Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Jam Sessions for 2009

Hello Everyone! Just wanted to give you all the information for our Tuesday night jam sessions for 2009.

We have jam sessions every other Tuesday night, starting at 7:30 p.m. and lasting until everyone leaves, which is generally around 10:30 p.m. or so. These are acoustic only jam sessions and they are open to everyone. We are very beginner friendly here, so jammers of any level are welcome. We have a microphone we pass around the circle so the leader of each song can be heard easily.

Here is the schedule for 2009:

January 6th & 20th
February 3rd & 17th
March 3rd, 17th & 31st
April 14th & 28th
May 12th & 26th
June 9th & 23rd
July 7th & 21st
August 4th & 18th
September 1st, 15th & 29th
October 13th & 27th
November 10th & 24th
December 8th

You Know You're Improving When...

This is great! I got a nice Christmas card from Jim. He is learning to play fiddle and wrote this in his card:

"I know I'm improving because the cats don't leave the room anymore when I pick up the fiddle to practice."

You gotta love it!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Practice, Practice, Practice!

This is an article written by Steve Kirtley from Fiddler Magazine, Summer 1995:

You've probably heard the old joke about the lady who went to New York city to attend a concert but got lost on her way to Carnegie Hall. She saw a man walking down the street carrying a violin case. She thought a musician would certainly be able to giver her directions, so she asked "Young man, how do you get to Carnegie Hall?" He looked up, evidently startled, and without thinking replied, "Lady, it takes practice, practice, practice."

Whatever your musical goals are, it is true that practice is indispensable. You can't become a skilled musician by just wishing, thinking about it, or watching others. You have to actually pick up an instrument and play.

This brings me to "Kirtley's 1,000 Hour Theorem," which states that "It takes 1,000 hours to learn a new skill (more or less); you can stretch it out over a long period of time or do it all at once."

Kirtley's Theorem applies to any skill: playing tennis, flying an airplane, or playing the fiddle. In none of these activities could you ever say you've learned all there is to learn, but for purposes of this discussion let's say that it takes 1,000 hours to get to "a certain level of competence." So then, the question becomes: how long does it take to put in 1,000 hours of practice time? If you practice one hour per week, like I sometimes do, it will take nearly 20 years. That doesn't sound so good. What if I practice an hour a day? That cuts it down to under 3 years, a tremendous difference! But, let's say I'm really serious, and I want to be the intergalactic fiddle champion as soon as possible. If I put in 10 hours a day I'll have logged 1,000 hours in just over 3 months! The point, of course, is that you have a great deal of control over your progress by varying your practice time.

Now, I'm not suggesting that the number of hours of practice is the only factor in learning. It's also important to practice the right skills. A good teacher can help you learn much faster. Exposure to good role models can make a difference, and probably lots of other things. But, all these are worthless without practice.

But, you're saying to yourself, what about talent? Isn't that an important factor? It's true that some individuals have more natural talent than others, but I think that a definition of talent would have to be a lot like Thomas Edison's definition of invention: "One percent inspiration, ninety nine percent perspiration." I think you'll find that the musicians who seem to have lots of talent are the ones who have done lots of "practice, practice, practice."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Bluegrass Festival January 2-3, 2009!!!

Just wanted to remind everyone again about the bluegrass festival at the start of the new year! It is the 27th Annual Ray Austin Memorial Winter Bluegrass Festival held at the Holiday Inn Six Flags in Eureka, MO. It is a nice festival and a really great venue.

Friday night is the fiddle & banjo contest. There are Open and Junior divisions in each instrument category. For complete information, see MABC's bulletin board at http://b5.boards2go.com/boards/board.cgi?action=read&id=1229403162&user=mabc.

There will be instrument workshops Saturday morning for fiddle, banjo, bass, guitar and mandolin. There might be a bass workshop, too. Bluegrass concerts all afternoon and evening, and jamming all day and night! Here's a link to the flyer: http://www.bluegrassamerica.com/Resources/EurekaJan2009.pdf

Monday, December 22, 2008

Talent Contest in Mascoutah Feb. 15, 2009

I received an e-mail today requesting that I forward this message to anyone who might be interested. If you'd like to enter the talent contest, please click on the picture of the entry form so you can print it, fill it out, and send it in.

