On better notes (several, actually)

I continue to be somewhat intimidated by the Serious Business(TM) level of musicians that show up for the sessions at A Terrible Beauty. We had two more show up last night, one lady named Beth who’s a local harpist and flautist, who has taught harp in Ireland, and who has played with a local folk band, and another lady (whose name I have sadly forgotten) who had a pretty awesome looking instrument that was either a mandobanjo or a banjolin (userinfosolarbird said ‘mandobanjo’; all I know is, it was pretty cool).

The intimidating part for me here was that both of them very, VERY clearly knew what they were doing and could hear the places where I was screwing up. On the other hand, they were also very kind about cluing me in as to when we all went into a key I had a hard time recognizing by ear, or when chord changes I hadn’t quite grasped were happening. I had the strange reaction to this of being simultaneously prickly and grateful for it–a feeling I think any of my fellow authors will recognize when somebody offers you beta reading advice you’re not entirely convinced you need, and then you get over it and realize that actually, yeah, you did kinda need that. I’m here to tell y’all, it applies to music, too. *^_^*;;

That said, it was good to finally have some of the pieces Matt and Annie like to get into identified as having parts in the key of B minor. This is NOT a key I’ve played in before that I can recall, at all, even with a capo on and faking it by doing the base chords of G or A. The good part of this was, though, that I have enough chord exposure now that I could pick out the base chords I needed once the key was identified. I.e., a lot of B minor and A, with occasional D’s and E’s and F# minors thrown in for good measure, all of which are chords I can play at this point. The tricky part is just being able to recognize that key by ear when I hear it.

It was also vaguely intimidating to see the newcomers clearly not quite knowing what to make of me and Dara belting out our version of “Old Black Rum”. This is what we get for the songs we know being either GBS, GBS-influenced in style, or Dara’s very own unique concoctions, none of which are exactly “Irish”. I continue to be very grateful to Matt and Annie for indulging us periodically and inviting us to sing, and at least it gave me another chance to make the “well, Newfoundland is NEAR Ireland” joke. ;) Also, it gave Dara and me a chance to show off singing in harmony, which we’ve actually been practicing a bit, and which I feel works for us!

Still though I must start learning some songs (and I specifically mean ‘songs’ as opposed to ‘tunes’, i.e., stuff with words) that would fit better in a session environment. I’ve already mentioned the ones I’m interested in, I think–I just need to allocate practice time for them, in between rehearsing with Dara on her stuff so that I can play support for her at Norwescon. To wit: *gulp*. Yeah, I know, I’ve already been playing the guitar in public for a while thanks to these sessions, but being part of a formal set with Dara is not the same thing. *^_^*;; Playing at a session is ‘hanging out with fellow musicians and learning from them’. Playing a formal set is performing.

Meanwhile though I was very grateful as well to Annie for giving me a listening ear before we got started–as well as for introducing me to a drink called the Irish Truffle, which is Guinness mixed with raspberry lambic! I’ve tried Guinness before and hadn’t cared for it, but if you mix it up with raspberry lambic I suddenly find it quite drinkable. Those of you who have been following my ongoing admiration of the Lovely and Talented Pike Place Marketboys will be familiar with my affection for raspberry-related things. This has now been expanded to include ‘booze’.

Giggles as well to userinfosolcita, who made cracks about how we’d better be careful if we wanted to set an empty chair in the session circle in honor of GBS–because I’d still hyperventilate even for Imaginary Alan Doyle. She is, of course, entirely correct, given that it is scientifically proven that I hyperventilate for real Alan Doyle.

(This has led today on Facebook to userinfofredpdx making cracks about how, given that I’m a proud owner of the Alan Doyle Action Figure, complete with bouzouki and Hair Tossing Action, I’d be over the whole hyperventilating thing by now. Which made me LOL. And also made me really, REALLY wish that there was in fact an Alan Doyle Action Figure. Because you know I’d BUY IT.)

So yeah. Session homework for me: figure out how the hell to play and sing “As I Roved Out”, in whatever key I can manage. So I can have something a bit more Irish on hand next time Matt asks me to sing!

And also, for those of you who may be interested, the aforementioned Beth is Beth Kollé, and she was in a Seattle-based folk band called Crookshank a couple years back. They have an EP on iTunes, and I may just have to check it out.

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Angela Korra'ti

As Angela Highland, Angela is the writer of the Rebels of Adalonia epic fantasy series with Carina Press. As Angela Korra'ti, she writes the Free Court of Seattle urban fantasy series. She's also an amateur musician and devoted fan of Newfoundland and Quebecois traditional music.

2 thoughts on “On better notes (several, actually)”

    1. B minor got significantly less scary once I figured out what the chords were, which helped! What’s more scary I think is just trying to get a sense of “the key of B minor sounds like this”, which is a sense I already kind of have for G and D and such–I just don’t have nearly as many examples of songs I know for a fact are in that key, so I don’t have a really good basis of comparison!

      This is what I get for the vast majority of stuff my beloved GBS plays being in the keys of G and D and F. :D

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