Monday, May 31, 2010

Second Day & Summary - Youth in Bluegrass Competition

The second day of the contest was even more incredible than the first!  It seems every band got better.  We heard some of the most awesome a cappella singing ever.

Charlie & the Girls played 5th on Sunday.  The Pickin' Chicks played 19th.  Both groups played very well and I cannot imagine them doing any better than they did.  That was truly my prayer for both groups.  Charlie & the Girls did an awesome job singing Daniel Prayed and Think of What You've Done.  Rosemary has an incredibly high and powerful voice, and she certainly showed that off on Sunday!  The Pickin' Chicks received a standing ovation after their performance. 

In the end, neither band placed in the top 5.  They are both number one in my book and I am so proud of them!  I will be posting videos later when I get them from the families.  I have already posted pictures that I took with my iPhone on our Facebook page.

I have many people to thank for making this event more enjoyable and/or simply possible!  First of all, the judges have an incredibly difficult task to try to pick out the top 5 bands in this competition.  I have judged many a contest, and unless you've done this, you don't know how hard it is.  Sitting in your seat and taking notes is VERY different than actually doing it.  I wish every single competitor would have a chance to judge at some point so that they would understand what this entails.  I'm not saying I always agree with the results, but once you've judged several events, you certainly understand everything better!

Next, I'd like to thank our many friends for coming along with us!  Scott drove all the way from Kansas City, MO, Larry & his wife from Effingham, IL, Dennis & Elizabeth from Waterloo, IL, Ron & Lorraine from Collinsville, IL, and then all the family members and extended family of the bands. 

Ron & Lorraine allowed us to use their professional bass cart to roll the bass from one end of the park to the other.  What a lifesaver!  It makes the bass feel like it weighs a few ounces.  Those hills in Silver Dollar City are hard enough to walk up and down without having to lug an instrument that is larger than yourself!  On top of that, they also chauffered us around Branson and treated us to dinner. 

All of the folks at Silver Dollar City were so friendly and helpful.  Mike Smith, the DJ from KSMU radio station, did a great job announcing.  D.A. Calloway really has his act together, and as the man in charge, he put on a great event!  I cannot remember the name of the guy that adjusted the microphone, but he was there for each band and he talked to us backstage and was very nice.

Rodney got us all maps, hotel information, and all kinds of brochures from Branson so we could plan ahead.  He even met with us in person beforehand to share all his SDC knowledge. 

Larry allowed us to use his $10 SDC tickets for my dad, but in the end, we weren't able to use them.  My  84-year old dad had to go to the hospital instead...  He is home now and is okay.  I want to thank Larry for dropping the tickets off at our hotel for us.  We got the call from my dad about 30 minutes later!

We stayed at the Comfort Inn Thousand Hills, and they allowed us to use their conference room to practice.  That worked out nicely and we are certainly thankful to them.  All the employees that heard the girls practicing remembered to ask how the girls did in the competition.

There were many other people that came up to me and to the band members themselves and were very encouraging.  We certainly thank you!

Whenever I start posting thank-yous like this, I always worry that I have left someone out.  If I have, please let me know so I can acknowledge you!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

First Day - Youth in Bluegrass Competition

Today was the first day of competition.  What an afternoon of great picking!  I thought all the bands did well and I'm sure there was a roomful of proud parents there.  The band that came from farthest away was from Redding, California.

I watched every single group and am especially proud of our two groups:  The Pickin' Chicks and Charlie & the Girls.  Both groups played as well as they possible could have.  That was what I was hoping for.  I cannot imagine being a judge for this competition.  What a difficult job that would be.

Many thanks to Silver Dollar City and D.A. Calloway for putting together this wonderful event, throwing a pizza party for everyone, and giving everyone the opportunity to perform.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Youth in Bluegrass Practice Sessions

Here is a compilation of pictures and audio for both groups.  I recorded their practice sessions several weeks ago to use as a practice aid.  It was really neat listening to these again today because both groups have improved considerably since I recorded these.  Anyway, I hope you enjoy the slideshows and music!

