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Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.

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GUEST,marty D 17 Sep 00 - 12:46 PM
Midchuck 17 Sep 00 - 01:06 PM
khandu 17 Sep 00 - 01:27 PM
Bill D 17 Sep 00 - 07:01 PM
Lucius 17 Sep 00 - 08:16 PM
MichaelAnthony 17 Sep 00 - 11:40 PM
Rick Fielding 18 Sep 00 - 01:13 AM
Rick Fielding 18 Sep 00 - 01:22 AM
MikeofNorthumbria 18 Sep 00 - 08:54 AM
Jim the Bart 18 Sep 00 - 10:49 AM
Rick Fielding 18 Sep 00 - 05:48 PM
Peter T. 19 Sep 00 - 09:17 AM
M.Ted 19 Sep 00 - 11:27 AM
Midchuck 19 Sep 00 - 11:35 AM
mousethief 19 Sep 00 - 11:36 AM
Mark Clark 19 Sep 00 - 11:36 AM
Rick Fielding 19 Sep 00 - 07:03 PM
GUEST,marty D 19 Sep 00 - 09:19 PM
Peter T. 19 Sep 00 - 10:06 PM
MK 19 Sep 00 - 11:14 PM
Rick Fielding 19 Sep 00 - 11:47 PM
mousethief 19 Sep 00 - 11:50 PM
MK 20 Sep 00 - 12:03 AM
M.Ted 20 Sep 00 - 03:25 PM
Mark Clark 20 Sep 00 - 03:33 PM
MK 20 Sep 00 - 04:24 PM
M.Ted 20 Sep 00 - 05:03 PM
MK 20 Sep 00 - 05:40 PM
M.Ted 21 Sep 00 - 12:06 AM
Mark Clark 21 Sep 00 - 01:19 AM
M.Ted 21 Sep 00 - 11:09 AM
Clifton53 21 Sep 00 - 11:50 AM
Rich(bodhránai gan ciall) 21 Sep 00 - 01:22 PM
GUEST,marty D 21 Sep 00 - 03:48 PM
MK 21 Sep 00 - 05:07 PM
M.Ted 21 Sep 00 - 05:25 PM
Rick Fielding 22 Sep 00 - 11:34 AM
Mark Clark 22 Sep 00 - 12:03 PM
Peter T. 22 Sep 00 - 12:54 PM
M.Ted 22 Sep 00 - 01:05 PM
Clifton53 22 Sep 00 - 02:20 PM
Mark Clark 22 Sep 00 - 02:49 PM
MK 22 Sep 00 - 03:24 PM
MK 22 Sep 00 - 03:29 PM
Rick Fielding 22 Sep 00 - 05:10 PM
Mark Clark 22 Sep 00 - 11:49 PM
bbelle 23 Sep 00 - 03:15 AM
Mark Clark 23 Sep 00 - 01:22 PM
bbelle 23 Sep 00 - 01:32 PM
M.Ted 23 Sep 00 - 02:19 PM
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Subject: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: GUEST,marty D
Date: 17 Sep 00 - 12:46 PM

I'm pretty sure I know what the answer's going to be but I thought I'd ask anyway.

I can keep a beat, sing on key, and I know quite a few chords, but if I had one wish it would be to be able to play some Doc Watson songs ALMOST as good as the master. The best guitarist I know said you have to start learning this kind of music when you're a kid or you just run out of time. Well I'm no kid, in fact I won't see 40 again. When I look at the tab for Baumont Rag or Southbound I get totally confused. Is it hopeless? I AM serious, if anyone has any suggestions.

M


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: Midchuck
Date: 17 Sep 00 - 01:06 PM

I would say you could reproduce all the notes if you had a couple or three hours a day available for several years. The flow of the notes is the problem. Doc isn't even being close to the fastest flatpicker there is, any more than Earl Scruggs is close to being the fastest Scruggs-style banjo player. Most musical is another thing entirely.

(My wife just walked in and asked what I was doing. I said, "I'm pontificating." She replies, in mock disbelief, "YOU?!")

Peter.


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: khandu
Date: 17 Sep 00 - 01:27 PM

Thirty years ago I heard Mississippi John Hurt. He changed my musical direction. I spent the next several weeks trying to learn his "Salty Dog". I eventually created a reasonable facsimile. Today, I play a lot of John's material. Yet, It is not a note for note rendition. I have never managed to do that.

I must add that I also worked on Doc's "Sittin' on Top of the World". There is still a lot of difference in our two versions. His is much better.

Somewhere in the course of thirty years, I no longer wanted to play like John or Doc. I wanted to play like khandu. That is where I found contentment.

Can you play like Doc? It is a honorable quest. Go for it. But enjoy playing like Marty D. That is whose music you can master! khandu


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: Bill D
Date: 17 Sep 00 - 07:01 PM

Doc cheats...*grin*...he can't see so he has few distractions, and he only raises his fingers the bare minimum necessary to clear the strings, and he isn't worried about 'tab'...and he started very young, and he had family and friends who played...tain't fair, I say!


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: Lucius
Date: 17 Sep 00 - 08:16 PM

A charming reply Khandu, couldn't say it better myself.

Lucius


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: MichaelAnthony
Date: 17 Sep 00 - 11:40 PM

He's got an excellent instructional video out on Homespun. Got mine from Happy Traum at a Merlefest.

MA


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 18 Sep 00 - 01:13 AM

Well Marty, if you ARE serious...the answer is YES. I can almost guarantee it...but from my experience, here's what you'll have to do. The price may be too high, but there are some amazing rewards.

