Thursday, July 29, 2010

Monday's Advanced Instructional Jam

The past several weeks, the banjo players have been working on playing out of C position.  I have not passed out tab on these songs, as my goal is for everyone to learn them by ear.  I decided to go ahead and post a video of two of the songs so that you can at least hear it and play along.  Just a reminder:  playing out of C position allows you to play songs easily in the keys of C, D, E and F.  I am posting I'll Fly Away and Bury Me Beneath the Willow. 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Fiddle / Violin Setup: What Exactly is it?

As the most important part of your instrument, setup is really something that every player needs to understand!  Especially beginning students!  A good setup can mean a difference as slight as a tone quality adjustment, or as major as a playability issue. 

Just this last week, I corresponded via e-mail regarding the purchase of a fiddle online.  "Austin" wanted to know if the fiddle he was thinking of purchasing was a good fiddle for a beginner.  He sent me a link to the website where the fiddle was for sale, and asked me quite a few questions about it.  Here's what I had to say about it:
Hi Austin -

I think the fiddle is fine, but the setup is probably not going to be fine. You need to make sure that you are buying from a shop that specializes in fiddle setup, not just fiddle sales. An inexpensive instrument can be a fine starter instrument, even if it doesn't have great value or symphonic tone quality. If it is not setup correctly, then it doesn't matter if it costs $1000 or more. It will be hard to play, and that is the last thing anyone needs, especially a beginner. A "factory" setup is not okay. Many online places make you think this is okay, but it's not. You want a person who plays and also specializes in setup/luthier work to set this up for you. You should expect to pay an additional $50-$100 for this, depending upon what needs to be done and where you take it.
Austin then replied with the following:
alright thanks a lot!!, so after buying this you recommend me to go into a music store to get it "set up"? what exactly do you mean buy "set up" though
And this, folks, is the million dollar question!  I reponded with quite a lengthy e-mail, and then decided that I really needed to post this online because too many folks don't know or understand the importance of a good setup.
Hi Austin -

I don't think a regular music store will be able to do this correctly for you. You really need to have this done at a violin shop. A luthier at a violin ship will have the knowledge and EXPERIENCE that is needed to do this correctly. Here is what we typically do when we set up a fiddle:
1) Adjust the curvature of the bridge
2) Adjust the thickness of the bridge
3) Adjust the height of the bridge
4) Adjust the spacing of the bridge
5) "Voice" the bridge, which consists of carving certain parts of the bridge to make it more responsive
6) Put the bridge in the proper place on the fiddle (which affects the tuning of the fiddle)
7) Adjust the spacing of the nut
8) Adjust the height of the nut
9) Set the soundpost in the correct location

Why is this all important? If makes the difference between having an instrument that is easy to play and having one that frustrates you.

When the bridge is shaped correctly, it allows you to be able to play individual strings without hitting other strings. If you are playing bluegrass or folk music and you want to play double stops (two notes at the same time) frequently, then you will want a slightly flatter bridge which makes this easier. The spacing of the strings on the bridge will also affect the same things.

If the bridge is too high, then the strings will be too high off the fingerboard. This causes the fiddle to play out tune and makes it hard to finger the notes. It also increases the amount of the squeaking that you'll get when you play because you'll be more likely to touch strings that you are not playing, and if your bow also touches these strings, all you'll get is a squeak.

If the bridge is too thick, then the tone quality of the instrument is affected. It is more likely to sound tinny because the bridge cannot vibrate as well. Voicing the bridge also helps with the tone quality and vibrations.

Many people do not know this, but fiddle bridges are not glued on the instrument. If the bridge is not in the correct location on the fiddle, then the intonation (playing in tune) is affected. This will also affect where you finger the notes on the fingerboard.

When the nut is too high, then it makes it hard to press the strings down when you play. It will also affect the intonation of the fiddle.

If the string spacing of the nut is too close, then you will have a hard time fingering one string without touching another string. The larger your fingers are, the harder this will be. Fiddle/violin spacing is typically closer than any instrument other than maybe mandolin, so you want this to be correct.

The soundpost is a small wooden dowel that is located inside the fiddle. It is also not glued in. We use special tools to set the location of the soundpost. If a fiddle does not have a soundpost, then the top of the fiddle can cave in due to the amount of pressure from the strings and bridge. If the soundpost is not in the correct location, then it will affect the tone quality of the instrument. In extreme cases, it could affect the soundness of the fiddle, but that is truly rare. This would most likely occur if the soundpost was not the correct height. Too tall of a soundpost can crack the top of the fiddle. Too low of a soundpost will cause it to fall or move on its own.

