Archive for the ‘Professor Flitwick’s Band’ Category

A year of Music (revisisted)

Thursday, August 13th, 2020

I finally got around to try and document the concerts I saw in 2018-2019. I am sure I missed a number of bands as there were over 70 of them. I started the year with buying some tickets at Sycuan casino. They have a wonderful venue with a very intimate settings. The price is very affordable, so I ended up buying 8 concerts. Through the year, more concerts popped up and I found myself seeing more bands in one year than I have my entire life combined. I really miss going to concerts. I sure hope we can soon.

Here is a list of some of the bands I was lucky enough to see:

Air Supply – As good as I remember
Alabama – Mountain Music is fantastic
Allman Brothers – This was my favorite concert of all times
Blue Oyster Cult – Saw them twice, no fear
Barry Manilow – Man he can put on a show
Berlin – Teri is my freshman college crush.
Britney Spears – I paid for a lip sync’d concert
Cher – Her final, final, final tour.
Chicago – Saturday in the theater
Def Leppard – OMG the bass was fantastic!
Dropkick Murphys – The boys are back in Irvine
Flogging Molly – 1st time seeing them, mosh pits, what?
Foreigner – Excellent Concert, horrible venue.
Frankie Valli – It took 2 songs to warm up, but you still got it!
Gwen Stefani – What a sweet escape this was.
Journey – The new lead singer was fantastic
Little River Band – No lonesome losers here.
Loverboy – We worked for the weekend to see them
Mannheim Steamroller – Birthday concert
Marshall Tucker Band – We could see!
Modern English – We melted with them
Night Ranger – Eddie really came out that night
Oakridge Boys – My best friend got to sing Elvira.
Peter Frampton – Angie got to learn what a Talk Box was
Pink – The most amazing singing aerobatics I have ever seen
Quiet Riot – Great new songs, but the old songs sounded horrible.
REO Speedwagon – What a band to surrender to.
Styx – They finally sang Mr. Roboto!
Tony Orlando – Wow, who knew how many jingles he wrote.
Warrant – Some Cherry Pie for dessert.

Learning the Banjo…a few hours of practicing.

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

So today I spent about two hours practicing. At least now Pekoe is leaving me alone. She just looks at me with a leer and lays down and watches me. Sometimes, she just walks into the hallway and plops down with a huff (as if to say, fine! whatEVER!) I guess this is what teenagers are like, LOL.
I pretty much spent the time practicing rolls. The hand position and location of my anchor finger really makes a difference and I need to concentrate on where they are or I have trouble. I also found that in low light, I have a hard time plucking the 1st and 2nd strings. I find myself plucking the 1st string when I think I am on the 2nd string. Hand position makes a huge difference, so I really need to be consistent.
After practicing, I decided to try out my electronic tuner. This has to be the best device ever created! 🙂 Once I realized the note that each string represented it was easy to tune:

D – 1st string
B – 2nd string
G – 3rd string (one octave lower than the 5th string)
D – 4th string (one octave lower and the 1st string)
G – 5th string (the short string on top when holding the banjo)

I also think that this would be a good tool to use to figure out if your left hand is playing the right cord. I wanted to play more tonight, but my hand was a bit fatigued so I will rest and try again tomorrow.

Learning the Banjo…first lesson

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Today, I had my first banjo lesson. I packed up my Banjo and headed down to Old Time Music in North Park to meet with my instructor (Janet Beazley). This music store is really nice. They have a selection of stringed instruments from guitars to violins to banjos and a lot of other ones in the front room. Through the back door are the classrooms and in the back is a large music room where they hold jam sessions.

I started my lesson. We started by attaching my strap to my banjo. It’s not as obvious as a guitar, so I needed a little help. Once attached, I was shown how to adjust it and position the banjo for proper playing. I really like the ability to not have to hold on to the banjo and can play it with just one hand. After hooking up the strap we fitted my fingers with picks. To play the banjo, bluegrass style, you use three picks. The thumb uses a plastic pick and the index and middle fingers have a metal pick. The picks are turned in, so the smooth sides face each other. This is the side that plucks the strings. So thumb plucks down and the other two pluck up.

They fit pretty tight, so I will have to adjust them once I get used to them. The metal picks can be adjusted with a pair of pliers. I am not sure about the plastic pic. I may have to look at a lot of sizes and brands to get the right fit.

