I’ll be joining the Dobro world!

Well, I’ve wanted to do this for a while, I’ve played a couple of dobros before and they’re super fun and I’ve wanted one for a couple years.

So, I just joined resohangout.com, and some people over there recommended I put a riser nut on an acoustic guitar to start learning. Shipping here isn’t reliable enough for me to order a real one, so I decided to make one out of wood.

So the only wood we have a bunch of is bamboo, which is a great wood, but has several limitations. It only comes in hollow round tube shaped pieces, cuz that’s how it grows, so it’s good for some projects, and not others. Also, it’s very fibrous, which means it’s very strong, but also there’s a lot of tearout when you cut it.

So I got a piece of bamboo, and carefully cut it to roughly the shape and size necessary, and then sanded it where necessary and then cut the string slots. I didn’t quite line up the slots correctly, so the bass strings are a bit crowded, but it’s not a big deal

So I’ve now installed it, and am playing my entire dobro repertoire (two songs) over and over…. fortunately (for my family), the guitar I put it on (pictured) is very quiet in general, and the bridge is ripping off so I tuned down a whole step. All that means that it’s very quiet and not annoying.

And as a slide bar I’m using a piece of a bicycle seatpost that we cut off of my brothers bike so the seat would go lower.

This is what we call African engineering!

Video to come soon….

“Well, I ain’t Jerry Douglas….. yet”

-Gunnar

The Dusty Trail!

This is a beautiful tune, which is uncharacteristic for a banjo tune….
I first heard the Hartley family playing this on YouTube, and immediately wanted to learn it.
This is about the fifteenth take, as I was having some trouble getting through twice cleanly. And I had to tune my banjo down half a step cuz the dtuners wouldn’t stay in tune at pitch, so I tuned down a half step and suddenly they stay in tune. I have no clue how that works… but I di like how it sounds slightly lower, I love lowered tunings.
Not sure I did the tune justice, but I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Tuning: fC#FG#C# 
Dtuner settings 
3rd string: F>D# 
2nd string: G#<A#

Equipment
Banjo: Morgan Monroe MNB1
Dtuners: Cheat-a-keys
Strap: Lakota Leather 2″ cradle
Fingerpicks: Sammy Shelor signature
Thumbpick: National Med
Camera: Samsung Galaxy S7 Selfie Cam

I’m currently working on an interview that I’ll post here as soon as I’m done, and I’ll be adding more of those soon hopefully, but in the meantime, enjoy some banjo picking!

Natural talent vs Practice

So all the time I hear people make comments about people like “oh he’s so musically talented, I could never get that good” etc. and it kind of irritates me.

So I’m just gonna talk a little about being naturally talented vs practice.

Now the assumption that most people seem to make is that to get really good at something (this applies to anything, but I’ll be specifically talking about music) you have to be gifted, and otherwise you’ll always be mediocre. And there is the tiniest element of truth in that, but it tends to stop people from even trying. I’m naturally quite musical, and playing music does come somewhat easier to me than it might for someone else, but it wouldn’t be fair for someone to say “oh he’s just musically gifted” cuz while that may be true, it completely overlooks the 1000s of hours I’ve put in behind an instrument. Sure natural talent makes a difference, but while you’re going to work, I’m practicing. While you’re playing video games, I’m practicing. While you’re going and getting a girlfriend and wasting money on her, I’m practicing. My name could be practicing with how much I said that. “Hi I’m practicing”…..

So natural talent is definitely a thing, but it’s not the be all and end all that people seem to think. If you’re naturally talented at something, great, go practice it and nauseam to get really good. Are you not naturally talented at something? Great, then go practice until you’re great at it. Everyone is on the same path towards excellence, just some people get a headstart.

And that’s another thing, talent isn’t always given in equal portions, there’s different levels of talent that each person has. The one thing that is consistent, is that if you go put in 1000 hours, you’ll be much improved over where you were before. Don’t resent those born with more talent than you, practice until your hard work trumps their talent.

Btw, when I say “talent” I mean natural ability or propensity, as opposed to “skill” which would be ability. Talent is free, skills have to be worked for. By that token I think America’s got talent should be called America’s got skills, cuz they don’t measure talent they measure skill.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go practice.

“Practice till your fingers bleed, then practice one more hour”

-Gunnar

Ashokan Farewell

If you’re listening to that, I’ll explain what you’re hearing. That is the regional honeybees choir tryouts winners. Coming from windmill hive, they have some of the most talented bee singers around, and the director is none other than the amazingly talented Mr. Shuyeona. I joined them as an instrumental accompanist (each choir group was allowed three instrumentalists).

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it…..

Ok, for real, this is Dr. John Cockman’s arrangement of Ashokan Farewell for three fiddles. I’m playing all three fiddles, and the backing track is from his website: bluegrassdaddy.com

But the story was more interesting wasn’t it?