I don't have anything to do with this contest, so if you have questions, you'll have to call the number on the entry form. Here is the information:

There will be a talent show in Mascoutah on Feb. 15, 2009 at the Espenschied Chapel. Feel free to forward this to anyone who might be interested. This is not limited to musicians. Keep in mind that this will be an all ages event. Comedians: G-rated material only.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fiddle & Banjo Contest - Eureka, MO

MABC (Missouri Area Bluegrass Committee AKA Bluegrass America) is hosting its 27th Annual Ray Austin Memorial Winter Bluegrass Festival in Eureka, MO. It will be held Friday and Saturday, January 2-3, 2009. It is easy to find -- it will be held at the Holiday Inn Six Flags, which is right off Hwy. 44 in Eureka.

This is a great festival held at a really nice venue. Lots of jamming, Saturday morning workshops for individual instruments, and great shows on Saturday.

In particular, I wanted to make note of the fiddle & banjo contest which will be held Friday night. There will be a Youth Division & Open Division for each contest. You can get the details for the contest from MABC's bulletin board here: http://b5.boards2go.com/boards/board.cgi?action=read&id=1229403162&user=mabc

For more information on the festival, you can download a .pdf version of the flyer here (please note, it will take a few minutes to download the file before it appears): http://www.bluegrassamerica.com/Resources/EurekaJan2009.pdf

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bluegrass Shack T-Shirts Now Available!

We are proud to offer our very own t-shirts! Right now, we have adult sizes S, M, L, and XL. We will be getting larger sizes soon! Imagine how good you'll look in one of these!

The Bluegrass Shack Christmas Party!!!!

WOW! What a great time we had! If you weren't there, you missed food, fellowship and music with about 200 people. It was absolutely amazing.

Before I get started on any details, I want to thank Father Nall and the parish of St. Agatha Catholic Church for letting us use their new multi-purpose building. We set out a donation can at the party and collected almost $200 for the parish.

I think one of the things that pleased me most about the evening was seeing the group of boys from St. Agatha School get their guitars out and play along with all of the Christmas carols that we all sang. I printed out 20 copies of the Christmas carols that had the chord changes on them so that anyone that wanted to could join us. Many of my other students, parents, grandparents and friends also joined us. It was so neat hearing banjos, guitars, fiddles, mandolins, a bass, and various small percussion instruments (thanks to Jessie!) play along with 100 or more singers!!!!

We had the largest group of fiddle players that we've ever had. I don't have any pictures of them yet, so hopefully someone will send me some. I think we had something like 20 players. It really sounded beautiful!

There was a surprise visit from Santa Claus. Even I didn't know he was coming! He brought candy canes for all of the boys and girls. Unfortunately, Denny (whose age we won't mention because he's over 30) had not been good this year and Santa brought him a stick...

We had so many attendance prizes to give out that I had to just draw 15 names at the end of the evening to give them all away. Earl had been running back and forth throughout the evening drawing names for me, so I think he was probably glad when I asked him to just bring me the entire container! The grand prize winner of the Bluegrass Shack gingerbread house was Bobby from Oakdale. Bobby's wife, Barbara, was actually on her way up to the front to take a picture of the gingerbread house before I gave it away when I called Bobby's name.

The food was incredible. I don't think I've seen such a spread ever! Imagine a potluck dinner with 100 food dishes! I'm surprised I didn't go into diabetic shock after the party. Nick was kind enough to bring soda and water for the entire group of people. Thank you, Nick! He also took the only pictures that I have right now. (So please send me yours so I can post more!!!!)

I can't say thank you enough to Becky for organizing all the food layouts, Denny, Verlan and Mike for helping load and unload everything, and the MANY MANY other people who pitched in helping me with every aspect. Even the clean-up went without a hitch. Kids and adults alike were sweeping, wiping tables, putting the chairs and tables back in order, clearing off tables, organizing the leftovers, etc.

