31 October 2015

Playing guitar for old-time music

Many flat-picking guitarists with old-time fiddle tunes in their repertoire tend to use bluegrass methods for backing up on such tunes, and this usually works well. However, to offset the modern tendency towards homogenising old-time music, the conscientious guitarist should consider what's best in a specific old-time context. Thanks to Cathal Cusack, then, for drawing our attention to these two publications.

The flatpicker's guide to old-time music by Tim May and Dan Miller is a 160-page book with two audio CDs, published by Flatpicking Guitar Magazine. Strong emphasis is laid on selection of appropriate notes, runs, and rhythm (this would be good for playing other kinds of music as well), and settings are given for eleven old-time tunes in different keys and tempos.

Old-time backup guitar: learn from the masters by John Schwab is more closely focused on the techniques used in the 1920s and '30s by the best backup players recorded in that period. In 102 pages (plus an accompanying CD with over 120 mp3 files) it deals with time, dynamics, tone, chords to use and to avoid, the views of respected modern players, and much more.

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