Interesting Times

Over the last few days, the odd weather patterns managed to send the already bad neuropathy, arthritis, and migraines into unexplored territories of misery.

That in and of itself isn’t exactly news. What made things interesting was an additional series of technical malfunctions. My iPad died, and a few hours later I took a bad fall while carrying my phone. The screen shattered, sending slivers of glass into my palm that took hours to dig out.

I guess I could rewrite that Blondie lyric:

Once I had a phone and it was a gas
Fell on my face and had a hand of glass

It was a cheap phone, so a replacement is on the way. I have a camera in the office I can use for videos. So, it’s not a big deal—but the additional frustration atop my daily load made things less than fun. Not shelling for another iPad.

In other news, work is moving along on Zen in the Five-String Banjo. I will be uploading one last public preview before moving the project to Patreon.

I do not have any publishing plans in place for this new book. The current cost of printing and shipping closes the independent publishing route we used for my earlier work. So, right now, the plan is no plan at all. Write the thing and see what comes of it.

I thrashed out the original draft in the same insane timeframe as The How and the Tao of Old-Time Banjo. Back in 2004, we simply added in the tab to the thrashed-out manuscript and tried to repair my grammar. This time around, I decided to slow down and work over the pages.

As stated before, feedback would be appreciated.

For the folks worried about my hands, fret not. The switch to the solid-body electric banjo as my main instrument has been a joy. The electric is the easiest playing banjo I have ever picked up.

The main challenge in the switch has been adjusting to the sustain of the electric. Playing acoustic, I used percussion and strums to fill out the sound. On the electric, that approach mainly creates noise.

With the electric, I am learning to make even heavier use of rests. There are effects built into my amp that make for some lovely ambient sounds under the melody. It’s different from playing the acoustic, but simultaneously similar enough to feel like home.

If I was having an instrument like this built from scratch, I would keep the three-pickup layout. That middle pickup is sweet. I would add acoustic saddles to the bridge, to mix in a touch of thumb-thump when appropriate. The Strat shape more or less works, but I’d move the controls from the lower left to the upper right. That would allow working the knobs and switches while playing.

I was watching a video about Brian May’s Red Special guitar. It made me smile because Dear Old Dad and I have been experimenting with the concept on an electric banjo for over fifteen years. Pop and I are not exactly the brain trust that is the May family, but we didn’t do so bad. Leave it to fathers and sons to come up with a different approach. Once I get some new pickups, my electric banjo will be a beast.

Gearwise, if anybody has some volume/expression pedals to trade, please let me know. The only other gear I need to scrounge up are foot controllers for my Katana amp.

Additionally, now that I am getting used to the Boss amp, there really is no need to keep the Spark 40. I have that, a Riff, and a pair of foot controllers to trade.

Well, I have to set up my spare camera to film workshops during the week. It’s awful moving gear and plugging in cables with these hands, but I’ll make the most of it. I’m trying to figure out how to balance out my voice with the electric while recording. It isn’t simple with my hearing, but we’ll figure it out.