Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Uke Transcriptions

I've now tabbed out uke versions of the songs Hot Corn Cold Corn, Groundhog, Old Joe Clark, Shady Grove (AKA Mattie Groves), Chinatown My Chinatown, The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, and Waiting for the Robert E. Lee. Trying to do at least 2 or 3 per night. Most of these are fun to play right off the bat. These are primarily single note melodies as opposed to chord melodies. I do want to work on some chord melodies also. There's also a small selection of tabbed out songs in a couple of the uke books I got. Most of those I listed the other night. There's a long list of songs I want to work out uke versions of. D

idn't get a chance to work on tenor banjo tonight. Next chance I get on that I will try and whittle away a few more tunes. For now the majority of the tunes I'll be adding are going to be for the uke. Didn't get a chance to play bass tonight either. Haven't worked on that much at all since I got it. Hope to try and fit some bass time in over the next few days. That's not as much of a priority right now, but I do want to become adept enough at it to add bass parts to the regular tunes I play.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Playlist 3/26/11

Doon the Brae
Seven Step/White Sox Polka
Ballydesmond Polka
Minnesota 6/8 Two-Step
Almondo's Boswell Polka
Milk Shake
Road to Lisdoonvarna
Bosco Stomp
Girl I Left Behind Me
Jai Passe in front of your door
Galway Girl Melody
Farewell to Whiskey
Oriantalische Melody
Sonny Brogan's
Fraksetter's Waltz
Frosty Battle of Aughrim

Fun solo set at Station Cafe. Played fairly well. Kinda relaxed despite drinking three cups of coffee. Chose tunes that I can mostly play without messing up too much. Nothing too adventurous. Tried to keep the volume low. Slow paced. Didn't get to every tune I had thought about playing. Wasn't sure when to stop. Need to work on uke later today.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Floating Action Desert Etiquette - Album Review

An album that’s been bending my ear recently is Desert Etiquette by Floating Action; released February 22nd on Park the Van records. Floating Action is the moniker for Black Mountain, NC songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer Seth Kauffman. Aside from a little bit of pedal steel added later, Kauffman played every instrument and sang every note heard on the album, and recorded it all within a 48 hour period. Having everything come directly from the source gives this record a very human, intra-connected feel.

There’s a distinctly low-fi, warm & fuzzy, psychedelic vibe running through the ten tracks. Low-fi can sometimes be another word for unprofessional, and psychedelic can sometimes mean inaccessible. But these aren’t lame bedroom recordings. The production is very lush and professional - seemingly incongruent instruments are mixed together with just the right amount of this accented with that to make for a soothing sound. It’s sparse enough that nothing seems out of place or without purpose. Often the experimental (sitar, kalimba) is countered with the comfortable (catchy R&B/Soul/rock-steady-riddims) - a foundation that keeps everything floating just a few feet off the ground.

It’s definitely old-feeling, like a time capsule of found-sounds buried 40 years ago in the canyons of Los Angeles that was just dug up in the mountains of North Carolina...having stopped along the way at points even farther East and into the past with short trips into the future. Yes, retro with a new coat of paint...although never derivative - any traces of such have been wiped away by the tides.

Desert Etiquette starts off slow with the song “Well Hidden”, presenting the listener with a dose of middle-eastern riffs. But rather than being cheesy, this exotic sampling is somehow easy to warm to. The 2nd track ambles along much like the 1st, but by now the listener is starting to get hooked - entranced by the deep, colorful, layered, and spacious production. By the third track “The Balance” it’s difficult not to be fully engaged – dialed-in to every lyric and instrumental fill.

The rest of the album follows this same formula: rootsy, breezy, slow-burning sing-along songs...on yet off, hazy yet crystal clear, full but never cluttered, simple while being complex. Instruments come and go: upright bass, washboard, slide guitar, horns, drums, electric keyboards, distorted rhythm guitar, glockenspiel(?), claves(?), and who knows what else (sitar and thumb piano as mentioned above). Every instrument can be heard distinctly – if that’s the way you want to approach it – or as a piece of the overall sonic puzzle. This is stripped-down, East meets West Americana for headset parties, chilled-out campfires and cold frosty mornings.

Floating Action will be opening for Dr. Dog on Thursday, April 7th at The National in Richmond, VA.

