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I spent the day studying the tune, "Whiskey Before Breakfast".  A standard traditional song that has long been a favorite of mine.  I've been switching back and forth between using finger-picks, bare fingers, and flat-picks.  This weekend, I worked on my cross-picking.  There are a lot of great versions of this tune, but my favorite comes from Norman Blake.  You can view it on YouTube, as an extract from his instructional DVD, which is great to have, if only for the close-up opportunity to see this master play.  The accompanying tab is alright, but not exactly what Norman is playing most of the time, but don't be put off by that aspect, as the tab is good for learning the tune.

Two other sources of the tune, more in a tutorial setting are available from Banjo Ben Clark's site, and another from Adam Schlenker on YouTube. Both are good instructional sites, and pretty reasonable on their available downloads.  Both are also well represented on YouTube, so take a look for either or both, if you are looking for help.

I thought, I had the tune "in-hand", so I setup to record it.  After about 12 takes, I realized the tune was not within my grasp yet.  Still got some work to do on the B section, and ending.  Just couldn't nail it cleanly.  You know, though, it's alright, the recording session was a great learning session too.  Sometimes you gotta hear yourself play to understand where you need the most help.

I really admire folks who can play fiddle tunes on the guitar.  I'm finding just how much work it is to play them well.

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Comment by Phil Manuel on May 7, 2012 at 8:13pm

I know what you mean. Norman Blake is just so comfortable and relaxed when he plays - it looks effortless. We all know it's not. I was lucky to sit first row to see the classical guitarist Christopher Parkening years ago, and he had that same relaxed feel. I asked him about it after the concert, and he told me, "I practice a lot, and know the material very, very well." Doc Watson and all of the other top players have that same kinda look, at least to me. It must come from the same thing - practice and knowing the material.

So, I think the only bridge between really simple stuff and more challenging material is practice and knowing the material. I've struggled with those two simple lessons all my playing years. When I try to rush a tune it never comes out right. If I take a slower approach, learn the material measure by measure, at a slow beat, then increasing speed as I've mastered the tune playing slow, it seems to help. Although, there are times, my mind just won't go to it, and my fingers are like race horses at the starting gate - ready to leap into and run full out. If you've got a recording device, try recording a song you really think you know. If you can play it the first take without issues - you probably really do know it. If not, don't let it get you down. Just slow it down a bit and learn the path around those trouble spots. Our finger muscles really do remember where you tell them to go, so make sure you give them the right directions at the start.
Comment by Jim McHie on May 7, 2012 at 6:10pm

What the what the.  I watched the Norman Blake video and all I can say is -- intimidating!! I feel as if there is a giant leap between the really simple stuff I am working on and the instruction in that video, and where I'm stuck at right now is trying to figure out a way to bridge the chasm.

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