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Learning to Play Acoustic Blues

Moon'sGoin'Down 28 Aug 98 - 04:23 PM
Jon W. 28 Aug 98 - 05:54 PM
Dave T 28 Aug 98 - 08:56 PM
DWDitty 29 Aug 98 - 06:01 AM
Earl 29 Aug 98 - 10:35 AM
Art Thieme 29 Aug 98 - 03:54 PM
Dave T 29 Aug 98 - 04:49 PM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 29 Aug 98 - 08:23 PM
Gene E 29 Aug 98 - 09:57 PM
Zorro 30 Aug 98 - 08:11 AM
Moon'sGoin'Down 01 Sep 98 - 05:13 PM
lesblank 01 Sep 98 - 09:10 PM
steve t 01 Sep 98 - 10:57 PM
Earl 02 Sep 98 - 12:55 AM
Zorro 02 Sep 98 - 03:26 PM
Gene E 02 Sep 98 - 09:15 PM
Dave T 02 Sep 98 - 10:55 PM
Dave T 02 Sep 98 - 10:59 PM
Dave T 02 Sep 98 - 11:55 PM
Gene E 03 Sep 98 - 10:34 PM
Dave T 03 Sep 98 - 10:56 PM
Jon W. 04 Sep 98 - 10:50 AM
Moon'sGoin'Down 06 Sep 98 - 08:36 PM
Dave T 07 Sep 98 - 09:01 AM
Rockady Johnny 07 Sep 98 - 12:43 PM
Earl 07 Sep 98 - 12:57 PM
Moon'sGoin'Down 07 Sep 98 - 04:11 PM
Moon'sGoin'Down 07 Sep 98 - 11:41 PM
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Subject: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: Moon'sGoin'Down
Date: 28 Aug 98 - 04:23 PM

Hi Folks! I'm new to Mudcat and think this is great. I live in central New Jersey and have been unable to find anyone to teach me delta blues on the guitar. I've been playing guitar for a while, and would love to learn how to play this style. I'd appreciate any advise from guitarists on what they found helpful in learning the traditional blues songs. Thanks.


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: Jon W.
Date: 28 Aug 98 - 05:54 PM

You can learn by book, audio, or video. Depends on how much money you want to spend on materials. Stefan Grossman's guitar lesson site is a good place to start looking at materials.

Books I can recommend: "Play Country Blues Guitar" by Stefan Grossman (particularly if you can get the record or tape that goes with it); "Six Early Blues Guitarists" and "The Complete Robert Johnson (Guitar Tablature Edition)", both by Woody Mann. I'm no expert but what I have learned I've pretty much learned from these books.


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: Dave T
Date: 28 Aug 98 - 08:56 PM

I've been going through a book put out by Hal Leonard Publishing: "Robert Johnson: At The Crossroads", transcribed by Scott Ainslie and Dave Whitehill. It's pretty accurate as far as I can tell from the songs I've learned. For slide playing, try to find someone who plays this style and who's willing to help you along. In the end, I've found that it takes a lot of listening to the early musicians just to get a feel for the stuff. I'd rather listen to someone who really feels the songs as opposed to someone who can play them technically correct. I'm not sure about other Mudcaters, but I found reading books about the lives and times of the early delta blues artists helped me to understand their music; and that understanding goes a long way in developing the feeling. I'd like to hear comments from some of the others; learning to play blues is a never ending journey.


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: DWDitty
Date: 29 Aug 98 - 06:01 AM

As Jon mentioned above, Grossman is a good source and focus alot of attention on Delta and other country blues styles. Also check out www.homespuntapes.com I have found that audio and video are the only way I can get through printed material. For me, I have to hear it to be able to read it. Both these companies provide written transcriptions to their taped lessons.


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: Earl
Date: 29 Aug 98 - 10:35 AM

The most important thing is to listen to as much old blues as possible. I agree with Dave T, you've got to feel the song. If you learn from tab don't be afraid to deviate. Rhythm is more imprtant that note for note accuracy.


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: Art Thieme
Date: 29 Aug 98 - 03:54 PM

In your area---contact Rick Ilowite or Mike Agranoff in Basking Ridge. They can either show ya personally or turn you on to those there who can!


