Saturday, February 19, 2022

Tenor Banjo: A Little History

Banjo: from the Portugese "bandore", and Spanish "bandurria"

Since they were part of slave trade, musicologists see early banjo-like instruments made of gourds primarily as early as the 17th century.

The first white man to popularize the banjo was "Sweeney" in 1830.

Tenor banjos became popular in Irish music in 1962 with the Dubliners re-tuning the instrument in from a C,G,D,A tuning (like a viola, cello), to a G,D,A,E tuning (like a violin) for ease of playing by fiddlers.

Tenor banjos were also used in the early 1900s in New Orleans Jazz Bands and later Dixieland bands for their volume and chordal capabilities.

Today, tenor banjos are still quite popular in Irish music and you won't see a seisun without one!

I have been teaching people how to play the Irish tenor banjo since 2004.  Sign up for lessons here

Practicing Tips & Tricks

Daily Practice - A Reminder, Checklist
by Adam R Sweet 7/11/2013

It's absolutely critical that you practice at least something every day!  What you practice is also critical.  Just playing a few tunes, or jamming with friends is only one part of daily practice (the fun part!).

Divide your practice time into three parts of equal length.  That means, if you practice 30 minutes a day, each chunk will be 10 minutes.

First part: A Daily Scale "Set"
  • each day play a different scale set from the circle of fifths (if you're practicing bluegrass music), otherwise a different tonic set using the 7 church modes
  • practice 2 octaves, use 4th fingers always
  • remember where to shift when playing in 3rd and 4th positions
  • fiddlers: practice the 4 bowing patterns with each scale
  • mandolinists: practice the 5 picking patterns with each scale
  • circle of fifths: practice the major AND the relative minor with each set
  • modes: practice all 7 modes
  • practice the arpeggios for each scale (1,3,5,8)

Second part: New Material
  • Sight read assigned new material
  • Practice first measure, slowly, without ornamentation or bowing until you have the notes down, then go on to 2nd, 3rd, 4th measures
  • After you have the measures well established, add any ornamentation and bowings as indicated in the sheet music or by your instructor
  • Don't try to learn the whole piece in one "chunk".  It's better to master one 4 bar phrase than to play the whole piece poorly

Third part: Review & Sight Reading
  • Jam with friends/family
  • Review old material, work on the hard parts
  • Sight Read out of the Fiddler's Fakebook or any other book as assigned by your instructor

Monday, February 14, 2022

Offering Irish Tenor Banjo Lessons Since 2004

Are you on Facebook?  Join our group for beginners here.  You can also join our Tenor banjo 4 beginners weekly Meet here

Since 2004, I have been teaching people how to play the Irish tenor banjo.  What's the difference between the  Irish tenor banjo, the American tenor banjo, the Bluegrass (finger picking) 5 string banjo, Clawhammer banjo and Frailing banjo?

Tenor Banjo lessons are offered online M-F 9am-6pm EST.  If you would like to learn how to play this lively and fun instrument, you'll need a banjo.  We recommend the Deering "Goodtime" 17-fret.  For $600 bucks, it's a good deal on an American-made banjo.  Of course you can find less expensive Chinese-made banjos, but honestly, when it comes right down to it, wouldn't you prefer a hand-made instrument from California?  I know you would!  Here's everything you ever wanted to know about Deering.  You'll need a plectrum (pick).  We can talk about options in your first lesson, for now, see if you can find a guitar pick less than 1mm preferred.  

  • Now pick a day and time that  works best for you.  Check the calendar/schedule for openings or email me if you can't find one that's suitable for your schedule.
  • Lessons start at $55/week and are generally 30 minutes long.  60 minute lessons are also available.  Learn more here.  Turn on your Slack a couple minutes before it is your time and make sure you are logged in, otherwise you may miss your slot!  
  • I prefer payment by Venmo.  Here's a link to my page

NOTE: Read and understand my Policies before coming for your first class.

    Beginning students will learn the basics: music theory and how to read music, how to count, meter and rhythm, keys and chords; how to hold the instrument and pick (or bow for violin players); how to practice scales, arpeggios and exercises; how to play basic melodies.  At some point, usually within a few weeks, beginning students may be ready for more advanced material which will be assigned at that time.

