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My last Doc Watson thread

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DEEP RIVER BLUES


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marty D 26 Jan 02 - 04:23 PM
wysiwyg 26 Jan 02 - 04:25 PM
Steve in Idaho 26 Jan 02 - 04:44 PM
Anahootz 26 Jan 02 - 04:53 PM
Benjamin 26 Jan 02 - 05:31 PM
mack/misophist 26 Jan 02 - 05:42 PM
Tiger 26 Jan 02 - 06:32 PM
GUEST 26 Jan 02 - 07:21 PM
katlaughing 26 Jan 02 - 08:17 PM
dick greenhaus 26 Jan 02 - 08:40 PM
John Hardly 26 Jan 02 - 10:29 PM
wysiwyg 27 Jan 02 - 11:37 AM
Justa Picker 27 Jan 02 - 12:00 PM
Rick Fielding 27 Jan 02 - 12:08 PM
M.Ted 28 Jan 02 - 12:09 AM
Anahootz 28 Jan 02 - 12:54 AM
Rick Fielding 28 Jan 02 - 11:37 AM
Steve in Idaho 28 Jan 02 - 02:42 PM
M.Ted 28 Jan 02 - 08:19 PM
Justa Picker 28 Jan 02 - 08:22 PM
dick greenhaus 28 Jan 02 - 09:00 PM
Steve in Idaho 29 Jan 02 - 10:06 AM
marty D 29 Jan 02 - 05:04 PM
dick greenhaus 30 Jan 02 - 12:00 AM
GUEST,Redhorse at work 30 Jan 02 - 08:43 AM
Steve in Idaho 30 Jan 02 - 09:44 AM
GUEST,Marion 30 Jan 02 - 02:36 PM
Steve in Idaho 30 Jan 02 - 02:54 PM
GUEST,Marion 02 Feb 02 - 02:58 PM
Dave T 03 Feb 02 - 10:02 AM
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Subject: My last Doc Watson thread
From: marty D
Date: 26 Jan 02 - 04:23 PM

One of my first visits here was to ask (not entirely facetiously) "Can I learn to play like Doc Watson"?

Some people said "no", others said "why do you WANT to"? and the majority offered invaluable tips on how to play BETTER than I did at the time. Well I DO now. A LOT better actually. I've followed every "tech tips" thread that my schedule allowed, and did a fair bit of that "investing" that brother Fielding touts so highly, consequently I've acquired quite a bit of a musical library of the great (but not famous) players. I bought a good instrument, I've practiced scales (thanks mTed), checked websites (thanks Justa P) and even managed to see Norman Blake in concert. But I've got one question left. Can some people simply not play fast, no matter how much they practice?

I can play Doc's Beaumont Rag cleanly at a medium tempo, but when I try to play at his speed, it all falls apart. Do some of these "speed demons" simply have a natural ability to play fast? I don't mean "tasteless", I mean playing a fiddle tune at the same speed the fiddlers do.

marty


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: wysiwyg
Date: 26 Jan 02 - 04:25 PM

Where is the problem-- left hand or right?

~S~


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: Steve in Idaho
Date: 26 Jan 02 - 04:44 PM

HI marty - I think some people can just play faster than others. Look at Ricky Scaggs, Dan crary, Norman Blake, and Glen campbell just to name a few. I also believe that these guys don't do anything else but play. It's in their blood and soul. I'm the same as you I think -but some nights when everything is working just right I can play as fast as any of them. Never have acheived it solo though.

Susan - for me it is the right hand and still working on pick control.

Steve


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: Anahootz
Date: 26 Jan 02 - 04:53 PM

Speed comes in direct proportion with practice. As a bluegrass player (Mandolin, then Guitar, then B**jo)attimes, speed is the essence of the music. I constantly look back on my short but winding path as a picker to try and figure out what worked, and what didn't..and use this information to make appropriate guesses as to what will get me to the next level. A few tips: 1) Speed in picking an instrument comes not in the traditional sense of being able to move your digits or hand/wrist exceptionally fast, it comes from EXTREME ECONOMY OF MOTION. Repeat this like a mantra...then go watch someone like Vince Gill, who can play the bejeezus out of a guitar, but doesn't seem to be moving either hand at all. Check out a video of your newfound idol, Doc Watson, and watch the absolute in economy of motion. 2)PRACTICE WITH PURPOSE 3)Without the guitar in hand, you can still practice. I accomplish this by "finger drumming" of sorts...trying to move the digits of both hands in absolute unison. Another key to speed is to be "Synched up" with right/left, and this, although goofy-sounding, seems to work for me. 4)PRACTICE WITH PURPOSE 5)Get a metronome and learn how to use it to your best advantage. 6)PRACTICE WITH PURPOSE 7)VISUALIZE PERFECT PLAYING 8)see 2,4, and 6. By this, I mean don't just pick up the guitar and noodle around. At some point, develop a plan (Not "I will play like Doc today"). Be realistic. Strive for 2 more Bpm, or something equally as challenging, but accessible. Hope this might help a skosh.


