Frailing Banjo Week 28

Progress check after 28 weeks of my journey of learning the craft of frailing or clawhammer old-time banjo. This week I muse on how other musicians are always practicing more than me, and run through three of the tunes from the Tuneworks book – Speed The Plough, Morpeth Rant and Winster Gallop.

Frailing Banjo Week 26

Week 26 of my learning the craft of playing Frailing Banjo by watching Patrick Costello videos on YouTube. It’s been a few weeks since the last video was made as we are in the middle of moving house and so have no broadband connection. Luckily I’ve discovered the local library has an excellent connection so this one has been uploaded from there.

This week we have been stewarding at the 2018 Folk Gathering in Alstonefield, Staffordshire organised by Peace Through Folk to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War. I have included some snippets of some of the performers – make sure you look out for their full video of the Saturday Peace Concert.

We have been learning ‘Speed The Plough’ and ‘Winster Gallop’ from the Tuneworks music book and I have had to learn the ‘D’ chord this week to play these tunes.

Now I’m off to practice that D chord…

Frailing Banjo Week 22

Week 22 of my learning the craft of playing Frailing Banjo by watching Patrick Costello videos on YouTube. This week it’s more John Hardy and Boil ’em Cabbage Down, a quick rendition of You Are My Sunshine, the Banjo version of my song ‘Millie’ and an early version of the guitar version of ‘Millie’ too all crammed into 12 minutes.

Frailing Banjo Week 21

In week 21 of my progress of learning to play frailing banjo I finally get around to learning ‘You Are My Sunshine’, the verses and chorus have the same melody which makes things nice and easy. The second part of the video is a free-style session in the kitchen. Playing the banjo and music in particular doesn’t have to be special or a performance, it just happens. We keep the guitar on a stand in the living room and the banjo case lying open on the floor and any moment can become a music moment. Oftentimes while waiting for pasta or rice or vegetables to cook they often need ‘just one more song’ before they are ready.

Boil ‘em Cabbage Down Lyrics

These are the verses we sing for Boil ‘em Cabbage Down, most are genuine official verses but some we just like to make up ourselves so don’t be surprised if no-one else knows what you’re on about if you sing one of our verses at a hoe-down or jam.

The tune in C goes:

CC FF CC GG
CC FF CG CC

And for the 5 string banjo tuned in Open G, the melody notes are all on the first string except for the last bar where they are on the second string of the C chord:

C(1)C(1) F(1)F(1) C(1)C(1) G(1)G(1)
C(1)C(1) F(1)F(1) C(1)G(1) C(2)C(2)

You can also have some fun mixing it up alternating 1 and 4:

C(4)C(4) F(1)F(1) C(4)C(4) G(1)G(1)
C(4)C(4) F(1)F(1) C(4)G(1) C(2)C(2)

Or use a 1 and 2 progression:

C(1)C(2) F(1)F(2) C(1)C(2) G(1)G(2)
C(1)C(2) F(1)F(2) C(1)G(1) C(2)C(2)

I had a play with this sequence in Week 20 of my Learning To Play Frailing Banjo videos – take a look here [link].

The Lyrics

Went up on a mountain, to give my a horn a blow
Thought I heard my true love say, yonder comes my beau

Boil ‘em cabbage down, down
Bake them oatcakes brown, brown
The only song that I can sing
Is boil them cabbage down

Heard my dog the other night, thought he’d tree’d a ‘coon
Saw them walking paw to paw, later by the light of the moon

Someone stole my old ‘coon dog, I wish they’d bring him back
He’d chase them hogs right over the fence and the little ones through a crack

Possum’s in a ‘simmon tree, racoon’s on the ground
Racoon says ‘you son of a gun, won’t you throw some ‘simmons down’

Racoon’s got a bushy tail, possum’s tail is bare
Rabbit’s got no tail at all, just an itty bitty bunch o’hair

Racoon and Possum, walking ‘cross the prairie
Racoon says to Possum ‘would you like to marry?’

Racoon’s died of the whooping cough, Possum’s died of the colic
Along comes a frog with a fiddle on his back enquiring the way to the frolic

The water in the river was mighty cold, we thought that we might drown
Along came a fisherman and pulled us out, back on to dry ground

Met a possum in the road, blind as he could be
Jumped the fence and whipped my dog and bristled up at me

Once I had an old grey mule, his name was Simon Slick
He’d roll his eyes and back his ears and how that mule could kick

How that mule would kick, he kicked with his dying breath
He shoved his hind feet down his throat and kicked himself to death

We also have a few ‘work in progress’ verses based on ‘Grandpa Willie’:

Grandpa Willie won’t wear no pants, Todd don’t know what to do
It wouldn’t be all that bad ‘cept Pammy won’t wear hers too

Todd and Pammy go dancin’, out on a Friday night
Grandpa Willie won’t take his meds, it’s gonna be a fight

Grandpa Willie says things were different, back in his old day
Bobby thinks he made it all up, it might just be that way

https://youtu.be/Rcuzi_mjS-E

Frailing Banjo Week 20

Week 20 of learning to play frailing banjo, and also the art of standing on my head. Both are progressing, sometimes forwards, sometimes backwards. Both crafts share some of the same requirements, patience of course and practice. Sometimes brute force gets you through to the next level and there you can find the nuances. The temptation with headstands is to rush the whole thing and use force and inertia to get upside down, of course then inertia being inertia it doesn’t just stop, it goes all the way over. Last week though I found a sweet spot, usually I’m spending all my effort balancing by making slight adjustments to leg positions – legs are inevitably sticking out all over the place – but this time I got both legs over my centre of balance and everything suddenly went quiet. I was balanced, without effort and without moving.