1. Set a goal, time wise. From how you've described your own skills, I'd say six months.

2. Doc is a COUNTRY musician. You must listen to the folks who inspired him to such dedication. The Delmore Brothers, The Carter Family, Carson Robison, Jimmie Rodgers etc. are often mentioned when he talks about his influence. Many of these artists' recordings are available on the net. Start tomorrow. Order an album of each (it'll take a couple of weeks to get 'em, and that's when your "6 months" start. Spend the first few days just listening to what they do. Doc did.

3. Doc has played on a Gibson J-45, a Martin D-18, and various Gallaghers. If you don't have a top quality instrument right now, invest in one...even if it hurts financially. Don't say "oh I'll get a good axe if I stick with it." Make the sacrifice now, and it'll help make you want to justify it.

4. Budget 2 hours of EVERY day to practice, For the first six months. After that you can probably get away with missing the odd day. My suggestion is split 'em into an hour apiece, but the key thing is you cant cheat...even if it means missing TV or even your kid's soccer game. This is where a lotta folks can't make the commitment.

5. With a flatpick (you mentioned Beaumont Rag) start playing simple up and down strokes on the same note (say a "G" on the sixth string) over and over again until it's reasonably fast. Go to the fifth string (a "C" note) and do the same thing. Keep doing this til you can play the same "up and down" on every string at the same speed and smootheness. This should take about 3 or 4 days, and is bloody tedious. (but it's neccessary to reach your goal)

6. Play all the notes in a G scale (from bass to treble) and then back again, gradually playing faster and faster. Same with a C scale, and then a D scale (starting with the F# on the sixth string.

7. Notice that you still have'nt played a chord or a song? Yup, that's right. What you're doing is starting to get a bit of that "Doc Watson right hand strength". OK start playing some simple songs in G and C. Nuthin flashy (Keep 'em COUNTRY!) Oh and don't forget to always warm up with your little up and down scales. If you've been sticking to the schedule, by about the four week mark they'll be getting pretty smoothe. But just sing some songs for fun.

8. Now the hard part. Gotta find yourself a teacher! DON"T , repeat DON"T go to a teacher who isn't familiar with Doc's music. If you live in a big city it'll be easier to find an accomplished country-folk picker who not only LIKES to teach but also can put it on the line as a performer. If you're in a rural area it may be harder, but ask around. Ther'll be someone, even if they're fifty miles away. If you hear of a good picker, but they don't teach usually, be bold. Ask nicely, and show them that by you having a top notch instrument, a good command of chords and a rapidly improving right hand, that you're serious and have made a total commitment. Trust me they'll be flattered. Remember one two hour session every three weeks with a teacher who cares, is worth twenty sessions with a clock watcher, who plunks a Mel Bay book in front of you.

9. Buy a Doc Watson video (only use tab for an exceptionally difficult passage where you or your teacher can't figure it out. NEVER use tab for whole songs, or you'll get tied to it and your ear won't develop) Get your teacher to help sort out the various runs and how the chords are played. They won't seem anywhere NEAR as mysterious now that you've done your homework.

10. Now start on finger picking (You mentioned "SouthBound") Get a thumbpick...'cause that's how he gets "That" sound, and start learning a thumb-index, thumb middle roll. You have to learn the right hand before you start playing the songs....just like a carpenter MUST learn to use his tools before building anything worthwhile. Learn the "double thumb" pattern...Thumb, Thumb, thumb, index, thumb, middle. That's the one that gives you that "bounce"!

This is what you do for the first three months. The second three is two hours a day of playing the songs (from the videos or CDs or your teacher....whatever)

Believe me. Try it this way (if you can) and I promise you , you'll accomplish your goal.

Rick

5. With a flatpick (you mentioned Beaumont Rag)


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 18 Sep 00 - 01:22 AM

Oops, ignore that extra number 5 at the bottom!

Something else I just thought of. Try and develop a personal trusting relationship with your teacher if you can. It's not always possible, but it helps to be able to phone them at odd hours with questions. (I do this with my fiddle teacher, and he doesn't mind!) Also, don't worry if after a while you may be picking better than your teacher (he or she may focus on many other styles that don't involve you). One of my banjo students Chris Coole is so good now, I ask HIM for tips....kinda fun actually!

Good luck

Rick


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: MikeofNorthumbria
Date: 18 Sep 00 - 08:54 AM

Hi Marty,

I sympathise with your ambition, and share your frustration. I've been listening to Doc's guitar playing for decades, and although I can sometimes work out what he's doing with a tune (more or less), I still can't play it anywhere near as fast, or as accurately as he does. And even if I could, the end product would still lack the grace, wit, and zest that characterises Doc's playing. Because that comes from within – and it's that extra ingredient which makes Doc a musical genius, rather than just a very, very competent player. So, I can only echo the sound advice offered by khandu – learn all you can from other musicians, but stay true to your own vision, whatever that may be.

A little story here, which may be instructive. Edward Fitzgerald was a fairly undistingished mid-19th century English poet and scholar. He took on the task of translating the verses (or "Rubaiyat") of one of Persia's most famous poets – Omar Khayyam. When a friend wondered whether he was up to the job, Fitz replied that he was not aspiring to produce a poetic masterpiece, but simply to convey the spirit of Omar's verses honestly to the English reader. And he added "better a live sparrow than a stuffed eagle". Omar's vision touched Fitzgerald so profoundly, that he was driven to try and share it with other readers. Persian scholars say that his translation is inaccurate. And English literary critics describe his verse as no better than second rate. Nevertheless, Fitzgerald's version of the Rubaiyat became a best-seller, and remains one of the most influential books of all time, because it speaks from the heart, and to the heart. It may only be a sparrow, compared with poetic eagles like Shakespeare's sonnets, or Milton's Paradise Lost - but it lives.

