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Playing with worse musicians

Melissa 11 Aug 10 - 05:14 PM
Lonesome EJ 11 Aug 10 - 07:37 PM
The Fooles Troupe 11 Aug 10 - 07:56 PM
Bobert 11 Aug 10 - 08:13 PM
The Fooles Troupe 11 Aug 10 - 08:17 PM
Leadfingers 11 Aug 10 - 08:20 PM
Bobert 11 Aug 10 - 08:25 PM
Melissa 11 Aug 10 - 08:43 PM
gnomad 11 Aug 10 - 09:06 PM
Melissa 11 Aug 10 - 09:14 PM
Bobert 11 Aug 10 - 09:21 PM
treewind 12 Aug 10 - 03:21 AM
Richard Bridge 12 Aug 10 - 03:24 AM
Melissa 12 Aug 10 - 04:08 AM
Will Fly 12 Aug 10 - 04:35 AM
Roger the Skiffler 12 Aug 10 - 06:32 AM
The Fooles Troupe 12 Aug 10 - 06:56 AM
Rob Naylor 12 Aug 10 - 08:08 AM
Tug the Cox 12 Aug 10 - 08:31 AM
Amos 12 Aug 10 - 11:09 AM
GUEST,Buddhuu 12 Aug 10 - 04:50 PM
GUEST,schlimmerkerl 12 Aug 10 - 05:34 PM
Lonesome EJ 12 Aug 10 - 05:44 PM
Lonesome EJ 12 Aug 10 - 05:47 PM
BobKnight 12 Aug 10 - 05:49 PM
Lonesome EJ 12 Aug 10 - 05:50 PM
Melissa 12 Aug 10 - 05:55 PM
Melissa 12 Aug 10 - 05:58 PM
Lonesome EJ 12 Aug 10 - 06:04 PM
Melissa 12 Aug 10 - 06:17 PM
Ebbie 12 Aug 10 - 06:25 PM
Melissa 12 Aug 10 - 06:33 PM
Nick 12 Aug 10 - 06:46 PM
Rob Naylor 12 Aug 10 - 06:47 PM
Lonesome EJ 12 Aug 10 - 07:00 PM
Leadfingers 12 Aug 10 - 07:08 PM
Genie 12 Aug 10 - 07:36 PM
Leadfingers 12 Aug 10 - 07:41 PM
Melissa 12 Aug 10 - 07:45 PM
Genie 12 Aug 10 - 07:48 PM
Melissa 12 Aug 10 - 08:11 PM
Richard Bridge 12 Aug 10 - 08:56 PM
Genie 12 Aug 10 - 10:33 PM
Genie 12 Aug 10 - 10:41 PM
Melissa 12 Aug 10 - 10:41 PM
The Fooles Troupe 12 Aug 10 - 11:23 PM
DonMeixner 12 Aug 10 - 11:31 PM
The Fooles Troupe 12 Aug 10 - 11:36 PM
Ebbie 13 Aug 10 - 12:36 AM
The Fooles Troupe 13 Aug 10 - 12:54 AM
Melissa 13 Aug 10 - 12:59 AM
Genie 13 Aug 10 - 01:23 AM
Melissa 13 Aug 10 - 01:36 AM
Genie 13 Aug 10 - 02:31 AM
Melissa 13 Aug 10 - 02:44 AM
stallion 13 Aug 10 - 03:29 AM
Rob Naylor 13 Aug 10 - 03:31 AM
Rob Naylor 13 Aug 10 - 03:52 AM
Melissa 13 Aug 10 - 03:52 AM
Mo the caller 13 Aug 10 - 08:02 AM
GUEST,LDT 13 Aug 10 - 08:20 AM
MikeL2 13 Aug 10 - 10:53 AM
CupOfTea 13 Aug 10 - 12:46 PM
gnu 13 Aug 10 - 01:26 PM
Ebbie 13 Aug 10 - 02:13 PM
Larry The Radio Guy 13 Aug 10 - 03:32 PM
Melissa 13 Aug 10 - 05:36 PM
Genie 14 Aug 10 - 01:25 AM
Melissa 14 Aug 10 - 01:32 AM
Nick 14 Aug 10 - 04:31 AM
Genie 14 Aug 10 - 04:32 AM
Melissa 14 Aug 10 - 04:47 AM
Will Fly 14 Aug 10 - 05:28 AM
Nick 14 Aug 10 - 06:37 AM
Will Fly 14 Aug 10 - 06:44 AM
Brian May 14 Aug 10 - 06:51 AM
The Fooles Troupe 14 Aug 10 - 08:27 AM
CupOfTea 14 Aug 10 - 09:00 AM
Genie 14 Aug 10 - 03:58 PM
Genie 14 Aug 10 - 04:14 PM
GUEST,Gentle Gaint 14 Aug 10 - 04:14 PM
The Fooles Troupe 15 Aug 10 - 05:31 AM
Susan A-R 15 Aug 10 - 10:19 AM
Melissa 15 Aug 10 - 11:46 AM
Ebbie 15 Aug 10 - 11:52 AM
Nick 15 Aug 10 - 12:33 PM
Melissa 15 Aug 10 - 12:49 PM
Bobert 15 Aug 10 - 01:21 PM
Melissa 15 Aug 10 - 01:27 PM
Melissa 15 Aug 10 - 01:29 PM
Nick 15 Aug 10 - 04:07 PM
Stringsinger 15 Aug 10 - 04:12 PM
The Fooles Troupe 15 Aug 10 - 05:58 PM
Leadfingers 15 Aug 10 - 06:31 PM
Bobert 15 Aug 10 - 07:45 PM
Melissa 15 Aug 10 - 08:15 PM
Melissa 15 Aug 10 - 08:21 PM
Bobert 15 Aug 10 - 08:29 PM
The Fooles Troupe 15 Aug 10 - 09:19 PM
The Fooles Troupe 15 Aug 10 - 09:20 PM
Melissa 15 Aug 10 - 09:30 PM
Susan A-R 15 Aug 10 - 10:04 PM
Melissa 15 Aug 10 - 10:14 PM
Bobert 15 Aug 10 - 10:48 PM
GUEST,guest, DrWord 15 Aug 10 - 11:08 PM
Melissa 15 Aug 10 - 11:10 PM
CupOfTea 15 Aug 10 - 11:40 PM
stallion 16 Aug 10 - 12:39 AM
GUEST 16 Aug 10 - 04:07 AM
Lonesome EJ 16 Aug 10 - 12:03 PM
Genie 16 Aug 10 - 02:44 PM
Genie 16 Aug 10 - 03:09 PM
The Fooles Troupe 16 Aug 10 - 10:34 PM
Ebbie 17 Aug 10 - 12:29 AM
Roger the Skiffler 17 Aug 10 - 05:01 AM
MikeL2 17 Aug 10 - 11:10 AM
Susan A-R 17 Aug 10 - 01:59 PM
Genie 17 Aug 10 - 02:06 PM
Genie 17 Aug 10 - 02:17 PM
The Fooles Troupe 17 Aug 10 - 07:10 PM
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Subject: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 11 Aug 10 - 05:14 PM

I've read here and other places that it's important to play with musicians who are considerably better than me. I've heard it in real life and I believe that it is important and useful to do find better players and mingle.

In real life, that isn't always possible.
My Better players have died and I've spent the past few years playing with several folks who can barely keep up with themselves..keeping themselves in place with a group is beyond the reach of several of them. Being in that position sort of revised my notions of keeping an eye/ear open for stuff I wanted to snag from others in the group.
I usually don't have anyone to follow anymore and that means I have to lead myself. The job I gave myself is to make our gatherings sound more musical..pulling those who need pulled and carrying the ones who need carried..and keeping myself entertained.

I have gotten to a point where I can easily tell everybody which chord is coming up (which I call being a 'Chord Shouter') or which one they might have missed (if they look at me or ask later). Not a big skill, but it's useful to be able to talk, think and play at the same time.
I recently realized that I can read guitar chords from the back of another players hand if it's a song I don't know at all (or one that doesn't fit together like normal chords/songs)
I can plick out some melody notes to help a wavering singer hear where he's supposed to be.
I have learned to be glue..and how to be invisible while I'm doing it. (I'm proud of the invisibility!)
I've grown into a style of my own, made partly of pieces I acquired from my Betters and partly just because it grew that way, and I am content with the Musician I'm becoming by playing with not-so-good musicians.
The learning I'm doing has probably done a better job of making me able to play more flexibly and a little bit not-the-same as others..and the times when I can't keep up with Betters when I run across them are very rare.
I truly enjoy the times when I an reluctantly allowed to join in and get to watch the musicians change from seeing me as a stray woman to treating me as a fellow musician.   



Is anyone else pleased with what they've made with their lemons?


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 11 Aug 10 - 07:37 PM

To avoid these issues I always try to be the worst musician in any given group. It's not all that hard, really.
I recently realized that not only can I not tell from hand positions what key a song is in, I often can't hear it either. Through this, I have developed my own style of playing, which someone described as a bit like an assortment of beer bottles stacked on the lid of a broken washing machine in spin cycle. I also try to play very loudly and bump into other people's instruments, which allows me plenty of playing space.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 11 Aug 10 - 07:56 PM

EJ is a proud member of The Fooles Troupe Band.... or would be if he could find us.....