It was such a wonderful evening. I praise the Lord for such good friends and fellowship! Here are some pictures that Nick took for me:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Why I Teach

This is a letter I got from Jim yesterday in my e-mail:

Ruby and I wish you both a happy holidays. Wanted to let you know that my rhythm has improved much in the past year since you helped me. Enjoy my music and guitars. Now I must find someone to play with as I have never done that. To bad I live so far away. Again I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the time you spent with me. All I ever wanted to do was to play guitar and sing around a campfire, and at home. This, thanks to you, is now possible. Just wanted to take the time to say thanks.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Marian on Guitar

This is one of my adult students that has been taking guitar lessons for close to a year now. Marian and her husband Dolton both take lessons here and attend our beginner's jam session every other Monday. Marian does a great job with rhythm and with flatpicking, and I am pleased that she allowed me to take this video of her:

In the News!

This is Millie playing at a local fiddle contest with her mother (Rhonda) playing guitar for her. Millie is only 9 years old and is a student of mine. She does a great job! (You can hear her playing Faded Love in a previous post which is also on YouTube.) Millie and Rhonda attend our jam sessions, and she sings as good as she plays!

Stelling Banjo is Here!

The Stelling Red Fox banjo finally came in yesterday! If you are looking for one for Christmas, now is the time to get it.

Bluegrass Shack Gingerbread House!

Just thought I'd share this with everyone. One of my family traditions is to make a gingerbread house each Christmas. Many of my family members and several friends also participate. My mother is an angel to do this for us! We all meet at her house and she actually makes and bakes all the gingerbread and frosting for the houses. She also provides all kinds of candy to decorate the houses with

I made my gingerbread house a small replica of The Bluegrass Shack again this year. The only thing that is not edible is the banjo on the top. Once again this year, students of The Bluegrass Shack will have a chance to take home the gingerbread house. Every student that attends the Christmas party on Saturday can put their name in a drawing. During the party, I will draw one name and that lucky person will get to take the gingerbread house home. Here are pictures for everyone:

Friday, December 5, 2008

Installing Schaller Violin Tuning Pegs

Today I installed some Schaller tuners on a fiddle that we now have for sale in our shop. I happened to notice that the instructions that came along with these tuners were quite laughable. Take a look at this (click on the picture to make it larger):

I decided that I would do a search on the internet to find some better instructions, and was not able to find any. I even looked on Schaller's website, which is supposed to have instructions on all their tuners. Since there was nothing else to be found (at least I couldn't find it), I decided this would be a good topic upon which to post a how-to video. I took some still pictures and added narration to it and here's what I came up with. Hopefully somebody else out there will find this helpful or at least interesting!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Hammered Zither

There were a few accessories in the zither box that Terry brought by the other day. I didn't know what they were, but I think I figured it out last night. The hammer is really cool!!!!

Stelling Red Fox on its way!

Just wanted to let everyone know that I got a call from Stelling Banjo Company this morning and a Red Fox banjo is on its way here! We generally sell the Stellings as soon as they get here, so if you're interested please give us a call!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Amazing Grace Played on the Zither

Terry brought this zither into the shop today. I've never seen one quite like this and decided to tune it and try to play it. I haven't actually seen anyone play one and I've never heard one before, so I figured there were a lot of other people out there who hadn't either. I think I spent almost an hour tuning the thing, but it actually has a really pretty sound to it. I know I don't have the right technique, but I did figure out how to play Amazing Grace on it:

Monday, November 24, 2008

Silent Night on Banjo

Okay! For all you banjo players out there -- here is how to play Silent Night on the banjo. It's not super easy, but it's also not too hard, so you can probably do it!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

3rd Annual Bluegrass Shack Student Christmas Party!

Yeah!!! We have a date now for our 3rd Annual Christmas Party! This party is for students of the Bluegrass Shack and their families. Make sure you pick up a flyer at the store so you have all the details. The party will be held on Saturday, December 13, 2008, from 7:00 - 9:30 p.m. Bring a snack to share and your instrument! Grandparents and family are welcome, too.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sailor's Hornpipe by Colton

This is 9-year old Colton playing Sailor's Hornpipe. He really likes this song and only started learning it two weeks ago! I believe Colton has been playing for 4 or 5 years.

