DAY 2 – Rockygrass Academy

Today began in an overcast fashion, but the sun finally came out towards the end.


For the second day in a row, students of all instruments convened at the Blue Heron tent. Dave Pomeroy joined Mark Schatz, Dan Crary, Jens Kruger, and myself as we helped them split up into small groups of varying instrumentation and offer band/jamming guidance. One group was lacking a fiddle, so I joined them for the morning. Soon, Dan and his guitar hopped in. I worked with this group all morning instead of roaming between all. We played:
Red Haired Boy (A)
Tony Rice - California Autumn - Red Haired Boy
• Keep the bass as a solid foundation, use movement in bass lines sparingly and to signal a change in sections;
• Don’t play the stops on the B part every time, but use it as variation throughout tune (eg. on a middle solo or the final time through);

Sitting on Top of the World (G) (A)

Bluegrass: Mississippi Sheiks - Southern Country Blues, Vol. 2 (Box Set) - Sitting On Top of the World Blues: Earl Scruggs - Southern Indiana Bluegrass - Sitting On Top of the World

• Vary the guitar strum: strong beats 1&3 with bass notes under vocals, strong beats 2&4 with upper string strums in holes between lyrics (eg. the playing of Jimmy Martin and Charlie Waller);
• Discussed how in bluegrass this song is often played fast (and with a 6minor chord), but it’s original blues form was much slower (and without the minor). We experimented with tempo and keys for different singers;

Working on a Building (D) Hot Rize - Traditional Ties - Working On a Building
• We were talking about playing and singing at the same time and what role each instrument could play. Dan mentioned how bluegrass fiddlers usually don’t sing and play at the same time (but old-time and cajun do), so I demonstrated this tune I had worked out singing and playing;

Other Unknown (D) – I can’t remember what it was, but it was a singing song…
• There were two different common ways to play the chords — we tried both.
• Talked about more confidence when soloing — even if you are unsure, because no one listens to you as closely as YOU, and only you know what you intended to play!;
• Help guide the audio and visual focus of the audience to the soloist or vocalist with volume, direction of gaze, and musical lead-ins.


Tune = Down Yonder (G) Buddy Spicher & Benny Martin - Fiddlers' Hall of Fame - Down Yonder
• This would be part two, the continuation from yesterday. Today we learned how to play backup.  The first step is learning the chords: G, C, D, & A.  Next, we learned how to find the 1,3, & 5 scale degrees of each chord. To make an appropriate double stop, you can choose any two of 1, 3, 5.  We focused specifically on the notes found on our lowest two strings — they are more supportive and blend better into the fabric of the accompaniment. Then we had 3 different ways to backup: 1) Chunk, 2) Chop, and 3) Various shuffle bowings.


• After two days of musical mental crammings, I figured we (at least I) could use a breather.  I procured a bag of oranges, some half grown apples from nearby trees, and a few juggling balls.  About 15 people showed up and I got nearly half juggling 3 “balls” by the end.


• Old Grimes (D) Norman and Nancy Blake - Just Gimme Somethin' I'm Used To - Old Grimes
• Cherokee Shuffle (A) Aubrey Haynie - Doin' My Time - Cherokee Shuffle
• Big Sciota (G) Jerry Douglas, Edgar Meyer & Russ Barenberg - Skip, Hop and Wobble - Big Sciota
• Roxanna’s Waltz (C) Kenny Baker - Master Fiddler - Roxanna Waltz
• Squirrel Hunters (A) John Hartford - Wild Hog in the Red Brush - Squirrel Hunters
• Old Dangerfield (A) Darol Anger and the American Fiddle Ensemble - Republic of Strings - Old Dangerfield

Two down, 2 to go,

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