Posts Tagged ‘Eaglewood’

Let Them Go

Posted by Brian on 2nd September 2011 in General Music, Performing

Last weekend I was at the Eaglewood Folk Festival where I attended a wonderful guitar workshop hosted by David Ross MacDonald, an Australian singer-songwriter who also has excellent fingerstyle guitar chops. He had a number of excellent suggestions for improving ones playing, which will show up in a later post, but for today I want to share what he had to say about making mistakes.

He talked about going to school and studying jazz and how that experience made him far too analytical about his playing – to the point that he hated his playing and was reduced to playing washboard in a jug band. (Not sure if that was literal or figurative – he had that dry Aussie humour that can be hard to read.) Anyways, he had to learn to make peace with his mistakes.

According to David, it takes us about 150 milliseconds to realize that we’ve made a mistake. (I’m not sure where that number comes from, but I have no reason to doubt it.) He observed that sound travels at 340 metres per second and that by the time you realize that you’ve made a mistake, that mistake is “somewhere out in the car park.” He encouraged us to set our mistakes free. If we wince or shrug or duck or otherwise wallow in our error, we’ve just spent about 10 seconds focused on a mistake that lasted for a fraction of a second. We need to let them go.

Here is David Ross MacDonald playing his instrumental Old Mac’s Tractor:

David Ross MacDonald’s website: www.DavidRossMacDonald.com

Why I Love Music Festivals

Posted by Brian on 28th August 2010 in General Music

I was at the Eaglewood Folk Festival today and as usual, I was checking out one of the workshops. This particular workshop was called “First Verse and Chorus” and the description in the programme read like this:

No talking, no introductions. Just the first verse and chorus (or first two verses) of any song you didn’t write. Audience is also in the rotation (there will be a mic setup in the audience). Sing-alongs encouraged.

There were at least ten performers on stage, representing at least three bands plus a couple of singer/songwriters. For the finale, someone in the audience requested “Momma Don’t Allow” – a fun, traditional, 16-bar blues tune. (You can see J.J. Cale’s version here.) One of the performers said “Let’s do it in E”, and off they went with an up-tempo, rollicking version of the song.

The lyrics go like this:

Mama don’t allow no guitar playing ’round here
Mama don’t allow no guitar playing ’round here
I don’t care what mama don’t allow I’ll play my guitar anyhow
Mama don’t allow no guitar playing ’round here

And continue, substituting “guitar playing” with “banjo picking”, “accordian playing”, etc as each performer leads a verse. The idea being that after each verse, the dis-allowed instrument would play a solo. I was thoroughly enjoying the obviously unrehearsed, but very well rendered performance when one of the performers sang, “Mama don’t allow no scat singing round here,” and I held my breath. (Scat singing is improvised singing using meaningless sounds.) What followed was one of those unforgettable musical moments that can only happen at a festival workshop: At least eight or nine vocalists simultaneously improvising so harmoniously that you couldn’t perform it better if you rehearsed for a thousand years. It was absolute magic! And if you weren’t there, then you missed it, because it will never happen again.