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  #1  
Old 01-30-2019, 06:15 AM
taylorman9270 taylorman9270 is offline
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Default Anyone Play Mississippi John Hurt...Need an Opinion

I've been trying to play some MJH stuff. I have no problem with the thumb alternate bass. I have no problem with the Thumb F-Chord. But something is missing. Seems MJH would hit more than one string with his thumb on two and four. Is that what you guys do?
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Old 01-30-2019, 06:24 AM
Kerbie Kerbie is offline
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Love the guy! Yes, his habit of hitting two strings on 2 and 4 is his norm. He usually hit the 3 and 4 strings with his thumb. I'm certainly not as good at it as he was, but yes... that's what I do. Gives it a very rhythmic, syncopated feel. Great stuff!
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Old 01-30-2019, 06:30 AM
taylorman9270 taylorman9270 is offline
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Yeah I was afraid that was the case. Guess I'll need to relearn his stuff. Really loving the cds that come with Grossman's book.
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Old 01-30-2019, 07:40 AM
reeve21 reeve21 is online now
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If you poke around on YouTube there is plenty of close up footage, including his appearance on Pete Seeger's TV show that really lets you see what he was doing.

Also, there is quite a bit on him in the PBS American Epic series mentioned in a recent thread. I think it is episode 3, about 2/3 of the way through the show.

Playing his tunes is very enjoyable. Playing them just like he did is not something I'm qualified to comment on
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Old 01-30-2019, 09:00 AM
macmanmatty macmanmatty is offline
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I think he does close to what I do hit the bass note with thumb and strum down then hit next bass note with thumb and strum down all the while the fingers play the melody. Sometimes I think he does a patterned bass. IE Thumb hit bass note then hit other note then hit the bass note then hit other note again like Chet Atkins does. Then he uses the index middle and ring fingers to play the melody all while doing that bass line. For a c chord a simple bass pattern would look like.


d-----2-----2-------2------2
a--3-------------3-----------
e---------3------------3--


but a lot times I think he strums down in place of hitting that other note (in the example the E note)
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Old 01-30-2019, 09:57 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taylorman9270 View Post
I've been trying to play some MJH stuff. I have no problem with the thumb alternate bass. I have no problem with the Thumb F-Chord. But something is missing. Seems MJH would hit more than one string with his thumb on two and four. Is that what you guys do?
Yes. Sometimes it's a lot easier to hit more than one string than be precise enough to just hit one. His playing is often "lazy" in that sense.
I.e. it doesn't really matter whether you hit one or two, or even three - whatever you find easiest or most comfortable.

Good close-ups of his right hand here:


Also, watch how he just moves that left hand shape up and down the neck, instead of changing chords! Genius...
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Old 01-30-2019, 11:42 PM
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Yep I love his stuff. I don’t think he was too exact a lot of times, often hit more than one string at a time. I don’t worry too much about getting it down exactly like him. His songs make me happy. [emoji4]
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Old 02-06-2019, 04:35 PM
taylorman9270 taylorman9270 is offline
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Yeah. Seems like he mostly hits just the bass notes and not any neighboring strings in that one. Also..I thought he picked out a Guild when he and Lomax went guitar shopping. What guitar is he playing there I wonder? I'm just kind of obsessed with that guy. I have Grossman's book and have been trying to tackle it daily.
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Old 02-06-2019, 07:18 PM
gfsark gfsark is offline
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Delightful clip of him. I think that his playing stresses fluidity and continuity of music and rhythm more than precision playing. And he's singing also, and we know that singing and playing at the same time is a special challenge.

I'm more inclined to pick out every note of the melody, and when I do that, its very hard or impossible to do without noticeable breaks in the melody line. So hats off to Mr. Hurt. Love his playing. Think I'll study his technique some more.

Last edited by gfsark; 02-06-2019 at 07:19 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 02-06-2019, 07:51 PM
gfirob gfirob is offline
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I knew John Hurt when I was a teenager working for the record company that recorded him when he first came up north after his rediscovery, and we used to try to copy the way that he played after sitting in a room with him and watching him pick. It was not easy. John Hurt has swing and a mistake a lot of us made was to treat it as a kind of mechanical syncopated fingerpicking when actually he was much looser than that, more improvisational and fluid. To play like that you have to be loose and feel the swing in it. He was really a masterful player and a very kind and generous man, happy to show a kid how to pick and share his songs.
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Old 02-07-2019, 06:59 AM
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Toby Walker Toby Walker is offline
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Hurt primarily played for parties where people danced, hence the 'swing' in his style that was previously mentioned. That being the case, many times you would hear him hit a couple of bass strings on the 2 and 4 of the measure. This gave his sound that extra 'bounce' which was perfect to dance to.
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Old 02-07-2019, 07:40 AM
reeve21 reeve21 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gfirob View Post
I knew John Hurt when I was a teenager working for the record company that recorded him when he first came up north after his rediscovery, and we used to try to copy the way that he played after sitting in a room with him and watching him pick. It was not easy. John Hurt has swing and a mistake a lot of us made was to treat it as a kind of mechanical syncopated fingerpicking when actually he was much looser than that, more improvisational and fluid. To play like that you have to be loose and feel the swing in it. He was really a masterful player and a very kind and generous man, happy to show a kid how to pick and share his songs.
Great story. His style is deceptive, for sure. Sounds easier than it is!

Did you realize at the time you were in the presence of something very special?
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Old 02-07-2019, 02:56 PM
Dino Silone Dino Silone is offline
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It’s probably all been said already on this thread, but I just wanted to chime in and say that he’s probably one of my number one idols. And yes, he often hits more than one string on two and four, making more like a stride piano left hand than a strict alternation. And yes, he’s loose, and plays a lot with syncopation. His middle finger is also really fast, and a lot of his syncopations come from doing a bunch of fast repeats, etc. And I don’t think he ever played a song the same way twice.

I really envy you, gfirob, to have been around what was going on at that time. I was growing up just a short subway ride from Greenwich Village, but I was just a few years too young. By the time I was making the trip to the Village in the mid ‘60s, that golden age of the acoustic folk invasion had just passed. Some of the guys I used to play and hang with were part of it, and were part of the whole Gary Davis circle. But, by the time I got there, they were just cool stories.

Probably the only time I ever wish I was 10 years older...
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Old 02-07-2019, 07:24 PM
rwmct rwmct is offline
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I am not very familiar with the later recordings, but those 1928 sessions are just wonderful.
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Old 02-07-2019, 08:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rwmct View Post
I am not very familiar with the later recordings, but those 1928 sessions are just wonderful.
Great thread. I just love MJH and I love the Piedmont style for its “happy”chords and melodies.

The 1928 recordings are a treasure. I love the later recordings (when he was “rediscovered”) because he does different takes on those earlier tunes. A great study of his style, all of it.
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