Youth Bands Practice for Silver Dollar City

Since I'm in the mode of blogging about practice, I thought this would be a good time to talk about all the practicing that our two youth groups have been doing in preparation for the Youth in Bluegrass Competition held at Silver Dollar City. The contest is this coming weekend on Saturday and Sunday, May 29th & 30th.

Band practice is a little bit different from individual practice. With a band setting, you actually get twice as much practice. What you do in the practice sessions is also slightly different. Focus in a group setting is bringing the group together as a whole, blending vocals and harmonies, working the microphones, practices intros and endings so that everyone comes in together and ends together, deciding order of songs, and much more!

I want to talk a little bit about some of these aspects, and also about each of these youth groups. They both have put in an unbelieveable amount of time and effort at home and also at The Bluegrass Shack.

Charlie and the Girls, since they are a family band, have the benefit of being able to practice together as a group right at home and anytime they are able to get everyone together.  One advantage to this is that they don't necessarily have to have long practice sessions, and they don't have to go over everything all in one practice session.  They can work on one song for a while, take a break, and then later on in the day do it again or work on another song.  The disadvantage?  They have to agree on everything and put away attitudes.  A lot harder to do than you might think.

The Pickin' Chicks, since they come from three different families and three different Illinois towns, have to agree on one day a week they can all get together for a two-hour practice.  We do this every week at The Bluegrass Shack.  The girls are tired many times because they have already attended school and after-school activities.  One of the great advantages of this group is that I am the group leader and can help make decisions for the group.  One of the great disadvantages is that I am not only trying to please all the girls, but also all their families!  That's a lot of people to keep content!

Now, what is different about group practice versus individual practice?  Well, group practice takes both kinds of practice:  individual and group.  You have to learn your parts first, then learn to play them with the group.  There are decisions about who will start a song, what order the breaks will be in, who will sing lead, who will sing which harmony part, diction (how words will be pronounced), phrasing (where will we all take a breath? or not take a breath!), and more!  Sometimes variations in songs require the group to agree upon what chord progression to use.  Then the fun part is deciding if you want to do something a little bit different with the song or keep it mostly original to either its writer or most famous performer.

When you practice with a group, looking at each other is very important.  This is how you cue each other to either play a break, start singing, stop singing, end the song NOW even though it's not really the end, move closer or farther from the mic, and all kinds of other important aspects of playing together.  Looking at each other gives strength to your performance.  Cohesion.  Support.  Fun!

Both of these youth groups have practiced all of these techniques that I have written about.  They practiced endings and kick-offs over and over.  They practiced cutting off the ends of vocals together.  They practiced good facial expressions and looking at something other than their fingerboards.  They practiced emceeing.  They had to agree upon how to make their 6-minute sets time out right.  That meant shortening songs, speeding songs up, cutting out or cutting short introductions, and what songs would be played what days.  They were tired.  Tired of practicing.  Tired of each other at times.  Hungry. Thirsty. 

But they all did it willingly!  They did this in the name of being the best each one of them can be as individuals and as groups.  No matter what happens at the contest, and I think they will all play great, no one can take away the experience of progress that these groups made over the past several months.  They are all better players and better people for the time and sacrifices they have made.

Yes Earl Can!

I decided that I would secretly record Earl's practice session tonight and post several videos for everyone to listen to.  Most people have not heard Earl play fiddle because it's a work in progress and he usually plays guitar and sings during our jam sessions.  I decided that since I just wrote a long blog entry about practicing that these videos would go along with it nicely.

The particular songs that I am posting are ones that Earl is currently working on.  He is in the stage now where he needs to practice with a guitar player...that would be me this time.  You will notice from time to time how Earl moves a finger slightly to get a note in tune.  This is something that practicing with a guitar player will help you accomplish.  So, it's not just for rhythm!

By the way, I told Earl my secret before posting these videos.  After all, we're married.  And still happily.  And I'm still alive to post these.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

How Much Do I Practice?

I get asked this question from time to time.  Most recently, Steve was talking to me about his practice sessions and how to make them more productive (he's already quite productive).  He asked me how much I practiced, and how did I keep up my old songs while learning new songs.  The problem arises that after you learn so many songs, you can't get through them all in one practice session.

