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Pick like Doc? I'm improving at least!

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GUEST,marty D 23 Apr 01 - 12:12 AM
Sorcha 23 Apr 01 - 12:24 AM
Rick Fielding 23 Apr 01 - 11:06 AM
Justa Picker 23 Apr 01 - 11:34 AM
M.Ted 23 Apr 01 - 11:36 AM
GUEST 23 Apr 01 - 12:11 PM
Rick Fielding 23 Apr 01 - 01:39 PM
Justa Picker 23 Apr 01 - 01:58 PM
GUEST,khandu 23 Apr 01 - 05:44 PM
Margo 24 Apr 01 - 12:45 AM
Mark Clark 24 Apr 01 - 01:47 AM
Dunkle 24 Apr 01 - 10:46 AM
Justa Picker 24 Apr 01 - 12:00 PM
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Subject: Pick like Doc? I'm improving at least!
From: GUEST,marty D
Date: 23 Apr 01 - 12:12 AM

As usual, I'm on borrowed time here at #1 dughter's computer, but since Marion brought my old thread up

click

I thought I'd give a quick progress report. That was over half a year ago, and as I stated, I really was serious. I think I shouldn't have used Doc Watson's name in the title because some Mudcatters thought I wanted to go from On Top of old Smokey to Doc's Guitar overnight. I got a LOT of great advice in that thread from a lot of people but I'm really greatful to Rick F, MTed, Michael K, and Mark Clark who practically wrote a book on my behalf. I refer to the thread constantly. To tell the truth, many of the suggestions were simply way beyond my comprehension at the time, but now I think I at least understand everything even if I can't do much of it.

I DID get a better guitar. Don't get excited GAS people, it's a bottom of the line Martin Dreadnought, but still the best instrument I'm likely to ever own, and it sounds wonderful. I also started buying CDs of the musicians who played Country-folk music, and I've done a lot of liner-note reading. Rick's suggestion of finding a local guitarist capable of actually PLAYING that style to give me some lessons was much harder to do. Maybe they grow on trees in your town but not in mine. However I DID budget an hour and a half EVERY day and because I do have a decent ear I let CDs of The Carter Family, Doc Watson, Norman Blake etc. be my teachers.(and Mudcat of course) I have to tell you though, other than three great songs, most of Merle Travis is still very much a mystery.

So where am I at? I'm useing about 10 new chords, I've learned several Carter Family songs, complete with bass runs, hammer-ons, and (the part I'm most proud of) 'instrumental breaks'! How am I doing with the Doc Watson stuff? Well, I can play Doc's version of Wabash Cannonball complete with instrumental. It's slower than he does it, but I'm getting there.

So thanks Mudcat. This is like going to folk music school in your spare time!

Marty Dawson


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Subject: RE: Pick like Doc? I'm improving at least!
From: Sorcha
Date: 23 Apr 01 - 12:24 AM

Well, Good On Ya, Marty!! Keep it going!


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Subject: RE: Pick like Doc? I'm improving at least!
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 23 Apr 01 - 11:06 AM

Marty, you said:

"I have to tell you though, other than three great songs, most of Merle Travis is still very much a mystery."

Don't worry 'bout it. Merle is a great repository for songs......but I'll bet that a lot of "the mystery" is because he uses VERY different chord forms. If there's any real interest in this thread, I'll outline some of them. If not I'll e-mail you a few.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Pick like Doc? I'm improving at least!
From: Justa Picker
Date: 23 Apr 01 - 11:34 AM

Further to Rick's comment, I am working on some Merle stuff right now. If you've never delved into his unique style and especially the way he forms chords, it's an eye opening, or should I say, tendon-wrenching experience.

Merle appears to formulate chord positions based on what he needs to get out of the guitar to carry his songs. In many cases he does not use conventional chord positions that we tend to accept as a standard.

He makes extensive use of his thumb and uses his thumb in nearly every circumstance. That thumb is often fretting not only the 6th string, but the 5th and 6th strings together. Wherever possible he will also use 1 finger to hold down two strings (thus freeing up other fingers for other things) so you also have to learn how to make full E, F, C, A and other chords with the economy of either the middle or ring finger doing double duty and holding down two adjacent strings at once (while the remaining fingers are doing something else.)

If you have large hands and long fingers, you may find it relatively easy to play his chords. If you don't, then be prepared for some major aerobics to get your fingers and wrists in shape and used to stretching. You have to do this in moderation, or you'll be in a lot of pain.
You have to take his tunes in small sections and learn 2 - 4 bars at a time.

If you're serious at all, about wanting to explore Travis songs and his style of playing, one of the very best instructional videos (one, which I am working through currently) is The Guitar of Merle Travis - Taught by Marcel Dadi. Marcel spent years studying and emulating Travis's style, and you get a real in depth look at some of Travis's songs and chord formations. They're really broken down, and Dadi is an extremely clean and excellent performer.