There's a lesson here for all of us parlour pickers. Copying Doc's guitar solos note for note (even if we have the chops to do it) can only produce another stuffed eagle. But the real challenge is to apply everything we can learn from Doc – or any other maestro – to help make our own ideas come alive for other listeners. Rick Fielding's ideas on how to develop technique are excellent. (I'll be stealing some myself Rick, so thanks for 'em.) But technique is a means to an end. The goal is sharing whatever it is you have to communicate with your fellow human beings –not just impressing them with your technical facility.

Wassail!


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: Jim the Bart
Date: 18 Sep 00 - 10:49 AM

Mr. Fielding, I am in awe. The map that you provided is excellent. Music being what it is, though, there are no guarantees that following it will get our guest to where he wishes to be - but it could get him to that place that khandu found, which is as much as anyone could ask for, really.


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 18 Sep 00 - 05:48 PM

Hey Bartholomew. Couldn't sleep last night so I ran off at the mouth. I believe it's a pretty sound way to learn Doc's style, but I am certainly aware that it won't give ya Doc's "soul".

Marty, if you haven't REALLY been scared off by all this, lemme tell you that the steps I outlined aren't for everybody.....but....if you are obsessed with playing Doc's stuff, you can do it. What will probably happen though is if you follow those steps, you'll develop your own "soul"....but you'll REALLY have some chops to express it. Keep in mind, my advice was based entirely on how you described your current musical skills.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: Peter T.
Date: 19 Sep 00 - 09:17 AM

Oh God, more damn work on the damn guitar. Fielding is a slave driver, really. Some of us are just aspiring to play like Doctor Watson, not Doc Watson, and now this. Crumbs. Oh well, back to practicing....
yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: M.Ted
Date: 19 Sep 00 - 11:27 AM

Marty--You got a hit of the good stuff from Fielding!! Copy, print, and keep it in your case!!

A couple asides from me: I have heard Doc talk about learning to play the thumb role, and he said it took him a year and a half to get it down. Once you've got it, everything else starts to fall into place, without it, nothing else matters. Also, Rick didn't mention Merle Travis, but he was a master of the style (though he did things a little different than Doc) and you should listen to him, and get any videos that you can of him playing, as well(and check him out in "From Here to Eternity", he plays, sings, and acts!)

There are two kinds of guitar players--the one's who play this way and the ones who don't. It's a lot like the Masons--The ones who do are always on the lookout for one another, they like to show you whatever it is that they are working on, they are always on the lookout for new initiates, and they have secret handshakes--


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: Midchuck
Date: 19 Sep 00 - 11:35 AM

Never forget, your music should either:

1) Give you pleasure and satisfaction, or;

2) Provide so much income that it's worth doing it even if it's unsatisfying.

If you haven't noticed, (2) above does not apply to 99.9999% of folk musicians. So (1) has to.

So if you work so hard at it that it stops being fun, you might as well say the hell with it.

IMNSHO

Peter.


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: mousethief
Date: 19 Sep 00 - 11:36 AM

Oog! I understand the thumb thing. When I first started learning fingerstyle, I simply could NOT get my thumb to do the back-and-forth thing. I had to go out and get a metronome and set it really slow, and do nothing but go bong-bing-bong-bing with the thumb, over and over. Then once I got it, turn the speed up one click, and bong-bing-bong-bing until it was comfortable. Until I had worked through the speeds on the metronome and could do it pretty quickly. Then back to the slower speeds, and started adding in finger-notes. Very painful and boring work, but it paid off! I don't sound like Mississippi John Hurt or my hero Gary Davis (does anybody?) but I sound like me, and that's pretty good these days.

So, keep with it!

Alex
O..O
=o=


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 19 Sep 00 - 11:36 AM

M.Ted, Okay, you've really done it now. You've spilled the beans about the secret handshake. This is surely the missing piece I've been looking for all these years. Now that it's public knowledge, where do I go to learn the secret handshake?

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 19 Sep 00 - 07:03 PM

Come back Marty!

Some very good tips here. Like Ted says, get some Merle Travis CDs. Merle did 90% of it with just a thumb (pick) and first finger. Doc uses the same thing on the banjo, but brings the extra finger in on guitar. I've no doubt he DID take a year or so to learn it, but one of the things we have going for us is "precident". Videos, tab, recordings, and best of all...Mudcat friends who've been there, and can advise at the drop of an adverb.

Alex, the metronome is a good idea. One of the things I tried to stress in my (very subjective) method of "power learning" (ha ha) is that it's TREMENDOUSLY BORING for the first two or three weeks....No songs, very little chording, JUST RIGHT HAND, over and over again. but...if you can tough it out (and have average to good skills) your progress will be nothing short of amazing by the second month when you start adding the songs.

I should also point out that my approach is subject to some serious "dumping on". When I started working with Banjo Bonnie, I warned her that for the first three or four months, any trad banjo players she encountered would tell her "yer doin' it all wrong", but by the six month mark, she'd be learnin new stuff so fast her head would spin. She's at about 3/4 of a year now and can do some lovely stuff...and she'll be a monster after a couple of years.

Midchuck, you can say that again! Although I make my living at it, it's still an absolute joy to make music.

Money? fawgettaboutit!

Rick


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: GUEST,marty D
Date: 19 Sep 00 - 09:19 PM

I haven't gone anywhere, but this certainly has got me thinking. The new guitar would be a big step Rick but I understand what you mean. I get a lot of joy out of playing but I've never thought I would be able to tackle anything by Doc Watson.