Steve told me that he would play through his new songs four times each, gradually increasing his speed if he was doing well on them.  Then he would play once or twice through his other songs.  He knows enough songs now that it takes him about 1 hour and 45 minutes to get through everything.  Many times, he does this twice a day.  (No wonder he is so productive...he's also retired.)

I told Steve that I will work on several new songs at one time.  On my hardest songs, I might be working on them for 6 months or longer.  In the beginning, I will spend hours on just one song and nothing else.  I might literally play the whole song, or part of the whole song, through 100 times in one session.  First off, I have to get it memorized well enough that I can remember what is coming next while playing at a reasonable speed.  Then I have to get good enough that I can fake my way through it if I mess it up.  Then I get to where I can play the tune well fairly consistently.  This will take weeks to months to accomplish on my hardest songs.  My old songs will get play time maybe once a week or so unless I really like the song.  I am also helped along in my "practice," if you want to call it that, while I teach.  Since I teach for 7-9 hours a day, four days a week, there's a lot of time in there that I go over my old songs.

When I'm working on something that is fast, I'll use the metronome to keep me in rhythm.  I'll also work with a guitar player so that I know I am playing in tune and so that I get used to what the guitar part sounds like with whatever instrument I'm playing.  Once I get through the "I can play all the notes" stage, I work on putting some feeling into what I'm doing.  On fast songs, that means I will work on making them exciting.  On slow songs, my focus will be more on feeling, vibrato (on fiddle), and dynamics.

If I'm working on a song that I want to play in a contest, I will gradually start playing it out in non-contest situations.  When I start to play for others, I quickly find out the areas that I am having trouble with.  (Unfortunately, sometimes that's the WHOLE SONG!!!!)  If I want to play it in my band or a concert setting, then I will start off by practicing the song with my band and by playing in jam sessions.  Sometimes I will record myself because this is almost like playing in front of someone.  Try it and you'll see how many mistake you make in the beginning!

Next time you think someone else is so talented, think about how many hours they spend practicing to get that way.  It didn't just happen.  At least not in my case.  But it is worth the time and effort because I enjoy it so much!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday's Instructional Jam

We had another great instructional jam tonight.  There were a few regulars that could not make it tonight, but we still had a nice group with Kabbie, Charlie, Emily, Rosemary, John, Christine, Amelia, Fred, Dennis, Verlan, Larry R., and listeners Rick and Natalie.  Charlie had us thinking hard (at least those of us without capos) when he played "Cabin Home on the Hill" in B-flat.  Kabbie has a beautiful voice, and she did a great job on "In the Sweet By and By."  Fred did a new one tonight, too -- "Unclouded Day."  I love watching and listening to Fred sing because he really sings with all his heart.  You can really tell he enjoys it and he believes what he is singing.  Amelia sang for the first time tonight, so Christine sang with her.  They did a nice job on "Jambalaya."  I thought everyone did a great job, though I'm not writing about each and every one.

Larry told a story about the first time he played banjo in public.  One of the tuning pegs on his banjo got loose.  What had happened was that the screw on the end of the planetary peg was a little bit loose.  The string would not stay in tune and he kept trying to get it in tune in the middle of his performance.  He didn't know what was wrong, but because he was part of a skit-type of show, everyone thought it was part of the act. 

Towards the end of the jam, I had Charlie & the Girls perform two of the songs that they are going to perform in Silver Dollar City week after next.  It was enjoyable for all of us, and it was good practice for them.  I even had them do their announcing just like they will be doing it on stage.  Emily sang lead on "Daniel Prayed," and Rosemary sang lead on "Think of What You've Done."  You should hear their beautiful harmony!!!

Kabbie's mother was celebrating her birthday, so we called her on the phone and we all sang "Happy Birthday" to her.  Rick put her on the speaker on his cell phone so we could hear her reaction.  You could tell she was surprised.  That was fun!

After we picked, we all enjoyed cake.  Woo hoo!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Fiddle Strings: Tuning & Bowing

Don't like the sound of your fiddle?  Can't seem to get it in tune?  Or play it in tune?  Maybe it's all in your strings!  This might seem like a strange thing to say, but read on...