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: Benjamin
Date: 26 Jan 02 - 05:31 PM

SLOW PRACTICE!!!
It forces you to focus more on the movements which will ultimately lead to more efficiant movement.


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: mack/misophist
Date: 26 Jan 02 - 05:42 PM

I don't pick but once upon a time I sort of played piano. My teachers always said not to try to come up to speed all at once. Get a metronome and speed up a few ticks at a time. Don't try to go faster until you're mastered the speed you're at now.


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: Tiger
Date: 26 Jan 02 - 06:32 PM

Words of wisdom from a Norman Blake workshop:

If you're playing from a full chord position, there are a wealth of melody and passing notes right beneath the fingers of your left hand, or very close nearby. There will also be others readily available as you transition to your next form. This produces great economy of motion in the left hand and allows for a full melody line, or more.

If you try to force things by shinnying up the neck and playing a few melody notes with a couple of fingers on the high strings, you'll lose your full chord, drones and doubles, and just about anything else of interest. You'll never catch Norman playing a cutaway, or even very far up the neck, for that matter.


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: GUEST
Date: 26 Jan 02 - 07:21 PM

I once asked Tom Rush how he practiced for a song. He said "I play everything very hard and very slow but in tempo. When I am solid with the sequence of notes, I speed up a bit. When I want to add the subtilties I do it when i am playing at less than full speed to learn where and how they go. Once these are mastered I start practicing at full speed. By then the muscles know where to go because of the slow heavy practice."

David Bromberg told me. " Learn the scales in the keys you play. If a scale exisits between the 2nd and 5th frets its easier to play your runs in that area than on two parallel strings with the scale streching over 7 or 8 frets." Economy of motion.


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: katlaughing
Date: 26 Jan 02 - 08:17 PM

As the others have said, both my violin and piano teachers stressed slow practice, esp. the hard parts, over and over, until I had them down, then add a little speed, still working it over and over.

Congratulations on accomplishing so much of your goal! Good to hear about the positives!

kat


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 26 Jan 02 - 08:40 PM

Talent makes it easier to get by with less practice. Pracice, of course, rules.


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: John Hardly
Date: 26 Jan 02 - 10:29 PM

marty D,
All sage advice above...
I was among the nay-sayers in your last thread. I must confess that, though I still have my reservations about how much an older person is capable of learning well, I must admit to being somewhat surprised at my own success at the same endeavor.

It sounds like you and I are having the same trials -- getting the tunes, but falling apart at the faster tempo. I still contend that, as funny as this sounds -- and I've talked this out with, among others, Joel Mabus -- Playing fast is not the same thing as playing slow faster.

As Joel said, just as running is not the same as walking fast, picking fast is not just picking slowly sped up. In my limited moments of real speed I'd have to conclude that he's right.

I don't know if we'll make it Marty, but I wish you luck! I read somewhere that practice is the musician's ultimate act of faith -- one never knows their potential for success, but we carry on believing!


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: wysiwyg
Date: 27 Jan 02 - 11:37 AM

For right-hand: are you thinking/feeling/playing the individual notes? Or patterns of movements that create short phrases?

~S~


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: Justa Picker
Date: 27 Jan 02 - 12:00 PM

Marty,
...what many other people here have said...

Unfortunately SPEED is, for us mere mortals, one of those things that just takes time...and then it just comes and you don't even realize it till you're doing it. It's a finesse thing all the way. It took me what seemed like forever, to get that speed and then it happend. (-as a matter of fact it happened when I was recently playing with Rick and Jeri.) The faster you go the more subtle the touch. It's a "Zen" thing. (Keep at it and don't get frustrated.) :-)


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 27 Jan 02 - 12:08 PM

Hi Marty. Since I already know about your progress, i won't offer another 'congrats', but I will say that from the tape you got to me, you're playing isn't as slow as you think it is.

Excellent advice here, but at the risk of being a wet blanket, I think that there really ARE folks who simply are blessed with great speed. There's a young man here named Mark Roy who I first saw as a beginner at about age 16. He's only 17 now, and plays as fast as any human on the planet. Yes he's practiced...probably about 8-10 hours a day over the last year, but the speed was there within the first month...the rest is 'cleaning up the notes'.