Mousethief, like you I tried to get patterns working but I just never seemed to get the hang of it. If it really does involve the amount of time that Rick says then I can see why. I think I may be ready to take it seriously though.

This is the first time I've realized how helpful mudcatters can be for something like this. All the Nazi threads are really downers. I was starting to wonder about this place. It's easy to get caught up in the negative stuff. All this information is really appreciated.

M


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: Peter T.
Date: 19 Sep 00 - 10:06 PM

There's lots more where that came from, marty, stick around, ask good questions, and you will be suprised at how much help people will give. Don't let the fractional nasty threads obscure the overall generosity of what goes on here.

yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: MK
Date: 19 Sep 00 - 11:14 PM

And I quote Rick "Merle did 90% of it with just a thumb (pick) and first finger. Doc uses the same thing on the banjo, but brings the extra finger in on guitar."

I respectfully disagree if I am correct in assuming you are referencing Doc's fingerpicking. When Doc fingerpicks, he uses the thumb and index finger. No third finger. I have the Smithsonian video put out in the early 90s, with Pete Seeger and a couple of other people, and Doc plays, teaches and breaks down some of his fingerpicking classics. He even tells Pete, he plays in the style of Merle and only uses thumb and index eventhough it's more work."


Unless you know something I don't or I've missed something somewhere.


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 19 Sep 00 - 11:47 PM

Dammit yer right! Thanks.

Now this ain't no small detail folks. (if yer a guitar nerd) Truth is that a lot of country pickers only used the thumb and index finger. Reverend Gary Davis, Ike Everly, Mose Rager, Blind Boy Fuller (don't know about "Blake" or Buddy Moss or Willie MacTell.....or especially the master of fast pickin', Big Bill Broonzy) Sam McGee appears to use two fingers plus a thumb, but the point is...these wonderful pickers get all the notes they need with just one finger. That one finger is movin' like a son of a gun...and that's where the extra finger comes in. For me, it's simply a little more relaxed (and easier!) with the extra one. Basically the same notes. Chet Atkins and most of the modern players use two. Back in the sixties I read Jerry Silverman's instruction book, and he advocated thumb plus THREE fingers. For syncopated type pickin' I find that a bit of overkill, so I never went in that direction, but if I'm not using picks at all, I go to thumb and three fingers......same notes, just less finger movement.

I just wanna say since the questioner is a bit leary of the complexities of Doc's style.......Don't let all this technical shit throw you. It happens to us after we've been pickin' for a number of years....sort of like someone who knows how to change the oil in their car...gets a little confidence, and then REALLY wants to know how the car works!

When you break it down (Doc's style, not the car) it's not complicated......IF you've got your right hand operating efficiently.....and THAT's the most important part of it.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: mousethief
Date: 19 Sep 00 - 11:50 PM

Rev. Gary Davis also uses only his thumb and index finger. I use thumb and all 3 "guitar" fingers, and need all of them! I don't know how he can make the amazing sounds he makes (well, made) using just thumb and one finger! Doc is just as amazing. Hmm. Maybe they're onto something! But I'm too set in my ways to change from a 4-finger to a 2-finger style.

Alex
O..O
=o=


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: MK
Date: 20 Sep 00 - 12:03 AM

Mississippi John Hurt uses thumb, index and middle.

What is interesting though, is that you get an entirely different sound (attack) out of the strings when you switch from thumb, index and middle to just thumb and index...and therein lies a lot of the " musical intellectual heart" in the sounds of the master's Rick mentioned.

I've always been a thumb, index and middle person. Every so often, for the heck of it, I try taking tunes I've learned in this manner, and dropping the middle, just to hear the difference, and there is. To some that difference is very subtle. To others, it's a train. But it is incredibly difficult to switch between these two styles at will. It is much more work to do it with just thumb and index.

Sorry for the thread creep but fingerpicking in general is a subject near and dear to my heart.


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: M.Ted
Date: 20 Sep 00 - 03:25 PM

It is also possible to hit the string with both a down and an up movement of the index finger, and I am curious to how far you can take this effect--is it possible to to a tremolo while the thumb role is going?

Mark Clark--Rick has dropped part of the secret, and that is the simple and discreet mention of Mose Rager, which is usually done as Rick has done it, by beginning with Ike Everly.


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 20 Sep 00 - 03:33 PM

It's odd how that two vs. three finger thing works. Merle Travis muted the bass strings with the heel of his hand while he picked. That pretty well takes the middle finger out of position to be useful, at least for me. The few times when my eyeballs have been within two or three feet of Doc's hands, he was using thumb and index finger. He doesn't bend his wrist much but seems to carry the rhythm from his forearm rather than the thumb alone like Merle and Chet.

Seeing Doc play up close was really heartwarming for me. I had often tried to play "Doc's Guitar" using three fingers but could never quite do it. One day I discovered that it was much easier to do if I din't try to use my middle finger. The thinking was different but it was much easier (read possible). When I finally saw Doc play the tune I didn't feel so stupid.

I think a lot of Joe Maphis' work is only possible using thumb and forefinger as well. On the other hand, I can never get Hurt's "Louis Collins" or "Candyman" to sound right using two fingers. I always have to throw in some middle finger notes to get the timing right. I never got to see Hurt play in person but now I understand my problem. Thanks, Michael K.