First off, I'm going to tell you that if you are using a tuner to tune your fiddle, don't use your bow.  Pluck each string to get it in tune.  If you are more advanced and are using your ear, this probably won't pertain to you.  I actually do both if I use a tuner.  I pluck tune with a tuner, then I fine tune with my bow.  Now I'm going to tell you why.

Bowing and pitch are actually related, especially if you are using a perlon type string.  Perlon strings are generally more popular with classical players because they tend to be more mellow and blend well for orchestra music.  They bow completely differently from steel strings.  What do I mean by that?  I'm going to attempt to explain the difference.

When I first started playing the fiddle, I used only steel strings.  That's what all the fiddle players I knew used.  Super Sensitive Red Label strings were pretty much IT.  Then I met other fiddle players and also cross-over players who played both classically and traditionally (folk, bluegrass, country, etc.).  Naturally, after we met each other a little bit more, we had to try out each other's instrument.  I started noticing that I simply couldn't play perlon strings.  My fingers were in the right place, but the notes didn't always stay in tune.  They tended to bow flat, and then would all of a sudden "right" themselves and be in tune, even though I didn't move my fingers.  Some fiddles this was worse on than others, too, even though they had the same kind of string on them.  The only thing that made this difference was if they were perlon strings instead of steel.

As I progressed in my playing, my curiosity kept me thinking about this.  It was a phenomenon that I kept experiencing over and over.  I saw it in others as well, though most more experienced players who played classically seemed to be able to play perlon just fine.  I started seeing this as a challenge to my playing.  I knew that there must be something that I was doing that wasn't doing the same, and I knew it had to be in the bowing, but I didn't know what it was.  It also seemed that as my bowing got better, I played on perlon better than I used to.

Eventually, I started using a perlon string called Vision.  There were several reasons why, and I will go into them further on down in this blog.  What I started noticing was that if I varied my bow speed, this seemed to affect my pitch -- not just my volume.  The bow speed that I am referring to is the speed of one stroke.  It was also affected by the pressure I put (or didn't put) on my bow, especially for slow songs.  If my bowing was not "just right," which is kind of hard to explain, my notes didn't bow true.  This is where I say plucking notes for tuning for beginners is a good idea.  You take away what I call the bowing factor, and you can be sure that all strings are tuned equally.  I also ended up with a different bow.  And that's a whole other story...

Now, let me talk a little bit about several types and brands of strings in particular.  This will eventually tie into my story, so bear with me.  Fiddle strings are NOT created equally.  If you play other stringed instruments, you probably already know that different strings sound different and feel different.  They are all playable, though you will like the sound of one better than the other.  Or the feel.  With fiddle strings, it's even more the case.  Not only that, but some strings are simply NOT playable.  You can't pull the bow across them without squeaking, especially if you are an inexperienced player.

As with other stringed instruments, the weight or gauge of the fiddle string directly affects the volume.  It also affects how the bow feels on the strings.  If you are aggressive in your bowing, a string that is too soft will "bottom out."  You'll dig in to bow it, and it simply can't take the pressure and produce a good tone.  (Bow speed affects this as well, but I'm now talking a more experienced player that understands this.)

Steel strings are more common with fiddle players because they are less affected by humidity and stay in tune better for the types of places that fiddle players end up playing.  Some steel strings have a bit of an edge on them, which makes them easier to hear when playing acoustically with other instruments.  In a jam session, you want your fiddle to stand out when you are playing a lead.  In an orchestra, you want your fiddle to blend in with the others unless you are playing a solo.  Steel strings are also more forgiving.  You don't get that "out of tune even though your fingers are in the right place" phenomenon.

Students ask me all the time about brands of strings, especially when it's time to replace them.  Many people opt for the cheapest possible strings because they can't believe how expensive fiddle strings are.  That's a very bad way to pick out a fiddle string.  First off, my advice is NEVER to buy a round wound string.  That is a string that is like a wound guitar string.  It has grooves between the windings and if you run your thumbnail along the string, you can hear the windings.  You'll get a lot of squeaks with this kind of string.  It is NEVER worth the money you thought you saved.  You simply won't enjoy playing at all.  Some cheap Chinese strings, even though they are flat wound, will also be very squeaky.  Not all of them are, but a better string will make your fiddle sound better, which translates into more fun for you and everyone else.