DOWNLOAD: Floating Action - "Well Hidden" (from Desert Etiquette)
DOWNLOAD: Floating Action - "Eye of the Needle" (from Desert Etiquette)
DOWNLOAD: Floating Action - "Live at the Grey Eagle" (Free Live Album)

Monday, March 21, 2011

The difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic

(Got this from the Old Time Music in Rhode Island Facebook page. Says on there that it was passed on from Michael Pavan).

The Music

Old Time and Celtic songs are about whiskey, food and struggle. Bluegrass songs are about God, mother and the girl who did me wrong. If the girl isn't dead by the third verse, it ain't Bluegrass. If everyone dies, it is Celtic. Old Time and Celtic bands have nonsense names like 'Flogging Molly' 'Fruit Jar Drinkers' and 'Skillet Lickers' while Bluegrass bands have serious gender-specific name like 'Bluegrass Boys,' 'Clinch Mountain Boys' and 'Backwoods Babes'. The most common Old Time keys are major and minor with only 5 notes (modal). Bluegrass uses these, plus Mixolydian and Dorian modes, and a Celtic band adds Lydian and Phrygian modes. A Bluegrass band has between 1 and 3 singers who are singing about an octave above their natural vocal range. Some Old Time and Celtic bands have no singers at all. If a Celtic band has a singer, it is usually either 1. a bewhiskered ex sailor, or 2. a petite soprano. A Bluegrass band has a vocal orchestrator who arranges three part harmonies. In an Old Time band, anyone who feels like it can sing or make comments during the performance. In a Celtic band, anyone who speaks during a performance gets 'the look', and songs are preceded a call for silence and a detailed explanation of their cultural significance. Bluegrass tunes & songs last 3 minutes. Old Time and Celtic tunes & songs can be any length, and sometimes last all night.

The Instruments


A Celtic banjo is small and quiet. An Old Time banjo is open-backed, with an old towel (probably never washed) stuffed in the back to dampen sound. A Bluegrass banjo has a resonator to make it louder. A Celtic banjo weighs 4 pounds, an Old Time banjo weighs 5 pounds, towel included and a Bluegrass banjo weighs 40 pounds. A Bluegrass banjo player has had spinal fusion surgery on all his vertebrae, and therefore stands very straight. If an Old Time banjo player stands, he slouches. A Celtic banjo player remains seated to maintain stability while cross-picking as fast as possible. An Old Time banjo player can lose 3 right-hand fingers and 2 left-hand fingers in an industrial accident without affecting his performance. A Celtic banjo player has a brace to relieve his carpal tunnel syndrome. A Celtic banjo has only 4 strings. A Bluegrass banjo has five strings and needs 24 frets. An Old Time banjo needs no more than 5 frets, and some don't need any. A Celtic banjo player flat picks everything. A Bluegrass banjo player puts jewelry on his fingertips to play. An Old Time banjo player puts super glue on his fingernails to strengthen them. Never shake hands with an Old Time banjo player while he's fussing with his nails.


Celtic and Bluegrass fiddles are tuned GDAE. An Old Time fiddle can be in a hundred different tunings. Old Time fiddlers seldom use more than two fingers of their left hand, and uses tunings that maximize the number of open strings played. Celtic and Bluegrass fiddlers study 7th position fingering patterns with Isaac Stern, and take pride in never playing an open string. An Old Time fiddle player can make dogs howl & incapacitate people suffering from sciatic nerve damage. An Old Time fiddle player only uses a quarter of his bow. The rest is just wasted. The Bluegrass fiddler paid $10,000 for his fiddle at the Violin Shop in Nashville. The Celtic fiddler inherited his fiddle from his mothers 2nd cousin in County Clare. The Old Time fiddler got his for $15 at a yard sale.


An Old Time guitarist knows the major chords in G and C, and owns a capo for A and D. A Bluegrass guitarist can play in E-flat without a capo. The fanciest chord an Old Time guitarist needs is an A to insert between the G and the D7 chord. A Bluegrass or Celtic guitarist needs to know C#aug+7-4. A Celtic guitarist keeps his picks in his pocket. Old Time guitarists stash extra picks under a rubber band around the top of the peg head. Bluegrass guitarists would never cover any part of the peg head that might obscure the gilded label of their $3,000 guitar.


