Monthly Archive for March, 2012

Shaggy Ponies

Hi folks! I’ll start with a quick NH show announcement, then get on to stories and anecdotes below…

Saturday March 17
The Listening Room @ MindFull Books
29 Main Street, Jaffrey, NH
7pm potluck, 8pm music, cover $7

How are you? It’s been two months since I last wrote, detailing my brush with NY Times coverage for teaching Skype music lessons. They didn’t end up quoting me, but it was still a thrill to get a voicemail from the NYT and then do the interview.

In other news, I spent last week in northern California visiting family, and enjoyed morning walks around a half-rural half-industrial neighborhood in Rio Linda, during which I got to commune with three shaggy miniature ponies wearing legwarmers and very 80s ironed hair.

Also, I learned that Carmichael CA is completely overrun with poultry. Roosters and chickens everywhere, roaming free, stopping traffic. If appearances are to be believed, you could hunt for (non-colored) Easter eggs there EVERY day.

My harmonica quest continues. A few months ago I experimented with tuning my harmonicas myself, ruining a few reeds and eventually turning out two workable alternate-tuning instruments for playing Irish fiddle tunes.

Lately I’ve been working on my overblows, playing scales in all 12 keys on a single C harmonica, and trying out familiar melodies in every position. Today it was The Beatles’ “In My Life.” Imagine living with a six-year-old violinist who’s can’t play in tune yet and practices incessantly. My neighbors must love me.

For the harp tech geeks among you, I’ve begun learning to emboss my reedplates to make them more airtight, using a special tool I ordered from Sweden. No joke. As always, I destroyed a couple of instruments before getting it right. Good thing I have so many crusty old harps lying around.

In guitar land, I’ve shifted gears towards flatpicking my Irish fiddle tunes rather than fighting fighting fighting to get them fast enough on harmonica. Turns out I’m a pretty serviceable melody player on my primary instrument. Who knew?

The newest ukulele to join my household is a baritone; bigger and deeper than the tenors and sopranos. I haven’t had it long enough to really explore it, but I was inspired by the uke instrumentals in the background of Chuck Brodsky’s recent Kickstarter campaign video. I do like the limitation of having four strings instead of six. At a recent restaurant gig, I played a couple of uke solos, including “Something,” by The Beatles.

Teaching-wise, some of my students have been getting into songwriting, and it’s been really cool to help facilitate that. They’re doing their own music and lyrics, and I make suggestions for structuring what they’ve got, how to fit their vocal melody to a guitar part. We’ll probably get into recording too, once their songs are polished up.

I think that’s it for now. If you’d like help with guitar, ukulele, or harmonica, let me know. I teach lessons each week here in the Northeast, and online via Skype. Maybe I’ll see a few of you out in Jaffrey this Saturday, too :)

Thanks for reading!
Tad