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: Dave T
Date: 29 Aug 98 - 04:49 PM

Speaking of listening to old blues... I guess this thread got me thinking of the old delta blues players. Most people give the credit to Robert Johnson, Carlie Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson, etc. For my money one of the least talked about yet most influential was Son House.I've always liked the raw energy of his music even though I've only had a few songs of his here and there on various compilations. I went out today and found the CD "Son House: The Original Delta Blues", Columbia Legacy CK 65515. These are the 1965 recordings when he was "rediscovered". If you want to learn delta blues, this is the guy. At the time of these recordings he was either 63 or almost 80 years old depending on the actual date of his birth; there's some thought that although his legal documents say he was born in 1902, he was actually born in 1886! He himself gave this date in a few interviews and said he lied about his birth date so he could get a job as a porter in Rochester NY (he would have been too old otherwise). Anyway, although he'd undoubtedly lost some of his vocal power and dexterity in his fingers, this is what feeling is all about in delta blues; highly recommended.


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 29 Aug 98 - 08:23 PM

I certainly can't argue with Dave about Son House. Besides lessons, Grossman also puts out videos of blues players and House appears on several of them.

Some examples are "Legends of Country Blues" Vols 1 and 2, "Legends of Bottleneck Blues Guitar", and "Legends of the Delta Blues"

By the way "Legends of Country Blues, Vol 1 has Mississippi John Hurt playing on Pete Seeger's Rainbow Quest program. Vol 2 has some footage of Leadbelly made in the late 30's and some made when he was older.

I think neither of these two should be neglected when learning about the blues. Even though neither was in the heart of Delta music, they both were alive at the time and were good enough musicians to pick up what was going on.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: Gene E
Date: 29 Aug 98 - 09:57 PM

Howdy M.G.D.

All of the advice given above is real good, especially the listening to people stuff. Delta bluEs isn't found in tab or any other sheet music it's found in you. Listen to the old bluesmen and try to make your guitar sound like theirs and soon that guitar will tell you what to play and if you've got something to say, it'll tell you what to say.

The problem for most of us is that we start out wanting to sound just like Robert Johnson or some one but the magic of their music is that they all sound different. Every individual playing and singing the blues sounds different and the best you or anybody will be able to do is learn a few licks from them. Listen and learn all you can, develop your own style, play what sounds right to you and don't get hung up on technique or sheet music. The bluEs isn't on them pages.

One frustrated bluEs guy's opinion.

Gene


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: Zorro
Date: 30 Aug 98 - 08:11 AM

Great comments. As a kid I took a tape of some Lightin' Hopkins songs to music stores where they offered lessons, and asked the instructors if they could teach me to play like that. The answer was always an amused "No." I did pick up a few licks from a folk singer named Ed Badeaux. I agree that watching and listening is the best way to learn. h I'm going to order the book mentioned above by S. Grossman. I've always wanted to play slide, but where I've been living for the past 22 years there are no teachers (nor players) of slide guitar. Now that I've moved back to Houston (area) that's probably a different story. A book I recommend is Country Blues by Samuel B. Charters; Pub: Rinehart and Company Inc. 232 Madison Avenue, New York 16, NY. No music instruction but good bios on old time blues folk: Blind Lemon, Lightin' (the best for my money) Muddy Waters, etc. Good luck to all. Z.


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: Moon'sGoin'Down
Date: 01 Sep 98 - 05:13 PM

Hey Everyone! Thanks so much for all your ideas and suggestions. I didn't expect to read such a great set of responses. Jon, DWDitty and DaveT -- I contacted Grossman and ordered the Robert Johnson book; I didn't realize there was such a repository of blues instruction and video materials. The only questions now are: Do I have enough time and money to learn all that's out there! Art, I'll see if I can locate the two people you referred me to in Basking Ridge (not too far from me). In the event I can't locate them, can I contact you for phone numbers or email addresses? I especially appreciate the advise about listening to the original players. Lately, I've been listening to Mississippi John Hurt, R. Johnson, Lightin' Hopkins, Tommy Johnson, Charlie Patton and some Fred McDowell. Sometimes, too, I like to listen to some of the more current acoustic blues from Taj and Rory Block (especially her rednitions of original delta tunes, which seem pretty true to the old recordings from what I can tell). I've been meaning to pick up Son House's 1965 CD, thanks for reminding me, Dave. And, it's especially good to read Gene's words of wisdom about being an individual and lettin my own feelings and personality come out rather than trying to copy one of the greats. That's one of the things I like so much about the blues--it's validating. When reading books that tell about the experiences of the early blues players I find myself thinking about how these players stepped out of the roles of their era and created a means for self-expression and validation. I identify with this aspect most, I guess.