If you want to find out if your music store has the knowledge, talk to whoever will do the work and find out exactly what they do when set up a fiddle. Ask questions. Most regular music stores simply cannot afford to hire a violin specialist unless they sell and repair lots of fiddles.

You are better off to pay a little bit more and order from a reputable shop that will do all this for you before they even ship out the fiddle. That way if there is a problem, they will spot it before you even get the fiddle. You won't have to make a special trip to have the instrument setup. A reputable shop will also back up the instruments they sell and the work they do.

Please note that I don't personally know the music store you are ordering from, so I can't tell you anything about them. I'm not saying they are bad or are not reputable. I also don't know where you're from, so obviously won't know what music stores are in your area. If you can purchase locally, you are better off. It's always better to be able to talk to a person LIVE rather than on the phone or in e-mail.

If you have a teacher lined up to help you learn, then your teacher should also be able to help you with all of this. A good teacher will know where to buy and get instruments repaired.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

October Contests - Flattop Guitar Added!

Our Annual Fiddle & Banjo Contest has been expanded this year to add a Flattop Guitar Picking contest!  The contests will be held in our new location at the New Athens Community Hall in New Athens, IL.  (The flyer has directions.)  There will be five fiddle divisions, four banjo divisions, and just one flattop guitar division for this first year.  If we have enough contestants, we will add divisions to the guitar contest.  Date of the event is Saturday, October 30, 2010.  Registration starts at Noon and the contest starts at 1:00 p.m.  Take a look at the flyer for all the details.  If you still have questions, feel free to contact Chris or Earl at The Bluegrass Shack.

CLICK HERE to view a .pdf version of the flyer.

We hope you'll come out and join us!

The Chris Talley Trio at Bellerive Park!

The Chris Talley Trio will be playing at Bellerive Park (in St. Louis, MO) on Monday, July 26, from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.  If you haven't seen them this year, this is a good opportunity to get out!  Bellerive Park is located in the Carondelet area of St. Louis (off Broadway) right on the riverfront.  You can watch the barges float by while the music is playing!

Many of you have asked about Carla, our bass player, and we are happy to say that she will be back with us for this performance.  Carla had two surgeries this year and is finally well enough to join us again!  Many thanks to Kabbie for playing with us while Carla has been out.  We sure appreciate your talent, willingness and skill!

You won't want to miss hearing Miss Emily either!  She is a fine musician and singer, and at 15 years of age, will knock your socks off with her talent!  We are so happy to have her with us as a member of The Chris Talley Trio.  We've got lots of new songs to share with you!

Miscellaneous Stuff

Wow!  It's been a while since I last blogged.  Things have been pretty busy around here and a lot has been happening.  We've sold about a zillion fiddles online in the past month.  You'd think it would be an influx of purchases for kids starting school, but it has actually been adults who have decided that they want to finally fulfill the dream of learning to play an instrument!  Congratulations!  I always say that one of the nice things about music is that it is never too late!  We have a great policy on fiddles here at The Bluegrass Shack, too.  We offer a 100% trade-in policy for all fiddles, whether they are new, used or vintage, as long as they are still in good condition.  That is fiddle for fiddle, and fiddles are the only instrument for which we offer this policy.

The past month has seen many birthdays around here as well.  The last couple of jam sessions have been filled with food and other goodies to help us celebrate.  What fun!

We had a float in the New Athens Homecoming Parade again this year.  This makes the 5th year in a row for us.  Pictures of our float and the Pickin' Chicks float were both printed in full color in the Freeburg Tribune this past week.

The Pickin' Chicks won first place in the Four Fountains Talent Contest held yesterday.  They auditioned last month just for a spot in the contest, and they played wonderfully!

We had our 7th Annual Bluegrass Shack Summer Fiddle Contest on Sunday.  We had 30 contestants and a packed house at our new location -- the New Athens Community Center.  Many thanks to Dick and Gary for making all the fiddle trophies; to The Pickin' Chicks and their families for providing all the food and beverages, and for helping with the door and numerous other things that were needed; to Dawn for her help with scoring; to Janice and Marc for judging; to Kabbie for help with the raffles; to Zane and Ron for performing for the crowd between divisions while the scores were tallied; to Eric and Brad for help with the equipment, chairs, tables and setup; to Earl for taking all the pictures; and to all the rest whom I might have forgotten to mention by name for everything else!  I hope I haven't forgotten anyone!  The crowd was wonderful!  The music was wonderful!  The food was nothing short of amazing (especially the homemade desserts!!!!)!