    Advanced students that can already read and understand the basics of their instrument will study more advanced theory including the modes, advanced timing and rhythm, advanced chords, harmonization, improvisation, and will be introduced to a wide variety of music depending on the genre and style they have chosen to study.  For example, Classical musicians will be exposed to a variety of composers from the Renaissance Era up to the Romantic Era and everything in between.  Folk musicians will be exposed to a wide variety of western European traditional dance music styles including Celtic, Quebecois and Cape Breton music as well as American styles such as Bluegrass, Country, Western Swing, Jazz, Blues, and more.

    Sunday, February 13, 2022

    Playing Music Together In A Small Group


    Playing Music Together In A Small Group

    Tuesday's Classical Group
    Chamber groups are small ensembles such as string quartets and piano trios, who play music intended for performance in close chambers such as parlors and living rooms, churches, or virtually any venue smaller than a large concert hall. While their small sizes and are ideal for intimate settings, chamber groups can, of course, also perform in great concert halls. Chamber orchestras with fifteen or more players blur the definition of a chamber group somewhat; however, while chamber orchestras are relatively large, they remain small and "chamber-like" in comparison to the immense size and volume of full modern orchestras.

    It's the best way to meet people. It's much easier than a party. You go to a party, you wonder if someone is going to be approachable or not, but when you play music together, somehow you're communicating immediately, and you go to that level socially as well. Once you start playing music, you can communicate in a way that you could never do just with words.

    You form bonds with people you might not otherwise have a conversation with. But because you've shared something so personal, it becomes easier.

    It's the ultimate egalitarian experience, because everyone is necessary all the time. Everyone's complete focus is necessary all the time. Everyone coming into the experience understands and respects that. We all realize that we're bringing our best, and we're each bringing unique contributions to the group.

    That's one of the best things about it, too. Each person brings something unique, so you have access to the brains of the other people to make a product that you couldn't make on your own. Sometimes there are heated debates, but it's all in good fun.

    Playing chamber music helps enhance your musicianship. It’s easy to ‘hide’ in a large orchestra or band, but in a small group your skills are much more exposed. You work harder to play accurately and in tune, to listen and blend, to create musical phrases – and as a result, these musical skills improve.

    Thursday's Celtic group
    Playing in a small group allows you to be more autonomous and independent. You can make your own rehearsal and performance decisions, and you can choose your own repertoire. You’re not beholden to a conductor. You can tailor your performances to your own interests and/or the jobs you’re hired to play.

    Playing in a chamber group helps develop your communication skills. All members of the group have an opinion on how the music should be played. Listening to all ideas and implementing the ones that work best help to hone collaborative skills that you can use later on in college, your career, and in everyday life.

    There is a wide variety of music available for almost any instrumental combination.  I offer 4 groups: Beginner's group, Classical group, Celtic group and Bluegrass group.  Some include piano and/or voice(s). Pops, holiday, classical, jazz, etc…. You can find just about anything by going online or checking with your music teacher.  Chamber groups are portable! It’s a lot easier to take a trio, quartet or quintet ‘on the road’ than a full band. Small groups fit better into more venues, creating more opportunities to gig.

    Playing chamber music is both a social and musical activity. Start a group containing friends you already have, or start a group with people you hope to become friends with. Either way, you will have fun!

    The Violin Teachers Recommend: Palatino Genoa Violin Outfit 4/4

     This violin outfit is the best we've seen from Palatino, a stead-fast product that has lasted for decades and created great satisfaction with our students and customers alike.  Recommended by our violin teacher, Adam Sweet, the violin has a warm sweet tone, is easy to set up and play and the outfit comes with everything you need to get started right away!

    This instrument has been professionally set up ($65 value) with a new set of violin strings ($25 a set) and a new bridge ($18).  TOTAL Value-Added Service: $108

    You can buy one on for $179.00 with free shipping, but you'll have to have a luthier set it up for you, and it will arrive with cheap Chinese strings and a mediocre bridge.  We've done all that for you for a fraction of the cost.

    Here's a Demo:

    • Full-size violin 4/4: hand-carved with maple, spruce and ebony
    • Oblong padded deluxe case with zippers, solid stainless steel closing mechanism, outer music pocket (fits 8.5x11 folder), large pockets, blanket and clips for bows
    • Hand-carved Brazilwood bow
    • Humidity gauge
    • Blanket
    • Shoulder Rest
    • Rosin
    • Shoulder Straps
    Video of the outfit:

    SRP: $250
    Our Price: $195 (plus tax)

    We take PayPal for payment over the internet, or you can pay cash at the studio in Granby Mass

    We can ship these via USPS for an additional $28.