As mousethief reported, Gary Davis played using thumb and index only but he used a finger pick in addition to the thumb pick. He was not tied to the alternating syncopated feel usually associated with Kentucky thumb-picking. He often played many notes in a row using the same finger (or thumb). I have never been comfortable doing that and have never built enough speed playing fast runs with successive downstrokes of the thumb. I can approximate some of it using rapicly alternating thumb and index picking on the same string but it's not really how Gary did it.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: MK
Date: 20 Sep 00 - 04:24 PM

Mark,
As one who has spent a considerable amount of time studying Doc's fingerpicking techniques, the "muting" is an integral part of his sound. The mistake most people make when trying to emulate this, is dampening too much with the palm. This was pointed out to me at a lesson a while ago by Rick. Only a very slight amount of pressure should be applied to the 6th, 5th, and 4th strings...so that their tone is still heard clearly, and that the remaining strings are allowed to ring out. Muting is a technique (much like Clapton's "slow-hand vibrato") that can take months, or even a year to really perfect. You can experiment adjusting your hand angle when muting, so that thumb index, and middle are able to comfortably play...but you will have to fool around with it. I'd suggest 15-20 minutes on this a day (in addition to any other practising you're doing)...and you should have it down. Don't get frustrated if you don't in a week. It took Doc years to achieve that tone and style.

When Doc flatpicks, he rests his baby finger on the pickguard as well, which he claims is a "depth gage" for him, as a compensation for his blindness. Many flatpickers don't have an anchored pinky, as they like to use their entire arm. Most of what Doc does is generated by his wrist and lower fore arm.

What you refer to re: RGD I think of as "two fingered flat-picking". I've been religiously working on this technique for the past 4 or 5 months (as it was the one area of my fingerpicking technique that was weak.) It is something that takes a lot of practise and months to finesse. It is an invaluable technique!!!! In addition to allowing you to insert single string runs interspersed with your fingerpicking, it can also substitue for flat picking as well.

In order to practise this method, I'd suggest starting with basic scales in all the primary major keys...and doing it very slowly. (You might want to use a fingerpick and thumbpick as it will give you a sharper, stronger attack. I use them, but have nails long enough that a lot of the time, I can get by with just a thumbpick and nothing on my index finger.) Then start figuring out some runs, from your favourite bluegrass artists and learning to play those runs. Practise them very slowly so that they are true and clear, and then very gradually start increasing the speed. Since I don't have anyone to play with on a regular basis these days, what I've done is create a bunch of sequences with chords, bass, and light percussion, on a computer sequencing program, and have it midi'd to a polyphonic synth. I have tons of them saved in different keys (ie: Arkansas Traveler, Bromberg's "Foggy Road to Milledgeville" and a bunch of others.) I start the tempos at around 120, and play against these sequences for 15 minutes to get loose...then I gradually increase them so that they're up to around 210 or 220, and then it gets fun! I had a friend over here recently who is a very good fingerpicker herself, and I told her to close her eyes and just listen and to tell me if I was fingerpicking or flatpicking. Then I played along with Arkansas Traveller at about 180 beats per minute. She couldn't tell the difference, eventhough I was doing it 2 fingered style. I do believe however that flatpicking gives you an even stronger attack and more sustain...so this is something I will want to perfect in time. But for now, the two fingered method is invaluable. Go for it and don't get discouraged.

Ted, Robert Johnson was a master at getting tremolo effects while keeping his thumb going. Works best in blues and country blues that are in Drop D.
Cheers,
MK


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: M.Ted
Date: 20 Sep 00 - 05:03 PM

Michael,

I am talking about playing melodic solos, working from a tremolo, with that thumb role on the bottom(well, it isn't really a role, but I don't know what else to call it)--

Meanwhile, what do you need those synthesizers for? (talk about alienating people!!) You ought to be able to to play a rolling bass line, fill in the chord, pick out the melody, and drop in the odd fiddle break, all with your thumb and forefinger!!!


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: MK
Date: 20 Sep 00 - 05:40 PM

(LOL) Ted,
I agree with your second paragraph (and hell if you shove a broom up my ass, I'll sweep the floor at the same time)......but seriously, it gives me the sense of playing with a band or in an ensemble situation. Believe me I spent weeks just practising the riffs solo, and drove everyone here in my house insane with the repetition. As soon as I put some "accompaniment" against it, it was a little more enjoyable for all concerned...and made it more motivating for me as well.

I'm unfamilar then with the technique you are describing in the first paragraph. Perhaps Rick, or other veterans around here can fill us in.


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: M.Ted
Date: 21 Sep 00 - 12:06 AM

Maybe the tremelo thing is only a theoretical possibility-

And seriously, I am the orginal band-in-a-box lead player. I am particularly fond of settling up demented convergences, such as Polka versions of Paul Simon songs, or my infamous "Danny Boy Mambo", and then looping endlessly into the night. When I started this, I lived in a ground floor apt, and thought no one could here me--I later discovered that I was being heavily disrespected by a classical guitarist who lived on the fourth floor. Turns out you could hear me loud and clear in the laundry room.


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 21 Sep 00 - 01:19 AM

Michael, thanks very much for all the detail, I'll keep it and put it to use. And I too used to set up accompanyments on my daughter's keyboard and use them to create a "band minus one" to play along with. I've never tried it with folk material but I used to do it with jazz or pop tunes and my 'tele. I once worked an arrangement of "Sleepwalk" using a finger slide in standard tuning. Don't think I could remember that anymore.