Introducing Ashley!

This is 15-year old Ashley. She has been taking lessons with me for about 4 years now. Ashley is also a talented guitar and piano player, and she sings and composes her own songs.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Videos from Espenscheid Chapel

Hello Everyone! The Chris Talley Trio played in Mascoutah, IL at the Espenscheid Chapel on Sunday. We had a very nice crowd, and the chapel has absolutely fantastic acoustics for our type of music! Here are some videos that Earl took for those of you who couldn't attend.

Goodbye Little Darling

Margaret's Waltz

Frisco Line

Pig in a Pen

Goodbye and So Long to You

Old Joe Clark

Orange Blossom Special

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Faded Love Duet

This is 9-year old Millie playing Faded Love with me. She is playing the melody and I am playing the harmony. Doesn't she do a great job?!!!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Nikki in Springfield

Here is the video of Nikki playing her banjo in the Showcase Saturday morning at the Springfield, Illinois bluegrass festival. Way to go, Nikki!

Chelsea, Chris & Ron in Springfield

Here is the video of us playing in the Showcase Saturday morning at Springfield Bluegrass festival. Many thanks for Larry for taking the video for us!!!!

22nd Annual Greater Downstate Indoor Bluegrass Festival

Wow! Did we ever have a great time in Springfield this year! Nikki, my 11-year old banjo student, won a banjo scholarship to attend the Bill Evans banjo workshop on Friday. She had a blast and did so well! Nikki also played in the Showcase on Saturday, as did Chelsea. I played guitar for Nikki, and then Chelsea and I worked up Orange Blossom Special as a duet and got Ron to play guitar for us. We are using toothpicks halfway through instead of our bows. I am posting the videos in separate blog entries, so you'll have to check out the next two entries for the videos.

On Sunday when we were packing up to leave, a camera man from a local Springfield television station came by and filmed Chelsea and me for the news. Here is a picture of Chelsea being interviewed for the news!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bluegrass Wood Carving

Yesterday I went to the Wood Carving Show at the fairgrounds in Belleville. There was this absolutely wonderful carving of an entire bluegrass band. Zane was kind enough to take a picture for me and he e-mailed it to me this morning. What do you think??? Isn't it great?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Banjo Fingerpicks - Types and Fitting

Due to an overwhelming number of people asking about proper fit of fingerpicks, or how to make them more comfortable, or how to keep them on while playing, I decided to make this video to explain all of this. It is in Two Parts due to size.

Part One:

Part Two:

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Chris Talley Trio Plays in Mascoutah November 16

The Chris Talley Trio will be playing in Mascoutah, Illinois on Sunday, November 16th. The concert will start at 2:00 and will be held in the Espenschied Chapel (Mascoutah Cemetary Chapel) located at 317 County Road. This will be our last public concert of the year, so come one and all!! The cost is $5.00 at the door. Since the chapel is not affiliated with any church and is self-supporting, your money helps with the upkeep. Hope to see you there!

Indian Head Fiddle

This is a one of a kind indian head fiddle. The scroll was carved by Zane Prosser and is absolutely exquisite! I have posted two videos and some pictures for you to look at and to hear the fiddle.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Contest Results

We had another outstanding contest at L&B's on Saturday. There were a total of 45 contestants in 9 different divisions. It took us about 3 hours to get through all of the contestants, and The Chris Talley Trio also played for the first half hour to start everything off.

Many thanks to all the people who helped us out! First of all, L&B's donated -- FREE OF CHARGE -- the hall for the entire day. The Hall Family provided the stage background decorations and even put them up for us. Diane and Nikki decorated all of the tables. Verlan, Marilyn, Liz and Zane helped out at the doors. Andy folded all of the numbers that the contestants had to draw for playing order. Carla took care of the scorekeeping, and Igg and Bill did all of the judging. Terry & Denny provided the wood for the trophies from old cedar telephone poles. Earl spent hours cutting them out. There were many other behind the scenes helpers, and to all of you, THANK YOU!!!!