Mind you, this stuff is hard! It's not for beginners, and none of the songs are anything you're going to work out in a day, a week or possibly even a month. Nevertheless, if you're up for a real challenge, I'd say go for it.

(Sadly Marcel Dadi is no longer with us, as he was a victim of TWA Flight 800 back in 1996. A real loss, but since the video was done in 1993, he continues to teach and inspire, from beyond the grave.)


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Subject: RE: Pick like Doc? I'm improving at least!
From: M.Ted
Date: 23 Apr 01 - 11:36 AM

Put'em up, Fielding! Even if only three of us read them today, they will always be here for future reference.

Marty: lately, it has occurred to me that musicians who are taking on something new tend to ask questions that go in a different direction than they need. You asked about Doc Watson, and ended up Carter Picking. Maybe if you had asked us how to Carter Pick, you'd be a master of the thumb and forefinger style now(just joking--Doc has said that it took him a year and a half to master just the basic movement, if you are trying to be like him, you are right on schedule!)


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Subject: RE: Pick like Doc? I'm improving at least!
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Apr 01 - 12:11 PM

Play your own way Marty. If flat piicking please do remember the Doc uses his forearm more than mostly any other picker I ever saw. Other Fingerpicking stars, Leadbelly - Blind Lemon - Robert Johnson - Rev Garry Davis - John Hurt - etc. They were all great and some totally different to the Doc, but great nonetheless. Lesson, do it YOUR own way.


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Subject: RE: Pick like Doc? I'm improving at least!
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 23 Apr 01 - 01:39 PM

Re Justa's comment about "Long Fingers":

Not a prerequisite in my opinion (as usual, I'm willing to be beaten to death by convincing arguements). I have very average fingers but have found the key is in WRIST MOBILITY. I've developed such a limp wrist that I'm starting to buy Judy Garland records and grow a small moustache!

But The REAL KEY to playing Merle's chords EASILY...is that he had ALL HIS GUITAR NECKS SHAVED TO THE THICKNESS OF A GIBSON SUPER 400!!!! Ever played one of those? Tiny tiny neck. You can do it on a Martin (I do) but if you ever really get into his style, you may want an additional axe. This id how GAS starts!

Rick


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Subject: RE: Pick like Doc? I'm improving at least!
From: Justa Picker
Date: 23 Apr 01 - 01:58 PM

Yes Rick, I think you are definitely on to something regarding the neck shaving. My guitars all have 1 11/16" widths at the nut, which is considered "slim", but they have "soft V" necks, of which the extra "beef" can make it challenging to wrap around with the thumb, and nail both the 5th and 6th strings together.

Perhaps I should just seek out an early 40s herringbone D-28 and have a shaved Bigsby neck grafted onto it?


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Subject: RE: Pick like Doc? I'm improving at least!
From: GUEST,khandu
Date: 23 Apr 01 - 05:44 PM

Hey, Hey, Marty D. I am so pleased to hear from you and hear that you pursued your dream! Keep on keeping on. Sounds like you have progressed very well in the half year.

Yes, you were offered some excellent advice back then. I am glad you listened to some of it.

Doc and Merle...who better to emulate? They were among the greats.

Again, I'll tell you; in your learning, learn to play like Marty D. That is where the true satisfaction lies!

khandu


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Subject: RE: Pick like Doc? I'm improving at least!
From: Margo
Date: 24 Apr 01 - 12:45 AM

If you can't find a teacher, attend workshops whenever you can. I just attended one with Robin Kessinger and I learned a trick (Robin assures us that Doc does it too!!) that really surprised me. I don't know how to describe it but it has an "audio illusion". Gives me hope too...

Margo


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Subject: RE: Pick like Doc? I'm improving at least!
From: Mark Clark
Date: 24 Apr 01 - 01:47 AM

Rick, I second M.Ted's motion... put 'em up.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Pick like Doc? I'm improving at least!
From: Dunkle
Date: 24 Apr 01 - 10:46 AM

Appreciate everyone's comments - keep them coming! For the past six weeks or so I've been working on Black Mountain rag...it's coming, it's coming... Anyone care to talk about Doc's approach to Deep River Blues? (Is he flatpicking _and_ using the thumb for the bass? Just fingerpicking? I've got to go get a video...


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Subject: RE: Pick like Doc? I'm improving at least!
From: Justa Picker
Date: 24 Apr 01 - 12:00 PM

Hi Dunkle.
Doc finger-picks "Deep River Blues" using the Merle Travis style in doing so. (Thumb and index finger only). He also partially mutes the lower bass strings to give it that driving "chug" sound. Just getting that chug sound alone, takes a long time to perfect, as you want to dampen those strings with a very light touch of the palm on the lower thumb so that their tone is clearly heard, without pressing too hard and choking the sound right off. Best of luck and do get the video. You'll enjoy it.


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