I wonder if it would be useful to have "MIDI-compliant" Mudcatters submit their background MIDI files as Mudcat Resources for others to download and use as a practice aid? If several people are doing that, maybe we could build a useful library. The MIDI files you can find elsewhere on the Net are usually unsatisfactory for the purpose.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: M.Ted
Date: 21 Sep 00 - 11:09 AM

Best place to go (and connected to Mudcat, as well!) is Lesley Nelson's Contemplator site. He has made MIDI files of many, many traditional songs, they are great to listen to, but also excellent to play along with and to learn tunes from. Contemplator


--- Closing quote added in link ---
-- PA --


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: Clifton53
Date: 21 Sep 00 - 11:50 AM

This is a very helpful thread for anyone who struggles (and who doesn't) with fingerpicking. The common element seems to be the time it takes to master even a slice of a Doc Watson, or any other difficult run.

I like to occaisionally use a flat-pick and my index finger at the same time.It's just something I developed on my own because I cannot get the hang of thumb or finger picks. They remind me of some type of torture device from Medieval times, and I also can't finger pick unless I brace my pinky on the top of the guitar. Anyone else encounter these problems?

I guess they call the flat and finger picking combo hybrid picking? I use a thinner flat pick to try and balance the volume a bit.

Rick, your notes are an excellant plan for learning . Time, time, time. Practice practice practice.

Clifton53


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: Rich(bodhránai gan ciall)
Date: 21 Sep 00 - 01:22 PM

Marty, you could concievably learn to play just like Doc and you still wouldn't be Doc Watson. If you can incorporate some of Doc's stuff into playing like Marty, I'd say that's a much better goal.

I have a fair number of bodhrán heroes, none of which I can or would copy exactly. I do, however, incorporate a little or sometimes a lot of what I see and hear them doing into my playing. I've made a lot of my progress thus far, playing with a fiddler named Mike who really likes Kevin Burke and steals some of his licks, but doesn't play exactly like him. He plays a lot of bits and pieces from different fiddlers. He unfortunately moved away, so I get to play with him far less frequently, but when we do get to play together, ther are moments when I'm playing a Johnny McDonagh style rhythm to a Michael Coleman style lead flowing into a subtle Cathy Jordan style drumming to a hard edged Ciaran Tourish-esque fiddling to a Frank Torpey/Kevin Burke etc. It's not exactly the same but by borrowing bits and pieces from different peoples styles a player has a much larger bag of tricks to dip into. It seems to have worked so far. I've been playing a little under 5 years and some people seem to really like my playing as if I'd been playing all my life. Can hardly wait to see what the next 5 years brings.

I realize this is a bit of thread creep, What with you posting concerning a musical instrument and me replying about the bodhrán, but it's the best I can offer.

Good luck,
Rich


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: GUEST,marty D
Date: 21 Sep 00 - 03:48 PM

I've just read two extensive articles on Doc and I can't believe how much I DIDN'T know about him. He built his own house! He fixes TVs and radios, and he named his son after Merle Travis. I'm looking for some of the recordings Rick mentioned, and I think I may actually give this a shot. You won't believe this, but all the technical mumbo jumbo has started to make a little sense. To my surprise I'm NOT freaking out. I may even look at some guitars.

M


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: MK
Date: 21 Sep 00 - 05:07 PM

Okay Marty D, for starters go to Folklore Productions. Drill through the menus (artist info) and you'll find bio, tour info and dates, and more on Doc Watson.

As for recordings, there are so many I don't know where to start. You could go to MP3.COM and do a complete discography search.

Certainly if you do not have it, you must get WILL THE CIRCLE BE UNBROKEN which was released by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, but it is a cornucopia of blue grass legends performing together, some of whom include: Doc, Mother Maybelle Carter, Earle Scruggs, Merle Travis, Jimmy Martin, and many others. This is a must have double album. I don't think many would disagree with me.

And if you can find it (been out of print for a while) a CD with Chet Atkins and Doc Watson made in 1979, called simply "Chet & Doc". Phenominal playing, all duets with only bass, and light percussion accompaniment. Killer!

Hope this at least starts you in the right direction. Best of luck.


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: M.Ted
Date: 21 Sep 00 - 05:25 PM

Well done, boys, I think we've recruited another one!!


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 22 Sep 00 - 11:34 AM

Been a bit busy lately, but I'm glad to see your not letting the tech. stuff throw you marty D.

Clifton. Try to put your ring finger to use as well, when you use the flat pick. What you describe is a tough technique. I don't know more than a couple of local players who do it. Funny thing is, when you're learning how to do it, it's no harder than anything else. The key though is (I AM a broken record about this) practice the RIGHT hand FIRST (with minimal left hand movement) until it's second nature. When you add the left hand fingering it will come SO much easier.

As an example...I'm learning a pretty complex "forward-backward" banjo roll right now. I put the mute on the banjo and play nothing but this roll (over an open "G" chord) while watching 7 innings of the Blue Jays beating the Yankees. That's a solid 2 hours. (and as I said, I think that's crucial every day while learning something) But now I've got that roll for life.

Marty D. Glad to hear yer getting intrigued. I'd like to explain once again about the "good" guitar. (still don't know what you've got) It's not JUST because you need a pro instrument for playing ease, tone, sense of commitment, and self-satisfaction....but it goes a long way to showing experienced players that you meet along the way, that you (like them) are a SERIOUS student of acoustic music. Once again, I'm not sure what your financial situation is (mine could be described as "lifetime precarious!") but remember that a 2000 dollar Martin will ALWAYS be worth at LEAST 2000 dollars, so you'll never lose money on your investment....even if you stopped playing entirely. It's worth the scarifice.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 22 Sep 00 - 12:03 PM

Clifton, What else do you do with your index finger while holding a flatpick? When I hold a flatpick, my index finger is used up doing that.