“If the truth is too boring, don’t tell a lie, just live a more interesting truth”

-Gunnar

Cherokee Shuffle feat. The pickin’ critters

So I started recording this a couple months ago, and got almost done but didn’t add a bass track. Then I got busy and wasn’t able to finish till yesterday, when I decided to finish it and add some pictures so i could put it on YouTube. Well, I’m definitely not a computer person, that project was so hard….. but i managed to finish it.

If you haven’t yet, please go check out my YouTube channel, leave a comment and like, and subscribe, cuz I put up new videos fairly often. Here’s a link to that

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChFeQSpLfyWuaTrtB4YORAg

Keep on picking

-Gunnar

Practice, Perfection, and Professionalism

“Perfection is unattainable. But if we strive for perfection we may achieve excellence.”

-Vince Lombardi (I think)

So, as a musician, I’m always practicing, and there’s that saying “practice makes perfect” which is totally not true, but practice does make you better. So I’m on the journey of chasing perfection, which I know I’ll never get, but the things I know I’ll learn on the journey make it worth it. Now I always watch videos of “professionals” playing, and their picking is so clean and creative and it seems perfect from my perspective, but from their perspective they might be having an off day, playing sloppily or boring lines, but they’re at such a level that their off days are better than my best days. It’s like my flexibility, on an off day, without warming up, I can place my palms flat on the floor next to my feet with my legs straight, while other people might warm up and still not touch their toes.

One of my current goals is to sound like a professional musician. And I’m not sure what that means exactly, but listening to myself playing there’s just a level of precision and awesomeness that’s not there. And I have a hunch that probably part of the reason is that I never (or very rarely anyway) get to play with others, which means there’s no accountability with my timing, dynamics, taste, or even being in tune. These are all things that I have to try to keep straight by myself, but there’s no obvious consequence if I don’t. If I drop a beat playing by myself, no one notices (except maybe me). If I drop a beat playing with someone, it’s immediately noticeable and trainwrecking. And clean tone is still something I find difficult, when I play through a solo on guitar, up to half the notes might get muted, and I don’t really know why. Same on mandolin. On the banjo I’m a bit better, but still not where I want to be. And on fiddle, when I’m playing I’ll think I sound good, but then I go watch the video back (I film myself a lot) and I notice things like weak bowing, scratchy string crossings, and bad intonation.

Maybe I’m expecting too much of myself for the time I’ve been playing, or maybe I’m being too strict cuz it’s myself. But i doubt it’s that second one, cuz I am able to look honestly at my picking and can tell when someone is better than me, or if I’m better than them, and I’m not afraid to point out errors in others performances, I just might be more polite than if I’m looking in a mirror.

Either way, I’m working on sounding more professional, cuz I assume that’s a prerequisite for being one? Or maybe you don’t sound that way till after you are one. Anyway, I probably should be practicing rather than typing….

Now I’m going to go workout, cuz you don’t get superhuman flexibility by sitting around watching TV (good thing I don’t have one of those)

“The harder you try to think of a good quote, the harder it gets to find one”

-Gunnar

Why all the pain?

“No pain, no gain, no ankle sprain”

Well not that last bit, but a true saying from an unknown source.

Ok, just to add some context here, I’m a very athletic person, but I’m not a typical seventeen year old Male athlete. Instead of being obsessed with soccer, football, rugby, etc. or having super big muscles, it’s been my goal to have a very functional body, and be deceptively strong. Also, I am bent on flexibility (pun intended) so I do some pretty epic stretches. I try to workout daily, but that doesn’t always happen.

Ok, now that you have the background, let’s talk.

So the other day I was doing my workout, which is very painful, and I was thinking “why would anyone in their right mind willingly put themselves through all this pain?” And almost immediately I realized the answer. The answer is I willingly endure this pain now so I won’t have a bunch more unwilling pain later. I do this now so that in fifty years I won’t be a creaky, sore old person that can’t even blink without injuring myself. So, if you ever wonder if you should keep doing something you’re doing, look ahead thirty years and see where that activity will take you. And also, stay active, even if for five minutes a day, and your grandkids will thank you.

I guess that’s all for now, since I can’t think of any further points to make…

“Perseverance is a decision not an emotion”

-Gunnar

A word of encouragement… or not…

So this is a post I made elsewhere a few weeks ago that I copied and pasted so I can quickly add some content to my blog without much thought…. I’m lazy that way lol. So here it is

