Sunday, August 28, 2011

August 2011 Nearly Over Already

It has not been a particularly interesting year so far from a personal perspective. It seems that time flies by as I attend to the mundane necessities of life. Each week there are things that beg to be done, leaving not as much time as I would like to do things that don't need to be done.
I have been too lazy to put the boat in the water even one time so far this year. Not sure if I'll get out fishing at all before winter comes again. I have managed keep up with most of the yard work and the housework, but I haven't made any significant progress on all of the projects I would like to do in the yard and in the house. Outside there is brush that needs chipping and land that needs to be cleared of brush and trees, plus the yard could use some serious landscaping to include sod and retaining walls. Then I also had plans to add a large deck behind the garage which is unlikely to get done this year. In the house I really need to replace flooring in just about every room, and I have ten new 6 panel oak doors that need to be prepped with stain and varnish and installed to replace the original cheap hollow core mahogany doors that don't look as nice as they did when we installed them 34 years ago.
I have not made nearly as much progress learning new songs on my guitar this year as I did last year. Probably because I just haven't been as diligent with my daily practice. I'm thinking I'm in a bit of a rut and should probably start taking some lessons again for a while.
Sales of the Guitar Player's Friend transposition tool have been going great this year. 2011 has already produced more sales than 2010 and there is a slim possibility that it could actually double the volume since most of the sales in 2010 were in the second half of the year. I'm still getting about 10% return business with some customers buying from 3 to 10 at a time. The Guitar Player's Friend Website still needs quite a bit of work to have a more professional appearance. I really hate to promote it too much in its current state, even though it is functional and people have used it to buy the transposition tools.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ham Lake Porcupine

Finally the temperature went above freezing for the first time in weeks. The sun even came out this afternoon and a little bit of the blacktop showing through the snow on the road actually had a spots of liquid water on it. It was so nice that I took a walk down the road just to get out of the house for a while.

This time of year there are a lot of tracks in the snow from a variety of animals. Normally we expect to see a lot of squirrel tracks, a few rabbit tracks, some deer tracks, and of course some dog and cat tracks from the pets in the neighborhood. Today I saw some tracks in the snow that were totally unfamiliar to me. I first saw them on the road and then followed them into a neighbors driveway where the critter that created them must have been heading for the swamp behind the neighbors house. I decided to backtrack to see where the critter had come from, and it appeared that he had come up another neighbor's driveway from the woods. It looked like the critter must have had very short legs because there were marks in the snow connecting the footprints as it wandered down the edge of the road in the half inch of undisturbed snow.

Since I had no way to figure out what the critter was, based on my own knowledge and experience, I looked it up on my computer and in just a few minutes discovered that it was a porcupine that had left the strange tracks in the road. I thought it looked like a pretty small animal made the tracks so I wondered if there would be young porcupines this time of the year. It turns out that the young are born in early winter so it is entirely possible that the tracks were made by a 3 or 4 month old porcupine. I have seen porcupines in the wild occasionally, but never in our neighborhood. So I learned something new today.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Transposing and Transposition Tool

It has again been several months since I have made an entry in this blog. Winter is back creating a cold, bleak, wasteland of frozen white crystals, covering the ground as well as roofs, trees, grass, and dead leaves. We don't usually get this much snow so early in the winter. I have already used the snowblower on the driveway 3 times, and I used the snow scoop at least two more times when there was only 2 or 3 inches of snow. The last snow was at least 12 to 15 inches accumulated over a 24 hour period. I think next year we'll head south about the 1st of December.

I finally got my web site up and running and actually had my first customer on the site. He was an eBay buyer who contacted me afterward via email to ask if he could buy another transposer without going through the auction process on eBay. I was a little reluctant to direct him to my Guitar Player's Friend web site because it is really not completed the way I would like it to be yet. However, it is functional. I knew that because I had my wife purchase a transposer from the site and the test went without a hitch. So I directed the customer to my web site and he was able to order, and more importantly, pay for his order on the site. If you happen to be interested in looking at the site, the url is . It isn't very pretty, and it is definitely incomplete, but it fully functional now.

If you happen to stumble across this Blog, I would sure like to hear any comments you might have, even if it's just to say hello.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Nothing in Particular

Summer is officially over and fall has begun the rapid descent toward winter. The yard is littered with acorns and the first of the falling leaves. I generally like the fall months of September and October. The temperatures are more to my liking than the midsummer heat or the midwinter cold.