I think 4-year old London stole the show with her performance on fiddle.  Anyone who saw her will agree!  She was simply adorable.  Our contestant from the farthest location was Tim, from California, who played in the Junior II Division.  In fact, Tim won 1st place in his division!  John B., our oldest contestant, won the top prize of $100 in the Open/Senior Division.  If you haven't been out to our Facebook page, you really need to take a look there.  I have posted pictures from this event and many other events and/or happenings here.  You might just see yourself! 

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tuesday's Jam with Special Birthday!

Just wanting to let you know that at this Tuesday's jam, July 20th, we will be celebrating Stan's birthday.  We hope that you'll come out to enjoy some great bluegrass music and food!  We'll have a table setup for all the goodies. If you want to bring a food to share, feel free, but it's not expected or required! 

Happy Birthday, Stan!


You know, every once in a while, a chance comes along that is kind of unbelievable.  Last night was one of those times.  It is homecoming here in New Athens.  That means food, rides, parade, and best of all -- music!  And New Athens is kind of known in the area for hiring good bands.  Not bluegrass, but still pretty good!  Last night's band for the homecoming was the Smash Band.  This is where the fun comes in!

Three of the four girls from The Pickin' Chicks were there for the homecoming, and we just so got the chance to perform onstage while the Smash band took their break.  Johnny Shy, the illustrious sound man, made all the arrangements for us.  Grant Texier, the fiddle player for the band, was kind enough to let me use his guitar.  How cool is that??!!  We decided that we would do Seven Bridges Road because none of the girls had their instruments with them (of course!).  Grant even stayed onstage for almost the entire performance, and then shook hands with each of the girls.

I don't normally perform with the girls, but with one girl missing (Millie was at The Kentucky Opry) and with a borrowed guitar, it only made sense.  I have to admit that I was kind of nervous because I'm not used to doing this song (it's not bluegrass) and I don't practice it with the girls.  The Smash Band and the New Athens crowd loved the girls, and after it was all over, we all decided it was a lot of fun!!!

Here's a video, and you can go to our Facebook page for some pictures.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fiddle Contest on Sunday

Just another friendly reminder about our fiddle contest on Sunday.  Also, don't forget that we are in a new location this year due to the closing of the building that we have used in the past.  We will be at the New Athens Community Hall.  It's very easy to find, especially if you look for the New Athens water tower!  When you turn from Highway 13 onto Van Buren (the only stoplight in New Athens), stay straight until you see Chester St.  Make a right onto Chester, go three blocks, and you are there!  The Community Hall is at the corner of Chester and N. Johnson.

Not only will you hear some great fiddle players, but you can also enjoy some great food!  The Pickin' Chicks will be serving up pulled pork, hot dogs, nachos, potato salad, chips, baked beans, and assorted HOMEMADE desserts.  (I hear there will be gooey butter cake, carrot cake and pineapple upside-down cake and more!!!!!)  There will also be soda, lemonade, coffee and water available.

The fiddle contest registration starts at Noon, with the contest itself starting at 1:00 p.m.  There are FIVE divisions:  Junior III (12 & under); Junior II (13-15); Junior I (16-18); Open (19 & up); Senior (60 & up).  All juniors will receive a medal regardless of placement.  Trophies and/or money awarded to the top 5 places in each division.  For complete details and rules, CLICK HERE.

For other questions, please contact us by e-mail or phone here at The Bluegrass Shack.  We hope to see you!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bluegrass Retreat: All Information and Flyers!

Here is the much awaited information on the first annual Bluegrass Shack Bluegrass Retreat!  You will be able to download flyers and workshop information in .pdf format straight from here.

We are going to be starting the weekend out on Friday night with our Meet & Greet potluck, which is free for all.  Just bring a food to share with everyone.  It can be as simple as a bag of chips or package of store-bought cookies, or as fancy as your own homemade chili or pie!  This will be your opportunity to meet other musicians and families.  I am still working on getting a teacher and caller for square dancing.  Bring your instruments for jamming!

Saturday morning we will be starting out at 9:00 a.m. with our hands-on banjo workshop where participants will actually take apart their banjos and put them back together again!  We have several workshops where you will learn playing techniques and several workshops that will teach you technical things about your instrument or instrument setup.  The workshop list gives a complete description of the workshops and what time they will be starting.  The workshops will be taught in the cafeteria and in the chapel.

