March 2019 Fiddletter
Contributed by Tom Bailey
A shout out to you winter lovers, I hope you are ecstatic with our February weather. I have come to the conclusion that the older you get, the more winters become a hassle. But I do hear from the cold weather fans that this will go down as a good year. Actually, it is good; the colder it is the more one can stay inside and play music!
The board has spent the last month or so reviewing the new webpage. We must be getting close to something really great as the number of emails where Mike has done some more tweaking is slowing down. Actually, it is good — VERY good — Mike has created a document that is easy to use and covers just about everything a member would want. Come see for yourself — the April 5th jam will start with a presentation by Mike of the new FOG webpage. It won’t go live yet, as we want more folks to try it and comment back to the Board. We want to get input on the ease of use and its completeness. Please put April 5thon your calendar.
We had two really good COPs gigs, Solstice and 80 Parrish St. apartments. The audiences
really enjoyed the performance and I received a call from the folks at 80 Parrish wanting to know if we would come back and entertain at a paying gig this summer! As I mentioned last month, we would welcome more members coming out and being part of reaching out to appreciative audiences. Members are busy this time of year and sometimes we don’t have as many musicians available to entertain as we would like for achieving a balanced
sound. It would really be great if you can come out and join us. A complete upcoming gig schedule was distributed several weeks ago so you can what we have coming up. We hear about closet musicians, how about closet MC’s? We are always looking for folks interested in leading our presentations.
Rumors abound! Well, maybe not rumors since our delegate to the Fiddlers Fair, Bob Hyder, has given us a preliminary report that the main tent this year will be used for fiddle lessons through the weekend, with some of the best fiddlers in the upstate leading the activities. This will add a whole new dimension to the weekend! The Genesee Valley Country Museum will be having another planning meeting soon and more details will be forthcoming.
Every September Golden Link Folk Singing Society hosts a great musical event, the Turtle Hill Folk Festival. FOG has had the opportunity to support the event in various ways over the years and the board is looking at how we might be able to do it again this year. The big news is Jay Ungar and Molly Mason will be the headliners on Saturday and will be holding workshops during the event. Obviously FOG would like to support Golden Link with this major endeavor. Stay tuned for more information.
There you have it for this month, quite a few activities happening. Please consider coming out and being part of the fun and excitement!
Hope to see you at a jam session real soon …
Until next time … Play nice!
FOG Tune of the Month
Contributed by Deb Abell
Listen here to the Glenburnie Rant. Click here for a Printable PDF.
What is Old-time Music Anyway?
Contributed by Kathy Schwar
“Old-time” usually refers to music that evolved in isolated regions of the Southern Appalachians and other places in the southern U.S., based partly on tunes from the British Isles and on the rhythm of the banjo, which was developed from a West African instrument. Old-time music predates bluegrass. It’s the original early-recorded “country music” of the 1920s and 1930s, played by ordinary working people in communities, before travel was easy and before recordings could be heard on the radio. Old-time was the name given to this rural music by one of the first record companies to discover it and produce recordings.
The music may be fast or slow, played by a single banjo or fiddle, or the two together, or as a whole string band once guitars entered the scene somewhere after the turn of the century. There might be lyrics, although these might be “floating verses”, common to many tunes. There’s a great deal of syncopation, and tunes might have extra beats or bars, or missing beats or bars. Some wonderful tunes have little melody and lots of rhythm. There are up-tempo square-dance tunes in major keys, and slow haunting ones
in modes somewhere between major and minor. There’s a lot of variation between individual players as well as differing regional styles, and no one “right way” to play any tune.
It’s quite different from bluegrass, which was developed from old-time music and other influences, even though a number of tunes of the same name are played in both genres. Bluegrass was created to be enjoyed by an audience, and each instrument in turn stands out by playing an improvised solo break. Old Time was never performance music; it’s participatory music to sit and play, or dance to.
The Difference Between Bluegrass and Old-time
An OT banjo is open-backed, with an old towel (probably never washed) stuffed in the back to dampen overtones. A BG banjo has a resonator to make it louder.
An OT banjo weighs 5 pounds, towel included. A BG banjo weighs 40 pounds.
An OT banjo player can lose three right-hand fingers and two left-hand fingers in an industrial accident without affecting his performance.
A BG banjo needs 24 frets. An OT banjo needs no more than 5, and some don’t need any.
A BG banjo player puts jewelry on his fingertips to play. An OT banjo player puts super glue on his fingernails to strengthen them. Never shake hands with an OT banjo player while he’s fussing with his nails.
A BG banjo is tuned gDGBD. An OT banjo can be in a hundred different tunings.
A BG fiddle is tuned GDAE. An OT fiddle can be in a hundred different tunings.
OT fiddlers seldom use more than two fingers of their left hand, and uses tunings that maximize the number of open strings played. BG fiddlers study 7th position fingering patterns with Isaac Stern, and take pride in never playing an open string.
An OT fiddle player only uses a quarter of his bow. The rest is just wasted.
The BG fiddler paid $10,000 for his fiddle at the Violin Shop in Nashville. The OT fiddler got his for $15 at a yard sale.
An OT guitarist knows the major chords in G and C, and owns a capo for A and D. A BG guitarist can play in E-flat without a capo.
The fanciest chord an OT guitarist needs is an A to insert between the G and the D7 chord. A BG guitarist needs to know C#aug+7-4.
OT guitarists stash extra picks under a rubber band around the top of the peghead. BG guitarists would never cover any part of the peghead that might obscure the gilded label of their $3,000 guitar.
It’s possible to have an OT band without a mandolin.
