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Notes from the Field

Sometimes my enthusiasm for this little eight string marvel just boils over and I have to tell someone. I figure this is a safer way to do it, than to yet again bore my friends.

  1. You Dont Need to Do a Set Up

    Not being one for great drama in writing, let me explain right away. Everyone may need to have their mandolin set up. Not everyone needs to do it themselves.

    Robert Meldrum has done the mandolin community a gigantic service. His ebook on set ups is really fantastic. Lots of folks have taken advantage of the book and proceeded to set up their instruments, in some cases first time mandolinners took up the challenge.

    I have read through (not the same as thoroughly and ...

    Updated Apr-24-2015 at 8:53am by JeffD

  2. Mandolin in Celtic Music

    In the forum there is some discussion of the idea of a Celtic Mandolin with reference to a good article to which it would be impossible for me to add.

    In the past, not being able to add to a discussion has rarely stopped me from contributing. But more and more I am of the mind of a quote from a Burning Man poster: “having something to say is highly overrated”. So I will move my thoughts from the forum to the blogs.

    Updated Sep-13-2014 at 2:04pm by JeffD

  3. Yes we can all get along

    I was at an OT jam a couple of weeks ago. The jam was southern Appalachian at its core.

    And a second mandolin showed up, and he was much more of a bluegrasser.

    So as the jam progressed we traded breaks. I would play the melody, which is what I do, and then do a chorded OT back up while he took these flights of fancy entirely out of character of old time. Then he would hand it back to me and I would play the melody, which is what I do, while he did a chord backup a ...
  4. Most Fun Moments

    I have performed for audiences, more than a few times, and of all my musical experiences, performance is the least fun. The least. I know it’s me. I know I have a less than a good attitude about it. If performing were mandatory, I would have abandoned music altogether.

    It’s the other fun that I go after. Like:

    The moment I find a great tune, long abandoned in a dusty old tune book. In playing it I hear something that has not been heard on the planet in many decades ...
  5. Well duh...

    A Twilight Zone moment, where the wise old seer at the carnival tells me my limitations. “You are never going to be a professional musician. You will never perform on a major stage or large hall, or release a CD that anyone wants. You will never be good enough to catch the attention of even a janitor in the music industry. You will never have fans beyond your friends and family. No never. Listen, no, not ever.”

    “But you will be fun to play music with, and you will ...
  6. Bowlbacks and Dreams

    On assignment on the other side of the country. I brought a mandolin to keep me company after work.

    It’s a turn of the last century American made bowlback mandolin, in a bright green fiberglass case that catches eyes at all the airports.

    Several years ago, on this same assignment, I searched the web and found a local old time jam session in a pub not too far away. And I have been going regularly every time I am on this side of the country. I have been exposed to several ...

    Updated Jul-17-2019 at 10:44pm by JeffD

  7. Thursday

    A cold winter night in January, snow was piling up at an astonishing rate. The snowflakes captured in my headlights looked a lot like an old screen saver. I needed the four wheel drive to make it up the hill to T__’s house, a long unpaved driveway through the woods. I have seen bear up here in years past.

    I opened the door, paid my obeisance to the tiny black dog that guards the house, and proceeded down the hall to take my seat around a low table. Sitting around the table, M__ ...

    Updated Feb-20-2014 at 7:44pm by JeffD

  8. The 12 Best Sessions of 2013 and a Weird Old Trick

    It seems the internet is full of eye catching headlines, just waiting to be linked into Facebook. The 20 dirtiest puppies, the 14 cutest baby animals, 17 ways to prevent aging. Cure eczema, scrofula, or boils with this weird old trick.

    And its only natural, at the end of the year, to come up with lists of the best of this and the best of that. So I offer the 12 best sessions of 2013. They were held in my living room, once a month, all this last year.

    The first Tuesday ...

    Updated Aug-21-2014 at 10:46am by JeffD

  9. ...and a plate of ginger snaps

    Its hard enough to describe to you musical folks, and almost impossible to talk about in mixed (musical and non musical) company.

    You watch the postman put it in your mail box... It could be one of those boxes with the smile on it, or maybe just a rough looking well traveled brown paper package. You bring it in all shaky with anticipation, and because Christmas traditions do not limit themselves to December, you tear into that package like it contained the last donut.

    And ...

    Updated Mar-05-2018 at 10:39am by JeffD

  10. My First Mandolin was a Banjo

    Sitting with a musical friend after school one day way back there, and he handed me a bowlback mandolin. He said, "put your hands like this and this, and here is how your fingers go" and I was in absolute awe.

    He was a lower brass player in the high school band, I was woodwinds myself. But he was also taking violin lessons and could play some mandolin.

    So I went home full of mandolin dreams and the only thing I had to work with was an old four string banjo my ...

    Updated Dec-11-2016 at 9:17pm by JeffD

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