Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Banjo adventures update

The banjo lessons have resumed after a break for my instructor to go on his summer vacation, and I've improved tremendously during the break. "Skip to My Lou" is playing smoothly and I managed to keep good enough time on it to do a duet with my instructor of "Skip to my Lou" on banjo and guitar. Woot! "Polly Wolly Doodle" is where "Skip to My Lou" was before the break - I've got the notes and the note values, now I need to work on smooth transitions and steady timing. Chord transitions are going better, too, enough so that I'm learning 2 more chords in preparation for learning "Oh, Susannah" perhaps as early as next week. And another chord or two, "just because".

And some of the "tricks" I've been learning as "breaks" from actually concentrating on getting those chord transitions perfect are really shaping up, too. I've got this cool blues slide that I've learned how to do on the banjo, but no song to put it in, which is a serious pity as it sounds so nifty that it's hard to believe that *I* made that happen. And the new chords are minor chords, so I got some musical theory thown into this lesson, which has made practicing my strumming that much more interesting. (And given me a couple of variations on the chords I already knew to play around with. Just messing around with open G can be more entertaining than I'd ever have believed when I first tried strumming out a song.)

The only bad part is that it is really hard to put the banjo down some mornings and get myself to work. I'm really looking forward to this weekend's camping with the banjo along. If the weather is nice, I'll be hiking and paddling about with a cheap pair of binoculars along for wildlife watching. And if we get confined to the lovely new tent, I'll be sitting in the vestibule, watching the rain and playing the banjo.

Just writing that last bit reminded me of the one and only time I've ever been to New Orleans. It was over 10 years ago, and I went there with my mom and my sister, visiting my dad who was on a nearby base. While I am so not a morning person, my sister is and so we found ourselves up and moving rather earlier than I might have chosen by myself. We decided to grab some breakfast at the Cafe du Monde (Menu: coffee, beignets - a sort of flat donutish pastry, and fresh orange juice. Mmmm.)

When we got there, the river was still covered in morning mist and the city wasn't really awake, but the great thing about the Cafe du Monde is that it is basically an open pavillion where you can people watch or whatever, so we sipped our chicory coffee and juice, ate pastries, and watched the French Quarter wake up. About halfway though, rain started to fall. It went from a few tentative drops to a deluge in about 10 seconds, and the next thing we knew, there was a sax player taking refuge under the overhang. And he was *good*. The rain was his personal rhythm section, and he played music that dodged between the raindrops, climbed to the clouds, fell to the ground, and became the mist wrapping us each about. He played the river and the city, the heat and the cool mist, the rain and the warm coffee. When the rain passed again, he began to gather up his case and his hat, but we made sure to get out there in time to leave our contribution to this artist.

Part of me, though, has ever since heard a sax playing bluesy jazz in every good rain storm.

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3 Comments:

Blogger the laughing gypsy said...

ooooh, yeah! what an evocative memory!

congrats on the banjo progress. are you bringing it out to siege of glengary in sept?

8/23/2007 12:28 PM  
Blogger Canine Diamond said...

We used to do bent blue notes on dulcimer for "John Henry"; would that work?

8/23/2007 1:45 PM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

I don't know whether I'm going to make it to Glengary - September is the month with the Jewish High Holy Days in it, so I'll be at synagogue with my husband's family for a good bit of that month.

I haven't yet learned how to play "John Henry" on the banjo - though it's my favorite song for putting up tents to. While I don't usually like to sing in front of people, putting up a tent is different. If you didn't want to hear me sing, you shouldn't have given me a task that really requires a work song.

"Ain't nuthin' but my hammer suckin' wind"

8/24/2007 7:10 AM  

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