I'm looking forward to playing some contests in the coming year. I want to play a couple of old arrangements and a couple of new arrangements, so I've been writing a little. The four tunes I'm looking at are Red Haired Boy (which I've done before), Liberty (which I've also done before, but haven't actually played in a contest), Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine (new to me), and maybe Leather Britches (also new to me).
It seems like the two usual problems I have with contest playing are: 1) Not starting early enough, and 2) Nerves.
My plan is to write and practice long before contest season actually starts, and to play out as much as possible with the tunes I'm going to use. I spent some time working out a practice schedule for myself, which I've already fallen behind. It includes a little writing, a little working on tracks and youtubes for this blog, and a little focused practice on my contest tunes each day.
The practice routine looks like this:
1. Play rhythm along with some of the tracks on this blog to warm up the wrist. Various tempos, starting at very comfortable and working up to brisk. 5 minutes or so.
2. John Moore exercises (link here) for 5 minutes or so. Starting relatively slow, about 110-140 bpm. Hopefully dials in pick accuracy.
3. Play one section of a contest tune about 10 times. By one section, I mean A part and repeat, B part and repeat. Slowly at the beginning of the week and speed up as the week goes on.
4. Review last week's focus area at a comfortable tempo.
5. Write a couple of bars on the new tunes.
6. Write a couple of bars on whatever tune I'm working on for this blog.
7. Record a couple of rhythm tracks for this blog. Just finished up rhythm tracks for Nine Pound Hammer, I should be posting those soon.
I do all of this (except for the writing) to a metronome or rhythm track. On the days I'm not at work, I'll try to fit in some time to just play along with tracks or go to a jam to slowly build my overall picking speed and comfort.
What am I missing? What do you guys do to get ready for a performance?
Lots of people consider this tune to be Bill Monroe's magnum opus. It's a difficult one, especially because it has several crooked parts in it. It helps to listen to it a while before you try to play it. The definitive version is probably on the album "Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe" (with a nice, more banjo-centric, arrangement on the tribute album "Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe"), and another great version is on the excellent Tony Rice Unit record "Unit of Measure".
I understand that this is the very first flatpicking tune than many learn. It's a beautiful tune, and I love playing it. It was popularized (at least in the modern recorded era) by the Carter family, and covered by just scads of bluegrass folks. One of my favorite versions to listen to is on the Tony Rice & David Grisman album "Tone Poems".
The chords are a bit harder than most fiddle tunes, because of some "bluegrass measures" in the song. They show up as an extra measure at the end of each line. It helps to listen to this song a while so you can feel the chord changes.
| C | C | G | C | C | (notice, 5 measures)
| C | C | G | C | C |
| C | C | F | C | (no 5th measure this time!)
| C | C | G |C | C |