I am journaling my experiences learning the theremin.
Zookie LaRoux reviews The Package (2013) Starring Stone Cold Steve Austin and Dolph Lundgren.
More reviews by Zookie LaRoux: celluloidbuzzard.wordpress.com
January 24, 2021
When we listen to music, the chords change throughout a song. Without those changes, the melody would be stuck in one place. Casual listeners rarely notice these changes and musicians know better than to lament this passing because the next change is always just a breath away.
To borrow a line from Yamamoto Tsunetomo, “this understanding applies to everything”.
My friends who visit me online have been privy to many chord changes in my life. Some were bitter as gall while others were sweeter than honeysuckle. All were necessary for the melody of my life.
Now time and my handicaps have conspired to place me at the juncture of one of these chord changes.
The stress of playing through my handicaps is getting to be more of a burden than I can bear. In addition to the hearing loss, neuropathy, migraines and epilepsy I am also developing arthritis in both of my hands. On bad days I have to take a couple of breaks while I am getting dressed to curl up in bed cradling my aching hands.
There is a line from the I Ching that I dearly love: When the way comes to an end, Then change— Having changed, You pass through.
My Way as a musician is not ending, but I have to change or remain stuck eternally where I am now.
At the end of January I will be retiring from teaching. My current websites and social media are shutting down. The YouTube channel will be closing and the videos are moving to a new server where they will be made available over time. Other changes will be detailed on our new project site as they happen. More on that later.
I am aware that this announcement will be met with emotions and opinions. While it is not my desire to upset or disappoint anyone, I need to do this.
Thank you all for many years of happy memories.
Noli nothis permittere te terere.
Joseph Patrick Costello III
So, this home-brewed recording thing is a lot of fun in some ways. I am having a ball cutting loose a bit on the banjo. Then my hearing, or the lack of it, becomes an issue and I wind up like Wile E. Coyote with his latest Acme purchase.
Thing is, you can’t get down on yourself when the proverbial poo hits the fan. You just clean yourself up, buy a new fan and place it where it is less likely to fall prey to flying fecal matter.
Today I recorded two tracks that felt great going into the mic, but listening to them afterwards they just did not work the way we wanted them to.
Not a big deal. The great thing about a song is that you can just start singing all over again.
Tomorrow I will tackle these tracks again and a few more. The goal is to have this cobbled together for a rough release to our Patrons soon, and then a more polished release in the coming new year.
I am posting these abandoned tracks because I hear students tell me they are afraid to make mistakes. You can’t make art without falling on your face. The mistakes are the lessons. The flubs, fumbles, stains, scratches, thumps and pratfalls are where the good stuff happens in art.
There are no mistakes or failures. Only lessons.
So, next time you are afraid to try fearing making a mistake, just think of me with a banjo, a microphone singing my heart out deaf as a stump. Something goes wrong, I just learn from it and apply the lesson, however painful, to the next try. And the one after that.
More or less halfway through.
I will be honest and admit that it is absolutely buttocks clenching like sumo wrestlers pulling taffy terrifying to be home recording without my hearing aids. Once I start singing, I can’t hear my banjo.
I picked up the Zoom H4n Pro for a completely different project (more on that later). Once I got a sense of how good this gadget can pick up my banjo, it just made sense to start experimenting.
I won’t say this is the long-awaited blues project. That would be tempting, but to properly completely that I really need/want to get into a studio. This is something else – and don’t ask me what it is exactly because I don’t know. I just know that this is the most fun I have had with music since I was a kid playing hooky to busk on the streets of Philly.
The first six tracks are working their way onto the streaming music services. Not all are available yet, but they are in the pipeline.
The next six high-quality audio tracks will be posted for Patreon sponsors first, and then released as a complete package.
Also, I know the camera audio on the YouTube videos I made recording these tracks is not up to the standard of the Zoom. My hearing is so bad that I can’t edit the sound to swap the two. So, video for proof that it really is just one guy making the sounds of a small band with his banjo, and the audio files for the actual musical experience.
Please, share these links and even share the files. I am the worst self-promoter on the planet, so any help in getting the music to new ears would be a huge help.
I have the next six or so songs picked out, but I am open to suggestions, requests and dares.
Oh! Almost forgot. Tom Rush liked my cover of The Panama Limited :).
I wrote this back at the start of the first lockdown…
With so much pain and anger in the world right now, the paywall is back down. I can’t afford to do it (Patreon is most of my income, Amazon takes an insane 55% of my profits when I sell a book through their site – and we have to pay for shipping), but there are people right now losing everything. There are people in need.
Stay home. Stay safe. Be kind.
Stop wasting time. Stop following the shoe or following the gourd. Practice, get good and be ready – because when this is over the world is going to need banjo players. We may not have the sexiest of jobs in the music world, but we make mothers dance with their babies. We sing songs that draw deep emotions. We carry the traditions – the real traditions that use music , food, stories, fellowship, laughter to remind us that we are all one family.
If you can send a buck my way on Patreon, it would help. Also, if you are of a mind, spread the word about my music on Spotify and other platforms.
If you can’t help, I’ll teach you anyway. It may be impractical, but it is true to the man I am trying so hard to be.
Stay safe. I love you all.
We will be shutting down the Wednesday Night Banjo and Donut Marching Society over the holidays. Dear Old Dad and I will make a final decision about the ground in January.
- The How and the Tao of Old-Time Banjo
- A Book of Five Strings
- The How and the Tao of Folk Guitar
- The Outlaws and Scalawags Songbook
- Songs For Sunday
- This Is Not A Banjo
- Four Seasons On Brick Kiln Road
- The Mechanics of Frailing Banjo
- The Crisfield Folk Musicians Retreat Songbook
- Just This Banjo
- Frailing Banjo Backup Patterns and Licks
- One Finger Guitar
- Country, Folk, Bluegrass and Old-Time Rhythm Guitar Basics
- Calloused Ears: Tips on how to play the banjo “by ear”
- Basic Frailing