Here are the results:

Junior II Fiddle (12 & Under)
(Total of 14 contestants in this division!)
1st - Paige Johnson
2nd - Rosemary Hall
3rd - Amelia Eisenhauer
4th - Colton Dever
5th - Jodi Frey

Junior I Fiddle (13-17 Years)
1st - Rachel Neel
2nd - Charlie Hall
3rd - Jake Hammel
4th - Alex Skurat

Adult Beginner Fiddle
1st - Liz Durako
2nd - Dennis Huebner
3rd - Sylvia Mills

Open Fiddle (18 & Over)
1st - Brian Smyth
2nd - Chelsea Perkinson
3rd - Fred Pringle
4th - Tim Dever

Senior Fiddle (60 & Over)
1st - Andy Talley
2nd - John Bell
3rd - Ron Dailey
4th - John Barnett

Junior Banjo (15 & Under)
1st - Nikki Warnecke
2nd - Emily Hall
3rd - Luke Worthington
4th - Jeremy Morris
5th - Josh Dolan

Adult Beginner Banjo
1st - Larry Reuss
2nd - Bobby Napier
3rd - Jana Fett

Open Banjo (16 & over)
1st - Justin Robbins
2nd - Brian Smyth
3rd - Jake Hammel
4th - Terry Hill

Senior Banjo (60 & over)
1st - Verlan Vielweber
2nd - Larry Maxwell
3rd - John Bell

Thank You E-mail

I received this nice e-mail today regarding our October 2008 fiddle contest:

Hi Chris & the Bluegrass Shack!
Thanks so much for hosting the Fiddle & Banjo Contest last Saturday! Our son, Jeremy, participated in your banjo contest for the juniors. He loved it! We came across your web-site for this contest and Jeremy insisted on attending. Contests for this age division are far and few. We are pleased to know that you are carrying on the tradition to the younger generation.

Jeremy was so proud to wear his medal to school to show his teachers and friends. He is also very proud of the historic banjo trophy. He was asking questions about how they would make it on the way home. What a heirloom for him! Thanks to the person who worked so hard on cutting these out!

Unfortunately, we weren't able to stay for all of the divisions but thoroughly enjoyed the juniors.

Jeremy loves Bluegrass Music and wishes to attend next year if you host one......and as he says, "I want to stay for all of it."

Thanks so much!
Brian & Robin

Friday, October 24, 2008

Old Time Fiddle Playing

This is my dad, Andy Talley, playing Missouri old-time fiddle style. We recorded these right in the shop...and by the way, dad is 82 years old and still playing strong!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hey! My Bow Broke!

Proper bow care is crucial to having a long-lasting relationship with your fiddle bow. It is so easy to tap the tip on the floor or accidentally drop the bow. Bow tips are very fragile and can crack or break pretty easily. That is even true of carbon bows -- and sometimes more true of carbon bows than wood bows. Carbon bows usually have metal rods in them that end near the tip, so the bow is more likely to break at the tip than at any other place. Sometimes you won't even know that you damaged the bow because it doesn't break at the time you drop it. Maybe you have just weakened it and there are no noticeable cracks at the time. Kids sometimes play with bows like they are swords, or they may absent-mindedly tap the tip or end on the floor over and over again. Bows that break generally are not repaired. If the bow is expensive enough, then it may warrant a repair; however, they are never the same again!!! :o(

Saw Dust Everywhere!

Earl has been busy making all the trophies for this Saturday's contest. The fiddle & banjo trophies are made out of cedar this time. We owe a big thank-you to Denny and Terry for providing us with the cedar. The only good thing about cedar dust EVERYWHERE is that it smells really good!!!!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Reminder: Fiddle & Banjo Contest This Saturday!

