Saturday, January 30, 2010

Spoke Too Soon

I thought the cold was gone. It took another week or so. It's pretty much gone, now. Here's hoping it stays that way...

I was reading the second issue of Flatpick Guitar Magazine yesterday, with David Grier on the cover. He said in his interview that he never practices, he just plays. He added that practicing feels like work, and playing feels fun, so it's easier to keep the guitar in hand if he just plays.

I can see where he's coming from, though I have the feeling that it wouldn't work for me. I suspect I have too many other things going on (a non-guitar-playing job, a family). It would be fun to practice like that, but it's fun making measurable progress, too.

Another thing he talked about (regarding the way he practices) was that his "just play" philosophy leads to uncovering cool licks through just noodling on tunes. A good point. I noodled on Bill Cheatham for about 45 minutes last night. I think I came up with some new stuff, though somehow I ended up playing some sort of St. Anne's Reel/Bill Cheatham hybrid in C by the end of the 45 minutes.


A few weeks ago, I had the idea that I would record some rhythm guitar tracks to practice to. I'm using a 16 track recorder (a Zoom R16), so I figured I'd record eight different songs on tracks 1 through 8, and leave tracks 9 through 16 open to record leads later. I decided, further, that I would record each song at different tempos from 180 to 24o bpm (180, 185, 190...240).

*A note on tempos: Every magazine and tab book that I have shows flatpicked fiddle tunes in 4/4 time with the bulk of the notes shown as eighth notes. So when I mention a tempo, I mean the metronome clicks with each quarter note. I know this seems obvious since I said beats per minute, and in 4/4 time the quarter note gets the beat by definition. But on flatpick-L (a flatpick-related email list) every time a tempo is mentioned, a big discussion ensues on what the indicated bpm actually means.*

Well, guess what, pardners? It's lot of work! I hadn't really thought about it when I started, but there are 9 tempos I'm recording at, and 8 different tunes (just to start with). That works out to 72 recordings, right? And each recording is 2 to 3 minutes if I get it right on the first shot, so that's a minimum of 2 and 1/2 hours with the record button lit up. I was thinking about recording about 50 tunes of rhythm tracks, so that ends up as a good 15 hours of recording.

However, it's a great opportunity to practice rhythm guitar, which is always timely. And, playing some rhythm is a great way to start a practice session and get the right hand loosened up. So, I'll keep at it instead of breaking down and buying Band in a Box.

Once I figured out how much recording it works out to, I got pretty relaxed about the recording quality. I'm not so worried about background noise and whatnot (in fact, I can hear my youngest daughter squawking in the background sometimes), I just make sure that the timing is very solid.

Anyway, I'll post links to these rhythm tracks as I get them completed. Feel free to download and use them if they're useful to you.


  1. Hi there
    Many thanks for the terrific rhythm tracks. Are you open to a suggestion? If so, it would be wonderful if you could ZIP all the tracks for each song and offer that as a download.

    Thanks again for your efforts

  2. That's a really good idea! I'll get to work on that. Thanks for the excellent suggestion. I wonder how much zipping will reduce size of the mp3s? Well, I'll find out soon.