If you watch the Nashville musicians on television closely, you'll see that they all seem to combine finger plucking with flatpicking. Many of the signature licks you hear in country music can only be done this way. They aren't simulating Kentucky thumb picking, it's really a different approach. I think, as Rick suggests, that the ring finger is perhaps the most natural "first choice" of fingers to use with this style. The middle finger is probably next in usefullness but the pinky should not be ignored.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: Peter T.
Date: 22 Sep 00 - 12:54 PM

What is (are) the normal pattern(s) for flatpick and fingers (say in 4/4)? Are you trying to use the middle and ring fingers to reproduce the patterns that fingerpickers accomplish with thumb and index (plus middle, depending), just moved down a finger? Or something else?
yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: M.Ted
Date: 22 Sep 00 - 01:05 PM

I'd like to see someone try and answer this one in an understandable way--


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: Clifton53
Date: 22 Sep 00 - 02:20 PM

Mark, I mis-spoke, I meant to say a flat pick with thumb and index, and my middle finger for picking, sorry for the mix up. It's not my main way of playing but I like to use it now and then to vary the sound. But again, I find myself pinky-braced when doing this as well, makes for a lot of cramps in my right hand. I've tried just letting my hand hang there but I guess I've been doing it the other way so long, it's hard to change. Today, as Rick suggested, I just used my right hand playing a simple pattern over and over, and just let it hang there, well, it's gonna be a while to break this habit, tell ya the truth, it don't sound as good, but my right hand sure feels a lot better.

Peter T., I do it now and then when playing a simple blues tune, say in E or A. I find I can play the shuffle or bass notes with the pick and use the middle to pick the treble strings and add some fills. Working on getting my dad-blasted pinky off the top of the guitar, as this bracing makes my ring finger fairly useless for picking. I also find myself doing it a lot when jamming with friends. It pretty much pisses them off because they've never tried it, and like Rick said, it's no harder than any other technique, once you start learning it.

MTed, I think I caused the mis-understanding here by saying index instead of middle fingers. Sorry for the mistake. Its just a flat-pick with thumb and index, and the middle for picking.

Rick, As I said, my ring finger is pretty useless, but I've been trying to get it into the action, trouble is, I've been 3 finger picking for so long, I can't seem to get it going. But your suggestions are great and I think I have the patience to exercise them. Today I drove my dog nuts for a half-hour trying to free up my right hand, played the same little pattern over and over, it's gonna be a while.

Oh, and Rick, why were you watching the Blue Jays game when my Giants were clinching the NL West? Tsk Tsk!

Thanks gentlemen, and again, sorry for the mix-up.

Clifton53


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 22 Sep 00 - 02:49 PM

Rick, One wouldn't think it should take two hours for the Blue Jays to beat the Yankees this year. Must have been a lot of commercials. <g>

I'm certainly no expert on advanced techniques and I'm prepared to prove it right here and now. While we're waiting for someone who can actually play the style I've seen the Nashville side men do, I'll try to better explain what I think they're doing.

First, they seem not to be using any pattern. In my experience, patterns are useful as a learning aid for new fingerpickers. They allow one to play nice sounding chord progressions and learn some finger movements at the same time. After finger style has become second nature, one's playing evolves into a bass line and melody rather than a pattern. Patterns, as a way to think about the music, tend to be forgotton. (My experience, anyway.)

The Nashville side men seem to be playing complex flatpicked single-note passages using down-down, up-down, and even up-up pick motions. At the same time, they are throwing in harmony notes, chord fragments, bends and slides by picking up with the occasional right hand finger(s). They seem to do this on a strictly as-needed basis. Perhaps they are really just stringing together well-practiced stock licks where they have carefully choreographed the use of each finger. I can't tell from watching and listening. I suspect the thought process is closer to piano playing than anything else. (It's astonishing how many really good guitar players there are.)

When I fingerpick using a flatpick instead of a thumbpick, I'm really just playing what I always play and just shift the finger assignments. If I'm simulating two-finger (T+I) picking I'll often use just the flatpick and my ring finger for comfort. Keep in mind that I'm not using finger picks and my hand is closer to a fist shape than an arch. (Probably bad form but... what the Hell.) One nice feature of playing this way is that you can play passages that combine flatpicked and fingepicked licks and still get a nice attack for both.

I've never been shown how this stuff should be done, I just noticed people doing it and started messing around. If there is an accepted formal method for all of this stuff, I'd suggest that the student check that out first.

Hope this helped,

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: MK
Date: 22 Sep 00 - 03:24 PM

I think what you are describing Mark is essentially correct, and it is also a common technique used by Jazz guitarists as well.

As for patterns, melody etc...as it pertains to fingerpicking, if we're talking along the lines of Travis style, the fundamental is getting the "boom-chick-boom-chick" going with a steady alternating thumb, and developing simple patterns for the other fingers to pick out over the chords. Once you've mastered that you're ready to explore improvisation, while keeping the thumb going.

(Without any intent to kiss ass) the best advice and instruction that I ever got as far as how to open up the improvisational elements in fingerpicking came from Mr. Fielding during one of our early lessons. That advice was to take any standard major chord (ie: C, G, A, F, E, etc.) and while maintaining an alternating thumb bass, try and play a full scale ascending and descending, around the thumb. Once you've got it down over one key, then switch to another. You will be amazing at what this exercise will open up for you. Not only will it get the fingers stretching, it will help your independence, and open you up to more exploring. And if you're a ragtime player, it will make you a better one!


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: MK
Date: 22 Sep 00 - 03:29 PM

I'd also like to add, that for me personally this has been the best thread (pertaining to guitar techniques) since the "Pickers-Give Us A Tip" was conceived.

