Friday, January 05, 2007


Whole Mess of Pictures

During my trip to Houston, my friend Jay, a professional photographer with top-of-the-line camera and a mini-studio in his living room, took a whole bunch of extremely high resolution pictures of my baroque violin, my new pochette, my 18th century Highland pipes, and my Scottish smallpipes. The pictures are pretty gigantic, so I'll have to shrink them a bit before putting them up on the site, but the detail is fantastic.

I'll probably turn the medium-size frame for these instruments into a thumbnail gallery instead.

Jay dropped me off at Memorial park to practice, and he took a few pictures of me playing while his wife and son went to the dog park. Apparently my playing attracted the attention of a Roguette, one of the fan-girls of the pipe & drum ensemble "The Rogues of Scotland", now fronted my my piping idol, EJ Jones. She stopped to listen to me play for nearly 30 minutes, and waved as she departed during my last set. It's a comfort to know that I impressed a member of that esteemed fanclub.

And speaking of Jay's son Liam, the little 7 month old lad really enjoyed the pochette, even more than he enjoyed the fiddle. We guess that the reason was that it was more in his ears' range, or possibly just because it's baby-sized.

Update: The new images are now up, in the fiddling and piping sections!


Rhythm, Backing, and Harmony

I've spent the last semester with Elke studying how to back tunes. We first started with chords, then worked a bit on arpeggiated backing, then dabbled in close harmony. I'm still only at the basic level, and it takes me a half-dozen times through a tune - and then only in the most accessible keys - to begin to get the chord progression. So it'll take a lot more practice for this to be a functional addition to my session-playing skills. But it's already showing some interesting results.

I've been noting some chord progressions in tunes for a while now, but it's only with this study that I've begun to get an instinctive sense of how they work. I'm especially beginning to get the bi-tonal tunes.

But the most interesting side effect is that I now seem to be able to play rhythm guitar. Not well, mind you. The night before last, I installed a new set of tuners on the Yamaha guitar I've had for a while, along with a set of bronze end pins. I haven't played this guitar much since I bought it, and it's mainly been used by Anders and Chris when they come over. When I finished replacing the tuners, I tuned it up to DADGAD, and started noodling. I did a bit more noodling last night, and find that I'm fairly easily taking to the following progessions and keys:

I-IV-V: D/G/A, A/D/E
Im-VII: Am/G, Bm/A, Em/D, Gm/F
Im-VII-V: Am/G/E, Em/D/B, Gm/F/D

I'm pretty much limited to one voicing for each of these, and haven't found a good voicing for the C chord (keeping me from playing the keys of G-major ans D-mix). And while not at all impressive from a guitarist's standpoint, I went from nothing to this in two nights. So I'm pretty happy. I plan to concentrate on these for a while, since they will give me a basic backing for the major Celtic tune keys and modes.

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