    Nice zippers

    Huge pocket for sheet music, books

    Solid stainless-steel clasp

    Violin, blanket, bow, pockets, strap

    Good shoulder rest, rosin

    Humidity gauge 

    Violin top

    Violin back

    Friday, February 11, 2022

    Tremolo and the Modern Mandolin, or How to Get Maximum Sustain out of your Modern Mandolin

    How to Get Maximum Sustain out of your Modern Mandolin

    I don’t like the sound of mandolin tremolo as a substitute for sustain. To my ears, when done well it sounds too much like traditional mandolin orchestral technique, and when done poorly it reminds me of Italian restaurant troubadours. There is no other instrument in the tradition that rapidly repeats a note like that. It just sounds foreign to me, like someone wandered in from a different tradition.

    Most quality modern mandolins have quite a lot of sustain that can be used if played with sensitivity using single notes, helped with a bit of natural or artificial room reverberation. 

    I have developed an instructional video explaining how to maximize  the sustain of your instrument. 

    I’m not sure any mandolin, even an octave, is up to recreating the long tones in something like Air on the G String by J.S. Bach, so personally I don’t even try that kind of thing on mandolin. 

    #modern #mandolin #sustain #Bach #tremolo #notremolo #tryit #dontbeshy 

    Reminder of Studio Policies

    An unfortunate incident occurred yesterday, where a student canceled at the last minute.  Normally, that wouldn't be a problem, but since this student had a special arrangement where they pay each time they come to a lesson, the backlash was significant.  Because of the scheduled time of their lesson, my wife had to leave one of the busiest days at work to come home and take care of our son.  February is a very busy time at UMass, and she forfeited her normal time plus overtime pay to be here for me, and my student.  So not only did we lose my wife's income for that time period, but we lost the income from the student.

    Because of this incident, I feel I must reiterate my Studio policies:

    Private Lessons are one hour (60 minutes) a week (unless otherwise indicated), 50 weeks a year.  Students are required to pay every 4 weeks.  Classes are taught in 25 week "semesters", leaving the last week of each semester open for makeups.  There are two recitals a year in January and June.  The calendar looks like this:

    •     January: 1 week of makeups, 1 week vacation, Recital on the 3rd Saturday of the Month
    •     Feb, Mar, Apr, May
    •     June: Recital on the 3rd Saturday of the Month, 1 week of makeups
    •     July: 1 week of vacation (usually the 2nd week of July)
    •     Special arrangements may be made on an individual basis

    *NOTE: there will be no group classes, in person lessons or recitals during the pandemic or until further notice.

    There are no makeups if a student misses a class for whatever reason, the student must pay for an additional makeup as they would for an extra class.  There are no exceptions to this rule.  If I miss a class due to illness or other emergency, the makeups will be completed during the last week of each semester at no additional charge to the student.  If a student can't make a scheduled class due to inclement weather, classes may be attended by Slack

    The cost of Private Lessons depends on the age and student status.  Discounts are available for Senior Citizens (65 and older) and College Students with a valid (current) student ID. 

    Private Instruction Tuition:

    •     Regular Private (60 minute) Lessons: $320 every four weeks
    •     Regular Private (30 minute) Lessons: $180 every four weeks
    •     Senior Citizens (65 or older): $300 every four weeks
    •     College Students (with current ID): $120 every four weeks

    Group Class Tuition:

    • 90 minute Adult Group Classes: $100 every four weeks 

    Tuition is due at the first scheduled class of each month, or 25 week semester.  We prefer Venmo payments or cash. If not received within the first two classes of the month, a $10 late fee will be added to your account.  There are no bills sent out unless tuition is past due, then we will notify you by email, so please make sure we have your current email address.

    •     Semester I: September - January 10, Recital 3rd Saturday in January
    •     Semester II: February - August, Recital 3rd Saturday in June

    There are no senior or student discounts available for Group Classes at this time.  If you are currently taking Private Lessons, you may be eligible for a bulk rate.  Please ask.

    Thursday, February 10, 2022

    Where does bow hair come from? How is it made?