Eventhough it has evolved into other spin offs and thread creeps I'd really like to thank Marty D for starting it.


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 22 Sep 00 - 05:10 PM

Wish a few more current catters were interested, but hey, that's life.

Something I just thought of (because of Peter T's comments) is, what do ya do if you've got a wonky finger that just wont do the things it's supposed to ? (Peter does)

I no longer can use my left hand pinky in a significant way (cause I busted it doing a particularly violent string bend a few years ago...and I can't stop playing long enough for it to heal)

Two days into my leather carving hobby, I sliced my left hand index finger with a razor knife. Took seven stiches and couldn't barre for a year. Awfully glad I could use all those thumb chords in the meantime.

'Course perhaps I shouldn't DO violent string bends and play with sharp knives.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 22 Sep 00 - 11:49 PM

Broke it doing a bend??? Rick, it's the string you're trying to bend, not the neck! I suppose every guitar player comes to realize how you can cause yourself undue pain without being aware you're doing it at the time. Still, a break? Awesome.

There is a wonderful fiddler near Kahoka, Mo. named Delbert Spray. He was a good friend of Monroe's and runs his own very popular festival each August. He and his wife Irma are the backbone of the Tri-State Bluegrass Association. Delbert is also a farmer, work that can be rather dangerous. Sure enough, Delbert fell victim to an accident and lost most of the index finger on his left (noting) hand. He was devastated but recovered emotionly and decided he would play anyway. He is still one of my favorite old-time fiddle players and now plays just fine using the three remaining fingers.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: bbelle
Date: 23 Sep 00 - 03:15 AM

Interesting word "intent."

The finest example of crossover picking, fingerpicking and flatpicking, is Norman Blake. If you have an opportunity to see him live, do. Barring that, if you can acquire any of his videos, do. Of all the famous flatpickers, Norman probably does it the best. The videos are out there, for you to see, if you're interested.

There are also different "camps" that are held in the summer, i.e., flatpicking, dulcimer, mandolin, fiddle, where one can learn a lot. Even if you don't consider yourself a virtuoso, you will learn. You would also have the opportunity to see inperson how it's done and to jam with the best.

One of the best flatpicking camps is run by Steve Kaufman. Held at Marysville College, in Marysville, TN, the last week of June. It's not cheap ... $650, for eight days of classes and jams and concerts, plus room and board. And it's not just flatpickers who attend. There are fingerpickers, singer/songwriters, and others. The instructors this year, to name a few, will be John Carlini, Steve Kaufman, and Marci Marxer (Fink & Marxer).

Rick is a phenomenal musician and if it has strings on it, her can play it. I couldn't wipe Rick's shoes with my guitar playing, but I want to be better. So, I'm going to Kamp Kaufman to start on that road. When I get settled in North Carolina, in the spring, at Rick's suggestion, I'm going to scout around and find a geetar player, whom I like and whom I think is good, and offer to pay for his time as a "teacher."

Ah, life is gettin' good ...

If you're interested, PM me and I will give you further information.


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: Mark Clark
Date: 23 Sep 00 - 01:22 PM

Yes, Blake seems to have the hang of it. Wonderful musician. I first ran across Norman at Bean Blossom c. 1972. As I recall he wasn't really booked but did guest appearances in somebody's set. In talking with him after one of his performances I learned that he was employed on the Johnny Cash TV show as a rhythm guitarist. I checked out the show when I returned home and, sure enough, there he was way in the background. Kind of like the way Bobby Thompson used to be treated on Hee Haw. I've been a Blake fan ever since.

At that time he was using what Michael K. refered to as "two-fingered flatpicking." He'd hold the guitar way up high with the sound hole aimed at the vocal mic. and just "be all over" that guitar. We'd never seen anyone play just that way before.

M.Ted, I'm well aware of Everly and Rager. I was lucky enough to see Ike in person at the University of Chicago Folk Festival way back when. Unfortunately, the only music of theirs that I have is a video tape I made long ago of the PBS special on the Everly Brothers Reunion Concert. They start out talking about Kentucky and the roots of the music and there are some short clips of Mose and Ike. Not enough to be satisfying, just enough to make you sit up and say "Wow, where can I get more of THAT?" Do you know whether any film or recordings of these two still exist?

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: bbelle
Date: 23 Sep 00 - 01:32 PM

Mark ... Norman is all over the country now. He worked for a long time with Joan Baez, as well as, Johnny Cash. He's been featured on almost every Cash album. Mostly, his bookings consist of small venues and house concerts. I had the pleasure of hearing and talking with him at a house concert in Crawfordville, about 26 miles southwest of Tallahassee. A nicer, humbler man you will never meet. In some respects, he reminds me of Rick Fielding, because he does what he does because he loves doing it. He gave me a few pointers, which I've tried, but what I really need to do is hold him captive for a month, so I can watch and play along with him. He's kinda cute too.


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Subject: RE: Could I play like Doc Watson? seriously.
From: M.Ted
Date: 23 Sep 00 - 02:19 PM

Mark, I taped that same show, and had the same feeling that you did. I assume that Don and Phil have some sort of archive, and that was where the stuff came from--I would love to hear and see more (as I would love to hear some of the old radio broadcasts) but I don't know of anything.

By the way, when you see watch those nashville pickers (as you described so well above) it is important to remember that they are playing fills, which means that they don't need to keep the beat. This gives them the freedom to play anything on any beat--This is a whole different style of playing than we are talking about here, and it is actually based much more in jazz guitar technique--


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