It's possible to have an Old Time or Celtic band without a mandolin. Mandolin players spend half their time tuning their mandolin and the other half of their time playing their mandolin out of tune. Old Time and Celtic mandolin players use 'A' model instruments (pear shaped) by obscure makers. Bluegrass mandolin players use 'F' model Gibsons that cost $100 per decibel.


A Celtic band never has a bass, while a Bluegrass band always has a bass. An old, Old Time band doesn't have a bass, but new time Old Time bands seem to need one for reasons that are unclear. A Bluegrass bass starts playing with the band on the first note. An Old Time bass, if present, starts sometime after the rest of the band has run through the tune once depending on the players blood alcohol content. A Bluegrass bass is polished and shiny. An Old Time bass is often used as yard furniture.

Other Instruments

It is not possible to have a Celtic band without a tin whistle or Bodhran (hand drum) if not several too many of each. Old Time and Bluegrass bands never have either. A Bluegrass band might have a Dobro. An Old Time band might have anything that makes noise including: a tambourine, jaw harp, didgeridoo, harmonica, conga, wash tub bass, miscellaneous rattles & shakers, a 1 gallon jug (empty), or a lap (mountain) dulcimer or a hammered dulcimer. In a Celtic band, it's the musicians that are hammered.


Except for the guitar, all the instruments in a Celtic band play the melody all the time. In an Old Time band, anyone can play either melody or accompaniment at any time. In Bluegrass bands one instrument at a time solos, and every else plays accompaniment. Bluegrass bands have carefully mapped-out choreography due to the need to for solo breaks. If Old Time and Celtic band members move around, they tend to run into each other. Because of this problem, Old Time and Celtic often sit down when performing, while a Bluegrass band always stands. Because they're sitting, Old Time and Celtic bands have the stamina to play for a square or contra dance. The audience claps after each Bluegrass solo break. If anyone talks or claps near an Old Time or Celtic band, it confuses them, even after the tune is over.

Personalities Stage Presence

Bluegrass band members wear uniforms, such as blue polyester suits with gray Stetson hats. Old Time bands wear jeans, sandals, work shirts and caps from seed companies. Celtic bands wear tour tee-shirts with plaid touring caps. All this headwear covers bald spots. Chicks in Bluegrass bands have big hair and Kevlar undergarments. Chicks in Old Time bands jiggle nicely under their overalls. There are no Chicks in Celtic bands, only Lassies with long skirts and lacey, high collars and Wenches in apple-dumplings-on-a-shelf bodices and leather mini-skirts. A Bluegrass band tells terrible jokes while tuning. An Old Time band tells terrible jokes without bothering to tune. Bluegrass band members never smile. Old Time band members will smile if you give them a drink. A Celtic band is too busy drinking to smile, tune or tell jokes. Celtic musicians eat fish and chips, Bluegrass musicians eat barbecue ribs, and Old Time musicians eat tofu. Bluegrass musicians have mild high frequency hearing loss from standing near the banjo player. Old Time musicians have moderate high frequency hearing loss from sitting near the fiddler. Celtic musicians have advanced hearing loss from playing in small pubs with all those fiddles, banjos, tin whistles and bodhrans.


A Celtic band travels in an actual Greyhound bus with marginal air conditioning and then catches a ride from the bus stop to the festival anyway they can. A Bluegrass band travels in an old converted Greyhound bus that idles in the parking lot all weekend with the air conditioner running full blast, fumigating the county with diesel exhaust. The Celtic Band has their name on their instrument cases and a banner for their Easy-Up. The bluegrass band's name and Inspirational Statement are painted on both the side and front of the bus in script lettering. An Old Time band travels in a rusted-out 1965 VW microbus that blows an engine in North Nowhere, Nebraska. They don't have an Easy-Up, and it's pretty evident that their vehicles don't have air conditioning. Bluegrass bumper stickers are in red, white and blue and have stars and/or stripes on them. Celtic bumper stickers display banners and slogans from the old country. Old Time bumper stickers don't make any sense (e.g. 'Gid is My Co-Pilot?) Bluegrass players stay on the bus and Celtic musicians at the nearest Motel 6 while Old Time musicians camp in the parking lot.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Left-handed Elloree Octave Mandolin for sale, LH Road to the Isles celtic mandolin for sale

These instruments have sold!

