Saturday, August 11, 2012

Trader Boatman

Here is a neat fiddle/banjo old-time tune that I first learned to play on my banjo. It's a fairly simple tune but there's something satisfying about it that makes it real fun to play. It has an easy going feel that evokes drifting down a river on a boat, steered by the boatman, perhaps he is dancing on the deck to the fiddler's playing...
Here is where I first heard it, played beautifully on a deep fretless banjo... in THIS Youtube clip. The tune Trader Boatman comes from the playing of an old Virginia fiddler named Pug Allen, who learned it from his father long before. HERE Is another fine version played by Bill Boyer. And HERE is a very energetic version played by Mike Seeger and Paul Brown on their CD. HERE is some additional background information on the tune, should you care to learn more.
This tune is played in an A,A,B,B pattern- the first part played twice, followed by the second part played twice. DAA tuning for the dulcimer, ionian mode in the key of D. Trader Boatman has a few fun hammer-ons and pull-offs you can try with your noter tip. Look at my video on playing "Sugar Hill" to practice the hammer-on with a noter. A pull-off with a noter is simply lifting the noter off the melody string by pulling it towards you and down, creating a bit of a snap as the noter pulls off the string. It's not too hard really! If you can't get a snappy pull-off, then don't worry for now- just lift the noter up after striking the first note of the two-note pull-off. The second note will sound by itself without another right hand strum if you lift up the noter quickly after playing the first note of the pull-off. If there is a part that seems difficult just play that part over and over slowly until it becomes easier for you, and soon the whole thing will come together.
Don't rush it- take the cue from the banjo players and have fun with this easy rolling tune. Maybe you are lucky enough to know a banjo player who might like to play this together with you in a dulcimer and banjo duet! 

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