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Blues Again

Here is a video lesson on the basics of the blues.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iZGQDNA7qI   This is a three minute video of the 8 bar blues. 

 
We started with 12 bar blues last time we had a blues theme and my understanding was and is very basic.If you know what a 1 4 5 progression in major chords means you can play any 12 bar blues as follows:1 1 1 1      for the first 4 bars   4  4   1  1  for the second 4 bars  and either  5  4  1  5   for a turnaround or 5  4 1  1   to finish the song.   The “rule of 41” means   1111   4411   5  41 5  and helps to remember the pattern.


Since then I’ve learned that most blues are played with a dominant 7th chord which just means a major 7th with a flat 7th.Stoo pointed out at out last session that jazz chords like  the 9th, 11th, and 13th  are all built on top of the dominant 7th.


We can take the basic 12 bar pattern and just play all 7th chords or we can play any mixture of major triads and dominant 7th chords.   I like the basic pattern because if you vary the right hand technique you can amuse yourself for hours just running the numbers, strumming and playing arpeggios.  We can even Jazz it up by introducing 9th chords.   The variations are endless and I’m learning something every day.


So what can we learn from the video?  First, 8 Bar is another common form.   This is useful as a basis for practicing chords and right hand technique.  It can also be used for song writing and for improvised performances.  Second it is a very good example of what I’m looking for as video footage for instruction.  Third it introduces some interesting chords both the 7th and 9th.   The shapes are basic I’m sure most of us know them.

The progression is just 1 5 4 4 for the first line followed by 1 5 1 5 for the second line with 1 5 1 1 to finish. The video uses A7 for 1, and D9,E9 for 4 and 5 but you can use plain ole major triads A D and E and it will still sound OK.


When we started this adventure I was trying to produce both workshop and performance videos.   I ran out of time.   These days the video focus is on performance.  That way we can all track improvements.   If anyone would like to offer a workshop please let me know off line and we can create the workshop video apart from the regular circle then we can share the workshop with the circle and have a brief Q&A.  This is pretty much the format we had with Stoo’s excellent workshop on non-standard tunings.

Founding the Folk

1. Jeannie (Cox) Moss’ one page article on the founding of the Folk Song Circle was published in Vol 1 Issue 1 of  “Come All Ye”, the VFSS Journal (July 1972). It mentions the five people responsible for founding the Circle at the Alma YMCA back in 1959 — Albert Cox, Jeannie (Cox) Moss, Phil and Hilda Thomas, and Rolf Ingelsrud. It’s a reminder of the work done by the early FSC pioneers, and since carried on by so many others, in fostering acoustic folk music in Vancouver.  

2. Roger Holdstock’s article on the VFSS was published in Vol 20 Issue 1 of the Canadian Folk Music Bulletin (March 1986). Roger’s article does a fine job of summarizing the Folk, and its activities and ambience twenty-six years after its inception. 

Jazz it up

Mar 10 7pm – 9 pm

The main reason for having a Theme for a circle is to give us something to talk about in our introductions to the music we play.  We don’t need to exactly follow a pattern.   We can have folks at a songwriters circle talk about why they don’t write songs.   The idea is simply to indicate a path in the direction of more and better music.
I was at a Foothills Acoustic Music event the other day that had a fine set of workshops delivered by very experienced musicians.  Barry Truter was there and talked about rhythms.  4/4, 3/4, 7/4,  5/4.   Another presentation was about adding color to your chords.   We learned about add 9s and suspended 4ths.   
What we heard was just what you hear every time you listen to a good folk or country performance.   Those hammers and pulls all have technical names.   The names are only handy if you need to change the key and when you want to talk about what you are playing.  Otherwise feel free to  play any note/fret that you can reach  that sounds good.  That is how most of us learned to play.   We were told to just use a basic grip then see what works.  This is very good advice and I really enjoyed the presentation.

Some thoughts on Theme and Genre

Thomas is blue. Charles is green.

Hello Charles.        I have been rethinking your suggestions for a theme for the next meeting. I was ok with classical and Jazz. But what about people who haven’t been into classical, and have nothing to present? Would they feel excluded, and possibly even choose to skip the evening? It takes me back to the evening which was supposed to be bluegrass, and although I don’t play bluegrass, I coped by suggesting that two main themes of bluegrass are “coal mining” and “moonshine liquor”.

I’m hoping that folks who might not care to participate in a particular genre or theme will still come to listen and perhaps hear something they can use for future circles.

        The thought came to me that bluegrass, like classical and jazz, is a genre, not a theme. But then the thought also came to me that “theme” for guitar pickers means something different than for folksingers. So maybe specifying the genre is appropriate in this context, but there is still room for caution.