When comparing several types of popular steel strings, the most common in this area are Pirastro Chromcor, Prim, Red Label Super Sensitive, and Old Fiddler.  Black Diamond is round wound, so I won't say anything more about this brand.  Red Label is the least expensive and is a popular choice for students of both classical and traditional playing.  It comes in all different sizes, stays in tune well, and costs about $20.00.  It's pretty forgiving as far as bowing goes, and in medium tension (which is what beginners should purchase and most others do anyway regardless of experience & level) stays in tune well and has a decent sound. 

Old Fiddler strings are made by the same company as Red Label, and you can get a wound E string which is nice if you rust out strings quickly.  Fiddle stings are wound with metals that don't rust, but plain E strings, which is what the vast majority of E strings are, will rust if you have a high acid content in your skin.  I have noticed that these strings also seem to break more easily than Red Label, though, so a beginner probably won't like this.  You can purchase a single wound E string if you need it, so buy the brand you want and simply purchase an additional wound E string.  It doesn't even matter if you mix and match brand as long as you keep steel strings with steel and not perlon.

Prim strings are softer strings and are much more responsive than Red Label and Old Fiddler.  They cost a bit more, too.  What is nice about them is that it takes practically no "work" on your part to get a sound out of them.  If you are a light bower, you will really like this.  If you are aggressive, you might get some buzzes, especially out of the D string.  The other thing I really like about Prim is that they have a bit of an "edge" to them.  It makes them easier to hear in a jam situation.  It can, though not always, make a harsh or tinny fiddle sound unpleasant.  It will help balance out a fiddle that is too mellow. 

Chromcor strings are kind of in the middle between Red Label and Prim as far as tone quality and responsiveness goes.  They are a good choice if you have a harsh or tinny fiddle, but want something better than Red Label strings.  They are not quite as responsive as Prim, but if you are really aggressive, they will probably work better for you.  They are similar in cost to Prim, and maybe slightly more expensive depending where you get them.

Now let me talk a little bit about perlon strings.  The most popular perlon string in classical playing is Dominant.  Vision is really gaining momentum at this time as well.  Helicore is a popular string for cross-over players who play both classically and traditionally.  There are many other brands, good brands even, but I don't have enough experience with them, so I won't be talking about them.

The first thing you'll notice about perlon strings is that they are more expensive than steel strings.  Dominant strings blend well and produce a sound that is more mellow than most steel strings.  I have always had problems with them coming unwound, though, especially the A string.  Others I know have had the same problem, so be prepared with extra A strings if you like this brand.

Vision strings are very responsive.  They also will bring out the bass end of a fiddle if it has a good bass end.  They are tough strings and you can really dig into them if you are aggressive.  They "set in" quickly and stay in tune fairly well in fiddle type venues, though not quite as good as steel strings.  There are several different types of Vision strings including Titanium, Solo and Regular (unmarked).  I am writing about the regular Vision strings.  They are expensive as well, but they hold up better than Dominant.  Vision also seems to be the loudest in volume of the three perlon strings I am writing about.

Helicore is more mellow (not in volume but in tone) than both Dominant and Vision in my opinion.  This brand of string holds up well and I've not had a problem with the strings coming unwound.  Volume is equal to Dominant in my opinion as well.  Price is a little less than the other two brands of perlon.

If you want more volume in a particular brand string, you can try a heavy weight string instead of medium.  I think all the brands I wrote about come in medium and heavy weight.  Orchestra gauge is the same as heavy weight, though most orchestra players I know use medium gauge so it's kind of a misnomer.

Not all brands come in smaller sizes, either.  If you are purchasing strings for a fiddle that is not full size, you may be limited to what brands you can get.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Fun Saturday at The Shack!

