Uke Got To Be Kidding

I have gotten a lot of requests for ukulele workshops. I just have to restring my resophonic uke – and that is a hellish process on these Recording King instruments. They seem to be designed by a tone-deaf sadistic psychopathic ass-clown who saved money by leaving out the tailpiece.

I literally have to disassemble the instrument to change the strings!


That said, I do like the way the instrument plays. We have had some wild adventures together. I was clutching this uke when I wandered into an airport runway (it’s a long story). I guess even badly designed instruments have good points.

Seriously, Recording King, a tailpiece is an easily stamped pit of metal. Why cut corners and make an otherwise great instrument as awful as Trump’s hair in a strong wind?

Writing Tools

With two books in the works, I need fortifications. For me, that means tea.

Not that grocery store swill. I mean real tea. Strong stuff. Really good tea.

So, I got enough lapsang souchong to get me through the next couple of months, with additional reserves of Bai Mudan, decent sencha (great sencha can get too pricey for my budget), and a good cherry tisane for evenings, so I don’t stay up all night wired on caffeine.

I wanted to get a good Nepali Darjeeling, but this will have to do for now.

While I agree with George Orwell on how to make a nice pot of tea, every type of tea I ordered needs specific temperatures and brewing times. It’s not hard, but with dyscalculia anything involving numbers or time is complicated for me. So, I got a teapot that heats and steeps automatically for the various types of tea. It looks like Darth Vader’s bidet, but I hear it makes a good pot of tea.

Before you run out to buy some lapsang souchong for yourself, be forewarned that it is distinctly acquired taste: a black tea roasted over pine smoke that produces a taste and smell that my mother equates to a tire fire. Paul the Beatnik had a dirty plastic sack of lapsang souchong in his filthy kitchen that, in addition to the wood smoke taste was also just basted in cigarette smoke. I drank endless cups of the stuff every Wednesday night because it was less grotesque than his coffee pot.

Seriously, his coffee pot looked like something from Attack of the Mushroom People.

So, if you decide to try lapsang souchong, be aware that it ain’t Tetley! Like theremins and cheesy movies, this stuff ain’t for everybody. I have a collection of angry letters from people who, after reading my praises for this concoction, tried it and were completely grossed out in ways that led them to angrily compose epic beat poetry pieces on the sheer awfulness of the stuff.

I don’t know what they were complaining about. I like it.

Ooooooh! I opened the bag of lapsang souchong and now the room smells like Ron Sawnson. Wood smoke and dark wild places. This tea could make a baby grow a beard and start whittling. The smell from the open bag actually drove the cat out of the room.

Now to organize my writing corner so that the tea supplies are with easy reach.

Before anybody starts writing me, I know Adagio Teas is far from perfect, but they do have some good stuff that is priced in my range. If you want to get deep into high-quality tea, try Yunan Sourcing or other small operations that go to great lengths to source the good stuff.

Silent Running

Over the years I have learned that one of the hallmarks of a teacher who is growing in their chosen discipline is change.

The tricky bit is deciphering if the change is real or just an affectation in a sweaty-palmed attempt at staying relevant.

Recently, I had most of what was left of my lower teeth pulled. It hurt (I’m still sore) and I look like a jack-o’-lantern auditioning for a job singing in The Pouges. Because of this, I knocked out a quick workshop without saying a word.

I was not trying something new or looking for a gimmick. This was not me trying to be cool. I was just doing what I always do: using my intellect, training and experience to adapt to my current reality.

I am a huge fan of the Taoist ideal of the happy accident, and this turned out to be a classic case of unintentionally stumbling across something new. After thousands of live or recorded workshops where I talk my head off, keeping my mouth shut for a change created an environment where the attention was shifted from Patrick Costello to the music.

Roughly concurrently with my wordless workshops, another instructor posted a workshop acting like holding a power chord and strumming the banjo like a dysfunctional ukulele was a new approach to the banjo. This is a classic example of forced or even faked innovation versus stumbling across something new.

You can’t fake inspiration. There is no formula or recipe. The process changes us as we roll along, and as we grow our perspectives change. If you want an example of changing perspectives over time in everyday life, go back and visit a place you knew well as a child. The last time I visited Havertown, PA, I was horrified at how different the place looked. The streets that I remembered as wide enough for a baseball game now seem too narrow for traffic.

I am going to keep the wordless workshops going until the concept grows stale, I come up with a better idea or the plagiarism squad sets in the way they did with Sing the Banjo! or The Folk Song of the Day. Whatever I do, it will be an honest expression of who I am and where I am in terms of the craft at that moment – and that changes every time I pick up my banjo.

Finding Melodies Without a Word

If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball!

Oops. Wrong analogy.

What I meant to say is, “If you can make a D7 chord, you can find a melody.”

If you need to schedule a lesson or ask a music-related question, text (do not call) (410) 713-4044

If you are having a hard time getting this old-time banjo thing down, please contact us. Even if you can’t pay for lessons we will work with you.

Also, be sure to join us every Wednesday for The Wednesday Night Banjo And Donut Marching Society. All musicians are welcome!

Next Meeting of the Wednesday Night Banjo and Donut Marching Society: Aug 26, 2020

2:00 PM Eastern

Meeting ID: 898 2637 2585
Passcode: 751324
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Fake Plastic Views

I have been teaching music in one form of another on the Internet since 1997. In those long years I have seen scams come and I have seen scams go. The web is a lot like a never-ending gold rush with one fool after another trying to win the lottery with viral content.

I have been on YouTube since 2006. As I write this, I have well over 1000 videos, 4,483,739 views and 16,791 subscribers. This is not counting the workshops that have been deleted from the platform or the huge number of workshops that I created before 2006.

If those numbers seem low to you, it is probably because you have visited a channel that is either insanely popular or been exposed to a content creator who buys traffic.

Buying traffic is based on the illogical stunt of salting your case with money before going out busking. The thinking is that like attracts like. If people think you are making money they will assume you are good and pitch in.

That never really works, by the way. Busking is hard to do well. It’s not just putting your case out and hoping for change. You have to work the crowd.

I know of a few YouTube music instructors who are using services to create the illusion of success. The New York Times wrote a clear article on the trend back in 2018. Once you know what to look for, it starts to get easy to spot.

Last night, I received an email from one of these services. I am not interested in fake views any more than I am interested in fitting in or being clutched to the sweaty and hairy moobs of the banjo community – but I thought you all would get a kick out of the price list:


Instagram followers:
10000+ for 100$
50000+ for 450$ 
100000+ for 850$

Youtube views:
5000+ for 30$
10000+ for 60$
500000+ for 280$

Youtube subscriber:
1000 for 80$
2000 for 150$
5000 for 350$

Spotify listeners:
5000 for 25$
10000 for 50$
50000 for 250$

Instagram live steaming views, Soundcloud, twitter, facebook and other social services are available.

Who would have thought honor sells so cheaply?

And people wonder why I hate the Internet…