Red Tom of the Hills

I’ve been sporadic with my music playing. I went two days without practicing and then for only ten minutes a day for a few days. It’s not good but I knew I wanted to bite the bullet and learn how play melody and I didn’t want to learn it. Someone was giving me horror stories about how playing melody was only for “advanced” players and I was scared to start trying.

But I finally did it because some other musicians encouraged me to just jump right in and try it out. Anyone who tells you that something’s for an advanced player only isn’t being very helpful. So the other day I watched a little bit of the melody for Cindy and when I got the idea of how it was supposed to go I branched off and found an Irish reel called “Red Tom of the Hills.” There’s a guy on YouTube who shows people how to play melody to various Irish songs and this one was the first one in his “for beginners” playlist. I printed off the tabs he provided and listened to him play it a couple times and followed along a little bit and then branched off and just followed the tabs sheet.

I’m not good at reading tabs (or regular music to be honest) but I think it’s my security blanket because when someone is showing how to play it, I like to follow along so I can get the hang of it. I need to learn how to listen to a song and learn how to pick it out, but obviously I’m not that brave yet. At least I’m trying out a combination of reading tabs and listening to it at the same time, right? In the very least I’m listening to how it’s supposed to sound like first so I know I’m doing it right while I’m practicing?

I’ve been watching more mandolin players on YouTube. It’s fun to watch how quick their fingers dance across the fretboard. I want to be that quick one day. And hopefully it’ll come sooner rather than later.


National Novel Writing Month, or Something.

It’s National Novel Writing Month. Or National Poetry Writing Month. Or National Blog Writing Month. Or whatever it is your writing month. I don’t even know anymore. People have so many ways of writing it’s not even funny.

I thought about it last night briefly. I don’t think I’ll participate in it, though I did write a poem in its honor. I don’t think I could write 30 poems. Or 50,000 words. Or even 30 blog posts. It just doesn’t seem logical. I like the idea of it–it doesn’t matter what you’re writing as long as you’re writing but when did we stop caring about quality in favor of quantity? Maybe quantity yields to quality? I don’t know.

I have this crisis every year. Should I participate? Is it worth it? I want to participate!

…and then I don’t because I’m lazy.

Maybe I just never understood why people would want to do it. I just think it’s weird. I tried writing a blog post every day once. That was weird. And hard. And annoying. I can’t even do it for a week. Because it’s dumb and takes away from everything else. That’s all.


‘It Follows’ — Some Thoughts.

The Blurb:

After carefree teenager Jay sleeps with her new boyfriend, Hugh, for the first time, she learns that she is the latest recipient of a fatal curse that is passed from victim to victim via sexual intercourse. Death, Jay learns, will creep inexorably toward her as either a friend or a stranger. Jay’s friends don’t believe her seemingly paranoid ravings, until they too begin to see the phantom assassins and band together to help her flee or defend herself.

My thoughts:

I was actually impressed by this little film that is apparently low budget. While the director uses a typical cliche of horror, he amped up the horror by not explaining exactly what “it” is that follows Jay and how it knows when someone’s had his (or her) first sexual experience. There is no slashing, no blood and guts spilling over, no dramatic climax of Girl vs. Demon. The angry spirit (or whatever it is) is slow and meditative, almost like a zombie, walking casually towards the victim as if it had all the time in the world.

The characters were smart, too. They actually made smart decisions and thought logically about what to do in order to get rid of “it.” And when the one person dies, it made sense to me why that person died.

My criticism of the movie is that the parents seem to be non-existent throughout the movie. They are there in the beginning, concerned by the terror that her new boyfriend thrust upon her and then they disappear. Aren’t they concerned by her running away in the middle of the night and seeing people that no one else can see? And why doesn’t the curse affect adults? Seems strange to me. Also, what was the purpose of them going to the pool towards the end of the movie and placing lamps and such around it? I suppose it pointed out to her friends that this thing exists, but why couldn’t they do that elsewhere?

This doesn’t have anything else to do with the rest of the movie, just a personal annoyance of mine:

There is one part towards the end of the movie where one of the characters is sitting in the hospital bed reading off her compact e-reader thing and eating a sandwich. I’m one of those people who can’t stand listening to people eat and this flipping girl was chewing so loud and so fast that I wanted to jump into the movie with her and chuck a chair at her or something. I very nearly fast-forwarded through this little bit because I couldn’t take another second of it. But I plugged my ears and turned my face away until it was over. It was an obnoxious scene that could’ve been taken out but it’s not something that bothers everyone so I endured it. If anything was scary that was.

I hope they make a sequel to this movie, just so I know more about what “it” and why it follows.

Review: 4 Stars.


Coming Round the Mountain.

I learned a new song yesterday, “Comin’ Round the Mountain.”

The person who arranged it had it both in the Key of G and Key of C and I tried out both of them. I liked the sound of it in G better but C was easier because I didn’t have to do D in the middle of the song. It’s more awkward than the other chords that I’ve learned so I have to pay more attention but it will get easier, I’m sure.