I've never been able to play 'fast', in the way that the vast majority of listeners hear (and see) it...but it's all relative. My bass runs are clean, pretty inventive, and as fast as I need them, but my treble string playing is at a pretty mundane level (compared to the players I admire). I've practiced and played a lot, but I simply don't have speed AND clarity...so long ago, I opted for clarity.

I think that learning the left hand first is important, understanding the "who, why, and how" that motivated the players you like, and really puttin' the work into it are important....but there are 'mortals' and Gods. Django and Doc didn't get THAT good JUST from practice!

Rick


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: M.Ted
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 12:09 AM

A lot of good comments, particularly on economy--one thing that has not been mentioned is that for speed, you have to have to be very precise about where you hit the note, relative to the beat--also. faster you go, the less you can do--incidentally, Rick, there are a bunch of tricks to getting that Django sounding speed, even "old" guys like us (over 17)can learn them!


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: Anahootz
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 12:54 AM

An Addition to my above posted drivel: When learning a song, I play it at slow-as-molasses speed, to get the timing, phrasing, and feel correct. When I can nail it every time I play it, I start speeding up the metronome about 5 bpm at a whack. I do this until I get the piece nailed at "performance" speed. Once I can play it on autopilot, I throw tone and timing out the door and play it as fast as I can possibly play it. I do this once or twice during a daily practice session. From this, I have found that I can gradually add the tone and timing back to a "breakneck" piece, and soon, I am able to play a piece coherently at speeds you would not normally encounter in most playing situations (say, Salt Creek at 240 bpm). I don't do this as a frivolous exercise, or for musical masturbation; when playing bluegrass, you encounter many differnt versions of song, as well as many different tempos. The goal of this exercise is to be able to sit in with ANYONE and play. BTW, you DO practice with a metronome, don't you?


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 11:37 AM

Jeezus!! I said:

"I think that learning the left hand first is important,"

No, No. I mean't RIGHT HAND. I'm glad I saw that, 'cause that's one of my mantras...you gotta get the "tools" (right hand) workin' before you do the fancy part (left hand fingerings)

Ted....Django "tricks"? I'm listening.

Cheers

Rick


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: Steve in Idaho
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 02:42 PM

Play with a metronome? Sure - the one in my head! For some reason I've been blessed with a very good sense of internal timing. Now that Jan has taken up the piano we are going to invest in one and I think this might be an idea to help me also. The guy who first taught me guitar also taught me to count to four and to do it with precision. It has been an immense help to me in my later years.

And Rick is dead on about the right hand. I forget who posted a while back about the right hand and they were right. It is my right hand that makes the boo boos. Now that I have refocused my efforts my speed has improved as well as my clarity.

I had heard that Doc was the entertainer for his family when they were out working. He'd spend 10-12 hours a day just playing for them. I think that he has a natural ability as well as millions of hours of practice. But my involvement with professional musicians is that all they do is play music. Listen to Ricky Skaggs talk about a two hour visit with Bill Monroe - they played music and didn't say 15 words to each other. Bill said it was the best visit he'd had and they really shared some important things.

Talent helps but practice does indeed rule. I stand corrected on my earlier assertion about the "Hot Rods" of fast pickin being naturally faster. :-)

Steve


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: M.Ted
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 08:19 PM

First thing, Rick, is that it isn't a thumb and forefinger thing;-) Second thing, get your tremolo down(a five stroke roll is good to work on) and fool around a bit with what would be hammer-on/pull-off in closed positions, except that you are striking the string--it kind of goes that way--you will hear it a lot in Romanian folk music--it sounds very frenzied, but really moves around on only a few notes--the feeling of speed is created because the rhythm guitar is very staccato and precise, but the lead player is erratic, moving from dragging half and whole notes to tremolos and trills--next, you through in some brilliant melodic variations, and you've got it!


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: Justa Picker
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 08:22 PM

A little tip. I also heard it mentioned in various circles, that to increase speed when flatpicking, use the rounded corner on the pick for the up strokes...so that you're sort of rocking between the pointier tip and the side. I've been checking this out during practise. There just might be something to it.


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 28 Jan 02 - 09:00 PM

A long time ago, when I was young (yes, I was once young) I used to play fast. I've spent the past 50 years learning how to play slow. It's harder.