(run away!)

"which allows me plenty of playing space. "

My father's father used to play in brass bands - a bit uncomfortable, I suppose, but then you get used to it, and he did live thru The Depression, so that activity cheered him up - the playing, not the wearing. He started by blowing his own trumpet, but then borrowed someone else's great big heavy low note farty sounding thing - they never asked for it back.

He found it was great for getting a seat on the trams - you just dropped it on someone's toe, and when they stood up, you quickly said "Thanks!" and slid into the seat.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Bobert
Date: 11 Aug 10 - 08:13 PM

First of all, EJay plays just fine... Really... Don't buy into that "How the heck does this thing work?" crap... He's an accomplished player...

As fir playin' with other folks who are either more or less accomplished I have to admit to having beern a regular at the Archie Edwards Barbershop for about 8 years where I came in as a "less than" and left as a "more than"... But a few things that do help is what I call "slow band" where if yer leading a song you walk everyone thru it veeeerrrrrrryyyyyyy slow and shout our yer chord changes... This gives everyone an opportunity to get the basic song down... This is not an oppotunity to use the "more than" tricks... Just keep it simple... The once you get it going you can throw yer tricks in 'cause it's allready going and the tricks will just enhance the overall sound...

Now sometimes we had folks at the barbershop who knew their 1st posotion chords and thought that meant that they we ready for the Kennedy Center and they would play poorly and loud... That's what the "facilitator" is for... Sometimes folks need to be asked to play just a little more quietly... Hey, it can be done sensitively... It really can... Words like "blend" can be used to get folks to play within the group...

BTW, the Archie Edwards folks still hold their weeky jams and have workshops and all that... Check 'um out a acousticblues.com...

B~


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 11 Aug 10 - 08:17 PM

"Is anyone else pleased with what they've made with their lemons? "

My girlfriend said when she was teenager, she used to stick them down the front of her t-shirt to make her tits look bigger - she was proud of that!


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Leadfingers
Date: 11 Aug 10 - 08:20 PM

Having played with EJ AND Bobert (At the same time) I'll keep quiet , but any one who plays anywhere for a length of time will finish up as either accomplished or crap ! And often BOTH on the same day !


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Bobert
Date: 11 Aug 10 - 08:25 PM

Yeah, now Leadfingers ain't got all that much lead in his fingers, folks... One fine musican!!!

Might of fact, he's a charter member of BobertsBluesBand and, no, not as a Floozie which, BTW, he'd be out of his league...

B~


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 11 Aug 10 - 08:43 PM

Ah..maybe I ought to dig out the trombone (and a pair of lemons) and try some of these methods for variety!


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: gnomad
Date: 11 Aug 10 - 09:06 PM

I have never been in a position to offer musical guidance to anyone, though a few fellow-singers have accepted the odd (sometimes the very odd) suggestion for additions to their repertoire.

What I have experienced is the discovery that you never understand any task so thoroughly as the time you try to teach someone else to do it. There is real pleasure to be gained in helping someone else achieve something that matters to them, whether it is playing fine music, cooking a simple meal, pruning a plant, or analysing a complex set of accounts. Whilea goal may be little to you, it can be a major breakthrough for the other person.

I am grateful to those who have helped me to sing (I don't play anything, apart from the fool) and to dance a bit, back when I did that. This would be the "playing with your superiors" part. I hope that, one day, I may have helped someone else improve too. I would enjoy being good enough for that to be a possibility, it would be the "playing with worse" part.

General improvement occurs because it is a two-way process. Both parties can derive joy and satisfaction from the learning and playing together, roles change, that's all.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 11 Aug 10 - 09:14 PM

"There is real pleasure to be gained in helping someone else achieve something that matters to them,"

There sure is, gnomad.
If I wasn't gaining anything other than getting to be an extra body for some of the folks who don't have anybody to play with..getting to let them grab something they truly love and want..that part alone would be more than enough to be worth my time.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Bobert
Date: 11 Aug 10 - 09:21 PM

Well said, gnomad...

I'd rather spend an hour teachin' some kid how to play the blues than an hour on stage in front of an appreciate audience... I mean, that kid will always have that...

B~


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: treewind
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 03:21 AM

"I have learned to be glue..and how to be invisible while I'm doing it. (I'm proud of the invisibility!)"
I'd say that you've taken a very constructive approach to your current situation and you may well have learned more about musicianship than you did by just grabbing tunes and songs off others. You must have very good ears now!

Beware, however, of falling into a comfort trap. It may be satisfying doing what you are doing now, and you've learned some leadership, accompaniment and listening skills, but I think you should still find some better musicians (they must exist, even if you have to travel a bit!) and play with them. It won't feel so comfortable but you need to do it or you will stop learning, and you owe it to yourself to keep learning. Keep on with what you're doing now of course - that's valuable too.

Anahata


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 03:24 AM

Own trumpet and all that, but yes, I feel that I have made some progress an innovation with what I can do on guitar and mandolin, and learned to use my somewhat untuneful and hard-to-control voice to least disadvantage. It's one of the reasons I get so cross about those who would impose barriers to entry to folk music in the name of quality control.

Whether I can actually help anyone else improve is a different question. I'd encourage them to try, but I'm not sure it's my place to tell them how to achieve that, they are them and I am me. I will sometimes suggest chord sequences if I see someone oversimplifying, but many do not want to know, and indeed in many cases the choice between a D or a Bm or an A or an F#m, or a series of shifts within the FGC sequence or sticking to an Em is arbitrary.

I don't know what to do about people with no timing, however.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 04:08 AM

RB, the only thing I've figured out to do with wretched timing is try to ignore it and play solidly enough for others to be able to hear where we ought to be.
I think being friendly and encouraging is a lot more important than being able to teach music stuff..

Anahata, I gleefully nab any opportunity I can find to play with Betters when I find them and can manage to finagle my way in. The only way it's uncomfortable is when they're rude..and that happens just as often with the ones I regularly mingle.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Will Fly
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 04:35 AM

One of the reasons I love playing in mixed-genre music sessions - which I do at least twice every month - is that, not only do I find out about new tunes, but I get to play with people who are talented in different ways on different instruments. It's wonderful training for the ear and very satisfying.

Because of illness on the part of some regulars last Sunday, and with people being away on holiday, we had a smaller-than-usual gathering at my local session - just 6 of us. But I came away with new (to me) fiddle tunes ringing in my head. Every session's a learning experience, and no two sessions are ever the same. Hopefully, the people there also take away something from me as well...


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 06:32 AM

If anyone needs a "worse musician", the Washboard of Mass Destruction and the Voice that Talent Forgot are always available for a modest fee.

RtS


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 06:56 AM

... another potential Fooles Troupe Band member? ...


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 08:08 AM

Can I join...I rarely have the opportunity to play with worse musicians than myself!

And propably won't, even in a Fooles Troupe Band.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Tug the Cox
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 08:31 AM

In order for it tobe possible for improvers to play alongside better players, those improvers must ultimately be prepared to make room for the next wave of improvers. I've noticed that not everyone appreciates this.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Amos
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 11:09 AM

That Lonesome is one of the best blues harpsters going, so don't be fooled.

I enjoy helping others get betterr. I also enjoy trying to contribute to players who are better than I am. The music rules.


A


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: GUEST,Buddhuu
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 04:50 PM

I'm the worst guitar, whistle, mandolin, tenor banjo, harmonica, bouzouki, fiddle and bodhran player I know.

I have achieved unmitigated crapness on a whole heap of instruments.

What have I done for "worse" players? Made them sound good by comparison. They love me.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: GUEST,schlimmerkerl
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 05:34 PM

I kind of stink compared to the other musicians-- until a song is called for. Then everyone suddenly departs for the bathroom or bar leaving me to croak a 300-year old ballad in relative peace.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 05:44 PM

Budhuu, compared to me, you are a virtuoso, a veritable font of technical prowess. Undoubtedly, I could play louder than you on guitar, mandolin, and harmonica, though you would likely be both better and louder on the banjo and bodhran. In fact, the idea of a worst banjo and bodhran player is terrifying to most musicians. However, not being a musician, I find the concept only vaguely disturbing.
The concept of a Mudcat Fooles Troupe of simply awful musicians is enticing. It would be exclusive by its very nature, since most Catters I have heard play are extremely adept. I could imagine us doing an extended version of Kilkenny Ireland that would make sensible folk weep. If we could find a state where that sort of activity is legal, that is.
I believe Rob Naylor may be too good to play with us since he states "I rarely have the opportunity to play with worse musicians than myself!" This is an indication that very occasionally he DOES play with worse musicians than himself, which is unacceptable.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 05:47 PM

Yes, Schlimmerkerl! That's exactly what we are looking for. Perhaps we could accompany you on all 82 verses of Matty Groves with a bodhran break in the middle.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: BobKnight
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 05:49 PM

Playing with better, or worse musicians - you learn something from each.

However, some musicians are not great and are aware of their shortcomings while others are crap and think they're world beaters.

While playing as a stand-in bass player with a band one night I couldn't believe how full of their own importance they were. It was all about how wonderfull THEY were, and believe me they weren't.

