Almost Here!

Patrickcostello.org is about to be unleashed upon on an unsuspecting public. Work has taken a lot longer than I anticipated, but that should not be a surprise. Moving forward as difficulties mount has been the story of my life. The important thing is, fast or slow, we are getting somewhere.

There will be two side projects attached to patrickcostello.org. Eclectic Electric Banjo and The Oral Tradition Project.

I have a teaser graphic for Eclectic Electric Banjo at the top of this post. Spread the word on this one because the more perspectives on the conversation the better. We will be starting from square one. Installing a pickup in the first video and taking it from there.

I have five amplifiers in the studio. From a dead simple practice amp to solid state modeling amplifiers with computer interfaces. To ensure that this is a mutual exploration, I will be learning how to use this equipment live. On-camera.

I will also be learning how to adapt my acoustic skills to work in this new medium on-camera. If I must buy more gear (for example, we probably need a preamp), I will do the shopping as part of the show.

That’s right. I have not installed my pickup or fired up the new amp yet. When this starts, we will be exploring together. I have never held any desire to be seen as a guru. I never wanted followers; I simply wanted friends and companions to jam with.

In other words, this won’t be the standard banjo tunes pumped through a chorus or phase pedal. This will be a celebration of what is possible. This is exactly where tradition and the folk process are supposed to lead us.

The series will be free, but each installment will be posted for Patreon sponsors a week before going public.

Speaking of the folk process…

The Oral Tradition Project

The Oral Tradition Project started out from a random observation while arguing with an idiot.

I had two revelations in that discourse.

  • Don’t argue with idiots.
  • Non-musicians mistakenly perceive the folk process as linear.

Folk music has never been a straight line, but for the last fifty years it seems like everybody is trying to rewrite our complex history into a simple narrative. A story arc with the right beats and a satisfying conclusion, just like the movies.

The truth is, at least in my experience, is that the folk process is a unique process for each of us. We start out with a basic skill set and head into the world. As we travel, we have unique experience that shape our understanding of the craft. Over time – and with a lot of practice – no two musicians end up playing the same.

Books and lessons by their nature tend to convey information from a single perspective. This can be useful in many ways, but there is a need in this age of social distancing for a resource that offers multiple perspectives. A book written not by one musician, but many.

The Banjo in The Words And Music Of Its Practitioners is the working title I have given to a loose lesson plan. After starting with universal subjects like setup and tuning, the plan branches off into down-picking and finger picking. If any tenor or plectrum players want to get involved, I will add headings for each.

Any banjo player will be welcome to make a video or audio lesson on any or all the subjects in the lesson plan. Additions to the lesson plan are also welcome. For example, Double C tuning or stretching gut strings to pitch on a frame banjo. Setting up a tension style tailpiece like a Kershner opposed to a No-Knot. There is room for everything – and room for multiple viewpoints.

The only hitch: nothing in writing. This is an oral tradition project. Everything must be taught the way it would be in-person.

The goal is to get as many lessons on each individual subject as possible. Even if we get 100 lessons on how to make a D7 chord, there will be room for more because the only way we can truly understand the banjo is to see all of us together as one.

I want this to be a database of information that continues to grow beyond our time. By all of us. The teachers of my teachers were unable to leave anything of themselves. We can tell our stories without drowning out other voices and still leave room for future generations to be heard.

This will be a totally not for profit project, and once things become unwieldy, I will upload everything to the Internet Archive and give it to the Public Domain. Even if you think I am an asshat (or vice versa), know that you are welcome to take part in this. We may not all like each other, but as banjo players, we are a family.

More information will be available when the site goes live.