We started with learning the proper hand position on the banjo. The trick is to have your last two fingers of your right hand anchored on the drum head, just above the bridge. Once those fingers are anchored, you curl your hand like your holding a small ball. This will put the fingers in the right position to pluck the strings. This will take a lot of getting used to and will become second nature as I practice more and more.

Janet showed me how to read the sheet music (called tablatures). This was actually pretty easy for me to get. I have had a little piano background when I was a kid and a ton of old knowledge just started flooding back. It’s amazing what the brain stores and recalls. I think I have a basic understanding of reading the sheet music. We started by practicing a forward roll, then a backwards roll and finally an alternating roll. Each of these rolls are pretty easy to play, once you have your hand in the right position. My exercise and practice will be to learn to play these rolls without looking at my hand and as I get better, speed up their playing.

One challenge I see I am going to have is to count the measures. Normally, I would count 1,2,3,4 1,2,3,4 but each string is labeled 1-5 and as I play each string, I am counting 1,2,3,4 or 5 in my head. I am doing this naturally without thinking and it’s getting in the way of counting the measures. I describe it as singing row-row-row-your-boat (in the round) with just yourself! 😉 Not an easy task and the brain is not wired properly for it. I will need to stop counting numbers for the strings so that I can focus on the measures. Hopefully, Janet will have some advice for me.

After the rolls, we practiced a few left hand chord positions. I find that my big fingers have trouble with touching two strings at once when I do this. Practice is going to help learn the proper positions. My wrist was sore just after one minute of trying to play a D7 cord. I now have a great appreciation for people who can play a string instrument. After practicing one or two more cords, she showed me a song. The song is called Banjo in the Hollow. It looks really hard to play, even though I know it’s an easy piece to play. It just looks overwhelming at first. I am sure with practice it will be very easy to play and play well.

This was the end of my first lesson. I am happy with my new instructor and will schedule my next session after I have some time to practice. Rather than schedule my appointments on a regular basis, I want to have a lesson and then practice until I feel good about playing what I learned or am totally lost and need more help 😉 This will prevent me from getting stressed out about trying to meet a deadline before my next lesson. After all, this is supposed to be FUN and not a chore. Unlike my experience as a child playing the piano, I want to make sure I am getting as much out of it as I am giving of my time. I think forcing people to play and play when they don’t want to is a mistake and you should want to learn to make it fun to do.

When I got home today, I decided to practice and see if I remembered anything ;-). I got out my trusty pliers and adjusted the picks so that they didn’t feel like they were cutting off my circulation. I need to find out how far past my fingertip they should extend so that I can adjust them properly. Also, I noticed that where they line up on my finger makes a huge difference in how easy it is to pluck the string. I need to experiment to get it right.

I practiced for about an hour playing rolls. I found some came easier than others and I had to really focus on keeping my hand anchored. It had a tendency to lift up, like I was drinking out of a tea cup or something! LOL. I experimented with the banjo position trying to get the instrument comfortable. Janet taught me that you should be able to stand up and sit down and have the banjo feel the same and support itself. I tried this a few times and actually tried playing sitting then standing up and found a few positions that worked well.

After an hour my hand (fingers specifically) were getting tired and Pekoe really was instant that I stop playing. She kept head-butting me and then stepping on my leg and leaning against the neck muting the strings. Boy what a critic she is becoming! I am not sure what I am going to do to keep her from bugging me. Anyway, the days lesson and practicing were fun and enjoyable. To quote Bogart: “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

My first time.

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Today I spent about an hour getting to know my Banjo. I found a good site on the net that helped me with learning a basic roll. A roll is basically a series of strings played in an specific order. I practiced playing the 3251 roll. I was really bad at first, but as my fingers got used to playing in the right order I got the hang of it and could play it a little faster. After playing it a few times I would hit the number 4 string. DOH! I am playing without finger picks so can feel the strings. Since the Banjo is already tuned to the key of G, I don’t really have to worry about cords at the moment.

I signed up for an introduction banjo lesson with Janet Beazley an instructor at Old Time Music in North Park. We will be doing a lesson next week and I am looking forward to it and see how this goes.

BTW, Pekoe seem to either really want to sing along with my playing or is really annoyed by it. She meows, jumps on the coach or butts her head into my arm. Everyone is a critic!