'We're really gonna show the other bands in this town how it's done,' was one of the comments. I couldn't help but comment, 'maybe, but first you'll all have to learn to start and stop at the same time.'


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 05:50 PM

and RTS is definitely in. Anyone with the bad taste to accompany his vocals with a washboard has got be horrible.
Yes, I'm warming to this entire Fooles Troupe Band concept! Hell, Mrs Miller got a three album deal.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 05:55 PM

I firmly believe that all songs with 82 or more verses should be broken more often than once for a solo. Maybe you should consider bodhran breaks every few verses with no apparent pattern to alert the audience ahead of time..

You're supposed to be talking about times when bad deals have turned out to be pretty good deals after you've given up and decided to plod along to be a nice guy!

I'm a fairly adequate guitar..but there are plenty of instruments I can't play well enough to sit in the same room with myself and I want to be in the MFT. I play a pretty bad fiddle, if I do say so myself.
You need a girl in the group if you expect to be taken seriously, you know.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 05:58 PM

"Playing with better, or worse musicians - you learn something from each."
BobKnight.

What do you think makes the difference between the ones who learn at whatever level they are and the ones who start out not learning and stick with it?
Do you think it's a twisty insecurity thing, or a bloated ego?


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 06:04 PM

Well, I think once you've had one bodhran break, the audience is on high alert and it's pretty hard to spring another on them unawares. I do think a fiddle break might be good, if you think you can saw away with no discernible melody except an unending chain of squeals and groans.
As far as audiences go, I don't pay much attention since you only see them at the beginning of the first tune. God knows where they go after that, and it certainly isn't my business.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 06:17 PM

Even when I hit the melody, I squeal and groan a little bit. Fiddles are VERY close to ears and my unskilled efforts are somewhat terrible to endure.


How about Roving Breaks..where the various awful solos take place in different parts of the building on a chaotic schedule? It wouldn't matter if the musicians couldn't hear the main song and it might be a good strategy for keeping the audience happily seated in their chairs instead of roaming around..especially if their third time roaming resulting in them being put into the break schedule.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Ebbie
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 06:25 PM

I think that playing in a group that is *worse* than oneself is really hard work. For one thing, I am aware that I might mislead the entire group, which is an awful responsibility. I shudder at the thought that someone down the line might explain, Well, this is how Ebbie does it. aiaiaiaiiaiia

For another, it's just not much fun.

Playing in a group that is *better* than I am, on the other hand, is a blast. Not only might I learn something but there is great satisfaction in just sitting it out and listening.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 06:33 PM

It IS hard work sometimes, Ebbie.
It surprised me when I realized that I was gaining so much by doing it..far more than the nice feeling of doing a GoodDeed.

Worse players leave a lot of opportunity for coming up with some really neat filler stuff.
Better players have a lot of neat filler stuff to appropriate.

I think it's Music either way.
(I think that now..but my perception on that wavers sometimes when I'm in certain circles)


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Nick
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 06:46 PM

>>"Playing with better, or worse musicians - you learn something from each."
BobKnight.

So agree with that. I have been lucky on a number of occasions to play with people - or just observe and sit close to people - who are considerably better players and musicians than me. And I learned loads from them. But I have also learned a lot watching, listening and playing with people who are less good.

I also agree that people's inability to play in time is weird and enormously weird to me. How can it be so hard?

One thing that Melissa wrote in the first post was "Not a big skill, but it's useful to be able to talk, think and play at the same time." It is a huge skill. I watched last night a number of people playing together at a singaround most of them completely oblivious to the person leading the song - they just played what they knew with no reference to the timing or in some cases the notes; happy in their own little world, playing without listening.

>>What do you think makes the difference between the ones who learn at whatever level they are and the ones who start out not learning and stick with it?

I mentioned this to a friend of mine some while back and he quoted Bertrand Russell - "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." It led me onto reading some more and I came across the Dunning Kruger effect which makes a lot of sense to me and is pretty much spot on with my experience of playing with people.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 06:47 PM

Lonesome EJ: I believe Rob Naylor may be too good to play with us since he states "I rarely have the opportunity to play with worse musicians than myself!" This is an indication that very occasionally he DOES play with worse musicians than himself, which is unacceptable.

In that case, I shall continue the habit of a lifetime and play with myself!


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 07:00 PM

That's fine, Rob. Just make sure you do it poorly.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Leadfingers
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 07:08 PM

I know Foolestroupe is in OZ , and hasnt vast funds , but it WOULD be fun to have a Foolestropue Bad Band session at Getaway ! I dont think I could swing a trip to OZ any easier than Robin could get to Maryland ! Bloody Shame - It would be GOOD Fun


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Genie
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 07:36 PM

There's a Bad Band session at Getaway?   How did I miss that in 2008, LF?


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Leadfingers
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 07:41 PM

Dont Jump the Gun Genie - Just an Idea , IF we can all get together


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 07:45 PM

Will the goal to be for everybody to play as good as they can on the instrument they think they're awful on?

That could be a lot of fun!


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Genie
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 07:48 PM

I'd much rather play with musicians who are better than I am (unless they're really accomplished jazz guitarists, in which case I can't begin to learn a lot from them, much less follow them).    But where do you find a group where everyone can play with musicians who are better from them?

In a way I guess I'm lucky to be so mediocre in my guitar skills that there's almost always someone in the group who's more of a beginner than I am (or at least is more limited stylistically) and others who are much better. So I get both kinds of learning experience.

As for dealing with people with poor timing, I run into that problem more with singers than with instrumentalists. In that case, sometimes we have to suggest that people watch the lips of the person leading the song (which, of course, requires lifting noses out of the "Blue Hymnal" or whatever). Either way, whether instrumental or vocal, I think if people aren't following the timing of the song leader, reminding people (jokingly but seriously) that so-and-so is leading the song may be in order. Sometimes if people "know the song," they think it's fine to just launch into their own interpretation of it (chords, timing, etc.)

As to why some people seem to be unable to play in time, I think sometimes when it's a pretty accomplished player/singer, they may deliberately mess up the timing (e.g., throwing in or leaving out measures or half-measures or beats) because they really don't want others to play or sing along. Either that or they're just so used to playing solos that they haven't given much attention to keeping the rhythm steady or predictable.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 08:11 PM

Those BlueBook Gatherings sound really weird to me. We don't have anything like that here (or maybe I just haven't been invited) and I bet if I ever hosted one, the folks would get tired of hearing "Ack! Watch Genie with your ears so we can all end at the same time!"


We have a bunch of isolated musicians around here who used to mingle with the same men who were my Betters. Until someone knows where they are and can let them know where to find gatherings, a lot of them sit around home and play. After a few years of playing alone, it tends to give some of them kind of screwy timing.
When we get some of them in the group, I follow them as closely as I can and do a lot of visiting. They're our missing link.

Some awful timing seems to come from guys who don't have anybody to play with and do their learning by TAB.
It has to be really hard to learn an instrument from a piece of paper!


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 08:56 PM

My late wife and I were once invited to contribute to a recording that a very nice-sounding musician was doing, and he kindly let us have a copy of his guide-track (with guitar and vox both played by him at the same time) to learn from.

Because he was so used to playing the song without others, it was indeed in the time signature of "one".

Eventually we invited him round to out home and played the guide track and invited him to accompany himself as if doing a second guitar track overdub. He couldn't do it. He then conceded that the track should be started again and we rehearsed it together so that the timing became repeatable.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Genie
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 10:33 PM

Melissa, I wasn't referring to "Blue Book gatherings," just to song circles where people - some or (in one case) all people use some sort of book or lyric sheets.   Sometimes people pass out lyric sheets for a song they want people to sing along on.   Some people bring RUS on their own. And there's one group (the particular one where I encounter the most people who have no sense of where the rests go in a piece of music) where they've put together big-print loose-leaf song/chord books. The ironic thing about that latter group is that they put together the lyric/chord books hoping to 'get everyone singing and playing from the same page of music' but people's tendency to rely on the 'crutch' of a lyric sheet interferes a lot with their following the song leader.

As for reminding people to watch the lips of whoever is leading the song, this is obviously not something that's done often, but there have been times when the lack of synch became so ridiculous (all sorts of people jumping in with the next line before it was time) that someone did have to say something.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Genie
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 10:41 PM

Oh, and I meant "watch with your eyes," not "with your ears" (alone).   If you really want to match the phrasing and timing of a singer, that's better than just listening.

But I think you're right about why some people develop idiosyncratic timing. Some are used to singing a cappella with no rhythm accomaniment, and that can work well for some kinds of 'lyrical' song stylings, but it doesn't tend to work well in jam sessions.

BTW, I like the idea of folks maybe switching instruments or picking up unfamiliar ones for Bobert's Bad Band!   I could try my hand at the violin again, many decades after I quit lessons because I sucked so badly at it!


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 10:41 PM

The nice thing about those gatherings where someone has printed lyric sheets is that somebody feels good about getting to 'help out'

I'm still relieved not to be invited to that type of gathering. Music that doesn't involve ears doing their fair share of the work isn't very fun for me.
I wonder why groups that just want to sing together don't sit around singing camp songs. That's what I'd do if I wasn't more interested in playing than singing..


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 11:23 PM

"In that case, I shall continue the habit of a lifetime and play with myself! "

Blink!
Blink!
Blink!

