Ever since I picked up a guitar at age 15 or so, I've wanted to record an album. However, this has been a bit of an elusive goal in my life so far. I've got a collection of lo-fi recordings of live performances (and 3 or 4 garage-bandy tracks from my high school pop-punk band) but I've just never found a chunk of time or money with which to make my way into a studio.
Since picking up the banjo/finding my way to old time, I just can't help but write fiddle tunes, some of which I actually think are pretty good. As I've pointed out before (here) I think theres plenty of room for original fiddle tunes in the world of Old time music, so I've come up with a plan for getting some of mine out there: over the next 10 weeks, I'm going to use this blog to make myself record and share 1 fiddle tune each week; by the end of that time, I'll have something I could potentially burn onto a CD and hand people who are interested (yes, CDs are a bit of a dated goal, but I still listen to them in the car and while I do the dishes : ). The recording quality won't be stellar but its a start.
Here's the list of tunes:
(yes, this list is a bit meaningless since its just a pile of titles, but it will help organize things on my end):
1) Cheese and Krackers (aDADE)
2) Sisyphus' Hill (aEADE)
3) South Kensington Shuffle (aDADE)
4) This way (aEADE)
5) How's Your Courage? (aDADE)
6) Catawba (aEAC#E)
7) Shine (aDADE)
8) Hobart's Breakdown* (aDAC#E)
9) (un-named D mixolydian tune)** (aDADE)
10) Stripey Cat (gEADE)
* I did not write this one but I feel that I've done a lot to it and I want to share. Its the Hobart Smith tune "Banging breakdown" but with the "banging" removed, the key shifted from C to D, and with some really great chords added.
** This tune will be named by the time I get to it - its just that nothing's come to me yet : )
I'm planning on recording each tune with the same format (3 repeats total...kind of like a Haiku or something):
Repeat 1 - banjo only, basic melody, no guitar
Repeat 2 - banjo basic melody, guitar added
Repeat 3 - anything goes
I got the Idea for this from hearing Chris Coole's recording of his original tune "Skating on the Harbourfront" which I think actually goes two repeats without accompaniment up front. Still, by introducing accompaniment and variation slowly, the structure of that recording makes it really easy to pick the tune out (in addition to adding some dramatic tension!). This format is also pretty easy on me from a recording standpoint. I think theres enough variation in the tunes themselves that this wouldn't be too boring to listen to as a package. As for the "anything goes" portion, I'll likely use that repeat to introduce some melodic and/or harmonic variants on each tune.
The blog post accompanying each tune can be thought of as "liner notes" for the emerging album - I'll talk about techniques used in playing the tune, why I made the decisions I did in writing it, and where the name came from. As you can see, my list is a bit Double-D-heavy because thats where my banjo spends most of its time (and where I prefer to noodle...). I therefore altered these with other tunings on the list above - otherwise its in roughly chronological order for when the tune was written (with "Cheese and Krackers" being the first thing I wrote that I thought was any good).
Over the next week, I'm going to look into what it takes to copyright these things, but in the end I may not bother: fiddle tunes are not exactly a pathway to riches and I wouldn't want to discourage anyone from playing/sharing them. However I come down on this, the Punch Brothers are welcome to these tunes for free (though if they wanted to pay me, I wouldn't object : ).
As usual - I hope this exercise will be interesting for someone other than myself : ) See you next week for "Cheese and Krackers."
About this blog
I have lots of ideas about banjo playing and music in general - this blog allows me to get them all out of my head and see what you think.