Chelsea and Zack were at the Shack all day today.  (I even got an Egg McMuffin out of the deal!)  Chelsea and I took turns playing guitar and fiddle, while Zack and Earl listened and offered up requests. 

I worked on an early 1800's fiddle that will become Chelsea's "new" fiddle.  I got it finished by this evening and it really sounds fantastic!  She will be taking it home with her on Monday.

Terry and Becky came by as well to pick up a CD that was left here for Terry.  Then Rosemary and John came by for some pictures.  They have their own music ministry and we needed some publicity photos for some fliers.  Here's my favorite:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Student Update

The end of school is drawing near, and I have my final guitar class at St. Agatha School on Wednesday.  We will be giving a concert for the school and parents, and I will be passing out awards to the students for completing different skills and songs.  The upper class is 3rd through 8th grade.  I will be bringing in my banjo and we are going to flatpick and play Duelin' Banjos, I'll Fly Away and Bile Them Cabbage Down together.  The lower class is K through 2nd grade.  We will be playing Kookaburra and One Little Indian, and we will be picking Bile Them Cabbage.  I think both classes have made a lot of progress over the course of the year.

The Pickin' Chicks and Charlie & the Girls are nearing their last rehearsals for the Silver Dollar City Youth in Bluegrass Competition.  We are all so excited!   Both groups had phenominal practices this week, too.  I used my video recorder to record the rehearsals, and I had both groups practice with the single mic while I recorded the performance.  This allows me to watch the performances again to pick up on things I might not have picked up on the first time.  It also allows me to hear if the harmonies are equal as they are coming through the microphone.  It's actually a lot of fun to watch the performances!  Our goal for both groups is for them to play as well as they are able.  Of course, it's always fun to win, too!

Tuesday's Open Jam

We had a nice surprise tonight at our jam session.  My bandmate, Zane, drove down from Edwardsville to join us!  The best part is that I didn't have any lessons tonight, so I could join the jam.  Stan and Abby brought their camcorder, and Earl took some videos until the battery ran down.  We had a total of 19 people tonight:  Me and Earl, Zane, Stan & Abby, Ron & Lorraine, John from Collinsville, John from New Athens and his friend, Verlan, Steve & Shirley, Jerry, Elsie, Dennis, Warren, Art & Janice.  I posted pictures on Facebook and I am going to try to get a new video up soon!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Facebook Page

Just in case you didn't notice the little Facebook icon, or if you didn't know what it meant -- The Bluegrass Shack now has a Facebook page.  I don't know how to do everything on it yet, and I am a certain bit wary of it, but I am learning.  We will continue to post on this blog as well as on Facebook.  We won't be posting all identical information on the two sites, so you can still visit both sites and see something different.  You can visit the Facebook page by clicking on the Facebook icon right from the blog.  We hope you'll take a look and sign up as a fan!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Branson Reminder

This is just a reminder that the Silver Dollar City Youth in Bluegrass Event will be coming up soon!  The Bluegrass Shack has TWO youth bands that will be competing in the event, which is limited to just 20 bands.  Charlie & the Girls and The Pickin' Chicks will both be competing!  We hope that you'll come to listen to all the great youth bands and cheer everyone on!  The dates of the competition are Saturday and Sunday, May 29 & 30, 2010.  Each band will play for a maximum of six (6) minutes on both days.  The competition will be held in the Opera House Theatre.  Feel free to check out Silver Dollar City's website for more information.

Date for Bluegrass Retreat

The date for our First Annual Bluegrass Retreat will be August:  27-29, 2010.  We hope you'll save this date and join us for lots of music and fun!  We are planning workshops including:

* Changing strings
* Complete disassembly and reassembly of your banjo (hands-on, where you do this with help)
* How to play music with others
* Instrumental workshops:  fiddle, banjo, mandolin, guitar & upright bass

We will have bands performing, and we are also planning our own Hee Haw show.  (We got this idea from The Chris Talley Trio's trip to Bettendorf, IA.)  If you'd like to participate in the Hee Haw show, please let me know so that we can include you!   We need pickers, singers, and comedians.

We are also trying to provide some instruction in the Virginia Reel and a simple square dance.  I have not firmed up the details on this yet, and it is possible that I won't be able to work this out.  I'm trying, though!