Well, I suppose at least he has the guts to admit it out loud, rather than pretend....

The whole point of 'Classical Music Training' was that you learned to listen and integrate with others - I did those many piano duets and trios and entered all those Eisteddfods for a reason, not just for fun. It's easy to 'solo', but then nobody is able to play with you... what do you think inspired Maelzel to invent his gadget to keep consistent time for solo payers to learn by themselves? It's not a new problem!


"In order for it to be possible for improvers to play alongside better players, those improvers must ultimately be prepared to make room for the next wave of improvers. I've noticed that not everyone appreciates this."

It's called 'ego' => I used to be bad, but now I'm the best here....


QUOTE
"I also agree that people's inability to play in time is weird and enormously weird to me. How can it be so hard?

One thing that Melissa wrote in the first post was "Not a big skill, but it's useful to be able to talk, think and play at the same time." It is a huge skill. I watched last night a number of people playing together at a singaround most of them completely oblivious to the person leading the song - they just played what they knew with no reference to the timing or in some cases the notes; happy in their own little world, playing without listening."
UNQUOTE

I told this story here before - I was having a neck massage at a market, and a guy I knew slightly from attending a 'learn irish whistle' class, started playing nearby, busking - or that is what I think he thought he was doing....

He had been playing for some time, and I had not recognised what he was playing, but it sounded sorta familiar, yet something was disturbing me.... the penny finally dropped - he was just rapidly playing as many notes as he could as fast as he can, no notice of any phrasing, then, when he ran out of breath, he would stop, breathe, and resume.... too many 'join in if you can keep up with the leader' sessions, I think....


QUOTE
Roving Breaks..where the various awful solos take place in different parts of the building on a chaotic schedule? It wouldn't matter if the musicians couldn't hear the main song
UNQUOTE

Actually, it may well be an advantage, because many of these 'B grade soloists' would be in their element... :-) No - I was talking about those actually playing in 'the main song'....



QUOTE
I have achieved unmitigated crapness on a whole heap of instruments. What have I done for "worse" players? Made them sound good by comparison. They love me.
UNQUOTE

When I say that I can play a large number of different instruments "equally badly" they laugh at me, cause they think I'm bad. Then they hear me play, and often come up with all sorts of excuses to refuse to let me play with them, because many of them recoil in horror at just how bad they have discovered they really are in comparison (especially when I say that I haven't played that particular instrument much for - in some cases years - but that is of course, an old 'stage trick'), often just on the one instrument they have 'specialised' on - maybe for decades. I feel so sad for them.... no seriously, not poking fun. You won't, and can't improve, if you really think that you are f***ing brilliant! (Most especially those who think that you don't need to practice - most especially those with the attitude of "we don't need to rehearse together!") All those above wailing about how lousy they are - I'll play with you guys anytime! I miss those net sessions we used to do - even though it only allowed one at a time to play!

As for the "Fooles Troupe Bad Band" idea - sorry guys, it's not really 'original' - have you never heard of
The Portsmouth Sinfonia?

The Portsmouth Sinfonia was an orchestra founded by a group of students at the Portsmouth School of Art in Portsmouth, England, in 1970. The Sinfonia had an unusual entrance requirement, in that players had to either be non-musicians, or if a musician, play an instrument that was entirely new to them. Among the founding members was one of their teachers, English composer Gavin Bryars. The orchestra started as a one-off, tongue-in-cheek performance art ensemble but became a cultural phenomenon over the following ten years, with concerts, record albums, a film and a hit single. They last performed publicly in 1979.

Sigh - I miss them ....


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: DonMeixner
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 11:31 PM

By teaching and playing with my son Greg I have gotten to be on both sides of this equation. I know several people who are better musicians than I am but no wheres near the performer. And I know people who are on the otherside of that equation as well.

I have since stopped worrying which side I was on and enjoyed the benefit of being where I was for each situation.

Do I prefer to teach or learn? I don't think it is possible to separate the two.

Don


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 12 Aug 10 - 11:36 PM

Actually there is a lot of Portsmouth Sinfonia on Youtube....


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Ebbie
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 12:36 AM

Hey, this thread is getting seriously interesting.

We have an current oddity in our Friday night group. This man joined us maybe four or five years ago. He is a wonderful singer, comes up with songs that we've never heard of and interprets them in such a way that when we look up the original singer we invariably discover we by far prefer our friend's interpretation.

But.

Sometimes - not always - when the group is playing, especially an instrumental, he suddenly goes into, like, a trance and starts pounding away at his guitar with no apparent regard for rhythm or nuance. It ends up being a really ragged experience. I've noticed that some of the players don't seem to realize what happened but everyone looks confused and unhappy.

Why is that? What is going on in his head?

Years ago I helped found a singers' group that was meant to be in a working environment When we started, we would do a song over again -even several times - with a view toward getting a tight, even pretty, sound. We learned quite a bit, including harmonies.

Then some more people joined the group and the first thing I knew, we had switched to Blue Book singing (leafing through and saying, Oh! Here's another one!) and it was boring and I left.

But I would love sometimes to have a 'do over' when my friend gets carried away. I don't suggest it, because - Heaven forbid! -it would hurt his feelings and he might leave. And I want to avoid that at all costs.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 12:54 AM

The problem Ebbie, is that most people ASS-U-ME that most other people around them are sane and rational.

Been there, done that, formed The Fooles Troupe.

:-)


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 12:59 AM

Ebbie,
You'll probably get smarter input than mine, but occasionally my ear/mind 'hears' other parts that ought to be in something we're playing. For me, it's usually guitar fill that I can't do or sweet fiddle stuff.
I tend it by throwing in an occasional 'yip' when one fits (which then turns my head to wondering why Bob Wills did so much yipping/hollering) but I can see how it could easily translate into my hands instead..maybe that's what your guy is doing?

If he's exceptional with his interpretations, maybe he's just flukishly musical and needs to whack it out? If his pounding was notes, it might fit with the rest of the music nicely.

Just a guess though.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Genie
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 01:23 AM

Melissa, I think the issue of whether, when, where, and why to use songbooks or songsheets is a topic for another thread (of which there are several). What I think is pertinent to this thread is that a) "worse" musicians maybe need to rely more on chord sheets or lyric sheets than "better" ones do (other things being equal, of course) and b) having your head buried in a book or piece of paper can interfere with watching and listening to the other musicians/singers.   
(Of course, I've known plenty of fiddle players to jam very well with their heads 'buried' in musical scores.)


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 01:36 AM

Genie,
I think discussions of Bad Deals turning out much better than expected would probably be the most appropriate thing to talk about here, now that you mention it.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Genie
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 02:31 AM

Maybe you could elaborate on that theme, Melissa? Sounds interesting.

Re the topic of the thread title, I'm thinking that the best learning and teaching occurs when the gap between your skill level and the others around you is moderate, not huge.   I think I can help teach more novice guitarists when their knowledge of chords, picking and strumming techniques, harmonies, etc., is fairly close to mine than if they are just at the 3-chord and basic strumming level.   And I can often learn a lot from watching and listening to people who've mastered some techniques that I haven't, but if I'm around someone like Chet Atkins or Tommy Emmanuel, I just sit there with my jaw dropped and my eyes popping in amazement.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 02:44 AM

Genie,
I chose the thread title simply because I thought it sounded nicer than "Tell Me About Your Lemonade"
I started it hoping to hear other people's stories of unexpected good things coming from less-than-appealing musical situations. I'm enjoying the drifty nature of the thread but would still like to hear some stories along the way.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: stallion
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 03:29 AM

When i get to a session it always gobsmacks me how the musos just listen to a few bars and tear into it, rarely do they sit out, and occasionally they will ask what the tune was called and where did they get it from. I can't do that although I have an assortment of instruments that I can get a tune out of but I am really at the crap end of crap, thankfully my voice digs me out of it (really! did you all say!) I think it is important that people should play together and whilst you can get a kick out of "spotting it", around the kitchen table, it is important that it happens, doesn't need to be concert level it needs to be fun.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 03:31 AM

Foolestroupe: As for the "Fooles Troupe Bad Band" idea - sorry guys, it's not really 'original' - have you never heard of
The Portsmouth Sinfonia?


Oh, gawd, I'd forgotten them!

Here's an example of their playing:

Portsmouth Sinfonia Play "Also Sprach"

Hell, we can do worse than that!!!

Rob (taking a break from playing with himself)


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 03:52 AM

I think people are absolutely right when they say that normally only playing alone is a huge disadvantage when thrown into a situation where you're playing along with others.

I know that I'm only just starting to get to grips with it, and am probably still at the level of "playing it how I know it" rather than listening properly to what's going on around me. I do have something of a sense of timing, but I've not yet played along with others enough to listen properly to all the other players as we go along.

I too am totally gobsmacked at people who can just improvise brilliantly around anything that comes up at a session...but on the other hand I managed a not totally useless lead part just noodling around on the minor pentatonic when a scratch band of climbing mates made up a birthday song for one of the group at a gathering. That gave me a "feel" for what they're doing, but OTOH I knew before we started that it was going to be a 12 bar in E. Other keys might have given me more trouble.

