Friday, July 27, 2007

Black Bow Hair & Bow Storage

My order for black bow hair finally came in. Apparently, my order got lost, so I've been waiting for about a month. I had a customer who wanted the violin bow rehaired with black bow hair. Black bow hair is coarser than the white and bleached bow hair. Generally, it is used on cello and bass bows because the strings are larger and take more friction to make a sound. I think the black bow hair is also stronger because the individual hairs are slightly thicker. I rehaired two bows today -- one in the black and one in the bleached white hair. I had fun playing the black haired bow, and was switching back and forth between the two bows to hear and feel the difference.

If you have a bow that has real horsehair and you won't be playing for a while, be sure to loosen the bow hair and also store the bow in a plastic bag or in a case with mothballs. This will keep the carpet weevils out of your bow hair. Otherwise, you will open your case and find loose hairs all over the case and little insect larvae and/or shells all around inside the case.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

New Musicians at Tuesday's Jam

Last night was another great jam session. We had several new musicians again, including Lil and three other young fiddlers. In fact, I think it was fiddle night here at the Shack, as we had Paige, Kaitlyn, Veronica, Chelsea and myself on fiddle! We had eight listeners who came just to enjoy the music, which is a bit larger than the usual number. Several of the regulars tried out some new songs, and our newcomers were not shy at all about sharing their talent. I think everyone truly enjoyed the evening -- I know I did!

Banjo Float in the New Athens Homecome Parade

Boy did we ever have a great time playing in the New Athens Homecoming Parade. I think we're probably all sick of "Duelin' Banjos" (if we weren't before), but the crowd loved it! For such a small town, I am amazed at the size of our parade. There were 60 entries in the parade, with a parade route of approximately one mile (I'm guessing).

First of all, I owe a big thank you to all who made this float possible. Terry Lewis painted his 21' flatbed trailer and loaned it to us for the parade. Terry Hill did all of the decorating, which included a real stuffed possom, coyote skins, old traps, washtubs, lanterns, a make-shift roof of old tin, and all kinds of other "cool" hillbilly stuff! Rodney Schilling was kind enough to loan us 10 bales of straw and a trailer to haul them in to get them here. Becky Hill drove the truck during the parade route. Mike Easton, Denny Hepp, Terry Hill, Bill Barttelbort and I know several others helped drag the PA equipment out of the Bluegrass Shack (immediately following the fiddle contest) and onto the truck and float. Bill & Zane helped lead our songs along with me on banjo. Our fellow banjo & guitar players and banjo player want-to-be's (using inflatable banjos) included Igg, David, Terry, Carie, Dillon, Angie, Jackie, Jim, Makayla, Charlie, Emily, Rosemary, Denny, Corrina, Nicole, Paige, and Marilyn. Earl sat at the helm and threw out candy, harmonicas, recorders, kazoos and plastic trumpets. Mike took pictures for us, and here are just a few:

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Guitar Art Contest Winners

The winners of the guitar art contest were announced Sunday at the 2nd Annual Junior Fiddle Contest. Artists were required to decorate a posterboard guitar any way they desired, and the winners were chosen by various folks who came into the store and were asked to pick their favorites. Here are the results of the contest:

1st Place - Zoey Hill
2nd Place - Paige Johnson
3rd Place - Joy Winkeler
4th Place - Nicole Warnecke
5th Place - Mallory Warnecke

Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to all who participated! You made our waiting room a beautiful place!

Fiddle Contest - Standing Room Only

The 2nd Annual Junior Fiddle Contest at The Bluegrass Shack was a huge success! We had a total of 21 fiddle players, and a packed house of listeners. The Belleville News Democrat was there and video-taped the entire contest (all 2-1/2 hours!). We appeared on the front page of the Local Edition Tuesday. You can see a copy of the article and also hear some of the contestants at

The results of the contest are as follows:

12 & Under Division:
1st Place - Martin Hill
2nd Place - Colton Dever
3rd Place - Rose Marie Hill
4th Place - Paige Johnson
5th Place - Alexa Wacker (1st contest)

13-15 Year Old Division:
1st Place - Rachel Neel
2nd Place - Elizabeth Fedorchalk
3rd Place - Charlie Hall (1st contest)
4th Place - Ashley Heyen (1st contest)
5th Place - Angela Winkeler

16-18 Year Old Division:
1st Place - Corrina Logston
2nd Place - Tyler Moore
3rd Place - William Boyer
4th Place - Joy Winkeler

Congratulations to all the contestants for doing an outstanding job! This is some of the best fiddle playing we've ever heard.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

New Stelling Red Fox Banjo Came Today!

We had the pleasant surprise of receiving a Stelling Red Fox banjo today from Stelling Banjo Works. We were told that we wouldn't be getting any more right away, so that was a super nice surprise! If you are wanting a new Stelling banjo, here is your chance. I'm going to try to get pictures posted on the website soon, but in the meantime, come on down and play it!