Anyway, thanks everyone for all your great advise. I'm really glad I found the Mudcat.

Moon's Going Down


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: lesblank
Date: 01 Sep 98 - 09:10 PM

I, also, bought every tab book and style manual I could find ; I also listened to all of the greats. I reached a level and couldn't seem to go any higher. A friend of mine suggested I part with some of my green and start attending small club concerts to WATCH. WoW ! What a jump start ! I played and played and played, most of the time exactly what I saw and did it shamelessly. I still play and love the blues. Alas my fingers are not what they used to be, but the many times I spent just watching surely put me on the right track.

Good Luck !


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: steve t
Date: 01 Sep 98 - 10:57 PM

And don't forget "not listening" to the recordings. Thought not blues, I can't tell you how many folk songs I was sure I was doing exactly like the recording, only to discover I'd travelled to something unique that satisfied me a whole lot more than the best immitation I could manage of the recording.


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: Earl
Date: 02 Sep 98 - 12:55 AM

I agree steve. I've heard people duplicate old 78's down to the sound of the fingers sliding on the strings. It can be awsome to hear but I personally take more satisfaction bringing something of myself to the song.


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: Zorro
Date: 02 Sep 98 - 03:26 PM

Hey Steve T and Earl,

Thanks for the comments. Pete Seeger said the same thing; you find a song you like add a lick you like and it becomes yours. As my mom use to say: "There's more than one way to skin a cat. But no matter how you do it the cat isn't going to like it." (Whatever that means)


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: Gene E
Date: 02 Sep 98 - 09:15 PM

Hey there M.G.D.,

'Preciate the compliment and I'm real glad that you're going to exlpore your own style. Driving home today I heard a guy on our local blues radio station trying to sing just like Howlin' Wolf. Well the harp sounded good because that guy was showing some originality and creativity but the singing guy just sounded kind of silly. Hey he was probably having a blast but he wasn't really creative and didn't really express himself. Instead he expressed what he thought he "should" sound like.

When I play, I know there's some Fred McDowell licks, some Son House, some Bukka, a little Elmore and some R.J. but I tend to reflect my youth and sound a little like Jimmy Page's accoustic stuff. Or so I'm told?!? I don't try to sound "like" anybody because I don't feel very worthy of copying them. I don't know their experience, I cant. I don't have the same point of referance becasue the world is a very different place now and I sure don't want no '30s type depression to come along and teach me either!!!!

I'm ramblin on

Once again this is just one frustrated blues guy's opinion. What ever keeps the blues alive is good even if you want to sound just like Robert Johnson. By the way, if you do end up sounding like R.J. please call me up, I'll be the first to buy a ticket!

Gene


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: Dave T
Date: 02 Sep 98 - 10:55 PM

Hi All

I wholeheartedly agree with these last few comments by steve, earl ( just an interesting juxtaposition of names I guess!!), zorro and gene. I've just been trying to figure out my own version of Son House's "Death Letter Blues". I mean after all, I'm never gonna sound like Son House when he was 63 or 79 years old (which was it anyway?), so I'll have to find my own feel for it. I don't know about anyone else, but it's helpful for me to record myself when I'm learning a new song; it makes it easier to hear when I'm really capturing the feeling I want and when I'm just imitating. Any thoughts???


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: Dave T
Date: 02 Sep 98 - 10:59 PM

Hi All

I wholeheartedly agree with these last few comments by steve, earl ( just an interesting juxtaposition of names I guess!!), zorro and gene. I've just been trying to figure out my own version of Son House's "Death Letter Blues". I mean after all, I'm never gonna sound like Son House when he was 63 or 79 years old (which was it anyway?), so I'll have to find my own feel for it. I don't know about anyone else, but it's helpful for me to record myself when I'm learning a new song; it makes it easier to hear when I'm really capturing the feeling I want and when I'm just imitating. Any thoughts???


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: Dave T
Date: 02 Sep 98 - 11:55 PM

OOOPS!!!


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: Gene E
Date: 03 Sep 98 - 10:34 PM

Howdy Dave T,

I record myself too so I can remember what I played, I'm older now and sometimes I can't remember a cool passage I stumble onto from one day 'till the next. At least until I've played it a few more times.

I use one of those guitarist recorders you can slow down when you're learning a new lick. I like your idea and I don't know about you but I don't like my own vocals as much as I like my guitar.

