Author: Sargent, Geoff

First Call for 2012

It’s interesting….as soon as I think I’m getting better on my dobro I attend a jam, play with better musicians, do something that reminds me that I have a long way to go to get where I think I want to be. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad thing and in fact I use these, sometimes uncomfortable, reminders as motivation to sit down and work on stuff I’ve been too lazy to do. This time it’s jamming in D…..I have G reasonably well covered as are the capo’d keys…..except for the keys where I have to play a “D” form…for example when I capo into A when I play in E. I don’t know what my thing is about playing in D….or more specifically, jamming in D. I can arrange decent breaks if I sit down and work on them, but jamming in D is another thing. And by all accounts D should be a really accessible key for the dobro. There’s just something about the root being a string over and a couple of frets up that makes all the difference.
This jam I was in was really cool because for a change about half the musicians were “old time” players, which I haven’t played with much……..and they were really good musicians, which always causes me some consternation. What made the jam even more interesting, and caused me so much healthy motivating grief, is that the old time banjo players started us off with a couple of songs in D and it just kept going. We probably had two turns of the circle before folks started busting out of D. I’ve never played so many new, unfamiliar songs in D at one sitting and on the 1½ hour drive home started me thinking on what if we organized jams by key instead of style. No more old time on the other side of the parking lot or slow jam in the field, or fiddle tunes out back. So I imagined a setting where over by the drinking fountain is the jam in C and Am, the D/Bm jam is under the old oak tree, and the G/Em jam would be up on the porch. Actually this was done a couple of times at music camp last summer and I can remember at least one jam that was tunes in F. At the time I thought F! ….who ever plays in F. No more. Next time I see key specific jams I running towards them rather than away. I am sure the experience will be painful at first, but wow what a way to start getting familiar with some of those annoying keys that aren’t called as often as G and A.

Imagine, what if this idea went viral and we started a new movement. Entire festivals could be dedicated to everything played in A and F#m. Instead of the bluegrass and old time styles of music it might be that the F#m folks focused on achieving that elusive zen state that comes in large groups playing in unison, while the hard driving, bourbon drinking followers of the A key approached that zen state from a different direction.

So, back to reality. Last month I proposed a new year’s resolution to get back on the Tour de Jam. Now I think I need to make another new year’s resolution. I could be bold and propose to spend 2012 calling only D tunes in jams but I think that might make me a little unpopular and give folks more good reasons to question my sanity. (Oh no…here’s comes that weird guy that only calls tunes in D!) And, I wouldn’t be able to call songs in keys that I try to sing in, so I think my other 2012 new year’s resolution is going to be to call at least one tune in D for every jam I play. Let’s see if I can live up to that…..But given that my resolve is sometimes weak, I encourage folks that find themselves playing with me in a jam to poke, prod, and “D”emand the key I call…or better yet call a “D”ifferent tune of your own.
Posted:  1/15/2012

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