Mudcat Café message #3219113 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #62503   Message #3219113
Posted By: Don Firth
06-Sep-11 - 02:47 PM
Thread Name: Top 100 Guitarists of All Time
Subject: RE: Top 100 Guitarists of All Time
When I first started out learning folk songs and how to accompany them on the guitar (1952 or so), I took a few months' lessons from Walt Robertson, whose folk song accompaniments were fairly "eclectic." But whole basis of folk song accompaniment, he said, was what he called "Burl Ives Basic."

"Um-plunk," as Strings puts it. Or, of course "um-plunk-plunk." That's all you really need and you're in business.

Walt taught me a whole bunch of other stuff, and when I wanted more, he'd sort of run out of things to teach me, so he recommended that I take some classic guitar lessons, which I did. But with Walt's warning: "Remember the acronym KISS. 'Keep It Simple, Stupid!'"

With a classic guitar teacher with the oddly rural sounding name, Joe Farmer, I really learned how to use my fingers. He had me working on technical exercises, and very quickly into simple pieces, including the graded studies by Fernando Sor.

While I was doing all this, I got a summer job working for a picture framer. All the local big name artists came to this guy because his frames were always just right for whatever painting they contained. I learned probably the most valuable lesson I ever learned about song accompaniment from him. "When you're deciding how to frame a painting, don't just slap it into any frame. Study the painting. Look at the colors, look at the shapes within the painting. Chose a molding that reflects a shape in the painting. Then examine the colors and paint the frame a neutral blend of those colors. ButóNEVER distract from the painting itself. If people look at a painting and say, 'Isn't that a beautiful frame?' then the frame is a failure. The frame should set the painting off in space, but must never distract from the painting or draw attention to itself."

Same with song accompaniment. It's not the main thing. It is supposed to accompany the song. If it becomes the main thing, then you blew it! You can do all kinds of stuff such as working countermelodies into an accompaniment, restatements of or variations on the melody line between verses, fancy arpeggio patterns, all kinds of virtuoso stuff. BUTóif people notice the accompaniment more than the song, it's a flop!

Lots of folk singers don't get that.

I sometimes slip a classic or flamenco solo into a set. It's kinda ego gratifying to hear someone mutter, "Hey, he can really play that thing!" But my main focus is on the songs and the stories they tell.

With "Burl Ives Basic," you can't go wrong.

Don Firth