Saturday, November 25, 2006


Recovering from Thursday feasting. Spent Thanksgiving in Vermont and had a grand time, though the bill arrived late Thursday night. Friday morning acquired new guitar! After many months of deliberation and searching, I've ended up with an absolutely amazing Froggy Bottom "M" model. It is an Indian Rosewood/Adirondack spruce creation, with a small body, curved back, 14-fret neck (no cutout). Tone is perfect - far and away the best I've ever played. Intonation spot on, harmonics are bright and beautiful. I will probably have the action lowered just a hair, but it is still very playable. I am incredibly grateful to be able to play such a great instrument - God willing for many years to come. And it was made in Newfane, VT, just down the road from where my wife's mother grew up!

There is an open mic in Westford tomorrow (Sunday) night where I hope to perform. I will play Capricorn and County Down. I am planning to take the Froggy, though without electronics (yet) it will have to be mic'ed. No problem - this guitar puts out a ton of sound, easily as much as many much larger D or Jumbo style guitars. Speaking of electronics... I am planning on getting a K&K installed some time in the next couple of weeks. From what I hear, K&K make the highest fidelity acoustic pickups, and they happen to be on the low end price wise... a double win! I think the guy at the store quoted about $100 installed. And they supposedly put out enough signal that you don't need to pre-amp before heading into the house system! I will still probably use the Baggs PADI, for the notch filter and XLR out if nothing else.

Looking forward to a nice morning of music - will practice set for tomorrow night (3x each tune), and then just have fun on the new guitar.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Irish music jam and "Get ahold of yourself, man!"

Just got back from playing some Irish jigs and reels at a friend's house. Lot's of fun - we played a version of Greensleeves and a reel called Dillon Brown. Both are very playable in DADGAD and sound good with guitar + mandolin.

Played a few tunes I've been working on the in traditional Irish vein... Cunla/Merrily Kissed the Quaker, Rakkish Paddy, Murtagh Mckann, the Last Pint, and the Orphan. It is always great to try to perform a tune for someone and then see it fall apart in your hands! Well, I have fresh resolve now to polish up these tunes and make them performable. The big problem is I want to be able to play them all the way through now, which means I sort of fudge-over the bits I can't play right yet when I am by myself practicing. This is unacceptable. Starting Tuesday (remember, marathon schedule...) the metronome is coming out and we are going to burn this music into the muscles deeply and perfectly. Then and only then will the tempo resume.

The search for a new guitar continues, albeit somewhat in the background for now. There is a particular instrument from Newfane, VT which continues to haunt me...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Post Performance Depression

Well, I have not made it out to perform since the feature on 10/19. A similar phenomena occurred after opening for Brooks back in June. Next time I will have to anticipate the PPD and make plans before hand to get back out there.

In my brief sabbatical from performing I've been taking the opportunity to work on new material. I attended the David Surette guitar/mando workshop two weeks ago, which was really excellent. David is a fantastic teacher and a very capable musician, certainly one of the best fingerstyle guitarists I've seen. I picked up some traditional Irish/New England music to work on there, as well as a wonderful book of transcriptions in treble clef and tablature.

I've also started in on Murtagh McKann (Bensusan's arrangement for DADGAD, from the big guitar book). I can read through the first two sections, which are in D, and have started to wander a bit into the next part, which modulates to G. This tune is a fun and lively number. It is not super complex harmonically; rather a single melody line is followed and most of the work of the guitarist goes into making the melody dance while paying attention to all the great ornaments. It will also be a good exercise, I hope, in modulating to a different key in DADGAD.

Work has begun, minimally, on a DADGAD arrangement of Kingsfold (I feel the winds of God today) in the key of A major. This permits some really great moments where the low 4th (D) is played on the open 6th string - an arranging technique I've always enjoyed, that is, playing in a key where the lowest note available is not the tonic.

Visited Maple Leaf Music Co. in Brattleboro, VT last night and played two really amazing guitars: a Indian/Engleman Bourgeois OMC and a Goodall Concert Jumbo (CJ) with the same wood combo. The Bourgeois is certainly the more comfortable to play due to the slimmer body depth. Surprisingly, it holds up quite well against the larger CJ in the bass range. The Goodall certainly has a more complex sound, with lots of beautiful overtones and bright, eager harmonics. The OMC, in great Bourgeois form, has a more balanced sound from high to low, with plenty of warmth. I hope to return to the store today and try out a few other promising-looking guitars, as well as play these two again. The Goodall is, I am guessing, a bit more expensive than the OMC, and I am a bit scared of Goodalls after talking to the sound guy at the Surette workshop/concert. His experience was that, while beautiful in acoustic tone, they tend to be very hard to amplify well, even with K&K pickups (which I am pretty much sold on for the new instrument). Perhaps I will do more internet research on this, because this guitar, whatever it turns out to be, absolutely has to amplify well. Its purpose is to be a solid, reliable, great-sounding soloist instrument for when I perform.

I've also been working pretty hard on Merrily/Cunla. I am now experiencing the 80/20 effect in full force. I am trying to take "the slower you practice, the quicker you'll get there" to heart.

The "Fare thee well" guitar/cello collaboration is also proceeding well. Will hopefully meet again soon for a third rehersal. This duet combination has so much potential, because of the similar range of the instruments and their complementary strengths. But volume balancing is proving a slight problem. Amplification may help, as may a slightly louder, more resonant instrument (SJ anyone?) ;-)