I’m definitely procrastinating on learning melody, but at the moment I don’t care. As long as I learn a couple songs and practice scales occasionally I’m good. I have a feeling melody is on the scales that I’m learning but I haven’t made the leap yet.

My callouses are coming and I can feel the hardness of them when I type and they still hurt a little bit. I wish we didn’t need callouses to be able to play but that’s the way to go. It’s so weird to have them on a couple fingers but not on others.

I have “Man of Constant Sorrow” to learn. Now that will be a disappointment if I can’t learn the chords to and even the melody. For now I’ll learn the chords.


Getting the Groove.

I’m slowly working my way through the basics of mandolin playing.

Yesterday I worked on a new strumming technique as well as switching chords while doing it. I still haven’t got the full hang of it, but I have the idea of it.

Today I went through everything that I learned then I added a new piece of information to my knowledge: melody.

In case you didn’t know, the first song I’m learning right now is “Cindy,” an old folk song. I’ve got the chords to the first first and the chorus. Today I was trying to nail down the melody for the first line. The left hand is on the A string and you go second fret, fifth fret, fifth fret, open, second fret. It took me a minute or so to learn it because the guy in the video that I was learning was going slightly too fast, so I had to replay that minute several times before I got it. After a few times, I got the idea of it, but still not quite fast at it. I wonder how you play the chord and the melody at the same time? I haven’t gotten that far yet, though.

I feel kind of frustrated when I reach a rut in my learning, but I’ve only been at it for a couple of weeks, so in the grand scheme of things, I’m learning fast. This is my problem: I want to be a professional after a couple weeks and it’s not going to be that way. I’m anxious to learn some other songs, but I need to get the basics down before I can build up to something new.

I just need to remind myself that we all need to start somewhere and that if I keep practicing a little bit every day then I’m going to reach my goals.

I wonder how many years it took for people in certain bands to learn their music and to get to where they were. I wish I started earlier, but I might not have had the patience that I have now. Or the determination, even. One day, one day. If I keep pushing myself, I’ll get to where I need to be.

I read online that it’s preferable to have a hard pick when you’re playing mandolin. I have a medium pick and a thin pick, but so far, I’ve been playing with the medium. I wonder where you can go to get different kinds of picks just to see what the difference is in the sound wise.

Some other things I’d like to add to my mandolin collection:

  • Hard case
  • Strap

That’s…about as far as I got. Plus learning how to put everything together. Right now I’m learning traditional folk songs, but I want to eventually learn some Irish and bluegrass songs–maybe even some country songs if I become an expert. But for now I’m getting ahead of myself and need to focus on one at a time. It’ll happen.

music, Postaday

The Pain of Growth.

wireMy fingers feel broken today.

They were sore when I came home from mandolin practice but I woke up really sore this morning. My fingers hurt when I type. They gently throb when I lift them up, when I gently touch the cup.

I want it to end. I know they are not used to playing strings and when they get tough they’ll no longer hurt. Hurting means I’m getting there. Hurting means I pressed my fingers to the fret just right.

I’m just impatient and I don’t like pain. Does anyone truly like pain? Pain is gain and in this case it’s true.

Life, music, Writing


It’s been a long week.

As usual, I don’t quite know how to write about anything.

I finished a book the other day. Every book I finish is a success because it’s been a hobby that has quickly been a bore. One day I’ll find excitement in it again. In the meantime, I’m content being reading occasionally and not obsessively.

I bought a mandolin. It’s an instrument that I’ve admired for many years and often dreamed of playing. I never thought I’d be brave enough to try. Now I’ve got a nice instrument (one that I looked into and a friend asked her musician friends about, so that’s nice.) I learned about how to hold it, how to hold the pick, how to strum it properly, and today I learned a few chords. My hand isn’t quite strong enough yet to hold down the strings as I’m playing and my fingers haven’t developed callouses yet, so they’ve been hurting today. But I learned three basic chords and I just need to practice them.

Chris Thile has been my main hero of the mandolin. He’s the one that made me aware of what a mandolin even was, caused me to want to play with intensity. I will always admire his musical talent. Today, I wanted to find some other people who played mandolin, particularly women. I’m surprised by how few successful mandolinists are women. I’m sad to discover so few women want to play. I’m not trying to break barriers or become famous or anything but why? It’s such a beautiful, whimsical instrument. More women should give it a go.

I’ve been listening to Button Poetry a lot recently. It’s a company (is this the right word?) that publishes poets and hosts spoken word poetry of these poets. I don’t always listen to them to the end, but if someone’s message catches me, I find myself staying to the end. I’m not used to slam poetry/spoken poetry, but I feel drawn to the soft spoken, quiet beings that draw your attention and have a soothing voice about them. Not that there’s anything wrong with other speakers, that’s just what I’m drawn too. I need to listen more often.

I checked out “Helium” by Rudy Francisco and read a few of his poems. They’re very beautiful and minimalistic. I like it a lot. Free form poetry is the best, in my opinion. If I have to write anything else, then I’m struggling.

I look foreword to sleeping in tomorrow. I look foreword to reading a little bit, playing music a little bit, maybe even writing a little bit. Becoming well rounded is hard sometimes,

But I’m working on it.