Just a reminder to everyone that our annual October Fiddle & Banjo Contest is this weekend. Hope to see you there. For more information, follow this link: http://thebluegrassshack.blogspot.com/2008/08/oct-25-fiddle-banjo-contest.html

Advanced Instructional Jam

The advanced jam class is really doing great. We have been working on Red Haired Boy, Fox on the Run, Rocky Top, Foggy Mountain Breakdown and Old Joe Clark. We also played three tunes that no one in the class had played before and everyone had the opportunity to take breaks on these songs. It is meant to be just like a regular jam session without the pressure -- and with the ability to ask as many questions as you want afterwards! We are going to add Jerusalem Ridge, Salt Creek, and several more vocals to our reportoire soon. I am waiting for requests from the participants. Tonight's class included Verlan, Larry M., Larry R., Gary, Denny, Earl, Amelia, Christine, John, Emily, Rosemary, Kabbie, Charlie, and Nick. At the beginning of class, Rosemary, Larry R. and Charlie played for the class the tunes that they will be playing in the fiddle & banjo contest this weekend. Great job everyone!!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How to Play Turkey in the Straw on Banjo

Stacey e-mailed me over the weekend to ask a few questions about how to play Turkey in the Straw. I figured the best way to help him was to post a video showing how to do it. Now you can take advantage of this opportunity and learn it, too! Good luck!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Al's Dobro Debut

This is Al, my oldest student. Al is 76, and has only played dobro for 2 months. He spent his whole life in the military as a chaplain, and did not start to learn an instrument until recently. I am so proud of him! Here he is playing Wabash Cannonball.

Larry Plays Rocky Top!

This is Larry doing a great job on a bluegrass favorite! Larry's only been playing about 3 years and is doing a super job!

Addicted to Guitar

Okay. This is so funny I had to share it. Here is an e-mail I got this morning from Sylvia:

Dave had shoulder surgery to repair a torn ligament and is not allowed to take off the arm sling or move his upper arm away from his body. He has been having withdrawals from his guitar and I recently caught him attempting to practice blackberry blossom with this improvised but largely ineffective method of holding his guitar!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Interesting Label

I always tell people that the least important feature of a violin or fiddle is the label that is inside. So many times, these labels are not original or have been altered in some way. This was done years ago not so much to make a fiddle look more valuable, but in some cases to make it look less valuable. For instance, when the Jewish people were persecuted by Germany, they would hide their fiddles and often change the labels to make them look less valuable. After WWII, the Germans weren't thought of very highly, so some people changed the German labels to make the instruments look like they came from somewhere else. Nowadays, it is not uncommon for labels to be changed or forged on auction sites to make the instruments appear to be more valuable than they actually are. In fact, I have even seen just the labels for sale! I ran across this label inside a fiddle I was working on and thought it would be a great example to show here. Notice how the Made in Germany label has been stamped over.

Bow Repair

I haven't posted any repair pictures lately. Believe me, I've been busy doing them, but just haven't had the time to post any pictures lately. Here is a bow rewrap. Kind of interesting, but not that technical. I order the silver bow wrap on a spool and hold it between my legs when I'm wrapping. It keeps the wire tight. I usually wrap over about 1/2" to start with so that it stays tight and together. I solder the end where the leather grip goes. Here are a few pictures.

Chris Talley Trio at Eckert's in Belleville

Just wanted to let everyone know that The Chris Talley Trio will be playing at the Eckert's Orchard in Belleville, IL on Saturday, October 18, from 1:00-5:00 p.m. Last time they had us out in the "back 40" where the kid's area is. Several people told us they waited for a while and then either left or finally asked where we were, so I wanted to make sure that you we will be there unless it rains us out!

Interpretation & Correctness -- And I Stand Corrected

I've been having an interesting conversation with S.B. regarding the chord structure of Jerusalem Ridge. In particular, we have been discussing the chords of the 3rd section of the song. I had learned it without any runs and have been playing it Am, Dm, E, Am. Not having heard (or maybe it was that I didn't pay close enough attention to) the original recording of Kenny Baker and Bill Monroe, I assumed that the C chord was part of a run; however, I don't believe that's the case anymore. More importantly, I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss interpretation of bluegrass music. (You can view the original comments here.)

Most of my students know by now that I encourage individuality and improvisation. I don't need to (and don't want to) have 50, 100, 200 or more students leaving here sounding just like me. We have talked many times during lessons about how words, chords, and melodies get changed over the years, and in different parts of the United States. I just haven't discussed that here in the blog before.

