Monday, January 11, 2016

Sock monsters, picks, and capos

In my quest to learn guitar, I broke down and took my Free To a Good Home guitar in to have it set up to lower the action. If it was lowered, it wasn't by much, but the fret board is much cleaner and they switched it to light Martin Silk & Steel strings. So daily practice has resumed and calouses are coming along nicely. Chords that I can play reasonably well now are G,D,E,C,A,Em,Am,Dm,B7. During my self studies, I have been making use of YouTube, and I ran across this very informative post on how to use a Capo, which warns against the Sock monster. Apparently Sock monsters play guitar and not only take one of your socks, but your picks and capos as well. Watch out people!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Plant Your Hope With Good Seeds

Sometimes I just need to drink in music, and when I do, adding a visual element is wonderful. YouTube is a great place for that, and today I discovered that lots of Game of Thrones fans have been making music videos focusing on Arya Stark. This led me to discovering a new song I want to cover, check it out: There has been lots of daily practice of guitar for me, but it will be many moons before I'm ready to play in front of anyone. I need get a firm foundation first.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Third Time's the Charm...

Around my 14th birthday, or was it Christmas? I got a guitar for my Dad as a gift. It was a Yamaha 6 String and I learned a few chords and played it for a few months before setting it aside to grow my fingernails long. Yup, I was That Girl, all about the makeup and nails and hair and cloths. At some point it got traded in for something or another, I don't even remember what happened to it, to be honest. All I know is that I was not ready to take up the instrument. Both my brother and sister were playing at this time, and they both continue to this day.

Fast forward to my 20's when I was sharing an apartment with my guitar playing sister. We discovered Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions and the concept of a Music Circle. I was enchanted and in love with the whole scene. I love music circles! So I decided to get myself a 12 String Guitar because I had always loved the sound. I loved that 12 string, I played it all the time. But after a year of daily practice, I could only kind of play a couple of songs. Over time I picked up less and less, and I ended up trading it in for a used flute.

My 50th birthday is coming up in a little over 6 months, and I looked at my husband and said that I think I might take up the guitar. He's gotten used to my growing instrument collection since I first took up the Autoharp in 2009. Soon after this proclamation a friend posted she was giving away a guitar to a good home. It's a classical no-name...there is no name anywhere on it. She bought it for her son off the internet, and I'm working with it to learn the guitar. It's a place to start, and I love how the universe provided me a way to learn guitar without having shell out money for one before I knew if I'd keep playing or not. So as I start over from scatch on the guitar, I am looking around for my 50th birthday present. My sister plays a Martin, but I know all that matters is how it sounds and feels in my arms. Here's a little food for thought:

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

For the Love of Bluegrass

This past Saturday my brother and I went to the Harvest Jam that is put on annually be the Minnesota Bluegrass Old-Time Music Association (MNBOTMA). I've been listening to Bluegrass Saturday Morning for the past few years and really enjoying it, even though my go to music has always been Celtic Folk Music if I were to choose a favorite. I brought my Ukulele so I could join in on the Ukulele jam. I spent a good amount of time wandering around and being my normal introverted self until my brother showed up around noon.

This was a fantastic event, and I'm beginning to think it was a life-changer for me. My favorite way to experience music is sitting around and playing with others. Although I don't know my Uke well enough to sit in on the Jams, I did find out what it will take for me to get there, and there are resources available locally, most notably BUG - the Bluegrass Ukulele Group that meets twice a month. Looks like I'm finally going to be learning a bunch of Bluegrass standards, this time on my Ukulele!

I have also decided that I need to get out and see live music of some kind on a weekly basis. It feeds my spirit to such a great amount, I can hardly believe that I go so long between such outings. With winter coming in, it may not be as often as I would like, but hopefully as often as I need. I will continue practice my instruments on the long, cold dark nights, going to the monthly open mic in Chaska and hopefully writing more songs as well as increasing my Uke Bluegrass skills.

One thing I found rather strange over the day at the Harvest Jam, I did not see a single Mountain Dulcimer or Autoharp at any of the jams or performances. In my own experience, they are hard for others to jam with, but I thought at least one person would show up with them. As I get to know the jammers, hopefully that mystery will be solved. In the meantime, I know I will be going to more events, jams, and shows featuring bluegrass music.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Why? Because I Can

Last night was my second time performing at the Original Works Open Mic at the Dunn Brothers in Chaska. This time I brought my autoharp, and utilized the pick-up for the first time ever. Rosie sounded great plugged in, I was nervous and fumbled on the chord bars a few times, but my vocals were strong and it was really fun.
Kent Hansen playing Original Music at Open Mic night
 My brother Kent leads this and provides the amp and the mic, he has a huge collection of songs he has written, so he was able to both start out the night and bring it on home after I'd had my turn. I had such a good time listening and playing, and was complimented on my singing so that makes me feel very happy. A friend of my brother's said I should record an album and he will sell my CD's for me at the coffee shop while I'm singing!

