I met up with Ted and Isabel today to play some Old Time music. We’ve been having these sessions regularly, and I am enjoying them so much. Ted and I had already been playing together for a while before Isabel joined us. We had a tune list and were working on improving our performance. Isabel knows many of the tunes Ted and I had been playing plus she’s introduced several tunes into the mix which are new to me.
I find these sessions to be exhilarating and so much fun! At the same time, they’re mentally exhausting for me as I’m trying to focus on listening to what the others are playing and adapt my playing on the fly. As well, with the tunes that are new to me, I’m trying to figure out how best to contribute as we’re playing them and I’m finding it’s taking a few sessions to fully start to feel one of these new tunes. Fortunately I feel comfortable enough to not worry too much about messing up during a session.
We’re starting to really cook on some of these tunes, such as Rachel (Texas Quickstep), Sandy Boys, Snake River Reel and Greasy Coat. We still have work to do on some of the others, but I feel they’re all coming along. I made up a list of tunes that either Ted and I or all three of us have played together so far and was surprised there were over 40 of them on the list. We play some of these tunes a lot more than others, of course, and I think for all three of us, some tunes are quickly becoming favourites.
Isabel introduced two tunes today – Old Bunch of Keys and Icy Mountain. I’m familiar with Old Bunch of Keys but had never tried to play it before. I don’t think I had even heard Icy Mountain previously. Homework. The first thing to do is get on YouTube and listen to various versions of each of these tunes, until I get those melodies stuck in my ever-so-tiny brain. I need to be able to hear a tune in my head to learn it. Sometimes in a session, when we flounder, we find a version of a tune we like and listen to it together, and that seems to really help.
I feel as if I’m becoming a better banjo player pretty quickly as a result of playing music with my new friends. I’m learning a bunch of new tunes more or less at once, and I’m also learning to listen and be sensitive to the other players. Although I’ve played with others some at banjo camps and festivals, more of my time has been as a front porch player, so this has been a fantastic opportunity for me.