Saturday, March 26, 2011

Mixed Blessing

Regular readers here know that I have gone from playing my guitar alone for an audience consisting of my dogs and cat, to a weekly jam session with five or six, sometimes more, musicians. Been doing this for about six months now, and been having a fine ole time.

On balance, it's terrific. But there is a drawback ...

The good part is that I'm learning how to play with other folks making sounds at the same time, and figuring out how to fit my instrument and voice into the mix. That's all new, and I'm getting everything from how to do a start count-down–one, two three, four!– and keeping time, to shifting keys without using a capo, to which harmonies I can add, or how I sing lead when somebody else is harmonizing. Great stuff.

If I hit a clam, it usually passes unheard, since there are other instruments covering it.

I'm learning new repertoire, and this is where the mixed blessing arrives. On the one hand, I've got a bunch of new songs, some in genres I've never dabbled in before–light jazz standards from the 1920s, anybody? On the other hand, most of what the group plays is simple enough that I can keep up on first seeing the words and chords–there are sevenths now and then, but mostly, the chord progressions are 12-bar blues or simple rock, three, sometimes four or five major chords, and that's not stretching me, technique-wise. 

I like playing "Hesitation Blues," which has been around since 1915, but it's not a stretch the way we do it. 

If I'm practicing repertoire for the jam and not working on some of the more complex (well, as complex as I can manage) chordal and fingerpicking material, then I'm actually losing chops. I don't want to do that.

What that means is that I'm going to have to up my playing time if I want to learn new stuff and keep the old. 

I suppose there are worse things in life than saying, Oh, well. I have to play my guitar more ...

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