After lunch on Saturday, the workshops will continue until 4:00 p.m.  At that time, we will start our bluegrass shows.  We will kick things off with our own Hee Haw show featuring all kinds of local talent and comedy.  We will break for dinner from 6:00-7:00 p.m.  At 7:00 p.m., we will start things off again with local bands performing in the chapel.   You will get a chance to hear Charlie & the Girls, the Pickin' Chicks, The Chris Talley Trio, and more!

Sunday morning, we will be having a gospel show in the chapel. Our two featured groups include Stan & Abby Farlow (from McLeansboro, IL) and John & Rosemary Brewer (from New Athens, IL).

To download the flyer & workshop signup sheet CLICK HERE.  (2 pages)

To download the workshop list CLICK HERE.  (2 pages)

To make reservations to stay at Lake Sallateeska, you will need to contact them directly.  They have an on-site motel, RV hookups and group bunk houses.  They also have a cafeteria that you can make reservations for.  Download the flyer for the phone number and address of Lake Sallateeska.  This is a GREAT family park that has an indoor pool, fishing lake, paddle boats, hiking trails, game room, and more!  You can visit their website by clicking HERE.

One last note:  This is a Baptist Camp park, and even though our retreat is not a religious event per se, there may be other groups on-site at the same time that are.  There will be no smoking and no alcoholic drinking allowed on the premises.  This is not our rule, but is Lake Sallateeska's rule.  Please don't come if you can't agree to this.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Bluegrass Shack Retreat: List of Workshops

Here is the first installment, so to speak, of more information on the upcoming Bluegrass Shack Retreat to be held the last weekend of August in Pinckneyville at Lake Sallateeska. This is a list of the workshops that we plan to hold during the retreat. Workshops will be held on Saturday, August 28. Exact times will be coming soon, but at least you can see if something we are offering is of interest to you.  To view the workshops, please click HERE.  This is a 2-page .pdf document.

In addition to the workshops, we will be having jam sessions, a Hee-Haw show, bands performing, a Sunday morning gospel show, and a Friday night potluck free for all!  We are hoping to have some sessions on square dancing Friday night as well.

Does Not Play Well With Others

You've probably seen that on a shirt by now. Well, I want to change that to "Plays Well With Others." Truth be told, you would like that, too. Wouldn't you?

This blog entry is once again hitting on something that we've talked about before. Practice what you want to be able to do! I'm telling you this again because I hear it all the time. I see it all the time. My students want to play with others, but many of them only do it once every two weeks when they meet for the instructional jam.

I've heard all the excuses.
1. I can't keep up. Everyone plays too fast for me.
2. I just can't play with a recording.
3. There's no one near me to play with.
4. I get nervous just THINKING about playing with others.
5. I don't know enough songs.
6. I'm too bad. Too embarrassed. Too shy.
7. I don't know the chords. The songs. The people.
8. I don't want to bore everyone. Or drag the others down.
9. I'm not getting any better even though I've been playing with others.

I'm here to tell you that if playing with others is your goal, you just can't give up! YOU CAN DO THIS! I'm going to address each of these issues. Have you got one I'm not covering? Lay it on! E-mail me or respond to this blog entry and I'll answer you!

1. I Can't Keep Up: Of course you can't keep up! If you never practice it with others, you will never be able to keep up. That's like trying to run a marathon without training for it. If certain songs are too fast for you, play on the ones that are slower. When it's your turn to pick a song, pick something slower. You are the leader! You get to do whatever you want!

2. I Just Can't Play With a Recording: Once again, of course you can't! You have to practice it to get at it. You have to keep trying. Again and again. If the recording is too fast, then use a program to slow the recording down to a speed you CAN keep up with. Or find a different recording that is slower.

3. There's No One Near Me to Play With: You might have to practice with a recording, a DVD, a CD, the radio, etc. Maybe you could post a note at a local music store. You could also try asking people at jam sessions.

4. I'm Too Nervous: Try to relax. Don't drink any caffiene. Start off slow. Maybe you will just play backup to start with. Ask someone else to play along with you when you take the lead. Having someone else play with you will go a long ways towards making things better. Once again, to get over your nervousness, you'll just have to make yourself do it.

5. I Don't Know Enough Songs: When you get to where you know all the songs, let me know! The whole purpose of jamming is to meet new people and learn new songs! How can you learn them if you don't hear them? Usually at jam sessions the same people will tend to sing or play the same songs for a while until they learn new songs. You will be doing the same thing yourself! Take a pencil and paper with you and make a note of the songs and the keys they were played in. You might even want to take a note about the chord changes.

