Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Learnin' to play those fancy licks

As a young boy I wanted desperately to learn to play the electric guitar like those guys I heard on the radio. My grandmother was very supportive of my musical interests, and gave me an electric guitar for Christmas one year. After a few months of strange, aurally abusive noise, she signed me up for some classes with a local teacher. Three months later I had nearly mastered half a dozen chords that I was incapable of putting together to make music. It was determined that, perhaps, I should try another instrument. The next year in grade school I decided to take an orchestra class. The instructor thought I could be molded into a cellist, so a cello as large as me was rented and I began the long process of extracting the most horrible sounds that a cello shouldn’t even be capable of producing. At the end of the school year I wasn’t asked to sign up for the next year.

My grandmother had played an old pump organ in her younger years and thought that if she bought an organ and played it, that I may find an interest there. I did enjoy her playing and with lots of practice I could at least play simple, recognizable songs on my own. Unfortunately, I had just entered that stage in life when one takes an interest in the other gender. At social gatherings I noticed that the guys that played an instrument were always surrounded by girls, but it was not easy to tote an organ to a bon fire at the lake. My grandmother suggested I try the accordion; after all, it is basically a portable pump organ. So, an accordion was acquired and the lessons started.

I actually enjoyed the accordion, and found it suited my well. But I was entering high school, and the music from the Lawrence Welk show was just not going to cut it. Besides, “Smoke on the Water” on accordion was not quite “Smoke on the Water”. I set the accordion aside and have never returned.

In the early 1970s my interests in the traditional music of the Appalachians was growing. I bought myself a dulcimer and taught myself to play by ear and from books such as “In Search of the Wild Dulcimer.” Finally, an instrument I could play and enjoy. Not long after that I took up the Autoharp. Both have been good friends for many years now.

Those of you who play an instrument may know the frustration of finding “your” instrument. I’d be willing to bet that a more than a few of you have, like me, tried a few until you found the one that suits you. I’d also bet that there are a few riders on the Bus that have not found their instrument yet. Don’t give up! Whether it be as simple as playing the spoons or washboard, or drumming your fingers on the arm of a chair, there is music in each of us.

Chet Atkins & Tommy Emmanuel - Ode To Mel Bay.mp3

John Hartford - My Rag.mp3

Bryan Bowers - Battle Hymn of the Republic.mp3


Anonymous Dan said...

Ed, I had completely forgotten Mel Bay. There was a Mel Bay method for every stringed instrument known to man! Thanks for the memory. In high school, I had to choose an instrument to play, too. By the time I made my choice, all the cool ones like the tuba and drums were taken. I ended up with the clarinet. To this day, I curse Acker Bilk. I've never heard "The Battle Hymn" sound so fine. Nice posts.

June 28, 2007 6:36 PM  
Blogger kjk said...

don't give up is right, ed! and don't fall into the trap of thinking that you need to start out as a youngster. my older brother taught me some guitar chords when i was in college and i put the thing down until just about three or four years ago -- in my forties. i started learning fiddle two years ago June 21st. I have a long way to go on both instruments, but i'm having a blast playing with them.

June 28, 2007 6:48 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Dan, Mel Bay STILL has a method for every stringed instrument! Clarinet, eh? Do you ever pick one up?

Brayn Bowers' rendition of "The Battle Hymn" is what prompted me to buy my first Autoharp.

June 28, 2007 9:48 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Ken, Good for you! I think a little patience and experience that comes with a little age makes learning an instrument less of a chore.

I have been wanting to pick up the accordion again, it's been nearly 35 years since I last played.

June 28, 2007 9:55 PM  
Blogger kjk said...

pick it up, my friend. pick it up!

for, me it's not only the patience and experience of life. but knowing that it's for fun and not to put bread on the table also makes a world of difference. my rock star fantasies are long behind me, and the sheer enjoyment of seeing my own improvement is a very powerful thing. throw in the social aspects of playing and we are already "knocking on heaven's door...." can life get better than that?

June 28, 2007 10:32 PM  
Blogger DMonk said...

Hi Ed, I know the feeling, off and on many a instrument has been seen in my living room. But your last remark triggered my comment, I picked up a washboard two years ago and there it was!

June 29, 2007 1:57 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Ken, You've summed it all up well.

I've been keeping an eye out for an inexpensive accordion for a while now.

June 29, 2007 10:20 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

dmonk, washboard, eh? Not as simple to play as most folks think, and adds a special touch to so many types of music.

Like I said, there is music in all of us. Fortunatly, you didn't give up before you found yours!

June 29, 2007 10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mom had an old accordion. It's still in a closet. I can't play it, but I do miss mom's tunes.

June 29, 2007 11:11 AM  
Blogger DMonk said...

Ed, that's for sure. Not so simple to play and not so easy on the neighbors either ;-)

June 29, 2007 11:36 AM  
Blogger kjk said...

washboard, eh?

i saw this band at the IFG this past weekend. They also had a washtub bass, which was pretty cool.

They are the Woodstove Flapjacks whose main site seems to be down at the moment.

They were a real crowd pleaser, opening up for Foghorn's last set on Sunday. I was considering buying a CD. When i saw the line, i thought i'd just get one on-line. alas, they don't have an on-line retailer as of yet ....

June 29, 2007 9:13 PM  

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