I have now done a couple of duets with a friend at one of the sessions I go to. He's actually not quite as far along in his learning as I am, but he's far more confident playing in public. We're practicing a new (to us) song for the next session. Our practice session last night was quite frustrating at the timing issue came to the fore strongly. His guitar and my mandolin weren't a problem...we kept time beautifully and finished bang together. BUT we just couldn't get the vocals to hang together. We were both stressing different words and differed in the stresses and timing of 2 or 3 phrases in the song...to the point where it sounded seriously bad. That's what comes of practicing separately before getting together, I guess. Anyway, both of us felt we were fitting our own vocals properly to the music and neither of us could see how the other one could possibly think that his phrasing fitted better!!! It was quite frustrating and we definitely need another session to iron it out.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 03:52 AM

Rob,
Better pace yourself..if you get enough practice to get good at it, you'll have to switch instruments!

stallion,
Being able to jump in and play is just a trick..keep trying and you'll be able to do it when your ears and fingers take over. I certainly agree with you on Fun being important.


I worded myself wrong a little bit ago.
There are some stories here..I meant that I'd like more.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Mo the caller
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 08:02 AM

Rob, could you get the first verse ironed out, then share the other verses between you? Or agree that one will 'lead' a verse and the other follow their interpretation?

How do other groups sort that problem?


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: GUEST,LDT
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 08:20 AM

Its funny I'm a 'worse than' or 'better than' depending on which instrument I'm playing and where I am.
Took up the fiddle recently and now I'm definitely a worse than.
At sessions at festivals I'm a 'worse than' on melodeon/concertina, but at local session at the slow one I'm 'better than' but fast one 'worse than'.
....and on fiddle definitely 'worse than' everywhere. lol!
Even got a sign of relief last time I put down the fiddle I'd been 'playing' at a session and picked up the melodeon.
Ooops!


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: MikeL2
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 10:53 AM

< Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Rob Naylor - PM
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 03:52 AM >

Hi rob

I am completely the other way round from you. From a very young age I started playing the guitar ( after first practising on the piano scales and chopsticks with my sister who was brilliant ).

As I got to be able to play a bit I was asked to join a group and since then I never really played alone ( except to practice songs - I was a vovalist too). I played in all kinds of groups and bands playing all kinds of music.

Some years ago I had to give up for health reasons and didn't play at all for a few years.

Quite recently I started singing and playing again but just for my own entertainment and of course am playing alone.

At first I found the lack of people around me to push me and stretch me unsettling and I lacked the necessary incentives to practice and re-find some lost skills due to lack of dexterity in the hands and getting used to not being able to have the vocal range due to having suffered from throat cancer.

Slowly I am getting back to something like what I percieve to be "passable".

I do now enjoy it alone and set my own standards and do play and sing at family occasions and parties.

When I was playing in the groups and bands I played with many different people with different levels of skill to mine. Some much better guitarists for instance and some worse vocalists.

In that time we never considered ourselves better or worse than each other - we just got on and played as well as we could.
Of course we got one or two who didn't fit in and they usually moved on to do their own thing.

I certainly benefitted from playing guitar with some talented guitarists. They were mostly all patient and helped me over some of the more technical things that I sometimes struggled on.

Now I suppose I have reached a level where I could qualify to join The Foolstroupe Bad Band....lol

cheers

MikeL2


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: CupOfTea
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 12:46 PM

Guest LDT and some others have touched on being alternately worse than/better than, depending on instrument or situation. I play in an "open" contra dance band, Mud in Yer Eye, and in the nature of an open band, we have players of a total range of abilities and a wide range of instruments. Situations like this are the perfect place to be in that "making lemonade" mode. With a (written) repertoire, regularly practiced, the worse than folks are brought up to speed. Those who KNOW the tunes, but have taken up new instruments find a comfy place to be "worse than." Just being allowed to play when yer freaking DREADFUL at rehearsals or jam sessions is one of the greatest gifts in learning to play something.

You always sound SO good, alone, at home, nobody listening, when you're on the basic end of skilled. Then when you try to play with others ... akkkk! you mess up and want to fade into the woodwork... cept if you have a place where you can try, fail, try again, gather courage to use the skills you're still developing. I can't begin to express how thrilling it was to hear "you're really coming along nicely on that concertina" from people who've been happily hearing my autoharp for years. Likewise, a different sort of thrill when some of the same band folks met up with me at a festival and I had a few hours of giving autoharp instruction for the first time. "How cool is that?" I thought.

What a goodly place it is if you can have this association of the "worse thans" and the "better thans" where the music, and the joy of making it, are the point, not showing off or showing UP others.

Joanne in Cleveland (who really loves her Stagi baby)


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: gnu
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 01:26 PM

Ebbie... "Hey, this thread is getting seriously interesting."

I'll second that!

When I could play, my first choice was Bodhran, so I'll just shut up and read these fascinating and funny (LEJ... heheheee) posts.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Ebbie
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 02:13 PM

CupofTea, I too played for contradances in an 'open' band. We welcomed anyone who entered the hall with an instrument in hand. They were not set up with a mic until we knew a bit more about them, but even then it got really interesting - like, in hairy - at times. I remember one time when our frustrated banjo player said at the end of the set: Who says you can't play with six different beats??

There were five of us in the core group - on microphones - so the dancers had no problem but when you have 13 people in the band it can be hard work for everybody. But it was fun and we did it for six years.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Larry The Radio Guy
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 03:32 PM

If we're invested in the "worse" or "better" categorization, we obviously need a half and half split, don't we? I mean, what kind of a world would we have if everybody insisted on only playing with musicians who were better than them? Jam sessions would become a thing of the past because the "better" musicians would leave as soon as someone not as good showed up. And the poor schmuck who is rated the "best in the world" would end up really lonely.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 05:36 PM

"And the poor schmuck who is rated the "best in the world" would end up really lonely"
LarryS-

I kind of think that depends on who designated him 'best in the world'. If he did it himself, he'll probably be too busy getting himself into the center of every gathering to have time for much lonely moping.

I haven't seen anybody in this thread categorizing themselves as Better or Worse..looks to me like we all fall both ways and see it as healthy.
Wouldn't it make a mess if we tried splitting our better/worse for that 50/50 you're talking about?


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Subject: Making lemonade from musical lemons
From: Genie
Date: 14 Aug 10 - 01:25 AM

Melissa, if you want a true "lemonade from lemons" story, here's mine. It's really more of a "necessity is the mother of invention" story, but it's a lemonade story too.

About 12 years ago I sliced the tip of my left index finger off while making a salad.   What was cut off wasn't enough to warrant reattachment surgery -- or so it seemed at the time -- so I just had the urgent care unit sew the skin on my fingertip back together. For a day or two I cancelled gigs, but then for the next week or two I kept my engagements but had to adapt my playing.   I couldn't play a C chord, for instance, the way I was used to playing it.

Prior to that time, I'd convinced myself that my fingers were too small and wimpy to do barre chords, so I hadn't really put in a lot of time trying.   But now -- and even today, to some extent -it was painful to play some chords the way I used to, so I forced myself to learn to play a barred C chord.   Of course, that meant learning a totally moveable chord.    (So I now could actually play a B chord, which had always been a problem, since none of my finger joints bend backwards and my hands are small.) Anyway, losing the use of the tip of my left index finger for while ended up opening up new playing methods for me.

DK if that fits with your "lemonade" theme, but I think of it that way.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 14 Aug 10 - 01:32 AM

Sounds like a lemon story to me, Genie!


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Nick
Date: 14 Aug 10 - 04:31 AM

Perhaps Django would never have been as good if it hadn't been for his accident.



NOT


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Genie
Date: 14 Aug 10 - 04:32 AM

Well, it's both lemon and lemonade. I'd give a lot to have that fingertip back intact, but I might never have advanced to playing barre chords routinely had I not sliced off the tip.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 14 Aug 10 - 04:47 AM

Yeah..I'd give a lot to have my old-timers back too.
The lemons are the part of the story we'd never choose for ourselves. Blech, forced resiliency!


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Will Fly
Date: 14 Aug 10 - 05:28 AM

I'm glad to see that there are musicians here who are happy to sit in with "better" players and also welcome in "worse" players than themselves. I sometimes drop in at the thread-posting end of TheSession.org to see what outrages have been committed and who's about to assassinate whom. Great fun, but some extreme views on pub sessions from people who care only for their own excellence. To which I've always said, if you hold an open session in a public bar, be prepared to welcome in anyone, whatever their standard, and help them along the way if need be. If you want a centre of excellence, then hire a private room or meet as a clique in your own homes.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Nick
Date: 14 Aug 10 - 06:37 AM

I've met some people from the Session.org in real life and some quite enjoy the sport of the site and are not quite as scarey in real life. Met the owner of the site in a completely different context some years ago when he was doing a course at our office on dynamic html and css. Very nice chap.

One thing I have noticed when I've played with better players is that most seem to be interested in the things that you do that they don't. It may be a song. It might be a different voicing of a chord. Or a different tuning. Or a different way of phrasing something. Could be anything. I played for a while with a guy who 90% of the time plays with a pick whereas I play 90% of the time fingerpicking. I was more than fascinated watching and picking some of the things he did but was probably more surprised that he felt there were things that I could offer to him. I know I gained a huge amount more from him than he did me but it's interesting that there is usually something to share and there's always something to learn.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Will Fly
Date: 14 Aug 10 - 06:44 AM

True, Nick. The site owner of TheSession lives, I believe, not far from me in Brighton and sits in with the local Irish sessions from time to time. I always take The Session posts with a large pinch of salt - good to see some diatribes from other people than 'Catters!