6. I'm Too Bad, Too Embarrassed, Too Shy: We all were at one time. I'll bet just about every musician that currently jams can tell you a story or two about when they first started jamming. It's good to remember where you are coming from because you will be that person helping someone else down the line get over feeling that way! Jamming isn't about being the best. It's about learning and having fun. It's about friendship and comraderie. If you are worried about being too loud while you are learning, then use a mute unless you are the one leading the song. Another thing to remember: Folks like to eat. Bring some cookies or other goodies and you'll be an instant hit! :o)

7. I Don't Know the Chords, the Songs, the People: Once again, of course you don't! How are you going to know that without doing that? You will learn the chords and the songs once you start going. Grab that pencil and paper and start taking notes. Better yet, bring a friend or relative along who likes music and have them help you with notes. You'll have a built in friend and support system!

8. I Don't Want to Bore Everyone or Drag Them Down: As long as you don't jump in the middle of the jam session while you are still learning and play really loud and make a scene, you'll be okay. It's not like you are the one leading every song. It's about you learning to follow them for the most part. They only follow you once every round.

9. I Don't Feel Like I'm Getting Any Better: Chances are good that you ARE getting better. You just don't FEEL like you are. Try recording yourself every once in a while so that you'll be able to hear the difference. Maybe try easier songs for a while so that you can be more confident and more successful.

When I first started entering fiddle contests, I'd get so nervous I didn't know if I was going to throw up or pass out first. I'd be in the middle of my songs on stage and inside my head I'd be asking myself why I was doing this. It was very hard to keep my concentration on my playing. All my mistakes sounded HUGE and my bow wouldn't stop shaking, especially on my waltzes. I didn't give up, though. I decided that I would start playing songs that were easier for me. I picked songs that I could play in my sleep, so to speak. This allowed me to play better and also helped me with my confidence. I continued to practice the harder songs that I wanted to play in the contests, and eventually I did play them in contests! I also tried to play the songs that I was intending to play in the contest for other people BEFORE the contest.

More than anything, don't give up! You CAN do this!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Shooting Your Own Low-Budget Video

Now this is fun!  Pure and simple.  I had no previous experience doing something like this, but then the need came about, and you know what they say...necessity is the mother of invention!  Since I didn't have a lot of time, money, experience, or expensive equipment, this is something you can do yourself!

The Pickin' Chicks decided they wanted to try out for the YouTube edition of America's Got Talent.  Our job was to shoot a 90-second video that had to be live.  (In other words, we could not dub the music into the video.)  I ended up shooting two videos, with one of them being a little bit more creative than the other.  Here's what we did.

There are four girls in the group.  Since they come from three different families, I had three moms to help.  We decided to shoot the video of the girls singing "Seven Bridges Road."  We needed a completely dark room, as the idea was to shoot the video in complete darkness.  If we had had more time, we could have done it at night outside, but this wasn't an option due to time constraints.  The room had to be big enough for all four girls, me and the three moms.  One of the teaching rooms at The Bluegrass Shack has no windows in it and is just big enough that we thought it would work out pretty good.

Here's the setup:  All four girls were laying on their backs facing the ceiling with their heads together.  Diane (Nikki and Mallory's mom) stood on a chair with a very small, LED flashlight.  Directly opposite of Diane, Rhonda (Millie's mom) stood on a stool with my digital camera.  Her head was literally in the ceiling!  Dawn (Paige's mom) helped with the flashlight and getting the girls properly positioned.  I stood in a corner with my guitar next to the lightswitch so I could turn it on and off.

Diane worked the flashlight by using her hand to block and unblock the light.  She also moved it back and forth, twirled it, and made it like a strobe light at times.  Rhonda turned the camera as she was shooting the video, and she also moved the camera closer to the girls.  I played the guitar in my little corner when it was time.  Let's just say that it took several times to get this right because it was completely black and I couldn't see any strings!!!!  Dawn kept repositioning the girls and was helping us get everything together properly.  She and Diane took turns doing the flashlight. 

It got really hot in that room.  We shot the video at least 8 to 10 times before we quit.  We couldn't have any fans or air conditioning running because it would interfere with the sound quality.  We were laughing and the girls were having the time of their lives!  I told the girls to clap for themselves when the lights went out at the end.  Me and all the moms were clapping and hollering along with the girls, and Brad (Nikki & Mallory's dad) stood outside the door (there wasn't room for him in the room) and he hollered from out there.

