Help! I’ve Fallen And My Banjo Won’t Pluck!

The time since my last post has been, shall we say, eventful?

Dad and I both took bad falls. In dad’s case, I tried to pick him up.

Now, there was a time when I could pick up and carry just about anything. Those days, my still aching muscles tell me, have passed.

We are both okay. While much of the country seems divided, Crisfield is still Crisfield. We have a support network that, in some cases, runs all the way to the great-grandchildren of the old-timers who adopted us over thirty years ago. There isn’t any trouble that is a phone call away from being fixed.

In other news, my father and I are continuing to experiment with the recording equipment. It is interesting how much trial and error it took to come up with our final setup. The recordings I worshiped as a teenager were recorded with primitive gear and in bad settings. We want to keep that simplicity, while taking care to ensure the final mix sounds good over a stereo.

That’s just the acoustic banjo.

Dad is picking up the electric banjo from the shop tomorrow. We are both excited and mildly terrified.

For the gearheads, we kept the imported Stratocaster body and simple bridge for the moment.

Things we did replace:

The pickups have a less powerful magnet. This will give the frailing technique a little more room to breathe. Scatterwound, middle pickup reversed, and a steel baseplate on the bridge pickup.

The baseplate will alter the field of the bridge pickup. This will give the pickup a different tone and sensitivity. Coupled with the wiring harness, this setup will add wide range to my banjo’s sonic palette.

The wiring harness is a classic 5-way switch with a few tweaks. It is set up to tamper the freaky high-frequency notes that sort of belch out of frailing technique. It is also configured to dedicate the second tone control to the bridge pickup.

We also added an aluminum pickguard shield to cut down buzz and a set of heavy brass control knobs. I use the volume and tone controls a lot in my playing. Having something with weight to it will give me better control.

As soon as I am comfortable with the new setup, Dad and I have a few options on how to best blend the electric with my voice.

It’s exciting.

On the teaching front, there is a rather large batch of my videos on Vimeo. The books are scattered about the Internet like dandelion seeds.

As for myself, I am taking a temporary break from teaching.

There are two primary reasons for this.

First, for reasons both business and personal, I want and need to focus on recording.

My second reason is the fact that old-time banjo has morphed into something I no longer recognize. What I teach doesn’t match up with what is chic now. Rather than argue in defense of the tested and proven manner my mentors shared with me, I’m gonna go make music.

Bo’s hard work of organizing the archives has been saved and will be uploaded to the Internet Archive as time allows.

There is still a book in the works. As work continues, we will be uploading drafts for patrons.

At some point down the road, expect a rig rundown for my electric setup. I am also planning on workshops with tips on how to approach frailing with the electric. This instrument uses familiar techniques in an entirely new and surprising way.

On a personal note, I finally found out why I have been unable to get help with pain management. One of my former doctors was messing with my charts.

My neurologist is intervening. I am getting a referral to another pain management center. It is hard to impart this in writing. The last few years have found me in nearly constant agony, at a level that often find me weeping on bad nights.

I don’t know what to do about the doctor. Any legal advice would be appreciated.

The pain tonight from neuropathy, osteoarthritis, and migraines is… Let’s just say it’s bad. Imagine falling slowly into a woodchipper on a freezing cold day while Andy Dick provides commentary. That would be better than how I’m feeling tonight.

I am going to partake of some medical cannabis and wait to see if any critters visit me in the backyard. With the drought, it’s been like Noah’s Ark under the pecan tree at night. I miss being able to tend my garden, but the birds and wildlife are a blessing.

Goodnight, my friends. I love you all.

God bless,
Patrick Costello
Crisfield, Maryland