Gene


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: Dave T
Date: 03 Sep 98 - 10:56 PM

I have to agree with you Gene, I'm less fond of my vocals than my guitar. I think it has a lot to do with not being able to hear your voice as it sounds to others. You can hear your guitar objectively, whereas you hear a large chunk of your voice inside your head as well as through your ears. I think most people think they sound a bit "dorky" the first time they hear themselves on tape. I don't have any special recording stuff. I'm experimenting with some PC software and recording to hard disk. I'm trying various demos to see which ones I like. Maybe when I've had a chance to evaluate this stuff more, I'll post it on a thread so other Mudcatters can try it out.


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: Jon W.
Date: 04 Sep 98 - 10:50 AM

I put this hint in another thread but I'll do it here to. If you have Windows and a sound card you have all you need to record and play back licks slowly. You use Sound Recorder to record a lick to RAM(from a CD or through a microphone, or a tape player connected to your sound card), and then use the "Decrease speed by 1/2" option to play it back at half speed, which also lowers it one octave.

Jon W.


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: Moon'sGoin'Down
Date: 06 Sep 98 - 08:36 PM

All of the comments are really good and helpful. I ordered a tape on country blues from Stephan Grossman, which teaches a number of blues in different keys. I also got an audio tape series on counrty blues by Rory Block from Homespun. I am finding that even though it is an audio tape, she goes into great detail on how to play. I really like her approach. So, now I'm working on a guitar solo called "Old Country Rock" by Willie Moore. It's in drop D tuning with a chord progression of D-G7th-A7th. It's coming along--my first blues! I even recorded myself (as some suggested above), and it don't sound half bad!

I'm not familiar with Willie Moore. Does anyone know if he ever recorded, and/or who else (besides Rory Block)might have recorded Old Country Rock and other Moore songs?

I also wonder from experienced players: What blues songs are your favorites to play? What have you come across that have good/fun to play guitar parts? I'd be interested in what you have to say as I think about the songs I like and want to include in my repertoir.

MGD


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: Dave T
Date: 07 Sep 98 - 09:01 AM

MGD, Glad to hear everything's going well. I can't help you out with "Old Country Rock", but as far as blues songs to play, there was a thread a while back called "Favourite Blues Songs" that might be helpful. A few of my personal favourites to play are: "Come On In My Kitchen", "Kind Hearted Woman" amd "Drunken Hearted Man" by Robert Johnson; "Statesboro Blues" and "Mama 'Tain't Long for Day" by Blind Willie McTell; "Rolling Stone" and "I Can't Be Satisfied" by Muddy Waters.

Dave


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: Rockady Johnny
Date: 07 Sep 98 - 12:43 PM

William Moore Recorded "Old County Rock" in jan 1928 - the flip side of the 78 was "raggin' the Strings" this wass his only session and also produced: "One Way Gal" "Ragtime Crazy" "Midnight Blues" "Ragtime Millionaire" "Tillie Lee" and "Barbershop Rag" all of these have been reissued on Ragtime Blues Guitar Document DOCD-5062 which also features a number of other great tunes--most noteworthy Bayless Rose doing "Old Black Dog" and Willie Walkers "South Carolina Rag (Take 1 & 2) For my money the best version of Old Country Rock was a duet between Steffan Grossman and Rory Block (under the alias Sunshine Kate) on How to Play the Blues Guitar on an old (1964?)Elektra lp (Also reissued in England on Tranatlantic I think with Gus Cannons Jugstompers on the cover) Snaker Dave Ray did a great 12 - string version. While all these folks on this thread have had great advice they missed the easiest way to learn and probably the most traditional---Simply go to Mississippi and on a moonless night round about midnight go out to a county crossroads and wait................!


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: Earl
Date: 07 Sep 98 - 12:57 PM

The devil's not teaching the blues anymore, no one has enough soul to sell.


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: Moon'sGoin'Down
Date: 07 Sep 98 - 04:11 PM

Thanks, Rockaday, for the William Moore info. I appreciate that.

I tried going down to a crossroads once at midnight, willing to sell my soul for a few good licks. I did this around Halloween in New Hampshire, and someone threw a pumpkin at me! I thought it might have been the Devil trying to tell me something, so I didn't try to play blues for months after that. But, maybe they just don't understand this kind of thing in New Hampshire. You think it has to be Mississippi .... ?

MGD


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Subject: RE: Learning to Play Acoustic Blues
From: Moon'sGoin'Down
Date: 07 Sep 98 - 11:41 PM

Thanks, Dave. I found the "Favorite Blues Songs" thread.

MGD


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