    Here's a bundle of horsetail hair. The hair is from an animal, or animals, that lived and worked in #Siberia. They don't have many tractors there, but they do have a lot of horses. The animals were sold to a slaughterhouse in Harbin, China, where they were disassembled, the component parts cleaned and prepared for transport to different parts of the country. 

    Every part of the animal is used in some way. Belly hair, for example, is used in paint brushes! The tails are dried on a cobblestone lot, then loaded in burlap bags labeled by weight, length and color. The pallets are loaded onto freight trains to an auction facility outside #Anping, #China. There they are bid on by various companies. 

    The people I do business with bid according to color and length. They mostly supply black hair for car and furniture companies, but they are the oldest facility in the city that still processes #bow #hair in the original manner. If you want to read more about that, I wrote an article about it here.

    #violinbow #fiddlebow #cellobow #bowhair #horsetailhair #violin #China #Siberia #Harbin #Anping 

    To order your own horsetail hair for bows

    Wednesday, February 9, 2022

    What are some good fiddle tunes for a beginner?

    So as you know, I teach violin and many fiddle styles including celtic, bluegrass, klezmer, jazz, western swing, texas style and Quebecois.

    Someone recently asked me to suggest some tunes a beginner can learn.  I decided to include some more advanced  tunes as well

    Camptown Races comes to mind, as does Liza Jane, Buffalo Gals, Shady Grove (it's in Bm but doable), Shortnin' Bread, Oh, Susanna, Cindy, Dixie, Wildwood Flower, Soldier's Joy, Going to Boston, Flop Eared Mule, Skip to My Lou, Girl I left Behind Me, Old Joe Clark, Cripple Creek...all basically level 1 tunes except maybe the last 3 or so.

    Slightly more advanced would be Mississippi Sawyer, Arkansas Traveler, Rose Tree, Over the Waterfall, Newcastle, Southwind, Si Beg Si More, Sandy River, Salt Creek, Chinky Pin, Cotton Eyed Joe, Cameron Highlanders, Scotland the Brave, Harvest Home, Ash Grove, Amazing Grace, Swinging on a Gate, Fisher's Hornpipe, Snowflake Reel

    Every fiddle player needs to learn the "double shuffle" bowing pattern. Here are some good tunes to practice with it:

    Orange Blossom Special, Back Up And Push, Rubber Dolly,.

    Now we get into some jigs! Here are some easier ones: Irish Washerwoman, Garry Owen, St Patrick's Day (inna mornin), Haste to the Wedding, Road to Lisdoonvarna, Swallow Tail, Kid on the Mountain and Pipe on the Hob.

    How about some Polkas? I like: As we Went Out On The Ice, Kangaroo, Kerry, Spare Leg, Andy Boyle's, Britches full of Stiches.

    Are All Violin Players Classically Trained?

    You don't need to be classically trained to play the violin. This beautiful instrument is not impossible to play. 

    Practice it 30 minutes a day for six months! Follow our Facebook page for more:

    Quora Question: What is the best musical instrument to learn first as a child if you intend to master multiple instruments?

    Here’s what I advised my sister (3 kids) and my brother (2 kids): start them out on piano with the Suzuki method. That method teaches ear training, and learning to play music by ear before reading it. After a couple years of that, depending on what kind of music is supported by the school system (orchestra is very rare - only the top towns in MA have orchestras), band is most common, clarinet. If you are lucky to have an orchestra in the school system, then violin. Find a reputable teacher in your area who is actively engaged in the community. Check the local community orchestra for one. They don’t pay very well, so these people teach as a sideline.

    I used to be more active on Quora.  I started a profile there soon after it was first publicized, in 2011.  It was a lot of fun, much like Yahoo Questions, which is now defunct.  Then they changed the format making it harder to engage, and I just stopped.  Now I go on there if I have something specific to share.

    #children #musicalinstrument #band #orchestra #piano #clarinet #violin 

    Who was James Robert Wills?

    James Robert Wills (March 6, 1905 – May 13, 1975) was an American Western swing musician, songwriter, and bandleader. Considered by music authorities as the co-founder of Western swing, he was known widely as the King of Western Swing 

    Wills formed several bands and played radio stations around the South and West until he formed the Texas Playboys in 1934 with Wills on fiddle, Tommy Duncan on piano and vocals, rhythm guitarist June Whalin, tenor banjoist Johnnie Lee Wills, and Kermit Whalin, who played steel guitar and bass. The band played regularly on Tulsa, Oklahoma, radio station KVOO and added Leon McAuliffe on steel guitar, pianist Al Stricklin, drummer Smokey Dacus, and a horn section that expanded the band's sound. Wills favored jazz-like arrangements and the band found national popularity into the 1940s with such hits as "Steel Guitar Rag", "New San Antonio Rose", "Smoke on the Water", "Stars and Stripes on Iwo Jima", and "New Spanish Two Step".

    Wills and the Texas Playboys recorded with several publishers and companies, including Vocalion, Okeh, Columbia, and MGM, frequently moving. In 1950, he had two top 10 hits, "Ida Red Likes the Boogie" and "Faded Love", which were his last hits for a decade. Throughout the 1950s, he struggled with poor health and tenuous finances, but continued to perform frequently despite the decline in popularity of his earlier music as rock and roll took over. Wills had a heart attack in 1962 and a second one the next year, which forced him to disband the Playboys, although Wills continued to perform solo.

    The Country Music Hall of Fame inducted Wills in 1968 and the Texas State Legislature honored him for his contribution to American music.

    In 1972, Wills accepted a citation from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in Nashville. He was recording an album with fan Merle Haggard in 1973 when a stroke left him comatose until his death in 1975. 

    He was born on a cotton farm in Kosse, Limestone County, Texas.  His  parents were of English and Irish ancestry.  His dad played the violin, so he learned a lot of those early tunes he played from his father.  He spent his teens and twenties playing the violin and working as a barber.

    In 1930, he met Milton Brown, a singer/violin player and formed the Wills Fiddle band, changing their name to that of their sponsor at the time, the Light Crust Doughboys.   Brown left the band in 1932 to form the Musical Brownies, the first true Western swing band. Brown added twin fiddles, tenor banjo and slap bass, pointing the music in the direction of swing, which they played on local radio and at dancehalls.  Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies, true Western Swing:

    After Brown left, Wills formed The Playboys and in 1934, left Texas to Oklahoma City.  Wills soon settled the renamed Texas Playboys in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and began broadcasting noon shows over the 50,000-watt KVOO radio station, from the stage of Cain's Ballroom.

    Wills largely sang blues and sentimental ballads. "One Star Rag", "Rat Cheese Under the Hill", "Take Me Back to Tulsa", "Basin Street Blues", "Steel Guitar Rag", and "Trouble in Mind" were some of the songs in the extensive repertory played by Wills and the Playboys.

    Take me Back to Tulsa: (Ragtime Annie fiddle introduction)

    In 1940, Wills, along with the Texas Playboys, co-starred with Tex Ritter in Take Me Back to Oklahoma. Altogether, Wills appeared in nineteen films, including The Lone Prairie (1942), Riders of the Northwest Mounted (1943), Saddles and Sagebrush (1943), The Vigilantes Ride (1943), The Last Horseman (1944), Rhythm Round-Up (1945), Blazing the Western Trail (1945), and Lawless Empire (1945).

    Tex Ritter and Bob Wills in Take Me Back to Oklahoma: 

    1942 - 1948, Wills became a superstar.  He commanded enormous fees playing dances there, and began to make more creative use of electric guitars to replace the big horn sections the Tulsa band had boasted. For a very brief period in 1944, the Wills band included 23 members

    In 1945, Wills' dances were drawing larger crowds than dances put on by Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman. That year, he lived in both Santa Monica and Fresno, California. In 1947, he opened the Wills Point nightclub in Sacramento, California and continued touring the Southwest and Pacific Northwest from Texas to Washington State. In Sacramento, he broadcast shows over KFBK, a station whose reach encompassed much of the American West. Wills was in such high demand that venues would book him even on weeknights, because they knew the show would still be a draw.

    Having lived a lavish lifestyle in California, Wills moved back to Oklahoma City in 1949, then went back on the road to maintain his payroll and Wills Point. He opened a second club, the Bob Wills Ranch House in Dallas, Texas. Turning the club over to managers, later revealed to be dishonest, left Wills in desperate financial straits with heavy debts to the IRS for back taxes. This caused him to sell many assets, including the rights to "New San Antonio Rose". It wrecked him financially.

    In 1950, Wills had two top 10 hits, "Ida Red Likes the Boogie" and "Faded Love". After 1950, radio stations began to increasingly specialize in one form or another of commercially popular music. Although usually labelled "country and western", Wills did not fit into the style played on popular country and western stations, which typically played music in the Nashville sound. Neither did he fit into the conventional sound of pop stations, although he played a good deal of pop music

    After two heart attacks, in 1965 he dissolved the Texas Playboys (who briefly continued as an independent unit) to perform solo with house bands. While he did well in Las Vegas and other areas, and made records for the Kapp Records label, he was largely a forgotten figure—even though inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1968. A 1969 stroke left his right side paralyzed, ending his active career. He did, however, recover sufficiently to appear in a wheelchair at various Wills tributes held in the early 1970s. A revival of interest in his music, spurred by Merle Haggard's 1970 album A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World, led to a 1973 reunion album, teaming Wills, who spoke with difficulty, with key members of the early band, as well as Haggard.

    Wills died in Fort Worth of pneumonia on May 13, 1975.

    Wills' style influenced performers Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and The Strangers and helped to spawn a style of music now known as the Bakersfield Sound.  

    As well as younger "revival" bands like Asleep at the Wheel and Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen plus the growing popularity of longtime Wills disciple and fan Willie Nelson: 

    Some of his music:

    As a preface to the following tunes.  I have studied them well (Adam here), and would like to teach them to you.  We can learn them on the fiddle, which is the instrument Bob Wills played, or the mandolin.  Either is fine.  Contact me using the form on the sidebar, or by emailing if you would like to learn

    Monday, February 7, 2022

    Johann Sebastian Bach - Works for Violin - Complete Sonatas and Partitas for Unaccompanied Violin

    Sonata No 1 in G. Minor

    • Adagio, 1. Fuga (Allegro), 2.  Siciliano, 5. Presto, 6.

    Partita No. 1 in B Minor

    • Allemande, 8. Double, 9.  Courante, 10,. Double (PResto), 11. Sarabande, 13. Double, 14. Tempo di Bouree, 14. Double, 16

    Sonata No. 2 in A Minor

    • Grave, 17. Fuga, 18. Andante, 22. Allegro, 23.

    Partita No. 2 in D Minor

    • Allemande, 25. Courante, 26.  Sarabande, 27.  Gigue, 28. Chaconne, 30.

    Sonata No. 3 in C Major

    • Adagio, 36. Fuga (Allabreve), 37.  Largo, 42.  Allegro assai, 43.

    Partita No 3 in E Major

    • Preludio, 36. Loure, 50. Gavotte en Rondeau, 50.  Menuet 1, 522.  Menuet 2, 52.  Bourree, 53. Ggue4, 54

    Performed here by Yehudi Menuhin.  Get the Book Here

    Thursday, February 3, 2022

    My Studio Introduction

    I created this video project to showcase some of my work over the decades, and to encourage anybody new to considering signing up.  As you can see from the video, I have a lot more to offer than YouTube videos or apps.  While more people are moving towards those sources of lessonry, I think what I have to offer is superior in many ways.  I hope you enjoy it:

    Tuesday, February 1, 2022

    Are Ye Sleepin' Maggie?

     Sung here by Mark Vocca (guitar) with Celticado (Jim Bunting mandolin and Adam Sweet fiddle)

    Mirk and rainy is the nicht
    There’s no’ a staum in a’ the carry
    Lichtnin’s gleam athwart the lift
    And cauld winds drive wi’ winters fury

    Oh, are ye sleeping Maggie
    Oh, are ye sleeping Maggie
    Let me in, for loud the linn is howling
    Ower the warlock Craigie

    Fearfu’ soughs the boortree bank
    The rifted wood roars wild and dreary
    Loud the iron yett does clank
    The cry of hoolits mak’s me eerie

    Oh, are ye sleeping Maggie
    Oh, are ye sleeping Maggie
    Let me in, for loud the linn is howling
    Ower the warlock Craigie

    Abune ma breath, I daurnae speak
    For fear I rouse your waukrife Daddy
    Cauld’s the blast upon my cheek
    O rise, O rise my bonnie lady

    Oh, are ye sleeping Maggie
    Oh, are ye sleeping Maggie
    Let me in, for loud the linn is howling
    Ower the warlock Craigie

    She’s ope’d the door, she’s let him in
    She’s cuist aside his dreepin plaidie
    Blaw yer warst ye rain and wind
    For Maggie noo I’m an aside ye

    Noo since your waukin’ Maggie
    Noo since yer waukin’ Maggie
    What care I for hoolits cry
    For boortree bank or warlock Craigie

    The Ogham Stones of Ancient Ireland / Ancient Irish Music

    Excerpts of a book Written by W.H. Flood "A History of Irish Music"

    Now offering Mandocello and Mandola Lessons Online!

     I am now offering mandola and mandocello lessons at the studio in addition to mandolin.  Mandola is the "viola" equivalent in the mandolin family of instruments.  Mandocello is the "cello" equivalent.

    Mandola players often read the Treble Clef, only an octave higher and with different fingering.  Sometimes called the "Tenor Clef".  Many mandola players also play viola and therefore read the standard viola "Alto Clef".

    Mandocello players read the Alto and the Bass Clef.

    The fingering on both instruments is identical to the fingering on the bowed-string counterpart, so viola and cello players could switch over to the fretted versions quite easily.  In fact, if you have a little guitar background, the transition is even easier as you will already have experience with frets and a pick.

    Contact me to learn more about mandocello/mandola lessons online

    L to R: Adam Sweet on the mandocello, Dave Folta on the mandola, Will Melton, mandola, Joe Blumenthal, bass, Mary Jennings, mandolin, Barbara Blumenthal, mandolin and Keith Higginson (hidden) mandolin

    Spotify Controversy and Celticado

     #Celticado has decided to keep our music on #Spotify.  Now that so many musicians are removing their music, maybe we can start making some sales! 

    @joerogan  @Spotify

    Happy New Year!

     This is neither here, nor there, but I have been struggling to find a job.  Literally hundreds of resumes sent out, awesome cover letters written...apparently nobody wants to hire a 59 year old.  I've applied to 15 jobs at UMass Amherst, 7 at Hampshire College, 3 at Mount Holyoke College, as well as a myriad of smattering other jobs at the other colleges and community schools.  Nobody is hiring.  I suspect I knew this would happen in 2009 when our son was born and we decided to split to stay home and raise him and my partner to get a decent job with health care.  It made sense then because as a musician and music teacher, I could stay home and teach at night.  This was a sort of "between" time, when people my age and up had more cash and were more motivated.  Times have changed.  

    You can't blame it all on the pandemic.

    There's infinitely more flexibility now due to the fact that most people have access to the internet and can take remote lessons.  The challenge is that the generations (mine and before) that grew up with a healthy appreciation for learning to play a musical instrument are in the same boat as me, meaning, they are not able to hire a private teacher.  Many of them are attempting to go their own way by using YouTube videos and apps.  I don't know how successful that is for them.  I do get a few that cross over from apps once they realize that feedback and motivation are critical aspects of private lessons that they can't get with an app or a video.

    I'm lucky I suppose, that I can offer a wide variety of musical instruments, styles, and have experience teaching all age groups.  But finding students is much harder now than it has ever been.

    In years past, I found most of my students by word of mouth.  The fact that everybody is either online now, or has hunkered down offline and out of the community (many of my former 70+ students fit this description), renders word of mouth that much more difficult.  Other sources of students such as Craigslist (which has moved to a paid model) are dead-ends now.  Facebook/Social media was a decentralized source of eager students 10 years ago, but that also has changed as more and more people migrate to platforms like TikTok, SnapChat, Telegram, Discord, Pinterest, Instagram and many others, splintering what was a fat pipeline into thousands of tiny pipettes if at all.  

    What's a musician to do?  Schools are not hiring.  In fact, my son's school music teacher left in August for whatever reason to find more permanent work in Chicopee where music teachers double as substitute teachers and staff now.  Less music, more PPE.  The Pandemic has rendered live music a dead end as well.  Concerts, gigs and other live music events was once a pure source of eager students.  But the fact that there are few live music events any more, makes this an impossible source.  How do I know this?  One of the most prolific musician/teachers I know recently organized an online "concert" and posted it to his Facebook page.  It was a good event, very positive.  But just how many people watched it?  How many students were motivated by it to sign up for lessons?  I would be surprised if it were more than 1 or 2.

    So where does this put the rest of us?  Looking for outside work.  And coming up short.

    Happy New Year!

    Les Poules huppées

    CRESTED HENS, THE (Les Poules huppées). French, Bourrée à 3 temps (3/8 time). E Dorian. Standard tuning (fiddle). Composed in 1983 by French...