Monthly Archives: January 2009

Moving Day

New on YouTube: “Moving Day“, a 1906 song that Charlie Poole recorded in 1929. Played here as a cross between a dirty blues and a country fingerpicking rube song.

Production notes: National Estralita acoustic guitar with glass bottleneck; iMovie HD; Garageband for audio processing.

The bottleneck riffs are copied from brass band parts in the 1906 Arthur Collins recording, which I got on

The song is by Harry Von Tilzer and Andrew Sterling. Original sheet music available on

This recording is under a Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 license.

slow music in the olden days

19th century music was slow in the same sense as slow food or slow brands.

For a digital music producer to give a section a more open and airy quality is quick and easy — just twist the reverb knob. For a live performer on an acoustic instrument it’s time consuming and difficult — change your hand position, embouchure, or breathing, and then practice until it’s second nature. But there is a tangible reward for the extra labor.

I could play live music for slow food events like farmer’s markets, though it would be an uphill battle to get the booking and make the music come alive outdoors. I wonder what other real-world events would be good venues?

Hyperion show Thurs

I’ll be playing in Madame Pamita‘s old timey band at the Hyperion Tavern in Silverlake on Thursday night.

If anybody’s up for getting something to eat before the show, send an email to I’m thinking food and a beer in the area around Sunset and Alvarado.

Also performing that night will be the uber locals Dick & Jane. Not that they wouldn’t be there anyway. You love em if you know em. Also, Pam’s boyfriend Brad and the managerstress Angelina Elise will be working the bar. The musical scotsman Mr John McDuffie will be playing some deep dobro. It’s Patrick Weiss’ last night playing musical saw in the band before he moves back to Georgia.

No $$$ to get in, beers are a mere $5, and no charge for the witty conversation as long as you bring your wit. The night gets started around 9:30 usually, we go on around 10:30 or 11.

widow’s music video for her son

Lucas Gonze -- Widow's Plea For Her SonMP3
MP4 video
Ogg Vorbis
duration: 4:52
license: BY-SA
key: A
time signature: 3/4
sheet music,

Widow's Plea For Her Son

As part of my blog series on mother songs, this post is my recording of the 1893 tear jerker “A Widow’s Plea For Her Son.”

The guitar was a 2007 National Estralita Deluxe. The microphone was a Sure SM 81 pre-amplified with an ART Tube MP3. I recorded on a Macbook using iMovie HD, the 2006 version, and the built-in video camera.

An important tip for this kind of setup is that the audio will have a high-pitched whine unless you use an external mic.

I did about fifteen takes, counting false starts. This is a quarter or less of my normal count.

The setting was next to the window in my workroom right around noon, when the sunlight floods in and creates strong contrasts.

The microphone is positioned just above the camera frame. This is to emphasize the singing.

I did the audio processing in Garageband. First I doubled the original mono source by importing the movie twice into the same Garageband file. In one of those tracks I applied the “guitars/big wheels” filter to give the guitar presence. In the other track I applied the “vocals/male basic” filter to enhance the resonance of my voice. I mixed them back together with no panning to minimize a seasick side-effect caused by the “big wheels” filter otherwise.

The copyright on the composition is in the public domain, so my version is absolutely legal.

My recording here is permissively licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike license version 3.0 unported, which means more or less that you can copy and reuse as long as you use the same license and link back to here. If you need another license, like a non-commercial license, just email lucas at gonze dot com to get permission.

“Mother’s Plea For Her Son” how-to

It was the overwrought pathos of Mother’s Plea For Her Son that pulled me in and made me sing along. I couldn’t not.

And then it took a while to get the words right, because that old recording is so murky, so I figured I would write them down. And given that I was writing down the words I ought to do the guitar chords. And then I wanted to know how the guitar does the bass line and that naturally led to figuring out the fiddle part. One thing led to another and then I had the thing transcribed. This post is to share the transcription in case anybody wants to use the song for their own music.

There are three versions and a master from which you can generate your own. One version is a condensed summary for singing guitar strummers. One is a lead sheet for instrumentalists. One is a note for note transcription for serious fiddlers and guitarists. And the master is a Sibelius file with a lot of detail in it, for people who want to modify the sheet music.

The condensed summary for singing guitar strummers is what most people will want. It has the words, guitar chords, and melody. The melody is written in both music notation and guitar tablature. The guitar chords are named, or you can use the voicings I provide.

It looks like this:

It is in the key of A, which I picked because it works for my own voice. Your mileage will vary.

  • PDF for people who want a print out.
  • PNG page 1 and PNG page 2 for people who have a problem with PDF.
  • MIDI for remixers and other music makers who need digital sources.
  • Sibelius for people who want to modify the sheet music.

The lead sheet for instrumentalists is for jamming or quick learning. It’s a one-pager with the melody and chords. The notation is big and easy to read, in a similar style to the Real Book.

It looks like this:

It is available in two keys, A and E.

The note for note transcription is for players who want to learn about exactly what Charlie Poole’s band were doing. My motivation was to be able to play in the style of his guitar player. This transcription only covers the intro and first verse, since there isn’t a lot of variation after that.

It looks like this:

It is available in two keys, A and E. The key that Poole’s band used was E.

The master Sibelius file is for people who want to modify the sheet music, for example to transpose to a different key or to use different chord voicings, and who find my original master the best place to start. All the other Sibelius files were generated from this one, so it has the most detail:

If you only want to transpose or do interactive playback of the sheet music, you don’t have Sibelius, and you can install the Scorch plugin, go to this web page:

Scorch version of the summary sheet for singing guitar strummers, in A

This is the third post in my series on “A Widow’s Plea for Her Son.”

The original composition here is in the public domain. My own work on this song is all under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license per my boilerplate licensing statement.

SJI transcription

Saint James Infirmary blog has a kind post about this blog and the soupgreens project as a whole which includes a partial transcription of the O’Reilly interview:

I don’t think that people are going to play Beatles songs. I think the Beatles are going to disappear from memory – because they’re going to be locked away. You really can’t get to the stuff. And instead the music that was available for free use, that was under a Creative Commons license, that was very clearly in the public domain, or that was made before the recording era, I think that’s what people will be using. They will be doing the five trillionth cover of ‘Home On The Range’ instead of a much better song, like ‘She Came In Through The Bathroom Window,’ because that’s what’s in the culture, and passing back and forth references to the same material but used in different ways. That’s what you’re doing when you’re making cultural artifacts. I think people will look back at these lost items and say, ‘These were such great songs! What happened to them?’

Louis Armstrong blog

New in the sidebar of this site: dippermouth, which is a blog about Louis Armstrong. Yes, that’s correct, there exists a whole blog about nothing but Louis Armstrong. Yes, uh-huh, that’s right, I think this makes complete sense. Well, that’s right. Thank you Mrs. Whitmore, that won’t be necessary. Well, good-bye now.


¡ YES WE PUEDE ! is a net-compilation ~= 1-shot-website of songs like Taps – America the Beautiful and My Country ‘Tis of Thee conceived and performed in a sloprock style.

Says the blog:

To celebrate the inauguration, we asked some of our favorite Los Angeles bands to record cover versions of public domain patriotic songs. The entire album is licensed under Creative Commons and available for free download from the project’s website:

Produced and conceived by the Vosotros microlabel.