My view of improvisation is that it has to meet certain criteria. In particular, you have to stay within the chord structure of the song. Now this can be hard when there are different versions of the song floating around. How do you know which one is "correct"? And does it matter? Secondly, the melody must be played (or sung) in such a way that the song is recognizable. If you are going to stray very far from the melody, it is important to state the melody the first time around before straying. Thirdly, your rhythm has to be correct. If it's not, it can affect the first two points that I made in the very least.

I'm going to address the first point I made, since that is what this post is really about. There are times when I know about different versions and chord structures of songs. I try to point that out. I also try to have students "follow the leader" when they are in jam sessions. In other words, even if you learned it one way, play it the way the leader is playing it, if reasonable and possible. (That doesn't mean that if the leader has no rhythm that you copy that!) If you know the leader is playing something non-standard, you will have to decide yourself if and how you would say something later on...

So does it matter if you play the song one way and someone else plays it another? Yes and no. It matters if the integrity of the song is at stake. Imagine that you wrote a song and someone else starting playing or singing it and used some different chords in it. It wouldn't sound the same. Although it might be flattering that someone liked your song well enough to play it, it could be very disheartening if lots of others started copying this different chord structure. Worse yet, what if they used that person's version as the "correct" version? Wouldn't you be a better judge of that since you wrote the song?

What if you like your version better than the original version? I guess this is up for discussion, but at the very least, you should be aware of this difference. Especially if you are going to teach it to other people.

How do you know which version is "correct"? By going back to the original. That might sound simple, but it can sometimes be tough because so many people have recorded the songs over the years. You can look for copyrights on websites like www.harryfox.com, or you can listen to musicians who generally represent the "standard," like Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs.

I love bluegrass music and I hope to pass this love along to many others. In the process, I hope to encourage individuality and interpretation without compromising the traditional bluegrass that is our heritage and backbone.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

One Year for Emily

Last year, Emily was playing mandolin in one of our instructional groups here at The Bluegrass Shack. Another banjo student overheard her mention how much she wanted to learn banjo. This banjo student had several banjos and was willing to give her one so she could learn. This week marks the one year anniversary that Emily started playing banjo. She is one of the fastest learning students I have ever had. This is Emily playing Clinch Mountain Backstep.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Yard Sale, Auction & Music/DVD Sale on Saturday!

We are having a yard sale here on Saturday. Not a lot of music stuff in particular, but stuff from our house and a few of our friend's houses.

The business next door went out of business early this year, and the bank is auctioning off all the inventory. It was a landscaping business, so there will be some pallets of landscaping bricks & blocks, gravel, tools and I really don't know what all. Come on out and take advantage of the day!

We will also be having a sale (in the store) on all of our music books and DVDs. Take 15% off if you buy any in-stock item on Saturday. Christmas books are 20% off.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Jess Plays Cripple Creek on Banjo

Here is yet another adult banjo student that I am sure proud of. This is Jess, and he is playing Cripple Creek in this video clip. Jess does a real good job with his techniques (slide, pull-off, hammer-on).

Friday, September 19, 2008

Banjo Isn't Just for 10-year Olds!

This video features Verlan playing Shuckin' the Corn on banjo. Verlan has been taking lessons with me for about 3 years now, and he regularly attends any jam session that he can. I am very proud of Verlan for making this video with me, and I hope he inspires many more people who want to learn banjo to just DO IT!

10-Year Old Nikki Plays Jerusalem Ridge on Banjo

I did quite a bit of recording yesterday, and this first video is of Nikki playing Jerusalem Ridge on banjo. This is her newest song and we've been working on it for about 3-4 weeks now. Good job, Nikki!

Christmas Music 20% Off

Just wanted to let everyone know that all of our Christmas music books are 20% off. That includes everything we have from Mel Bay and Hal Leonard. It's getting close to Christmas, so now is a good time to start learning everything you want to know for the holidays!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Carie Playing Cold Frosty Morn

I'm proud to feature Carie on Cold Frosty Morn. The high part of this song is especially difficult, and she just glides right through it! Carie is a student at The Bluegrass Shack and has been playing about 4 years.

