Tag: folk songs

My first real six string

Monday, November 5th, 2007 | All Things, Classes, Friends, Music

Okay, lesson one: chords. Now, I don’t know the actual names of the chords, umm, but I… I made up names for the way my hand looks while I’m doing them. So then, this is “Bear Claw.” Okay, umm, “Turkey Leg” and… “Old Lady.”
–Phoebe Buffay, Friends, “The One with All the Resolutions

After weeks of conflicting schedules, CF and I were able finally to set aside an evening for our long-awaited guitar lesson, after which, she assured me, I would be able to play a song. Since I’d never so much as picked up a six string, the plan sounded ambitious, but I was game.

We made our way to the Upper West Side, and over light bites and a bottle of wine, the tutorial began. A major (a.k.a. “Bear Claw”), D major, E major. CF, ever patient, walked me through about half a dozen combinations before my mind could hold no more. (In retrospect, wine may not have been the best choice of beverage for this particular activity.)

Armed with my new knowledge, we flipped through the book CF had presented me with to encourage these new musical frontiers. Rise Up Singing claims to contain nearly 1200(!) songs, though that figure is just a little misleading: the format is what’s known in musical parlance as a “fake book,” which is to say, a collection providing the minimal information needed by a musician to make an impromptu, passable arrangement of a song. Enough to “fake it,” as it were. The format is intended to help a performer quickly learn new songs, and usually contains just a melodic line, lyrics and basic chords. Or in this case, just the lyrics and the chords; editors Peter Blood and Annie Patterson seem to assume that users will already know the tune to many of the book’s songs. I didn’t — er… “Rosebud in June (Sheep Shearing Song)“? — but out of the advertised 1200, there are certainly enough familiar ones to keep me busy for a good long time.

To my delight, and just as CF had promised, I actually was able to play through an entire song by evening’s end. Not well, but almost… somewhat… barely recognizably. My finger pads hadn’t been so sore since my years of Suzuki violin.

The song: “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” which was written by a 23-year old John Denver in 1967 during a flight delay at a Washington airport. Peter, Paul and Mary recorded the most well-known version of the song, which became their biggest (and final) single in 1969. Nearly three decades later, Canadian chanteuse Chantal Kreviazuk scored a minor hit with the version she recorded for the wretched Armageddon (1998).

Interesting tidbit: Denver successfully took legal action against New Order over the song, claiming that the guitar break on the band’s “Run 2” (1989) — the third single off their “last great albumTechnique — was based too closely on his “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” An out-of-court settlement against the British rockers ensured that their song would never be re-released in its original form.

Here’s a shot of my beautiful Seagull S6thanks again, friends and family! Yo-Yo Ma has his Petunia; B.B. King has his Lucille… What shall this one be?

Seagull S6

Start up the campfire, break out the s’mores

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