         Of course, there is always the debate as to whether to have a theme at all. The only difference between a song circle and an open stage is that your 3 songs are spread out over the evening instead of all at once. We wouldn’t suggest to people performing at an open stage that there is a particular theme for the evening. On the other hand, one advantage of having a theme in a picker’s circle is that it opens up the evening to more than just the songs that are being performed. We get into exploration of the given genre which can lead to some useful insights. I wonder if this should be put to the whole gang for discussion.

Thomas

This discussion goes to the issue of what are we doing here. My reason for hosting a Pickers circle was to improve my playing and to provide a forum for others to do the same. That was in response to a suggestion that we do something for beginners. I’m amazed at the quality of players who have showed up to help out. We must be doing something right.

Garth has suggested a number of other possibilities:

More blues, Celtic , roots, funny , hurt in’, prine,Dylan,Emmy Lou Harris,Beatles  ,sad ,old,happy so we have lots of things to do.

The You tube channel and the website give us the opportunity to build a resource for interested players. I’ve found that most of the learning is done creating the lesson plan. Explaining things to others makes us careful and leaving our work on the web is an incentive to continuous improvement.

My current thought is that we should move to Jazz and Classical guitar for a couple of sessions then circle back to blues and roots. If we are responsive to suggestions we can stay relevant to our audience. If we can improve on past workshops we may create a lasting resource for new performers.

Please email me or add comments to this post.

30 Years Ago in the VFSS: Linda Chobotuck

Linda Chobotuck says she’s been lurking around the VFSS since it met in the Granville Island Community Centre. She was lured in by then-president Anna Holbech Bjarnason. [Ed.: Our records show that Bjarnason was president in 1980.]

“I grew up in a folkie family with a mother who came from a parlour-singing tradition and was an early disciple of the folk revival. Surrounded by folkies, everybody I respected as a musician was also a songwriter, so from an early age I also wrote music. I’m not very prolific, but I’ve been doing it a long time and it adds up.

“My notebook says that ‘Give the Boss his Due’ was written in October 1985, but it was certainly brewing earlier than that because the third verse was inspired by an industrial psychology course that I dropped in disgust. The whole song is basically a tribute to my father’s attitude to work; the proper relationship a responsible worker should have to his or her job. You owe your co-workers to pull your own weight, but your obligations only go so far.

“After sleeping, people actually spend most of their time working, so I am perhaps best known as a singer and writer of labour songs, the most widely recorded of which is ‘Canning Salmon,’ which I wrote while working in a cannery in Richmond.”

Chobotuck performs “Canning Salmon” on a compilation CD titled The Cannery Shed put together by Washington folksinger Mary Garvey. As for a CD of her own, Chobotuck says that’s another project for some indefinite future. Until then, you can enjoy “Give the Boss His Due,” which was recorded live at the VFSS in 1991.

Back to the Blues

7 pm February 10 — Sign up for the Zoom Link.

We have a theme.   I might have something to say about playing the major scales and what changes make them blue.   We have been doing some research into software that will allow folks to Jam together.  So far Jamulus is the product I would choose.


If you join the circle you may listen or make a request of any other player.   They might say no but you can ask.   You can ask a question of any other player.  For example, “Why do people use alternate tunings?”.   Someone will have an answer.  You can give us a song or tell us why you want to play. 


If you have some political point of view that scans and rhymes and you can play along with the result, that is welcome too.  Political songs are a very old musical tradition.  With a day or so advance notice I’ll even provide a breakout room for those who just want to rant.   Everyone is welcome.  Banjo pickers, flat pickers, cotton pickers.  Live better through music.

50 Years Ago in the VFSS: Barry Hall

Barry Hall grew up in what was then called the [Vancouver] Folk Song Circle during the 1960s, first attending at an early age and wowing everyone with his prodigious talent on banjo. In 1964, he was asked to record an album for highly respected Folkways Records (now Smithsonian Folkways). As you can see from the album photo, he was still incredibly young at the time. According to the Folkways website, this was Hall’s only commercial recording.

The VFSS audio archives include a number of live recordings of Barry Hall, including these two blistering instrumentals recorded on October 21, 1970. The first one seems to be identified as “Mason’s Apron.” The title of the second one is not provided.

This blog is intended to initiate dialogue on this topic. I know that there are others in the Folk who know much more about Barry Hall than I do and I would welcome shared reminiscences and information in the comments.

The Cat Came Back — 12 Jan

Here is an old tune that should be good practice for beginner and intermediate pickers. (33) Harry S. Miller – The Cat Came Back – YouTube. This version fits the riff that Thomas describes in his recent post.

Another version by Cisco Huston (33) Cisco Houston – “The Cat Came Back” – YouTube has the melody I remember .

How many ways can we play the cat came back? If you have a favorite version post the link in the comments. We do the usual song circle when were done with the cat.