Sometimes that happens with the banjo, I’m playing and messing up every F change, the 1st string is dulled when I hit it as my finger hasn’t fretted it quite right, and then sometimes everything just falls into place.

This week I’m practicing ‘Boil ‘em Cabbage Down’ messing around with some of the other melody notes, hitting the 1st and 2nd strings I found that I could hear the resonance of that 2nd string hanging in the air and sounding almost as if a flute was accompanying the tune. I’m using the first riff of ‘John Hardy’ to practice the C to F to C change and then messing around with one of mine, ‘Woman Without Dog’, that has the D7 F C G progression.

We’re living without broadband at the moment, halfway between here and there, making do with mobile data and uploading videos sporadically.

Learning Frailing Banjo Week 19

It’s week 19 and I’ve been practicing a new song ‘John Hardy’, one of the key priorities for me on the banjo is to learn the tunes and the words rather than having to depend on tabs and song sheets to remember them as I seem to have to do with the guitar. I have been practicing the first three lines of each verse (CC FC GG GG) and started by just playing the first string as the melody note for each chord. Once I had this cracked, as in I had learnt the order of the chords, I then looked again and practiced the melody strikes for each of those chords ie string 21 11 12 34 for each of those chords above. Looking at the tabs in Patrick Costello’s ‘The Outlaws and Sealawags Songbook’ there’s some funky hammer-ons and single note strikes at the end of each line to add in as well as soon as I am comfortable. That’s the great thing about learning these songs, they can be as simple or as complex as you like for your own stage of learning.

In this week’s video I also talk about making the melody notes sing and the twin trails of learning to play fast and also learning to play accurately as I fumble for the F chord.

Learning Frailing Banjo Week 18

In week 18 I’m back at home again after our visit to Cleckheaton Folk Festival shown in the last video and also some time spent in Ceredigion, Wales where I recorded the guitar on the beach videos for ‘Ride On’ and ‘Say Goodbye To Me Gently’. I’ve submitted ‘Say Goodbye To Me Gently’ to the Lichfield Arts Song Writing Competition, so fingers crossed for the composition in the competition.

Today I talk about being able to pick out the melody notes from the general noise that I make on the banjo and also the start of the process of migrating another of my guitar songs, ‘Woman Without Dog’ to the banjo. We had a slightly lost and stressful morning of trying to figure out how many beats in the bar there were for each of my guitar finger picks for each chord in the song to then compare to a banjo strike/strum/thumb of which there are 2 sets to each bar. We had to start with the assumption that the song was in 4/4 time and came out with the probable timing of:

D – 4 or 5 or 6 bars
She’s up in the park every

G – 3 or 4 bars
day…………

C – 4 or 5 or 6 bars
Walking her dog at least that’s what she

G – 3 or 4 bars
says…………

IMG_2032

And finally my other project of learning the yoga headstand of Salamba Sirsana continues as a reminder that improvement is learnt and is achieved through regular practice.

 

Say Goodbye To Me Gently

I wrote ‘Say Goodbye To Me Gently’ in around January 2017, strumming away on an old yellow guitar we had in the house. The song and melody was pretty much whole when it came out and I had to scrabble around for something to write it down on as it came out before it was lost. I have rarely been able to remember a song unless I quickly make notes immediately after or sometimes during the spontaneous creation of it. With some editing later it became this, although as I have difficulty memorising songs and poems verbatim, so the words are often fluid and no two versions are ever the same.

I have written before about the Journey I have undertaken to get to this place, to be able to sit in public and sing and play, albeit in this case with no audience other than the sea and some early morning dog walkers. I still stumble over the finger picking and the song only has two chords and that is all ok because when I wrote it I couldn’t fingerpick and with its flaws the song is now out there.

I will keep practicing this song and there will be new recordings of it. I am also working on a banjo version of it which is an interesting diversion. My dream would be to hear others creating their own versions of the song, the chords and a version of the lyrics are below, the melody you’ll have to pick up from the video.

Say Goodbye To Me Gently

C                                                               G

Take me down, take me down to the water
Take me down, take me down to the edge
Take me down, take me down to the water
Lay me down, lay me down at the edge

Say goodbye, say goodbye to me gently
Say goodbye, say goodbye to me at the edge
Say goodbye, say goodbye to me at the water
Let me slip, let me slip gently out to the West

Take me up, take me up to the mountain
Say goodbye, say goodbye to me at the edge
Take me up, take me up to the mountain
Let me slip, slip gently off of the edge
Take me up, take me up there to the mountain
Lay me down, just lay me down on the ledge

Say goodbye, say goodbye to me gently
Take me down, take me down, take me down to the water’s edge
Say goodbye, say goodbye to me gently
Say good bye, as we slip down from the edge.

Take me down, take me down to the water
Take me down, take me down to the edge
Say goodbye, say goodbye to me gently
Say goodbye, say goodbye to me at the edge