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: Steve in Idaho
Date: 29 Jan 02 - 10:06 AM

Another item I have picked up as I have aged is that some songs played fast don't always need to be nor do they sound as well. I've slowed down a few of the tunes as I just like them better that way. I think age has taken the urge to compete down a notch or two and speed is sometimes about competition. Music shouldn't be competitive. It's all relative though - not necessarily a relative of mine *BG* but working on it!!

Steve


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: marty D
Date: 29 Jan 02 - 05:04 PM

I think I've approached it (speed) in the right way, but it doesn't seem to be coming. Some good new suggestions here, which I'll check out. My typing is still at a beginner level and I've been doing it for almost 40 years, so maybe I'm just one of those 'built for comfort' guys.

Thanks people

marty


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 30 Jan 02 - 12:00 AM

One other point about technique: When you play it at a moderate tempo, try to be aware of exactly what sections are more difficult, and concentrate on those. Or, try to find an alternate, easier way to play them--I've found that often an alternate left-hand chord position makes the right hand work easier.


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: GUEST,Redhorse at work
Date: 30 Jan 02 - 08:43 AM

Marty d: your comment on typing may be more relevant than you think. If like me you are not "touch typing" there's a limit to what you can do: to do better you've got to go back and get the basic fingering right. I've found on left hand if I don't get a fingering that moves easy from one note or chord to the next there's a "stall speed" I can't break. The first time I looked at one Segovia transcription, the fingering looked totally illogical: then i realised on each fingering he was "setting himself up for the next shot" like a snooker player.


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: Steve in Idaho
Date: 30 Jan 02 - 09:44 AM

I was doing some cross-picking last night and suddenly realized that several things I'd been working on for years seemed to come together. Norman Blake did a song akin to Under the Double Eagle that I'd been trying to do for the past - geezz many years. Last night it was as if my hands figured it out.

I have a little Banjolin I've been rebuilding and finally made playable - it really made me work with my pinky - and that has made all the difference I believe. Little dinky frets to put my fingers on has forced me to pay a lot of attention to fingering position and when I grabbed my guitar it just seemed that my fingers were more focused and accurate.

Practice - and typing I have to look - slows me down - pickin I don't and that also has helped a bunch.

Steve


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: GUEST,Marion
Date: 30 Jan 02 - 02:36 PM

Hi Marty. I don't mean to be facetious, and I certainly don't mean to discourage you in your guitar study, but here's another perspective: have you ever considered taking up the fiddle?

I play both, and I find that playing fiddle tunes at fiddle speed is way easier on a fiddle than on a guitar.

This may be because of the smaller fretboard, or softer action, or because it's tuned to fifths instead of fourths. A mandolin might also be easier to play fast on, I'm not sure.

And don't stop starting threads. Your threads are cool. I started listening to Doc Watson as a direct result of your first one.

Marion


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: Steve in Idaho
Date: 30 Jan 02 - 02:54 PM

Marion has a point there - and it does help - teeny tiny frets make for a more precise allocation of fingering. Then the guitar looks like - - - WOW. Sort of like playing snooker for an hour or so before going to the regular tables.

Glad you found the good Doctor Marion - and some of his older albums with his son are quite superb. I saw Doc and Merle in Idaho City, Idaho nearly, wow, 1975? Real humans and incredibly fun to watch and see. It was tragic when Merle was killed.

Steve


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: GUEST,Marion
Date: 02 Feb 02 - 02:58 PM

Justa Picker said: " to increase speed when flatpicking, use the rounded corner on the pick for the up strokes...so that you're sort of rocking between the pointier tip and the side."

I'm trying to picture this: you're holding the pick sideways, playing downstrokes with the sharpest corner and upstrokes with one of the rounded corners? Have you really been finding that helpful with speed? It sounds a little counter-intuitive. Do you hold the pick so that the sharp end points to the head of the guitar or the bridge?

Thanks, Marion


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Subject: RE: My last Doc Watson thread
From: Dave T
Date: 03 Feb 02 - 10:02 AM

Interesting comment about taking up fiddle...I'm a guitar player but took up fiddle a few years ago for a couple of reasons: 1) It was lying around the house and I couldn't stand to see it not played. 2) There's always lots of guitar players and often not much else. The side benefit is that it's improved my guitar playing: speed, feeling, sense of melody or "where the song's going". So it's worth a shot; the main problem is it takes time away from practicing guitar (no minor problem).That being said, there are some tunes I can pick fast and others my fingers just won't cooperate with no matter how much I practice (with a metronome, slowly at first, etc.). So I guess I have to agree with the others: practice is necessary but sometimes not sufficient for us mere mortals.

- Dave T


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