Thursday, April 2, 2009

Don't make a rule that you aren't willing to follow.

This week I am going to focus away from the professional side of performance and talk about something that I tried musically just for fun.
I heard about a great new site for meeting people of similar interests called
This free site is so simple to use, but such fun as it involves meeting people in your area with the same interests.

To get started, type in your zip code and search for meetup groups in your area. I found several in the Dayton OH are that looked appealing. Two that are the most fun are: Dayton Swing Dance and Dayton Folk music. 

The swing dance group meets at a local club every Wednesday evening and offers free swing dance lessons to the members. The first week, I walked in to discover that the instructor is the guitarist for one of the College gospel choirs I'm in. I learned to swing danced for two hours  and loved every minute of it. I have been back twice since and plan on making this a weekly event. If you are looking to find  groups of nice people  in which to spend a free evening or two. I highly suggest checking this out.

The other group is focused around folk music. This group mets at a coffeehouse once a month. Everyone brings a guitar and sits around the couches. Each person is given a turn to chose a favorite folk song and everyone just plays and sings along.  The first night I attended, I had a nice time as I had just bough a Washburn acoustic and have only used it on one professional gig since Christmas. Since I play a lot more bass and piano than guitar, I had hoped that this group would be a way to keep up my guitar chops hot while having a nice time with other musicians in the area.

Something about the overall  sound of the group bothered me though. All 18 of us were strumming the same chords on acoustic guitars. There was no musical variety from song to song. I tried fingerpicking and even playing chord inversions high on the neck for variety, but the volume of the other guitars made it hard for me to hear myself. I felt my playing was unnecessary to the group and stopped playing after about an hour. 

Laster, I suggested to the group leader that I bring an electric bass and small practice amp for the next meetup. This would give the group a fuller sound and different bass lines would vary the song styles more.

She looked at me with shock and disbelief as if to say, "What!!! all electric instruments are forbidden!!" I tried to reassure her that there is electric bass and a lot of folk music. Her response was staunchly against it. I offered to let her work the volume control on the amp if she questioned my ability to balance with the rest of the group. She still didn't budge. She did offer to let me play her grandfathers fiddle. (no telling how badly in shape this is in). but I knew that it would be unplayable an no fun at all. She informed me that only acoustic folk instruments would be allowed to participate. PERIOD!

Now, as a band leader for too many years than I care to remember, I know that the director is the one in charge. If I meant what I said to my band students all these years about how they should respect and follow the director's wishes, I should do the same.

I wish you could have seen the look on her face when I told her that next time I would be bringing my banjo!

Banjo?????? A banjo is way too loud for this group and you'll drown out every guitar in the place! Is there any way to play a banjo softly? 

Not really.....

(I have used a felt autoharp pick on occasion when I played "Mame" and "Hello Dolly" for a local community theatre group and it did help). Finger picking without fingerpicks is another option.

She tried everything in her power to dissuade me from bringing my banjo but still remained firm on denying my electric bass to participate.

(The truth is that my could play a lot softer on my electric bass than I can on my banjo)

The next meetup folk sing is in three weeks and I will try to post what happens.

The lesson for her on this post is post is:

Don't make a rule that you aren't willing to follow.

I will give you a hint and let you know that I have every intention of playing my banjo with a balanced volume as a courtesy to the other members. The old rule still applies:

If you can't hear the other musicians, you are to loud.

Don't forger to check out the musicteachers911 podcast available on the itunes store. It's free!

Larry Marra

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