Well I was contemplating the meaning of life and listening to heavy metal the other day… ok just kidding. But I was thinking (that’s dangerous, last time I thought someone almost lost a hand… jk) I was thinking about musicianship and came to an encouraging, or discouraging, realization; you will never “get there” cuz the moment you get “there” you’ll look over the hill you just climbed and realize that the next one is where “there” is. This could be discouraging, but I would look at it as encouraging. Because if you hadn’t climbed that metaphorical hill you’re currently standing on, you would have never even seen the next one. And remember, you can’t travel between one hill and the next without walking through the valley in the middle. Your knowledge is like a candle; the bigger the circle of your knowledge gets (the brighter your candle) the bigger the circle of what you don’t know gets outside it. Each new thing you learn will bring to your attention at least two things you have yet to learn. This is actually a good thing, as it means you’re learning, though it may not feel like it. So keep at it, you’ll get there, even though you’ll never get there, cuz whenever you get where the icecream truck was, it’ll already be to the next block. But even professionals, I believe, never “get there” cuz they are always learning too. The moment you decide that you’ve “made it” you’ll stop trying to learn, so just don’t. If you’ve made it this far, you’re either really bored or you’ve been reading Greek philosophy and needed to clear your head. Anyway, I hope this was more encouraging than discouraging, I think maybe I should start a blog

Obviously, if you’re reading this you know I did in fact start a blog. Hope you enjoyed reading this.

“Difficulty is just an opinion based on your perception of your own incompetence”

-Gunnar

What instrument is hardest?

So here’s a frequently asked question, and the answer is different for everyone. But since I’m not everyone, I’ll tell you what the answer was for me. And the question is also not so straightforward, there’s lots of considerations to consider.

Ok, little disclaimer here, I picked these instruments up in about six month intervals, so the ones I started later would be easier proportionally.

On to the topic at hand, I’m gonna try to rank my five main instruments by difficulty, in a few different categories. The instruments are (in the order I picked them up) Guitar, Harmonica, Banjo Fiddle and Mandolin, and I’ll add Ukulele for fun.

Beginning phase:

1. Mandolin

2. Banjo

3. Fiddle

4. Harmonica

5. Guitar

Bonus

1.5 Ukulele

So, that list was for just starting out each instrument, and it’s not objective because I had a different level of experience before picking each one up. The mandolin was easiest because I already had lots of experience, and the Ukulele cuz it’s similar to guitar. Guitar was hardest cuz I had no prior experience.

Getting good:

1. Banjo

2. Guitar

3. Mandolin

4. Fiddle

5. Harmonica

Bonus

4.5 Ukulele

So, this is a very different list, it’s about when you’ve been playing a while, how easy is it to start improvising or playing more advanced material, and just being comfortable just randomly playing with the instrument. This list is influenced by both the amount of time I’ve played each instrument as well as the layout of the instrument. I find the banjo to be super intuitive and easy to play, and play with, but others may feel differently (but they’re not making this list, so they can’t complain ) definitely the harmonica is the hardest to get good at because there is a lack of both learning materials, and good players to emulate, and same with ukulele, most people who play it only play a few chords and sing.

Physically:

1. Guitar

2. Banjo

3. Mandolin

4. Harmonica

5. Fiddle

Bonus

3.5 Ukulele

6. Bass

So, (I say that a lot), this is basically which one is physically the easiest. Honestly, it depends on whether I’m sitting and where, but the only reason banjo is lower than guitar is my shoulder gets tired holding my arm up in first position. I’ve always found ukuleles awkward to hold, and depending on your lungs and the shape of your harmonica, it can be unpleasant too. And it’s no secret that the fiddle is an awkward thing to hold, I haven’t had any trouble holding it in a long time, but my bowing arm gets very tired. I added bass for giggles, it’s bass guitar (not upright) and they’re super heavy.

Overall:

1. Guitar

2. Banjo

3. Mandolin

4. Harmonica

5. Fiddle

Bonus

0.5 Ukulele

So, this is the last one, it’s an all things considered list. The Ukulele is the easiest, because the simplicity of the chords and the forgiving nature of the instrument make it very easy to make nice music. There’s a reason why so many people play them, and if you’re a serious musician, there is some advanced material to learn, a lot of innovation waiting to happen, and a very low Audience expectation when you take it out.

The guitar is next, everyone has one, and it’s very forgiving similar to ukulele. There’s a reason everyone plays one. And when you’re advancing, there’s so much material out there to learn and numerous artists to look up to.

Banjo, I found the open tuning super easy to use and think about, and there’s a lot of material to learn.

Mandolin, this one is pretty easy cuz there’s such a devoted following, information isn’t too hard to find, and there’s lots of material and great players. Also, since it’s rather obscure, it’s a great conversation starter.

Harmonica, this one is hard both to think about and to get good at, there’s several notes missing unless you can do advanced overblowing techniques. There’s very few real musicians playing these, and material is hard to find. On the upside, expectations are low when you get one out, and people will be surprised if you play well.

Fiddle wins most difficult, this wasn’t a blowout victory, it was a close contest, but fiddle is more difficult because there’s no frets, the bow is a **** and it’s loud, so not forgiving. But there is a great community of players you can find, lots of instructional materials, and no limits to the possibilities of the instrument.

And for the record, when I say harmonica I mean ten hole diatonic, not chromatic 

Hope you enjoyed reading this comparison. Remember, it’ll be different for everyone, this is just my experience with the wonderful world of musical instruments

“Act like a genius, unless you want to be honest”

-Gunnar

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