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If you have read my book Just This Banjo you have some idea of the adventures I had trying to learn my trade despite my hearing issues. People who were following us back in 2009 may also remember the glorious day my BAHA implant was activated and I heard my guitar for the first time.
The initial implant was a single unit. I later had the surgery a second time for a bilateral system that would allow me to hear on the left as well as the right.
Eight months ago the BAHA sound processors I received in 2013 wore out, went out of warranty and went feet up. I have been working and living in near silence all this time. I did not say anything because people tend to overreact to that sort of thing.
A few days ago my father drove me up to Baltimore for a new set of sound processors for my bilateral BAHA. The trip was hard, so my enthusiasm was pretty diminished when I got home.
I have been slowly experimenting with the new devices and I am blown away. The units now have two microphones on the left and right so I now have a normal range of hearing.
The old units just had a single microphone on the side, making it hard to hear in front and behind me.
The new units also have new software that handles noise better. I can stream music from my iPad, and if I had a phone I could use the BHA like a BlueTooth and walk around talking rudely in the supermarket like an asshole – in other words, I could be normal! Whoo!
The real shock was a small wireless microphone. I can use it in a variety of ways to get sound from mixing boards, televisions and such to my BAHA. I can also simply put the mic across the room to increase my range of hearing.
Experimenting with the mic, I put it across the room and started laying my guitar.
Now I have heard my guitar through bone conduction and I have heard it through the staticky microphone of my old BAHA, but this was different. I can hear my own playing and singing better – but the mic also allows me to hear the sound from a different perspective. Where a recording is listening after the fact, this setup allows me to experience my music as I am making it in a way that I never dreamed possible.
It’s funny. I am turning 50 in March. My weight is down, I am slowly getting my mojo back and now I get to rediscover my music in what feels like a whole new light.
I’ll be spending the next few days acclimating to the new sounds. There have been funny moments, but today hearing the way my Dobro handles the bass and treble under my voice. . . well, that was fine. I wish to God Amy was here, but I’ll save this memory to share with her when we meet again.
Now I am off to work. Lets to do until whatever comes next comes next!
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Just This Banjo
Desperate for a way to communicate after losing his hearing, young Patrick Costello set his heart on becoming a musician. Ignoring the odds, empowered by his family and a karate grandmaster, Patrick won a banjo in a bet, salvaged a guitar from the trash and wandered into the city of brotherly love looking for a teacher. What happened next is an unbelievable true story of chasing improbable dreams, the kindness of strangers, the IRA, the Philadelphia Mummers, and unconditional love.
The How and the Tao of Old Time Banjo
The groundbreaking book that has people around the world playing the five-string banjo! In a book that has redefined how traditional music is taught Patrick Costello shares the basic skills of old-time “frailing” banjo and much more. Starting with a simple picking pattern and a handful of chord forms (as the author points out, “if you know three chords you can play thousands of songs!”) the book continues to build on those basic skills covering everything from complex fiddle tunes to working up chord melody arrangements of Dixieland songs and beyond. Each chapter of The How and the Tao of Old Time Banjo is filled with the author’s warm “down-home” sense of humor. Throughout the book, readers are encouraged to get out and make music, have adventures and celebrate this wonderful thing called music. Patrick isn’t bashful about relating some of his own misadventures from his days as a beginner to encourage you to go out and make music with other people. The How and the Tao of Old Time Banjo is a treasure trove of information and encouragement for anyone who wants to start playing the banjo.
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I have been doing without my Bone Anchored Hearing Aids for almost eight months. Yesterday we made the long trip to Johns Hopkins to be fitted with the latest Baha 5 sound processors.
My earlier processors worked, but they were far from perfect. The new devices have two microphones and link together to give me a normal range of hearing. It is awesome.
Baltimore sucks. The city smells like poop and the people are mean. This same malaise seems to have leeched into Johns Hopkins as well because the vibe of the place was a far cry from the way it was in 2009.
Back when my father and I were traveling the country filming interviews for The Down Neck Gazette we accidentally wound up in an Indian casino in the middle of nowhere. It was a nice place, but the geezers at the slot machines had their credit cards in the one-armed-bandits. Each had a lanyard with one end attached to the card and the other to their shirts – literally connecting them to the machines. It was creepy because it looked Cronenbergian. As if they were being sucked dry literally and metaphysically by the stupid game.
I saw the same blank but frustrated and vaguely angry faces all over Baltimore, only instead of slot machines, it was cell phones. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Oh well. Noli nothis permittere te terere.
Right now I am rocking a Spotify playlist I made so my iPad can stream music to my BAHA in blissful REAL stereo – and then the BAHA blasts the sound into my skull!
I spent a long time this morning playing and singing. Now that I can read all around me, making music is a completely new experience. I am so happy I want to run around cheering!
Once I adjust to the new ears I’ll get back to making videos and workshops. Right now I want to go outside and listen to the bluejays argue with the cardinals in my back yard.
I was expecting a few songs to be put in the book in some sort of musical notation. Then I would have given it 5 stars. But a good read.
I’m not complaining. It’s a nice review – but Just This Banjo is neither a songbook or an instruction manual. While there is some discussion on technique and a few song lyrics are tossed into the mix, the narrative arc of the story concerns the development of a folk singer. It is a book about chasing a dream and being lucky enough to have the support of the people you love.