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Brian May
Date: 14 Aug 10 - 06:51 AM

. . . hmm . . . attempt to be the worst in the group.

Thanks Melissa.

I've found that I have a natural talent I didn't realise !!!

One thing missing from a lot of the above posts though, is the ability to laugh at your errors (I smile a lot) and to have fun.

If it isn't fun, it's not worth subjecting yourself to it.

I also noticed the air quality was SOo much better when I got my head out of my arse!!! (I learned that trick a few years back whilst attempting to emulate some humourless, intolerant and self important SOB).

Nice thread.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 14 Aug 10 - 08:27 AM

"One thing I have noticed when I've played with better players is that most seem to be interested in the things that you do that they don't."

This is the difference between "The A Graders" & "The B Graders".

One lot are the best anybody have ever heard, you must do things their way, and they are forever telling everybody the proper way to do things.

The other lot are really nice people, will teach anybody anything they know, are always the first to recognize talent in others and try to learn from them.

You tell me.... :-)

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And remember The Fooles Troupe Band says "You don't have to be able to understand the lyrics, you just need to feel that you could if you wanted to".


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: CupOfTea
Date: 14 Aug 10 - 09:00 AM

Ebbie, your "There were five of us in the core group...but when you have 13 people in the band it can be hard work for everybody" gave me the giggles, sort of. Mud tends to be, well.. bigger. I think 7 is the lowest number for a dance I can remember in years. Our roster of those who might show up runs 50-60 most years. The 25th anniversary dance had upwards of 50 people who played.

Our core group of players who show up at 90% of dances and rehearsals runs more like a dozen. A typical night at our monthly big deal dance may have 1-4 hammer dulcimers, piano (with 2-3 musicians trading off with other instruments) 3-5 fiddles, 2-4 guitars 1-3 mandolins. accordian, 1-3 recorder players, 2 harmonica players, 1-3 banjo players, 1-2 autoharps & a lone concertina, 1 bass (with 1 or 2 players) bodhran (as an occasional accent) and (Lord help us) a guy who plays tin whistle and bassoon. Over two dozen is not unusual.

It's not quite as bad as herding cats. Our better/worse divide seems to be those who are willing to come to rehearsals and those who are not. As many of the more exact and knowledgable players come to rehersals, there is a solid core to the er.. core. As one of our main piano players (tend to be the lead of the band) is also a caller, she can adjust tempo and has no problem telling folks when they're throwing the band off - we wouldn't be who we are without the dancers. Our "first fiddle" tends to get folks back in line who have strayed, with a smiling, yet firm nudge.

I don't know for sure, but I suspect that having the dancers as the focus most all the time (we seldom play concertish gigs) gives us a focus that is a different orientation from a session where the tunes are the point. The ethics of inclusion that are so much part of the dance community here extend to the band. Also with so many people, it's darn hard to stand out as a flash player - your ego just isn't audible! We only mic the band when we do big gymnasium type gigs.

I've thought again and again how lucky we are to have Mud in Yer Eye here.

Joanne in Cleveland


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Genie
Date: 14 Aug 10 - 03:58 PM

Brian, how can you call yourself a "worse musician?" Didn't you play lead guitar for Queen? ;D


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Genie
Date: 14 Aug 10 - 04:14 PM

Re the "better musicians" learning from those of us who aren't as advanced, I've found that some excellent instrumentalists are kind of married to certain styles and arrangements of songs and they're sometimes interested in things that we less advanced players do, perhaps because we "can't" do what they do.   

Over the years I've developed some idiosyncratic picking styles because I never had lessons and either couldn't or didn't learn how to do "standard" styles.   I also opted for some alternative chord positions for various reasons, including injured or arthritic fingers.   Guitarists who can do lots of things I can't sometimes show curiosity about and interest in these 'unorthodox' ways of playing.

Same goes for vocal 'tricks.'   E.g., I've learned to modulate some melodies because the vocal range called for in the "original" melody is beyond my (and most people's) comfort zone. Also, in group singing, songs are often sung in a key that's not a good fit for half the participants. My way of coping is just to sing harmony or a counter melody when that happens, and I've found in some groups that this seems to add an element - a positive one - that most of the group weren't that used to.

(This may surprise some people, but there are a lot of instrumentalists who are real novices when it comes to singing, especially group singing. Some people have a hard time holding a melody when others are singing harmony, because they've had little or no training or experience in harmony singing.)

As has been mentioned before, for some really good players it's hard to find a group where there are "better thans" for them to play with. But you can almost always find a group where there are people who know songs, licks, styles, arrangements that you don't.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: GUEST,Gentle Gaint
Date: 14 Aug 10 - 04:14 PM

You ask them, request them, you teach them, and persevere with them until one of you let's rip !

"Thank you Lord, for those who can put their words and music together in perfect harmony that expresses all that is in my head and heart".


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 05:31 AM

Joanne - the file "Contra Dance Music: A Working Musician's Guide" has changed it's location - the site needs a little maintenance. :-)

Interesting this -
http://www.jonweinberg.com/music/Playing_with_Others.pdf


The Dunning?Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which an unskilled person makes poor decisions and reaches erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to realize their mistakes.[1] The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average, much higher than it actually is, while the highly skilled underrate their abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority. This leads to the situation in which less competent people rate their own ability higher than more competent people. It also explains why actual competence may weaken self-confidence: because competent individuals falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. "Thus, the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others."[2]

The Dunning?Kruger effect was put forward by Justin Kruger and David Dunning. Similar notions have been expressed?albeit less scientifically?for some time. Dunning and Kruger themselves quote Charles Darwin ("Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge")[3] and Bertrand Russell ("One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision."[4][5]). The Dunning?Kruger effect is not, however, concerned narrowly with high-order cognitive skills (much less their application in the political realm during a particular era, which is what Russell was talking about.[6]) Nor is it specifically limited to the observation that ignorance of a topic is conducive to overconfident assertions about it, which is what Darwin was saying.[7] Indeed, Dunning et al. cite a study saying that 94% of college professors rank their work as "above average" (relative to their peers), to underscore that the highly intelligent and informed are hardly exempt.[4] Rather, the effect is about paradoxical defects in perception of skill, in oneself and others, regardless of the particular skill and its intellectual demands, whether it is chess, playing golf[8] or driving a car.[4]

!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Fooles Troupe Translation => Arrogant W*nkers think they know everything!   (Based mainly on ("Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge") :-)


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Susan A-R
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 10:19 AM

What a great thread!! I've been part of several different jams and bands over the past 10 years, some with really hot shot players, some with slower or less experienced players. I've learned a lot from all of them, and have the most respect for the people who really use their ears, whether they are fast or slow, newbies or old timers. Paying attention to what's going on around you, and working to augment it, make it better, tuneful, fun and lively, seems to make everything work better. I fiercely, cheerfully contradict when someone says they can't carry a tune, or are a terrible musician, because most people, with practice and listening, aren't.

I'm just about to launch into my first real teaching experience, and will definitely look over this thread as I go.

Melissa, I'm envious of anyone who can talk and play at the same time. How do people do that??


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 11:46 AM

What do you get to teach, Susan?
I think maybe the talking/singing thing works the same way as doing housework while singing/talking while watching the oven and keeping an ear on the kids...and I bet you'll be doing it without noticing if you will be playing while you teach.

We used to have a fiddler who got kind of sick. His meds put him to sleep sometimes.
One night, we were playing along..he fell asleep and kept playing! Naturally, we all kept playing too. He couldn't see the feet going up because his eyes were closed..he didn't hear our host saying his name..his timing and bowing stayed solid and he just kept on going until I poked him and whispered that he was wearing me out and ought to lift his foot.



The Dunning-Kruger thing has been rolling around in my mind since somebody gave a link a couple days ago. The sad thing about it is that it seems like some of the finest examples are the ones employers choose first.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Ebbie
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 11:52 AM

I keep harking back a couple of years ago to when I was contemplating the possible necessity of moving back to Oregon from Alaska, where I have lived for more than 22 years. I have a sister who should not be living by herself- and I seemed the logical choice to help. I've (kind of) given up the notion on the basis of 'things tend to happen the way they're going to'. :)

In a chat we had, I told my sis that I need to play with people who are *better* than I in order to be satisfied with a group. In Juneau there are many people better than I but in Oregon the 4 or 5 people I was playing with were tentative and shy, people who have not noticeably improved in the last 20 years, people who were impressed with my minuscule skills. And they are not youngsters- most of them are over 40. Nice people, all. But not people from whom I was likely to learn much.

Boy. That sounds dismissive. I don't mean it that way. Maybe it simply means that I don't want to leave Juneau!


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Nick
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 12:33 PM

Ebbie - some people don't get better. It's one of those things. I listened to a fiddle player (?) recently who has not got one iota better in the last 7 years since I first heard him play. In the same time I have known a lot of people get MUCH better. It is a choice I think. It also links back to Melissa's previous post. If your self perception of your abilities is so out of line with that of reality and the person has no understanding of it why would there be any impetus to change?