When the video was done, I had to edit it so it would only be 90 seconds.  I used the free program Microsoft Movie Maker to edit and publish the movie.  The only effects I used were:  1) Add text to the end; 2) Add transitions to where the cuts were made; and 3) Add a color effect so the shirts the girls wore would all be the same color and would change colors together.  Here is what we came up with.  I hope you enjoy it!  We sure had fun making it.

Oh, by the way, we didn't make the cut to America's Got Talent YouTube edition.  We got beat out by a woman singing in her kidding!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I Sound Like What????

One of the best learning tools you can use as a musician is to record yourself.  You would be surprised the things you can learn from this experience!  First of all, it is almost like a LIVE performance.  All of a sudden, your fingers become weak and get a mind of their own.  Or your brain decides to take a vacation.  Your bow starts to shake.  You can't even remember how a song goes anymore.  If you've ever tried to record yourself, you know exactly what I'm talking about!

What can you expect to learn from recording yourself?  For starters, it really helps to hear your rhythm.  You may be concentrating so hard that you don't realize that you are slowing down or speeding up in certain areas of a song.  If you are recording yourself playing lead, try playing accompaniment behind your own recording to see how steady your rhythm actually is!

You will also hear how clear your notes are.  Do you consistantly hit clean and clear notes?  If you are playing an instrument without frets (fiddle, wind instrument, voice, etc.), are you playing in tune?  Do you consistantly miss a certain pitch?  Do you slide up to all your notes, or do you hit them right on target?  Are you fretting cleanly?  These are things that you can listen for closely in a recording of yourself.

Do you play with feeling?  When you listen to your own performance, does it move you emotionally?  (And I don't mean in a bad way, either!!!)  After practicing and practicing technical passages, I remember one of my teachers saying to me, "Well, you played all the notes."  Hopefully, you are doing more than just playing all the notes.  One of your goals should be playing in such a way as to make you and/or your audience FEEL what you are playing.  Are you able to make your playing sound easy?  Or does it sound like it is as hard as it really is for you?

Another big advantage of recording yourself is so that you can hear the progress you are making.  If you don't like what you hear, keep the recording anyway.  Try the same song several months later after you have practiced it more so that you can hear the difference.  It can be very satisfying and rewarding to hear the improvement you have made.  You hear yourself every day, so it is difficult for you to hear steady improvement in your own playing.  As a teacher, I hear you every week, so it is easier for me to hear the difference!

Now, what can you expect NOT to hear with traditional recording?  Your tone quality.  For the most part, unless you have some high tech equipment along with knowledge and skill, your own recordings won't be of a quality that will allow you to really hear your tone quality.  Even professional recordings don't always reflect the actual tone quality that you will hear in a live performance.  That's because there are so many ways to alter the tone quality of a recording.

What can you do to help make your recording sound more pleasing/professional?  For starters, the better the microphone you use, the better the recording will be.  In general, a built in microphone is not going to give you quality sound -- so any recording device that uses a built-in microphone is not going to give you fantastic sound.  That's perfectly fine, too, as long as you know what to expect!  Secondly, the room you are in will affect the sound.  Are you in a live room?  The harder the surfaces and more hard surfaces there are in a room, the more live the sound will be.  For instance, most bathrooms are very live, and I've known many a musician that has liked to practice in the bathroom because it sounds so pleasing.  (For a professional recording, this is actually not something you want, but that's another story...)

What are you using to make your recording?  A cassette player?  Then don't expect much in the tone quality department.  Are you computer saavy?  Then try downloading a free recording program like Audacity.  You can actually make multi-track recordings with this software!

Do you have a digital camera that has a video feature?  Try recording yourself with that!  Once again, don't expect too much in the tone quality department.  One of my digital cameras makes me sound like I have a lisp.  If you've heard me "in person" and then on some of my YouTube videos, you'll know what I mean...

What do I use to record?  I use Cakewalk (a recording program on my computer) for the soundclips on the website.  I also use an AKG C1000S condenser microphone.  For these soundclips, I don't alter the sound in any way because I want people to be able to compare the difference in tone quality.

I recently purchased a very nice digital video recorder.  It has an option for me to plug in my own microphone, so now I can get quality video AND quality audio.  Do you need this?  Probably not.  Is it fun?  Absolutely!

So go ahead!  Record yourself and listen carefully.  You'll be surprised what you can learn!