The retreat will be held in Pinckneyville, IL at Lake Sallateeska.  There are a limited number of hotel rooms on-site that are available in addition to RV hook-ups and bunk-style (group) housing.  You can visit their website at  I encourage you to call and make your reservations early, as space is limited.

We will be posting more information as it becomes available, including what day which events will be held on, and also cost information for the retreat, which includes workshops and concerts.  There will also be free events which will be open to all.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

New Doors!

With a little help from our friends, Earl installed two new screen doors over the past week.  Since New Athens is right on the river, we have mosquitos the size of Texas here, and without the screens, we were getting terrorized!  Now we can let the fresh air in and keep the critters out.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Upright Basses

Earl has been busy purchasing basses lately.  We currently have two very nice vintage uprights for sale.  Both just happen to be blonde.  This is, of course, simply by chance.  One is a Kay bass and the other is an Epiphone.  If you are wanting a nice, vintage upright, you really need to come by soon and try these out!

Monday's Instructional Jam

We had special visitors in tonight's instructional jam.  Stan and Abby came from McLeansboro to join us.  Stan used to play with Meryl Haggard, but it is not something that I mentioned, so I know not everyone knew.  The music was very good.  Stan sang The Tennessee Stud.  I have always liked that song.  Since this particular group is the more advanced of the two groups, it was a good exercise in learning to follow songs that we haven't done before.  Charlie sang a new song tonight, too.  It was in the key of F, so we really got some good practice in.  Some of the songs that we played tonight include Pig in a Pen, Worried Man Blues, Rolling in my Sweet Baby's Arms, I Saw the Light, Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Grandfather's Clock, Think of What You've Done, Shady Grove, Somebody Touched Me, I'll Fly Away, and Train 45.

Charlie & the Girls are going to compete in Branson in a couple of weeks, so we took some time out for them to go through two of the songs that they will be playing there.  I had them set up just like they would be playing in Branson, complete with the single microphone.  They did a fantastic job, and it will only get better between now and Memorial Day weekend (when the contest will be held).

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Bluegrass Music at Scott Air Force Base

This just in...LIVE bluegrass music at Scott Air Force Base on Saturday, May 8, 2010.  I know this is short notice -- and it is only for folks who have passes to the base.  Charlie & the Girls, The Pickin' Chicks, and The Chris Talley Trio will be performing at the BX starting at 11:00 a.m.  Each group will perform for one hour, while the base has a BBQ and grill give-away.  We will be outdoors unless the weather prevents it, in which case we will be indoors!  :o)  We hope that you'll be able to make it!

Videos from the Pinckneyville Barn Dance

I posted about the Annual Timpner Barn Dance held in Pinckneyville, IL last month, but didn't get a chance to put up any videos except for one.  The Pickin' Chicks played during the regular band's break, and I was even asked to come up and play a song with the band.  Amanda was gracious enough to let me use her fiddle, and the band did their best to follow "Black Mountain Rag," even though they didn't know it.  We had a fantastic time!

Fiddle Displays on E-Bay *FUN!*

This is just a for fun post.  I was browsing E-bay this evening and was getting a kick out of some of the pictures.  I know that HOW you display something can make a difference in whether or not something sells, and I just thought I'd offer my opinion on how well some of these pictures might be working...

Now, here's a classic look.  You can tell someone took some effort to make the fiddle look at home.  This is something that anyone can do and it is a nice effect.

Next up...  this is either a giant chair or a tiny fiddle!!!

I love this one!  Yes, I'm thinking the bush will really make this one stand out from the rest, even if it doesn't help it sell!

Purple is royalty, but red is a close second.

And while we're on PARTS fiddles, I do think the grass makes this one look better.  Or maybe it is just the arrangement of the parts...

For the artistic, here are a couple of really nice photos.  I don't know if they will help the fiddle sell, but they look good.

If there was a photography award, it would go to this one in my opinion.  I love the way the blinds mimic the flaming in the maple back.

And last but not least, all I can think when I look at this one is, "How in the world did they get it to stand up"?