The Dunning Kruger thing explains lots to me since I came across it. As I think I've said before it was in the context of a person who comes and sings but has to be forced (practically) to contribute; when she sings she's better than most but she has no sense of it. At the same time I know people who are awful at what they do and yet thrust themselves into the limelight at every chance and inflict their rubbish on others and never progress. In many cases they also have no sense of qualty when they see or hear it which is perhaps even more depressing. I've lost count of the times that something of real quality has been lost under some oaf crashing out some crass and tasteless 'music' to 'add' something - or the timing of a song be killed by the 'I know this' brigade taking it off in another direction. *sigh*

It also was very relevant to work. We had been interviewing internally for a promotion and gosh does the syndrome apply there! The look on the face of the person who didn't get a position - which EVERYONE knkew they were totally ill-equipped for - because they thought that they were the best person for the job was staggering to me. It makes more sense now.

Listening and doing is interesting. At work I can't help but hear what is going on around me as I do other things and I will get involved in several conversations at the same time because that's the way my head works. I know others who, if on the telephone, you could walk up to and wave/crash cymbals/set them on fire and they would still go on oblivious with their full attention on what they are doing. There is a spectrum in between which people fall into. I can't remember who commented on this in a thread some time back and said that this particular skill/deficit is a useful one in music and playing with others. I do know quite a lot of people who do the stimulus:response thig when they hear something they know, put all the blinkers and flaps up and blissfully exclude the minor irritation of the singer or player doing it *their* way rather than following the blinkered one...


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 12:49 PM

Nick,
Sometimes it seems like the ones who don't improve have more tenacity than the ones who gain skills.
Do you think it stays more enjoyable for the ones that don't seem to notice the stagnancy?

Ebbie,
It's not dismissive to have enough self-awareness to be able to measure a fair comparison!


My previous post was somewhat disjointed.
The sleepy fiddler was an example of one of the strangest divided mind (wonder what else I might call it?) things I've ever seen.
The part to Susan was supposed to be talking/playing (not 'talking/singing)


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Bobert
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 01:21 PM

As kinda a side bar, there are also instances where folks might not be better ort worse but into a differrnt sound...

When I used to be a regular at Archie Edwards barbershop In Washington, D.C. I could hang real well with the barbershop groove, which is unmistakable... I'd take solos and all that... No problem... Then about 3:00 Jim Landa would yell out "Time for a little Delta!!!" which meant that he wanted me to "lead a song" in my "Mississpi groove"... Problem is that my Mississippi groove ain't the barbershop groove so Jim would tell people to just listen before attempting to play along... But seems that more often than not someone would jump in and try to highjack my "Mississippi" groove back to the "usual" barbeshop groove... It wasn't really a reflection of better or worse but a reflection of prefernce... But that kinda stuff happens with large groups of players...

I mean, heck, it happens even at the Getaway... That's kinda like why I like to do a "mini" so can pick the band knowin' that the groove won't be infringed upon...

Sorry, it was a little drift but kinda related...

B~


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 01:27 PM

My second bunch of betters (and worses) was at a barbershop too, Bobert. I had taken a break for several years and when I got starved for somebody to play with again, an old fiddler sent me to the barbershop.

I sure do miss it.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 01:29 PM

Bobert,
Barbershops are ManLand.
Did you have women in the group?


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Nick
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 04:07 PM

>>Sometimes it seems like the ones who don't improve have more tenacity than the ones who gain skills. Do you think it stays more enjoyable for the ones that don't seem to notice the stagnancy?

I'm not sure I understand what you are asking. Are you saying that people are happier in their incompetence and so appear to keep soldiering on than those who strive to better themselves? Whereas in reality it's just because they are blissfully unaware of how poor they are?

Perhaps the ones who are improving move away (or are driven away?) to new pastures to avoid the boredom of stagnation?

Does it mean that the dull will inherit the earth?


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Stringsinger
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 04:12 PM

Interesting. A lot has to do with what qualifies a good musician? What I try to do in a jam
session is feel out where the musicality is by playing very simply. Playing with some so-called better musicians may not work at all if you are dealing with hot-shots and ego-driven players who might be good by themselves but not so hot in a group setting.
A lot depends on the familiarity with the style of music. Sometimes a sophisticated jazz player may not function well in a folk group and vice versa. It's as tough for some technical jazz players to play simply as it is for the folkie to find his/her way through Giant Steps.

I define "worse musicians" regardless of their level of expertise as being insensitive to their
musical surroundings. With musicianship, environment is everything.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 05:58 PM

"more often than not someone would jump in and try to highjack my "Mississippi" groove back to the "usual" barbershop groove... It wasn't really a reflection of better or worse but a reflection of preference.."

This is a mark of "The B Grader" - they already know everything, don't bother to try confusing their minds with new material - they won't even notice it.... teaching pigs to sing and all that ... :-)


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Leadfingers
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 06:31 PM

Friday Night at Grove (WHFF) was an excellent Tune Session , with a VERY wide range of expertise , but I think we all came away enriched by the experience , with No One Ego tripping , but all having a great time ! And some of the musicians were better/worse than some of the musicians.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Bobert
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 07:45 PM

Melissa,

Oh sure... Lotta women come to the Saturday afternoon jams... Some are singers and lead songs... Some come just to play...

One of the finest country blues players in the Mid Atlantic region, Elenor Ellis, has been a regulare going back 30 or so years...

But there's Donna Fletcher, who sings more in the style of Bessie Smith... And Kim Capps who just belts 'um out... And Pearl, who can go toe to toe with any harmonica player out there... And Lilly, who shows up with her violin... And occasionaly, Jackie, who is also one fine harmonica player... And Barrelhouse Bonnie on occasion to tickle the keys... I mean, lots of women... Even Gay Ang**********, of Saffire has been there...

B~


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 08:15 PM

B,
That sounds like a fun jam!
How long does it last? Ours was just three hours.
What's the last song?

I haven't been to any other barbershop jams and was kind of surprised when I watched a few videos of similar gatherings and noticed that there don't seem to be many women in those groups.
I sure wish our guy had lived long enough to get to see youtube. He would have loved it.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 08:21 PM

Nick,
I'm not quite sure what I'm saying.
It seems like after being away from a place for a while, when I go back, the ones who have stayed without taking a break are the ones I was taking a break from. Those are the ones who seem quite happy plonking around with the same three songs for years..I was just wondering if you had a theory/observation on that.

The dull inherit the earth?!
ick..cheery Sunday thought..


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Bobert
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 08:29 PM

The jam begins at 1:00 (by tradition as Archie quit cuttin' hair at 1:00) and lasts until around 5:00 though sometimes longer... If yer interested check out acousticblues.com and if ya go tell 'u that "Sidewalk Bob" sent ya'... The newbies won't know who yer talkin' about but the oldies will sho nuff... and prolly tell a bunch of lies on me...lol... Don't believe none of 'um... It's all fun...

B~


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 09:19 PM

"after being away from a place for a while, when I go back, the ones who have stayed without taking a break are the ones I was taking a break from. Those are the ones who seem quite happy plonking around with the same three songs for years"

The ones least interested in rehearsal, the ones least interested in rehearsing together, least interested in 'performing elsewhere as a group' for a special occasion, those who believe that 'you just need to 'play', not waste time 'practicing' .... ?? :-)


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 09:20 PM

100 :-)

As I said, "B Graders".... :-)


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 09:30 PM

FT,
If you saw the way practice is done for the little show/opry I've been working with, you'd understand the sense in just playing!

B,
If I ever happen to be up that way, I might peek in to see what I've been missing.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Susan A-R
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 10:04 PM

Melissa, I'll be teaching an intro to Quebecois tunes class. I'm hopeful that what you say is true. I'm generally a good multi tasker, having been a professional chef for a while, and I find that I can sing relatively well while playing the fiddle, as long as I'm singing the same melody I'm playing, but even to say "out" or "switch" while playing is tricky.

I wonder if people don't progress because they
a. don't believe they can, and/or
b. don't listen well enough to themselves or others to realize that improvement is needed/possible.
I am fascinated with fiddlers who play fast, know complicated tunes and have been at it for years and are wicked sloppy about pitch and rhythm. I'm kinda like that with spelling and punctuation though, so I shouldn't be so surprised, I guess.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 10:14 PM

Susan,
I have tried and tried to sing while fiddling..that's a very fancy trick!

One thing that fascinates me is that it's common for things to start out fast and keep speeding up..but I don't think I've ever played with anybody that slows down. It's always faster and faster.
I'd like to know why it works that way.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Bobert
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 10:48 PM

My exact sentiments... Speed don't mean good... Back in the 60's and early 70s I was with and around alot of bands that thought that they could compensate for a lack of general talent (or practice) by playing very loud... When I hear some bluegrass bands I'm thinkin' the same thing...

Slow it down a tad, boys... Tell the story, sing the song but slow it down... Ain't a friggin' race we got here...

