Those pesky eighth notes

Last night The Hanshaw Trio recorded our guitarist Craig’s tune “Cherry on Top.”

This is the tune with a syncopated A part — a lot of the accents fall one eighth note before the downbeat, so that it’s easy to lose the feel for those downbeats, tempting to shift them ahead a bit and lose the syncopation. Fiddler Jerry and I both struggled with this, but in different places. Then the transition to the unsyncopated B part always throws me off a little, and it’s hard to get the expression and timing of my part just right. That and my hand hurt last night.

Still, it’s been a fruitful and rewarding experience to put a trio version of this tune together.

A few times at past sessions, while waiting for something to save, Craig would start playing the tune and Jerry would improvise some long sustained notes over it. I may have tried a few things myself, although I think I hummed them rather than trying to play them.

With some difficulties — because of that syncopation and because I’m not really a guitar player — I managed to transcribe something like the tune, and draft some preliminary fiddle and dulcimer parts.

We talked through some arrangement ideas, put them on paper, and played with them last night, adjusting and refining and adding as we went.

Guitar starts alone. Fiddle comes in with a long sustained note and a little run. At the B part, dulcimer replaces fiddle. Second time through, it’s everybody. Third time on the A part, the dulcimer part gets fuller, mixing melody and response parts. Then we cut to an alternative B part — at first it was going to be just guitar, but we added some dulcimer bass stuff — then a single strum, a pause, and back with a bang to the regular B part with everybody, closing with a slight fiddle slide into the final note.

It’s one thing to decide how to do something, and another to actually do it.

After trying a few times to run the whole thing, we decided to do three takes without that pesky fiddle run. Then on a new track, we worked on putting those runs back in with the right timing. I think I did something wrong on each take, but maybe with editing we can put something smooth together.