OT mandolin players use “A”model instruments (pear shaped) by obscure makers. BG mandolin players use “F” model Gibsons that cost $100 per decibel.
A BG band always has a bass. An old OT band doesn’t have a bass, but new time OT bands seem to need one for reasons that are unclear.
A BG bass starts playing with the band on the first note. An OT bass, if present, starts sometime after the rest of the band has run through the tune once depending on his blood alcohol content.
A BG bass is polished and shiny. An OT bass is often used as yard furniture.
A BG band might have a Dobro. An OT band might have anything that makes noise including: hammered or lap dulcimer, jaw harp, didgeridoo, harmonica, conga, washtub bass, miscellaneous rattles & shakers, or one-gallon jug (empty).
OT songs are about whiskey and chickens. BG songs are about God, mother and the girl who did me wrong. If the girlfriend isn’t murdered by the third verse, it ain’t Bluegrass.
OT bands have nonsense names like Hoss Hair Pullers, Fruit Jar Drinkers and Skillet Lickers. BG bands have serious gender-specific names like Bluegrass Boys, Foggy Mountain Boys, and Clinch Mountain Boys
A BG band has 1 to 3 singers who are singing about an octave above their natural vocal range. Some OT bands have no singers at all.
A BG band has a vocal orchestrator who arranges duet, trio and quartet harmonies. In an OT band, anyone who feels like it can sing or make comments during the performance.
All BG tunes & songs last 3 minutes. OT tunes & songs sometimes last all night.
All the instruments in an OT band play together all the time.
BG bands feature solos on each instrument.
BG bands have carefully mapped-out choreography due to the need to provide solo breaks. If OT band members move around, they tend to run into each other. Because of this problem, OT bands often sit down when performing, while a BG band always stands. Because they’re sitting, OT bands have the stamina to play for a square or contra dance.
The audience claps after each BG solo break. If anyone claps for an OT band it confuses them, even after the tune is over.
Personalities & Stage Presence
BG band members wear uniforms, such as blue polyester suits and gray Stetson hats. OT bands wear jeans, sandals, work shirts and caps from seed companies.
Chicks in BG bands have big hair and Kevlar undergarments. Chicks in OT bands jiggle nicely under their dungarees.
A BG band tells terrible jokes while tuning. An OT band tells terrible jokes without bothering to tune.
BG band members never smile. OT band members will smile if you give them a drink. You can get fired from a BG band for being obviously drunk on stage.
BG musicians eat barbecue ribs. OT musicians eat tofu.
BG musicians have high frequency hearing loss from standing near the banjo player. OT musicians have high frequency hear loss from standing near the fiddler.
BG musicians stay on the bus or at the nearest Motel 6. OT musicians camp in the parking lot.
Reprinted with permission from Old-time Lewes Visit the web site for their tunes list and helpful resources.
by Susan Cady-White, editor
I’m editing and typing in Florida today, enjoying my last day of warmth and sunshine before heading home to New York. Living the shorts-and-tee-shirt life for the past ten days has been great, but I’m ready to be home. Home is home and, well, let’s face it, I miss my dog.
I enjoyed the informative and entertaining article about old-time music, submitted by Kathy Schwar. Old-time has always been one of those things that I couldn’t accurately describe, but I knew it when I saw it or, in this case, heard it.
Back home in the frozen north, I recently installed D’Addario octave strings on one of my fiddles. I have two fiddles, one wooden and one carbon fiber, the latter being a gift from my husband for one of those significant birthdays than ends in zero. Octave strings are GDAE strings, one octave lower than standard violin/ fiddle strings. I put them on the carbon fiber fiddle because I was concerned about placing the strain of four heavier-gauge strings on my wooden fiddle. I didn’t have much time to play the octaves prior to traveling, and initially my ear was a bit confused, but I’m looking forward to playing them more when I return.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all!
|President: Tom Bailey
Vice-President: Kathy Schwar
Secretary: Jane Reetz
Treasurer: Greg Roat
Directors-at-Large: Bill Kraft, B.J. Cunningham, Elaine Chandler, Pat Fink, Ray EttingtonMembership Coordinator: Mike DenizNewsletter Editor: Susan Cady-White
Webmaster: Jack Metzger
FOG Contact Info
It’s EASY to Contact & Connect with FOG
Call the Fiddle Fone! (585) 234-3582
Surf the World Wide Web!
Visit the FOG website at www.fiddlersofthegenesee.org
Yes! “Snail mail” still works reliably! It’s just a little slower than the internet….
Fiddlers of the Genesee
Friday Night Jams (7-9 pm)
Perinton-Fairport VFW Hall, 300 Macedon Center Rd., 14450
March 1, 15, 22, 29
Penfield American Legion
2019 Gig Schedule
- March 9: 2-3 PM, Woodcrest Commons, Henrietta
- March 23: 2-3 PM, Ferris Hills, Canandaigua
Reminder: Participation at all FOG Gigs is limited to current FOG members!!
You must sign up in the “FOG Gig Book” and attend at least one jam / rehearsal to perform at a FOG gig.
“Fiddlers of the Genesee” (FOG) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to bringing together people for the purpose of stimulating, preserving and promoting the tradition of “Old-Time Fiddling” in the Genesee River area of New York State and to play a variety of Fiddle Music with emphasis on the following:
- Musical participation
- Encouragement of musical development
- Non-competitive fellowship
- Acoustic instrumentation
- Education of members and the public about old-time fiddling
For more information call the “Fiddle Fone” (585) 234-3582; write to us at P.O. Box 631, Fairport, NY 14450-0631; or visit our website at: