09 5 / 2014
… . . at the post entitled “Specifics.” I’m still working on those same specifics, and that was almost a year ago. My tenor banjo playing has really improved since I wrote “Specifics.” My left hand is moving so much better. The vibrato and palm blocking on lap steel have not moved forward as much as I had hoped they would. I’m starting to think I will struggle in those areas forever. My single string stuff has gotten a little better, but improvement is slow going without gigs to reinforce them. Gigs where I do single string soloing have been hard to come by in the last year. I’ve done about eight since “Specifics” was posted. That’s simply not enough to make significant progress. Of course, the good news is that I haven’t done those gigs because I’ve been doing three or four tenor banjo gigs a week, which is why my tenor playing is soaring right now.
19 7 / 2013
Tomorrow (Sunday, July 21, 2013) will be interesting. Chuck and the Kings were offered a great opportunity to play from 11:00 A.M. until 2:00 P.M. at a great restaurant called Five. Chuck couldn’t make it, so Mike and I decided to do play this one with a replacement. Mike, as you know, plays bass for Chuck and the Kings. What you might not know is that Mike is an excellent saxophonist. We decided to get the great Jon Ford to play bass for the Five gig.
This particular lineup has never played together before. I can’t wait to hear how it sounds tomirrow.
07 7 / 2013
In my last post, I said that I had much more work to do. There is no question. My musical re-education is nowhere near complete. The following are a few thoughts on what I need to work on in the coming year.
Lap Steel - Any conversation about lap steel (at least for me) begins and ends with blocking and vibrato. Both need serious attention. The vibrato is certainly getting better, but one specific aspect of my vibrato is really weak: chordal palm blocking past the 12th fret. I’ve gotta get better at that stuff!
Tenor Banjo - My main issues there are tremolo and left hand smoothness. I need to get smoother when I make difficult moves. I want to eliminate those extra sounds and noises that I make when I attempt a difficult transition.
Guitar - my main area of need here is single string improvising. I need to really work on my soloing.
Tenor Guitar - I don’t actually own one, but I want to change that fact in the next few months. To me, that instrument brings out the best of my guitar playing and my tenor banjo playing. When I get one, I’ll need to work on havIng a much lighter touch with both hands. The right and left hand techniques for that instrument are much lighter that the ones used for the tenor banjo.
Anyway, that’s what I’m gonna work on, and I’m gonna start right now!
05 7 / 2013
Today is the one year anniversary of my first post in my Re-Education of Tony blog. I’ve enjoyed working on my Tumblr blog, and I’ve learned much from creating these posts. My original plan was to produce a year’s worth of blogs, but I can’t stop now. My re-education is nowhere near complete. I have so much work to do, so many ideas to consider. I won’t quit until I feel like I’m at least close to where I want to be.
27 3 / 2013
15 3 / 2013
I become quite obsessed with the songs that feature the lyrics of Gus Kahn. I’m not sure how many people know the name Gus Kahn. but trust me we all know his songs. The short list would include “It Had to Be You,” “My Buddy,” “Pretty Baby,” Yes Sir, That’s My Baby,” “Makin’ Whoopee,” “Goofus,” “I’ll See You In My Dreams,” “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” and that’s just the beginning. The guy wrote many amazing songs.
I saw a movie about Mr. Kahn’s life last week. Danny Thomas, one my all-time favorite performers, played the part of Mr. Kahn. That movie got me started on my research on Gus Kahn, and what I’ve learned is that many of my favorite songs from the American Songbook are indeed Gus Kahn tunes. It’s like that final seen from You’ve Got Mail. You finally find the person who’s right for you, and it turns out you knew her all along.
One reason I love these songs is because I like the way they sound on the tenor banjo. I’m currently working up as many chord/melody arrangements of his songs on that instrument as possible. As I polish some of these arrangements, I’ll post a them here.
Check out out Mr. Kahn’s tunes. Within minutes, you’ll be saying, “Wow, I didn’t know he wrote that!”
03 3 / 2013
I was on a good musical path over the last month or so. There have been lots of gigs, and I played pretty well on most of them. My practice sessions have been consistently productive, and I’ve used many of those sessions to put together some interesting arrangements.
That musical path hit a high note last Saturday night. I played a great trio thing that was a real pleasure to do. That high note was also the (temporary) end of that fertile period. The next day, the coughing started. Then I got the sore throat and the achiness and all the other symptoms. Here it is the following Sunday, and I’m still not well. I’ve been really sick all week. As for music, the week was a washout. ‘No gigs. ‘Very little practice. ‘None of the strength or clarity needed to get an instrument out of it’s bag and try to do something.
Even though I feel terrible, I’m gonna try to play some lap steel now. It won’t be great (or even good), but it’s a start.
03 3 / 2013
I took my amp to Sam Timberlake, by far the best amp repairman/designer/builder in this area, the day after it started acting weird. As you may remember, I was practicing when the my beloved Polytone Mini Brute II starting acting crazy. The volume would go way down and, then it would go way up, and then the there would be no sound at all. I was definitely scared. I can’t afford a new amp. Even if I could a afford a new amp, I haven’t heard an amp as mellow as mine ever.
Sam did all kinds of diagnostic tests and concluded that problem rested in my (previously) trusty George L guitar cable. That old cable has performed admirably for years, but it had to go. Also, after some testing of my own, I learned that my surge protector/power strip had some problems. I replaced the cable and the power strip, and all is well in Ploytone land.
24 2 / 2013