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!