I headed up to Cannington Ontario this weekend for my semi-annual fingerstyle guitar weekend at Don Ross's place. This is like my 5th event and me and this other guy, Keith, are becoming known as "the Lifers".
It's a swell time, you go up Friday night for Pizza and song circle, play guitar until 3:00am, go to sleep, get up at 9:30 for yummy breakfast, Instructional seminars from 11:00 to 12:30. More Yummy lunch food. 14:00, more lessons. 16:00pm, free time and the obligatory trip to "The Interesting Music Shoppe" (I bought a blue Mandolin! I even gave it a name. I'm going to call it, "Amanda Lynn"). 18:30 More yummy food (did I mention the food?) Then the concert from 8:00 till 11:00 or so. Then back to the pad for more guitar and drink and merriment til 3:00am, more sleep, Yummy breakfast, one last lesson, Yummy lunch, Q&A session, then on the road back to normal (awwww..)
This time around the musical guest was Antoine Dufour. He's placed at Winfield and won the Canadian guitar festival and I can see why up close for myself now. Awesome technique. he throws more technique into a bar of his stuff in such a classy way that you don't notice it until you try to reproduce it. Explosive pull-offs here, razzguato there. Every fretted and picked note carefully thought out for maximum efficiency.
I was a fan of his stuff before, now that I've seen it up close I'm an even bigger fan. And he's a funny guy too! It was neat to see how many people had come to the weekend just to see him. I always assume they come for Don and the musical guest is a plus but some of the people there were not familiar with Don's work (and they soon became fans!).
We had some international guests, a guy from Germany, the UK, a few people from the States, BC, Alberta and the rest from Ontario, mostly Toronto and Ottawa area.
I stayed at a great B&B called "The Winds of Erin"just down the road a spell from Don's. My room featured one of those beds with the posts and the drapes that close it all up. Very comfy. While it is fun to stay at Don's house, it is also fun TO SLEEP! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I left Don's place at close to 3:00am both nights and there was still music coming out of people. This is one of the comfiest places I've ever stayed at. The proprietors were extremely nice. They're initials are B and B and that is funny somehow.
I took zillions of pictures, trying to get a photo of everyone there, and their guitars. That was yet another cool thing. To see all the custom guitar jobbies. This was the first time I had one too! (that is it on the left being played by Don, made by Tony Karol). There were some builders I had heard of but never seen their work, and a few I'd not heard of at all. Each one was pretty much spectacular in it's own right. It's like a wine tasting gig, you get to try them all.
Don's lovely and talented wife Brooke was everywhere at once, helping out and making things run smoothly (I couldn't get her to play though!! ;-) . A few of us roadied at the show and worked the CD both as who better but a bunch of guitar geeks to answer questiosn and suggest which CD's to buy.
The concert was really great, we always get in early and snag seats in the front row like the guitar geeks we are. I once again practiced to be a Rolling Stones photog. I love that Don's been getting into effects with his Boss ME-50. The chorusing is always nice and the wha and distortion on an acoustic are a hoot!
The after concert party thing (every night's a party! Makes you want to be a finger style guitar player for real!) was fun, we sat around and played and shot the breeze some more, plus the yummy food. The food is always an interesting thing for me because at home I pretty much stick to what I know. They had this great cake-type thing, along with a little sign that said "Don't forget the walnut ice cream in the freezer!" I had to get me some of that! I cut myself a slice and man, someone had gotten some ice cream out, and put it in a pan nearby! I spooned some in, not having much experience with walnut ice-cream, took a taste and it was "YUCK!" "What the hell is THAT!".
Turns out it was humus. Which, oddly enough looks alot like un-melting walnut ice cream( I took a picture so people would believe me afterwards).
I brought my bullwhip out on Sunday and most of us had a crack at it, actually popping the thing after 5 or 6 tries! No police showed up or anything as a result of the sonic booms! Gotta love the country! I think I brought way too much stuff this time actually (like two guitars!) but it all came in handy. On the Sunday there was no power in the back of the building we were doing the seminar in and that was were the "can-ola" (bathroom) was. I handed someone a flashlight out of my camera bag and he went away mumbling:
"That guy is like R2D2, he has just the thing you need when you need it, bla bla bla.. " What a compliment! And a Star Wars one at that!
Antoine's lessons were great. They focused on elements of his technique and featured a lot of small scale passages to teach your fingers how to alternate pick in fingetsyle mode. I found myself at odds with some of the suggested right hand picking but Antoine soon explained that some of the ones that seemed strange had to do with the actual construction of the hand and how some fingers are naturally in a better position to pick the note instead of trying to alternate. I had recently been breaking down some Andy Mckee stuff and found that Andy uses his thumb a lot (it's a very talented thumb), cripes, almost for everything in fact, where-as I like to mix in the 1st finger a bit more, Antoine's exercises had the middle in there in places I would use the 1st, just to take advantage of the way the fingers come off the hand. Very illuminating. he went over some nice "harp" type scales where you arrange the notes in such a way that the last note rings into the next, using open strings when possible. I've always liked those!
He went over some songwriting stuff in great detail, like his writing of "Song for Stephen" explaining the Police type influence and we even managed to find out which Sting song the melody was kind of unconsciously plucked from. he even throws message in a bottle in that one and has a reggae break near the end.
Don went over "Loaded Leather Moonroof" and some modal explanations, as well as the reasons behind some of his tunings. He seems to construct the tuning for the song while most of us pick a tuning and write a song from there. On the last day he launched into the most concise explanation of the opening chord strums in "Michael 3x (the thing everyone gets wrong)" that I'd ever seen or heard. We can all play that perfectly now(grin).
One of the guys summed up the weekend like this:
"This is GREAT! I consume $500 worth of gourmet food and wine, and get guitar lessons, a concert and a place to stay for free!
You can see all 300 photos here.