B~


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: GUEST,guest, DrWord
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 11:08 PM

been offline--which to me really means offMudcat, cause it's the Internet to me--for a couple of years, i think. This thread has been FABULOUS! it's enough to have me logging on again! with my lastborn [aetat. 19] off to university in a few weeks, i'll be using the old email and dropping in to the cafe here. i'll fish out my last email from JoeOffer and get my cookies|membership together. [the BS with the rude "guests" is really terribly puerile, BUT the true 'catter threads like this one make my day. I could at several points in the dialogue have posted "ditto what he|she said" ~ much that resonates with my own experiences, both over the years, and across instruments--i'm a better guitar picker and a worser mandolinist, and a beginner on the tenor guitar, and I love all kinds of making music.   

thanx 4 starting the thread Melissa

DrWord


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Melissa
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 11:10 PM

Welcome back, DrWord!


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: CupOfTea
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 11:40 PM

What Stringsinger said:"Playing with some so-called better musicians may not work at all if you are dealing with hot-shots and ego-driven players who might be good by themselves but not so hot in a group setting." struck a nerve with me.

"Playing well with others" seems to be a discrete skill from just "playing well." In working with a multi-instrumental music ministry at church, what serves me best is years of listening to bands where musicians worked well with each other. Trying to identify what sounds best in the mix, sometimes means saying "No. I should NOT play on every piece" - another consideration when playing in a group where the ethic leans toward total inclusiveness.

The leader-with-guitar at church is a prime example. While he is great on vocals, guitar or mandolin, his inabilty to stick to the arrangements we'd agreed upon and rehearsed started to drive me to frustrated distraction. He'd ignore the arrangements and make it impossible for some of the others to sound decent. Changing the key, tempo, what the introduction consists of, without any warning to anyone else and messing up singers who are doing their parts strictly by the dots in the hymnal by making up his own harmonies, (different each verse) was throwing us all off. All his fine musicianship didn't add up to being a team player.

Joanne in Cleveland (who plays in the VERY minor league, mostly)


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: stallion
Date: 16 Aug 10 - 12:39 AM

Surely some point is being missed here, there are two things going on that are not the same thing. Firstly people meeting for a social occasion and playing music and singing together and the other to better ones own understanding of the music and instruments(s)to improve ones own competance. The crossover is that to be part of an ensemble that are very good can be breathtaking and exhilarating. I would like to think that I am not so selfish or self indulgent to sing some of the more obscure Non chorus songs at the on a Friday night because the majority of the people want to join in and want, if not need, the same old same old, the more self indulgent stuff is done around the kitchen table or in concert where people come to listen and sing. I personally have had some wonderful moments alongside some of the best but fridays are not for me they are for everyone else and enjoy being part of that, it's a night out!


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Aug 10 - 04:07 AM

"is great on vocals, guitar or mandolin, his inabilty to stick to the arrangements we'd agreed upon and rehearsed started to drive me to frustrated distraction. He'd ignore the arrangements and make it impossible for some of the others to sound decent. Changing the key, tempo, what the introduction consists of, without any warning to anyone else and messing up singers who are doing their parts strictly by the dots in the hymnal by making up his own harmonies, (different each verse) was throwing us all off. All his fine musicianship didn't add up to being a team player"

Exactly one of the main problems....


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 16 Aug 10 - 12:03 PM

OK, I'll be serious for a while.

I jam with a collection of bluegrass players, and I think the biggest step up from being the "worst" musician was learning what role to play in the jam. I have played guitar for years, but essentially was interested in the instrument as accompaniment for my vocals. I developed, playing alone, a kind of rambunctious boom-chuck strumming style to accompany my rock and roll-based vocals. i have played harmonica and been lead singer in a blues/rock band for years, so that was my background and that's what underscored my confidence level. I carried this over to bluegrass, and it worked alright, mainly because vocally I was stronger than most of the other players. But in a jam, you aren't the lead singer, and you may only have one song out of 12 to sing lead on.
So I adjusted my style, and in the process, learned some things and became a better session player. I learned to play guitar in a rhthmic flat-picking style. My Martin has a very resonant tone quality and good volume in the bass area, and this, coupled with the fact that we only infrequently had a standup bass player present, led to my developing this rhythmic style that underpins the jam songs. In addition, I learned to vary the volume depending on the loudness of the player and instrument taking an instrumental break. I also learned to sing high harmony, which I have a talent for and for which there's almost always a place in bluegrass music.
And playing blues harp in bluegrass? It's like the banjo, in that the sound tends to dominate, so it's best used with disgression.

Actually, it's not exactly like a banjo. The harmonica only sucks half the time. Sorry. Couldn't resist.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Genie
Date: 16 Aug 10 - 02:44 PM

Ebbie, if you prefer Juneau, that's cool (no pun intended), but if you only found 4 or 5 very mediocre players to jam with in Oregon, you must have had very limited exposure to the musical community (folk included) here.   Portland and Eugene, for instance, both are home to a lot of excellent musicians, and it's not hard to find song circles and jams where they congregate.
We do have our share of rank beginners, and song circles can sometimes be a bit painful, musically speaking, but I find that is the exception, not the rule.
If you come to visit your sister, give us a heads-up and we'll introduce you to some musicians you can learn a lot from. : )


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Genie
Date: 16 Aug 10 - 03:09 PM

Whether you're learning from the "better players" or the "worse players" around you, you probably won't progress much without practicing.   I think that's a lot of why many people (including me) sometimes stay at a plateau for months or years: they (we?) may participate in jams a couple times a month and hardly ever touch the instrument aside from that.

That's not usually the case with me, since my work involves playing and singing, but it doesn't involve a lot of folk music, so I may progress in my skill in playing other kinds of music while I even regress (from where I once was) in my folk playing.   
There's one group I participate in sometimes where I haven't noticed much, if any, improvement in the musical skill level of the group (in group singing, instrumentals, etc.) over the last 10 years, and I think a main reason for that is that most regulars agree with the attitude expressed by one of the 'leaders': "We don't care what we sound like, we're just here to have fun." (Of course, for some of us it's a lot more fun to play and sing competently together than to fumble around and sometimes produce chaos, but everyone has their own idea of "fun.")   You might think that a group that's been singing a particular song together for over 10 years would, by now, be able to sing in time together, blend voices and instruments, and sound pretty good on that song, but I don't think that happens automatically.

As my vocal coach likes to remind us: "Practice makes permanent."

Merely keep doing what you're doing, over and over, and you very well may not improve at all.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 16 Aug 10 - 10:34 PM

GUEST
Date: 16 Aug 10 - 04:07 AM

Looks like that was me, sorry....


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Ebbie
Date: 17 Aug 10 - 12:29 AM

Genie, thanks. I would love to drop in sometime.

However, on that particular trip (of two months) I was there to take care of my sister who had had heart surgery, so I was pretty much housebound with her. The musicians came to us.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 17 Aug 10 - 05:01 AM

Before you send me my plane ticket, Foolestroupe, be warned that my finest hour was being featured on all the Mudcat Cafe Blue Plate Specials CDs......as the silence between the tracks!

RtS


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: MikeL2
Date: 17 Aug 10 - 11:10 AM

Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Genie - PM
Date: 16 Aug 10 - 03:09 PM

Hi Genie

I concur with most of what you say, particularly about practice.

Though in my case ( and I think in many others too ) even when practising regularly you will plateau. This can be quite disconcerting and for others even demoralising and can put some players off from playing again.

I still find that when I am trying to master some difficult ( for me ) passage I can take days to work it out and still not be able to play it complete.

Then as if by magic it comes to me and after that I can't understand why I was struggling.

So the moral is stick at it - we are not all geniuses ( sic).

cheers

MikeL2


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Susan A-R
Date: 17 Aug 10 - 01:59 PM

Mikel, someone was also talking with me about the true power of "sleping on it" I was up in Quebec at a music camp, really pushing to learn a lot of material and also trying to improve my Franch. I'd struggle and work to stuff things into my head, then go to bed and wake up with them in my brain and finger tips. I did have to struggle, THEN sleep to get them there.   So: Practice, listening, thinking, being a team player, teaching and learning from each other, all good.

Ah, and there's a wonderful woven hanging in my attic which sums up much of the discussion. It's the Vermont Megabucks Lottery theme. "Please Play Responsibly."


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Genie
Date: 17 Aug 10 - 02:06 PM

... and those silences between the tracks on the Mudcat Blue Plate Special CDs were spot-on professional perfection, Roger! : D


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: Genie
Date: 17 Aug 10 - 02:17 PM

Mike2, your experience with practice isn't unusual. Even with laboratory rats, learning curves are seldom smooth and gradual. They often continue making error after error and then suddenly do the task far better, even perfectly. Same goes for us humans running our own mazes (or playing our own guitars - which rats hardly ever master, regardless of how much they practice).

And even when you've seemingly "got it down" in your own living room, you may find your prowess less impressive the first time you try to break out those new licks in a group. Performance anxiety, the added demands on your attention by having to listen to and watch other players, and just the altered ambient environment will all make your job more difficult.
This is why I think if you want to be good at jamming (or at backing up vocalists or other instrumentalists) there's no substitute for playing a lot in those situations.

And I really do think you probably learn the most when you're in a group where there are some "better" and some "worse" than you but where the skill range isn't humongous.
Trouble is, we can't all be smack dab in the middle.


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Subject: RE: Playing with worse musicians
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 17 Aug 10 - 07:10 PM

Roger I have those somewhere - but I found that it was easier and faster just to not turn the player on to listen to you over and over .... :-P


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