Introducing Patrick!

Patrick just turned 7 years old and has been taking lessons for about 2 months. He pratices twice a day, and knows about 15 songs. He has already played at church with his parents who lead the worship team.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Bluegrass Shack Birthdays!

We celebrated two birthdays here yesterday evening. It was the night our Advanced Instructional Jam meets, and two of the participants had birthdays. I was only aware of one, so I only decorated for Denny, but Christine also had a birthday that we celebrated once we learned of it. We had cake and cookies, and then several folks stayed to talk around the picnic table outside. Happy Birthday Denny & Christine! Here are some photos.

Jerseyville Pictures

Hi Everyone! I'm going on four weeks without a day off, so I'm a little behind on everything. I thought I'd better get these photos out right away before no one even remembers Jerseyville! We had a great time there, as usual. The crowds were the largest we've ever seen. It was good to see so many of our friends there, and also quite a few of my students came. I want to send a very special thank you out to Amy for making the long, blue, Victorian-era skirts you see in some of the photos I'm posting. Thank you everyone!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Playing Fiddle with a Single Bow Hair!

Makayla lost a hair off her bow during her lesson today, and for whatever reason, I thought it would be fun to play her fiddle together with the single bow hair. She chose the tune and fingered the left hand, and I held the bow hair and did the bowing.

Chris Talley Trio Plays in Sparta Friday Night

This is a last minute booking. The Chris Talley Trio will be playing at the World Shooting Complex in Sparta, IL this Friday night, September 5, 2008. The playing time will be from 7:30 - 9:30 p.m. Come on out to the restaurant, hear some great live music, and enjoy some good food & fellowship! We hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Charlie, Emily & Rosemary are in the Newspaper!

We are sure proud of these students! They have played music only one year and were selected to perform in the 4-H showcase in Springfield! Congratulations!

Music & Reading

Did you know that The Bluegrass Shack has a waiting room...and it's filled with books and magazines that are family-friendly?

Labor Day Weekend

This is just a reminder that The Bluegrass Shack will be closed on Monday, September 1, 2008, for Labor Day. The Chris Talley Trio will be playing at the Victorian Festival in Jerseyville, Illinois on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Come on out and join the fun! Click Here for more information.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Paige is in the Newspaper!

We got this out of the local paper this week. Paige, one of our students here at The Bluegrass Shack, got three perfect scores on three different performances. Way to go, Paige! Click on the picture to enlarge the article.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Oct. 25 Fiddle & Banjo Contest!!!!

This is our big annual event in New Athens. We have both fiddle & banjo contests, with a total of nine different divisions for every age and ability!!! We've even brought back our very popular "Adult Beginner" divisions for both fiddle and banjo. Feel free to dress up hillbilly, western or star-studded (Grand Ol' Opry style)!

The contest will be held at L&B's East End, located at 1215 Spotsylvania. There are directions at the bottom of the flyer. Registration starts at 11:30 a.m., and the contest starts at noon. There will be food and drinks available. Lots of good parking, and the building is handicap accessible. Click on the flyer below to enlarge it, or right-click and "Save Picture As" to save to your computer for printing. We hope to see you there!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Nikki Wins First at DuQuoin Fair

Congratulations goes out to Bluegrass Shack student Nikki who won First Place at the DuQuoin Fair this weekend. She entered the Talent Competition for 10-14 year olds and played her banjo. Great job!!!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tuesday's Jam - Biggest Ever!

We had a record crowd at last night's jam session. It was so large that we had two rooms jamming at the same time. Most everyone was in our showroom, but we had a small group that jammed in the front room where I usually teach. It was a really great session, too! Here is a video clip of the jam.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Freeburg Homecoming

Ahh! What a fun Saturday we had! The Chris Talley Trio played at the Freeburg Homecoming from 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, with a Fiddler's Frolic from 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. of that time. We had a great line-up of fiddlers of all ages, including Colton, Tim, Sylvia, Liz, Paige, Veronica and Chelsea. They did a wonderful job!!!! For those of you who couldn't make it, here are some photos. Maybe I'll get a video from someone that I can post (hint, hint).