Mudcat Café message #439800 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #33062   Message #439800
Posted By: GUEST,Russ
13-Apr-01 - 12:06 PM
Thread Name: To Play What You Like or What They Want.
Subject: RE: To Play What You Like or What They Want.
You are getting a lot of good advice.

First, the songs which are old and well known and popular and overdone are that way because they are good. CRANKY YANKEE got this one. Often they are very good. Sometimes incredibly good. Really. Almost all the tunes named in this thread are classics and chestnuts and overdone and trite because they are great tunes. They are good enough to repay the effort it takes to create arrangements of them that you find satisfying.

Second, clawhammer banjo playing in general, and Dwight's style in particular, is not for the emotionally fragile or needy. Clawhammer banjo players don't get no respect even from other old times musicians, much less people who are totally ignorant of old time music. The banjo players that old time fiddlers like best in a jam are they ones they cannot hear. If you want applause and praise and positive feedback from the uninitiated, Old Time Music (OTM) is not the best choice. However, it is perfectly OK to want applause and praise and positive feedback. It is OK to want "share [your] music in a way that will make others happy".

Third, John Hardly nailed it and you confirmed it with your own experience: "It was picking up some of the new influences in my music yet it still was 'Oh Susannah' I was playing for them. And the relatives where thrilled." Playing "popular" tunes does not have to be a compromise. Even if you are currently obsessed with spooky old WV fiddle tunes, you can learn a lot by applying Dwight's style to a chestnut. He does it himself. Listen to his killer version of "She'll be coming round the mountain." A key part of making a style your own is to use it to do new tunes. One of the things that impresses me most about a musician is the ability to take a tune that I think I know inside and out and have dismissed and play it in a way that makes me realize that I have never really heard it before.

Fourth, learning to play the banjo is not about learning tunes. You are not neglecting OTM if you develop your own arrangement of "Oh Susannah" instead of working on "Abe's Retreat." After all, "Oh Susannah" IS OTM just as much as "Shelvin Rock" or "Calloway."

Keep up the good work.

Russ (Fellow Dwightciple)