End-of-Year Song Sprint Report

End-of-Year Song Sprint Report

Back at the beginning of December, I took inventory of the tunes and songs that I know, that are callable in a jam (meaning I know them well enough to lead, teach, sing, etc), and was disappointed with the small number. As a result, I launched into a end-of-the-year sprint to learn three new tunes and two songs each week, trying to add an additional 12 tunes and 8 songs.

I was not quite as productive as I hoped, adding only 7 new tunes and 2 songs. Looking back, I could have paced things better, but it looks like 2 tunes and a song a week is my comfortable limit at the moment. As a result, I have revised the 2023 Tune of the Week list and the 2023 Song of the Week list down to two tunes and two songs for each week.

Commitment to Ear Training

Commitment to Ear Training

I’m taking Lissa Schneckenburger’s Learning By Ear course on Peghead Nation, and one of the first homework assignments is get a practice journal, write your commitment to ear training on the first page, and to schedule 5-10 minutes of ear training a day.

This blog has been taking over as my practice journal, although I do still take lots of notes in my paper notebook, just like always. So this is my declaration of an ongoing commitment to ear training.


There was a time when, given a tonal reference, I could give you the name of any note. It was an important skill as a jazz pianist, and one that I was very proud of. But I have severe hearing loss – I rely on hearing aids, without which I am functionally deaf. With hearing aids and hearing loss, I find that I am having to completely retrain my ability to tell pitches apart. With my near digital ears, I had a difficult time distinguishing a fifth from a third, and a minor seventh from a minor third. My brain didn’t know what to do with a second.

I have had to relearn to tell the difference between pitches, and an important part of that effort has been the Functional Pitch Trainer, which I have been using now for several months, and which I am really liking. The picture on this post is a screenshot after I completed the first two levels with 100% for the very first time. I have gotten 100% on each one of them more than once, but this was my first time getting them both together.

In a lot of ways the whole thing (ear training), has more of a feeling of rehab or physical therapy this time around than it did when I was in school.

End-of-Year Tune and Song Sprint

I recently took inventory of the bluegrass and oldtime tunes and songs that I know. While it is a huge increase from the 4 fiddle tunes I “knew” in July of this year, it just isn’t a very big list. Nothing compared to the pile of jazz standards I know, and not anywhere near enough to have the same kind of literacy in bluegrass/oldtime as I enjoyed on the piano with the body of jazz music. I want to know more, have a better vocabulary, and be all-around more fluent in speaking bluegrass (musically, that is) on my mandolin.

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Practice Plan, Week of 11 December 2022

We are surviving the sudden cold weather AND or new puppy, and I was still able to learn all three new tunes and the one new song on my practice plan for last week. As a reminder, I am on an end-of-year sprint, trying to add an additional twelve tunes and six songs to my repertoire.

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Tunes I Know

brown violin
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

I started back in July of this year knowing 4 fiddle tunes (if I am very generous with the meaning of “know”). I have generally been keeping track as I’ve added new ones over the last months. Presented here is the list of tunes I know to date.* Some of the tunes have resource pages here on the site, so I have linked to them.

  1. Bag of Spuds
  2. Bonnie Tammie
  3. Soldier’s Joy
  4. Liberty
  5. Cold Frosty Morning
  6. Clinch Mountain Backstep
  7. Whiskey Before Breakfast
  8. Blackberry Blossom
  9. John Stinson’s
  10. Old Favorite
  11. The Wind that Shakes the Barley
  12. Goodbye, Liza Jane
  13. Bill Cheatham
  14. Old Joe Clark
  15. Cluck Old Hen
  16. Chinquapin Hunting
  17. Angeline the Baker
  18. Boil Them Cabbage
  19. Cripple Creek

As you can see, the list is not very large, but it is what it is. I have two initiatives – one underway and the other planned – to boost the amount of material in my tune vocabulary. During the month of December, I am doing a end-of-year tune and song sprint (which I will post about separately) to add an additional 12 tunes and 6 sings to my repertoire. Then next year, I have planned out a Tune of the Week, with a designated TOTW and a bonus tune each week (because I try to always learn at least two tunes a week). I also have a Song of the Week plan, with a SOTW and bonus song each week (because I am trying to increase the number of songs that I actually know the melody and lyrics to). There will be posts about the TOTW and the SOTW plans closer to the end of the month.

* I also know two or three Hungarian fiddle tunes from my book, but I can’t pronounce or spell their names, which really gets in the way of talking about them.

Practice Plan, Week of 27 November 2022

With Thanksgiving AND getting a new puppy (longish story – maybe I’ll post about it sometime), I didn’t post (or make) either a practice plan or update videos. I did make it to Taborgrass, so had several new things to work on last week. The thing is, sometimes it ends up this way and practice isn’t that great for a week. We just pick up again this week.

Practice Plan for 27 November 2022

Lesson:

No lesson this week (was rescheduled to next week).

Playing With Others:

I didn’t make it out to play with others last week (we went to Washington to spend Thanksgiving with my parents – my mom has terminal cancer). I want to try to make it out to the old-time jam on Thursday, but we will see. Might be the Vancouver jam on Tuesday.

1) New Material

  • Chinquapin Hunting
  • Angeline the Baker
  • Squirrel Hunters

2) Developing Material

  • Bluebirds Are Singing for Me (words – always the words)
  • You Won’t be Satisfied that Way
  • Bury Me Beneath the Willow (Michael Daves class)
  • Road to Columbus (learning Bill Monroe break on “Kenny Baker Plays…”)
  • Cold Frosty Morn
  • Bill Cheathum
  • Cluck Red Hen
  • Goodbye Liza Jane
  • Old Joe Clark

3) Performance Material

  • Jenny Jenkins
  • Cindy
  • Make Me Down a Pallet

4) Techniques

  • Chord tone scales
  • Double stops (again, again, still)
  • Cross-picking Potatoes

5) Musicianship

  • Transposing (using the key signature spinner)
  • Standing while playing
  • Ear training
  • Transcribe (my own recording): Ricky Ricardo
  • Writing: Dollar Store Frankfurter