Need to make room for new banjo and uke so I am selling my left-handed Elloree Octave Mandolin and my left-handed Road to the Isles celtic mandolin.

The Octave Mandolin was made in 2009 by luthier Rick Felkel of Elloree Guitars & Mandolins.

Top: Red Cedar
Back & Sides: Cherry (with maple strip running through back)
Neck: Maple
Rosewood fretboard
22" scale length
35" overall length
12.5" at widest part of body
2+3/4" deep
1+5/16" width at nut
Includes custom gig bag by Glenn Chronkite - well padded and snug fitting. (these are the best gig bags made...alone worth $250!).
Cost: $475 OBO + $40 shipping to continental USA.

Full picture:

Red Cedar front:

Beatiful cherry back w/ strip of maple:

brown cordura case (included):

I am also selling my left-handed celtic mandolin made by Stan Pope of Big Leaf Mandolins (formerly Road to the Isles).
It's what he calls his basic celtic mandolin which is a real nice player.

Celtic mandolin specs:
-Well aged solid spruce soundboard
-Cherry sides, and back
-Rosewood Fingerboard
-Mahogany neck
-Adjustable Rosewood bridge
-Mandolin tuners
-Reinforced neck
-Clear satin finish
-Hard-shell case
-All solid woods including the binding and rosette.
-Cost $400 OBO + $35 shipping to continental USA.

Mandolin in case:

Mandolin full pic:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rakes of Mallow - recorded using Fourtrack App

I downloaded the Fourtrack iPhone app tonight and tried it out by recording this unexpectedly mellow version of the Irish polka(?) Rakes of Mallow. I don't have an external mic yet so this is just using the phone's built-in recorder.

The two instruments kinda sound out of tune but the timing is much better than yesterday's attempt at a recording. Track 1 is me playing chords on banjo uke. Track 2 is me playing the melody on tenor banjo. Don't know why I played this so slow. Clearly I need to learn more about chording & accompaniment overall it's not bad. Tempo could be faster next time.

It's weird how much easier the melody is to play when you've got the chords behind it. This could get addictive.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Whalen's Breakdown

Here's a tune called Whalen's Breakdown from the book Canadian Fiddle Styles by April Verch and Brian Wicklund. It's in the key of C.

Whalen's Breakdown.

First I recorded myself playing the chords on banjo uke. Then I played back back the recording of the chords and added the melody over it on tenor banjo. So what you hear is a recording of a recording of the chords. Not the proper way to do this at all but I was just fooling around with combining tenor banjo and banjo uke. It sounds old-timey and almost syncs up around the 3rd time through the tune. Kinda sounds halfway decent for having never really tried something like this before.

I plan on learning some more about how to multi-track soon. There's audacity, and some multi-track apps for the iPhone. I also need a USB microphone for my computer, I think.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

New Tunebooks!

I've gotten a slew of new tunebooks recently, with a few more yet to arrive. So over the last week pretty much every minute of free time I've had I've used to go through these books - getting a feel for some new songs to play. Sometimes playing through 100+ tunes in one evening...many for the first time! I've been making note of the tunes to my liking and will go back and look at those in more detail.

The new tunebooks include:
Voyager Records' The Mandolin Players Pastime: A Collection of Reels, Hornpipes, Jigs, and Other Dance Tunes - Phil Williams
Voyager Records' Repertoire Builder Mandolin Workshop of 25 Mostly Familiar Tunes - Phil Williams
American Fiddle Method: Canadian Fiddle Styles - Brian Wicklund & April Verch
Old-Time Festival Tunes for Fiddle & Mandolin – Dan Levenson
School of Mandolin: Irish Mandolin – Joe Carr & Michael Gregory
Steve Kaufman’s Favorite 50 Mandolin Tunes G-M
Steve Kaufman’s Favorite 50 Mandolin Tunes N-S
Steve Kaufman’s Favorite 50 Mandolin Tunes S-W

And for Ukulele:
Hal Leonard Ukulele Method Book 1 - Lil' Rev
Hal Leonard Ukulele Method Book 2 – Lil’ Rev

I think all of these tunebooks include play along CDs. I'm really just scratching the surface on all these books, and I have a few additional books & CDs on order as well. I'll follow up with some more info once I've had time to digest these better.