Old-Time Music in Albuquerque, New Mexico

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What is "old-time" music?

Loosely defined, old-time music has its roots in rural America, and was built on the fiddle from British Isles traditions and the banjo from Africa. It was the home-made music common in the pre-radio days, played on porches, in kitchens and general stores, in community dance halls and gathering places. While it is often closely linked to Appalachia, regional styles developed across the country that reflected the local populations and their cultural backgrounds.

From its early days, old-time music has been played for square dances and cloggers/buckdancers, and just for fun. Tunes can go on and on as the players and dancers dig into the rhythms and drive of the music. The rhythmic drive is what many of us who play this music today love about old-time.

Bluegrass developed from this tradition, shaping the music into radio-friendly 3-minute performances. It's been suggested that bluegrass is more audience-oriented, while old-time is more about the participatory aspects. Come to a jam and join in or listen, and see what you think!

A few stylistic notes:

• Old-time players typically do not take solo breaks; everyone plays together the whole time.

• Guitar players use the "boom-chuck" method to provide a solid foundation. If you're unfamiliar with this, ask one of the regulars to demonstrate.

• Lots of tunes in the old-time repertoire follow an AABB pattern, in 16-beat phrases. There are many tunes that don't follow this pattern, and are referred to as "crooked," because of the irregular phrasing or number of beats.

• Tunes do not have lyrics, except for the occasional phrase here and there. If a piece has actual lyrics and verses, it's a song.

Jam notes:

• Fiddlers and banjo players often use special tunings for different keys, so it's common to stay in one key for a while to minimize the retuning. ("A while" could mean 5 or 6 tunes, or 20, or the whole jam session.) When suggesting a tune, be aware of the current key.

• A little noodling between tunes is probably unavoidable, but loud and insistent noodling is generally frowned upon and is not Dale Carnegie approved.



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