Since I first took up the Autoharp six years ago, making music has been my happy place. The fall of 2009 was my first Fall Music Party, and I could only kind of play two songs and I was incredibly nervous to play them even to my friends and family in my own living room. Fear is the mind killer, and I have been chipping away at my stage fright a little bit at a time ever since. My favorite way to experience music is in a circle with other players, so we can all play together. While I really appreciate those who are devoted to performing their music, and I love listening to great performers, I'm coming to it reluctantly myself. But now that I'm writing songs, I really want to share them, and I love love love singing so much that I'll sing the songs that I love the most for others.

It's a busy music month for me, which began with my Fall Music Party on Saturday the 7th which was a ton of fun. We started the night earlier than usual, because if I had my way, everyone would stay and play all night. Alas, it was not to be, as my players all drove quite a distance for the party, the last of the music ended just before midnight. Still, a good time was had by all, and we had a photographer in our midst, who caught me doing what I love to do.

This morning while I was drinking my coffee, I started contemplating why I do this. After all, I have no desire to have a career at this, no ambitions to be a performer at all. I just love music so much, and I love telling story with song. What came to me was that I make music because I can. Life is too short, and I intend to fill mine with music. At some point I might want to throw my creative juices toward recording an album, because it sounds like a fun and rewarding project to me. For now I am in my happy place, and just last night I got another melody for a new song while I drove home from Chaska. My muse is taking me places I never thought I'd go, and it's a very good thing.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Powered by Decaf

Last Thursday night I did not strum, I did not pluck, and I did not drone. What I did do is stand behind a microphone and sing a song that I wrote, with a drummer for back-up. (Thanks Jason!) So begins the next phase of my musical adventure.

I'm going from singing for my cats, to singing in public. It's a really big step for me, because I do have problems with stage fright. But over time I hope to learn to manage it as I sing more and more. This was my first step into the waters, and it was a very safe zone for me. My brother is hosting the Original Works Open Mic night every third Thursday at the Chaska Dunn Brothers. I arrived to find a beautiful old brick building, and it was a relatively quiet night, and I did my best to open my eyes as much as I could and look at my brother and his friend there watching me sing. I arrived 35 minutes before close, so I didn't get the full experience, but the beauty of the venue won me over immediately and I want to go back and fill that lovely coffee shop with some of my original music.

Since caffeine makes me shake even more than my hereditary benign essential tremor does, I was powered by decaf for the night. Now that fall has come and night is here at 7 p.m., I'm looking to get out to more of these small venues to listen, and maybe even to sing a little. I've already made arrangements to switch shifts at work so I can get there by around 6 p.m. so I can experience the whole evening in November. This time I'll bring an instrument, or maybe two, since I don't have very many songs that I've written. Poets and spoken word is welcome too, it's all about orginal stuff.

My hope is that more time spent with other musicians, poets, songwriters, and singers will feed my musical soul, and I'll be able to write some more and expand my original songbook in the coming months. Winter always makes me turn inward, and I wrote my first full song with chords and lyrics in December of 2013. This is a thing to be grateful for, the community of other songwriters and a space to share our works together. Even tonight, I plan on practicing my instruments, working on technique and memorization of songs to perform at the next Fall Music Party.

It has been a long time between posts, my music has continued off and on.  Right now it is turned ON in neon letters daring the long nights of fall and winter to sit and listen to what people like me have to say in melody and verse.Tonight I just wanted to share some of the joy that is simmering in my heart right now, and to give any poets and songwriters a glimpse of the venue which will be hosting a gathering of creative spirits next month. This is the view that the musicians have:

I'm looking forward to some good nights over the coming months. Good think I like coffee! (even if it's decaf)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Ukulele - Playful Kitten of the Guitar Family

Two years ago in April of 2013 on a whim I bought an Ukulele (Ooo-koo-le-le) and joined the Ukulele Underground forum. I kind of learned a few chords and started learning a couple of songs at that time, and I even brought it out for my Spring Music party. During said party, I discovered that keeping it on my makeshift stand (an easel book display) it was easy to knock over, so the back of the neck got dinged. After the party I felt it would be safer to keep it in the gig bag, so I did that.

Fast forward to February 2015, and my little Ukulele has been out of sight and therefore out of mind, still snug and safe (and unplayed)  it the gig bag. But this winter I found myself needing a little more sunshine, and what could be more sunny than an ukulele? So out of the gig back it went and onto my Autoharp stand it sits now between practice session. Rosie the Autoharp was put safely away in her case for now, she's had plenty of attention over the past 2 years.

I signed up for UU+ which includes lots of pre-recorded classes so I can really learn some solid techniques on my dear little Ukulele. After one week of practice I know three chords and am learning two songs with those chords. I just watched Lesson 2 of Ukulele 101 and am looking forward to completing the 10 week course just in time for my Spring Music Party. For those of you interested in such things I have the Lanikai Concert model # LU21C, a nice inexpensive entry level Ukulele with Aquila nylgut strings. I added some stickers to it, so I wouldn't take myself or my little Ukulele so seriously. 

I love the sound, and I'm pretty sure my cats do as well. It really is kittenish and playful. Due to the small size, the ukulele doesn't have much sustain, so you have to keep strumming to keep sound coming out of it. So just like a kitten, it doesn't hold still very long. It's also a strapless instrument, easy to hold with the crook of my elbow and walk around with. This week spare moments have been spent viewing Uke videos online, and have created a playlist that I go to for tips and inspiration on YouTube. Check it out!