Tuesday's Jam Session

We had another great session last night. We had a total of 18 participants, and we heard some new songs last night. It is really nice to see some of the new players participating in the open jam. They are doing great and are starting songs when their turn comes around now. Bob and his wife Brenda came for the first time. Bob plays banjo and dobro (and probably more...) and Brenda plays bass. Bob took out his dobro for the jam, so we got to hear some really fine dobro picking! I wish Ben could have been here. They would have been great together!

I haven't had a chance to post the new video clip yet, but we finally took another one last night so we could replace the older one that has been posted on the website for a while.

Channel 8 Video Finally Here!

It's been so long ago since the news camera was here that it has probably been forgotten! I finally was able to get a video of the newsclip that ran in April of this year. Tiffany Winkler is the news woman, and this is from WSIU Channel 8 out of Carbondale, IL.

Click here for WSIU newsclip

Our thanks go out to Tiffany and to all our friends and students that agreed to take part in this exciting event!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Kid's Band Practice

The kid's band practiced tonight with everyone present for the first time in about a month. With summer here, it is hard to work around everyone's schedules! The kids did a great job, and this was probably the best practice they've had yet.

In case you are wondering, the kids band is a group of students that I put together so that they could learn to play with other people and in a band type setting. It is a way for them to sing lead and harmony, learn to play backup, learn how to go from backup to breaks, and everything else they need to know. Austin (banjo) is 11 years old, Haley (fiddle) is 9, Jaclyn (guitar) is 10, and Makayla (bass & fiddle) is 13. The songs we worked on tonight were Old Joe Clark, Mama Don't 'Low, I'll Fly Away, Bile Them Cabbage, and Turkey in the Straw.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Way Cool Fiddle!

I just finished working on a really unique fiddle and had to share the pictures with you. This is a German fiddle from around 1890, and was probably made in either Berlin or Dresden. It came to me with these unusual pegs and tailpiece. I figure this is something you will either love or hate, but regardless, they certainly ARE unique!

I bushed three of the four peg holes so that I could use the original tuners. Generally, these decorative fiddles don't sound very good. Story has it that they were made from poor quality wood, so they decorated them. I guess they figured if it wouldn't sound good, it would at least look good. This is not the case with this fiddle! It is very loud and has a lot of bass in it. It was quite a nice surprise.

The beautiful red varnish is original, and although this one has quite a few cracks in the top, they were already repaired when I got it. None of them are bass bar or sound post cracks, so that's also good. I had to glue some loose seams, clean and polish it, make a new bridge and soundpost, and give it a basic setup.

The decorative edge is made from mother of pearl and dyed pear wood. The design on the back is made from various woods and mother of pearl. The inlay on the fingerboard is also mother of pearl. The pegs and the tailpiece are yellow, marbled plastic.

If you are interested in purchasing this beauty, it is for sale. If you want to come by the shop and pick it up, it will cost $799. If you want it mailed to you, add another $30 for insurance and postage. If you don't want to purchase it but you want to see and play it, come on by!!!!

To view larger images, click on the pictures:

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Another Big Monday Jam!

Our Monday night Beginner's Jam has really exploded. I have decided to cap the number of people to what we currently have so that I can be an effective teacher. I was originally going to split the group after the last jam, but it seems like everything is working out very well now and I'm going to leave it as is. It is really awesome to see how everyone is improving, and also how brave everyone is becoming in trying to take lead breaks.

Larry R., one of our new participants, sang for the first time. He decided to do Amazing Grace, which was good because we all got a chance to practice the 3/4 (waltz) strum.

John picked Blue Moon of Kentucky for his second song, and did an amazingly good job. We talked about different ways to arrange the song, and what to tell people if he were to do this in any jam session. We decided to start off slow, then have a banjo or fiddle lead-in with the faster tempo. I think it's good for everyone to be able to practice this.

Charlie, another new participant, took leads on several songs. I know he was nervous because he had not ever practiced the breaks before, but he did great. His sister also took a nice break on her mandolin on Worried Man Blues. I like it when everyone is trying to take breaks because not only is it good for them, but it allows me to stay on guitar so everyone can see the chord changes.

We talked several times about not using books and chord charts when jamming. I try to encourage everyone to close the books unless you are the lead singer and need the words. I want everyone to get used to looking at the guitar player's hand for chord changes. We continue to discuss the Nashville Number System every session, and we also review plenty of other topics.

John asked a really good question about how to figure out what key to sing something in. We used his new song, Blue Moon of Kentucky, to demonstrate how to do this. We talked about making sure the song didn't get too high or too low in any spot, and then we talked about trying several different keys to see which one was best. One of the hardest things about trying different keys is figuring out which keys to try and what order to try them in so that you are not just haphazard about this. A person must figure out whether to try a higher or lower key based on how they felt when they were singing. (Were they straining to reach any notes?) Using the musical alphabet, you will either go up or down one key at a time, trying each key until you discover which one is best. Having another person listen can also be helpful if you seem to be able to sing the song okay in several keys. We also talked about how most people will sing songs in the same or similar key, but how this is not always true. Jambalaya is a good example of this.

Our new participants are supposed to be deciding on a song to sing for the next session. I think we'll be ready to try an easy instrumental soon.