it, and don’t vary from the timing governed by the bass!
- A mandolin “chop”: Play the bass note loudly and audibly on the downbeat, followed by a muted chord on the backbeat.
- Whether you play audible chords or chop the chord, use a fluid wrist.
- When outnumbered by melody-playing fiddles, reinforce the rhythm.
- When the rhythm instruments outnumber the fiddles, decide whether playing the melody on the mandolin enhances or detracts from the music.
- Respect the judgment of the Music Director, for the sake of the entire club, especially when rehearsing for performance.
Strange as it sounds, some players do not realize the kick-off should be played at the same time/meter as the song to be played. (Author’s note: Strange but true…I’ve witnessed this too many times with too many players in too many informal groups, clubs and jams. Messy results!)
- All the musicians will gauge their timing by the speed of the kick-off.
- The Kick-Off should be a minimum of one full measure, two whole measures maximum.
- Just like a “count-down”, a Walk-Up or Walk-Down establishes the song timing/meter
- The Walk-up or Walk-down notes lead right into the first chord (Ex: A, B, C# notes up to the “D”-chord)
The mandolin can be used to kick-off the tune with:
- Saw (imitating a fiddle-saw)
- Turnaround (last line of the verse or chorus)
- Must be played very loudly!
Solos or “Breaks”
This is a musical feature based on either the “melody” or the “chorus”. Know your fingerboard so you can improvise!
(Author’s Note: A “solo” is one featured instrument/musician; a “break” can be played by more than one musician simultaneously or shared in segments).
- The Music Director should be responsible for deciding whether a break should be included, who plays it and for how long.
- Whether played by one musician or a whole section, the break must be rehearsed!
Any tune can benefit from enhancements played by individual musicians. They are particularly effective when played within a Break/Solo.
- Slides (up to or down to the melody note)
- Run (a portion of a scale ending at a chord)
My boss, Dr. Pete Wernick, the banjo player of the legendary Bluegrass band Hot Rize and creator of the Wernick Method stresses:
“Always be in tune. Be on time. Be on the correct chord. Be ready. Anything less risks a ‘train-wreck’ that can result in catastrophic embarrassment and emotional devastation to all involved.” He goes on, “Be rehearsed but sound spontaneous.”
As an organization with a lengthy reputation for solid, old-time fiddle music, FOG should take his recommendations seriously. We never know who’s listening … could mean our next paying gig!
Playing with Others
Contributed by Jane Reetz
Michelle Younger’s Playing with Othersworkshop, held June 22, got off to a rocky start as instructor and attendees gathered on the sidewalk outside a locked storefront at BayTowne Plaza, where the workshop was to be held. After a few phone calls were made, it was decided to relocate the workshop to an empty tent on the BayTowne property, where a farmers market is held each Wednesday and where a Cruise Night takes place each Thursday. Michelle offered the following key points intended to optimize performance when playing in a group.
- Rhythm is most important – play but also listen!
- When playing in a performance, listen to the bass. The bass keeps everyone together. However, if the group speeds up, you have to keep together — so the bass will speed up too.
- Practice slowly using a metronome, which will show your weak spots. Play along with recordings, such as midi files, to help develop rhythm and tempo.
- When playing in a group, be open to constructive criticism and offer only constructivecriticism.
- Be self-reflective after a performance.
- Use eye contact during a performance for communication with your fellow players.
- Pay attention to cues from fellow players.
- At jams, if it’s a new tune, listen to it first to determine the key. Become familiar with guitar chord shapes to help you make chord changes.
- Don’t expect to play every note.
- Listen to a lot of a particular type of music to get it in your head. You will learn starts, breaks, embellishments, endings, etc.
by Susan Cady-White, Editor
As many of you know, Joe Dady passed away on May 18 following a stem cell transplant to treat leukemia that was diagnosed last fall. As the Dady Brothers, Joe and his brother John entertained the Rochester region and beyond for well over 40 years. Joe was my fiddle teacher and he was a dear friend. I was a very green beginner when I started lessons with Joe almost six years ago. Joe thought it very cool and fitting that I became the editor of the Fiddletter, and I know the best way for me to honor his memory is to keep on fiddlin’!