Yesterday I played my guitar at a senior day care center with my new friend, Larry, who plays the fiddle. It was Larry's gig and he invited me to accompany him while he played his Celtic fiddle tunes. Larry put on a great performance and had the audience practicing clogging and singing along to some old standards. As part of the gig I was asked to sing a few solos with just my guitar for accompaniment. Of course I was happy to do it. The funny thing was that Larry had never heard me sing before, so he had no idea whether I could even carry a tune. We had only met a few days ago and at that time I just played a few chords while Larry played his fiddle. Fortunately I was able to carry a tune so Larry didn't have to give me the hook. Anyway, what this rambling was leading up to is that for the very first time in my life I actually got paid for playing my guitar and singing. I never considered that was even a remote possibility. It was so easy I should have thought of that before I started working for a living. HaHa!
If you somehow got to this Blog without buying one of my Guitar Chord Transposition Booklets, you should know that I began selling them on eBay again in July, and business has been very good with over 35 sold in the last 60 days. Eventually I will have a website where I will sell direct to guitar players, but in the meantime the Guitar Chord Transposers are only available on eBay or a very few guitar shops in Minnesota.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I have noticed a couple of things at the jam sessions I attend that could stand a little improvement. First, it seems that almost all of us tend to play our songs a bit faster than the original versions. I'm not sure why that is, but it doesn't allow for some of the special qualities of the song to be brought out in the jam session performances. Second, it seems that there are participants who can't detect that their instrument is out of tune. That seems like it should be easily corrected with the availability of the electronic tuners that most guitar players use. In a jam session environment one poorly tuned instrument can make it sound like someone is playing poorly, or it can make the whole performance sound like a train wreck.

One thing I started doing when I bought my first electronic tuner was to check the tuning on my guitar every day before I begin practicing. It doesn't take much change in the ambient temperature and humidity to change the tuning on your guitar. There are some days when the tuning has not changed from one day to the next, but there are a lot of days when there is more than one string slightly out of tune. Since I like to sing as I play my guitar, I consider it extremely important for my guitar to be totally in tune. Otherwise I might actually be singing slightly off-key to adapt to my out of tune guitar.

If your guitar becomes difficult to tune, or if it still doesn't sound quite right even when the tuner says it is in tune, it is time to change the strings. I know that changing strings is not the most fun thing to do with a guitar, but if you practice every day your strings will wear out and they will not produce the quality of sound your guitar is capable of. I have found that using a soft cloth to wipe off the strings after I practice seems to add a bit of longevity to my strings. I know some strings do wear better than others and the best strings are not typically cheap. However, when I hear players say it has been 6 months or more since they changed strings, I know their guitars would sound much better if they would change the strings more often.

I alternate my practice between 2 guitars and sometimes a 3rd, and I have found that my strings sound great for about 2 months and OK for about another month. By the end of the 3rd month the strings have worn to the point where the sound they produce has deteriorated enough that I don't enjoy practicing. Then I know it is time to put on new strings, and I clean and polish the guitars at the same time. Now I'm just talking about acoustic guitars in this article. I think you can probably get away with using older strings on your solid body electric because your electronics will probably compensate for the loss of tonal quality in the older strings. If you use strings too long they will wear enough that they might break while you're playing.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Summer 2010

A sad note to start this blog. A special old guitar playing friend, Dan Brodhead, died in May this year. I met Dan in 2003 when I decided I wanted to take guitar lessons again. I say again because I had my first guitar lessons over 50 years before. Dan had run an ad in the local shopper offering guitar lessons for $10 for a half hour. I thought that seemed reasonable so I began taking lessons with Dan. We developed a weekly routine where we would spend a half hour on my lesson and then we would have a cup of coffee and talk for an hour or so after the lesson. From these talks I learned a great deal about Dan, and I learned that we had something in common. Back in 1963 and 1964 we were both attending Yale University. Dan had actually completed his PHD in Physics at Yale, while I was only there courtesy of the US Air Force language training program to learn Mandarin Chinese.

Unfortunately for Dan, he developed a mental illness that prevented him from reaching the great potential he had as a physicist. His illness was severe enough that he was able to qualify for Social Security Disability, but with medication Dan was able to function pretty well in most situations.
After a year or so of guitar lessons Dan told me that he had taken me as far as he could and that I would have to find a more experienced teacher to help me develop futher skills on the guitar.
By this time our friendship had developed to the point where we decided we would continue to get together once a week and practice together and learn some new songs.

We continued our weekly visits until last November when Dan's chemotherapy for cancer made him too sick and too tired to be able to practice on his various musical instruments. Dan suffered from lung cancer which was diagnosed almost 2 years before it finally took him.
Needless to say, I really miss Dan and the weekly visits that we kept up for nearly 7 years.

That's all I'm going to put in this post.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Winter in Ham Lake, Minnesota

January is nearly gone, and the daily average temperature is supposed to be beginning to rise. The average is supposed to be in the lower 20 degrees, but today the high was around 12 degrees. I had to shovel a little snow again today. We are way below average on snowfall for the month so I'm happy about that. I've only had to use the snowblower twice so far this winter.

We didn't go to S. Carolina in Dec. as we have done for the past few years. Marlene is on oxygen, and she is taking medication for heart problems so we decided it might be best to avoid the 2 or 3 day car trip to SC. We may decide to take a trip in the early spring instead.

So far I'm ahead of my goal of learning one new song per month. I have added 6 more since my last post and have 2 more that I'm working on memorizing now. I think the trick is to find the songs you really like and add them to a list of songs you want to learn. That way you should always have new songs to work on when you are ready for more.

On a somber note, we lost one of our key jam session members a few weeks ago. His name was Jim Perleberg (he always said it sounds like whirlybird). He was not only a very good musician, but he was also a very good friend to everyone who participated in the jam sessions with him. He played guitar, banjo, and mandolin equally well, and he wrote a great song that he often performed at the jam sessions. He was 76 years old and had prostate cancer for 2 or 3 years before it got the best of him. I truly miss him.

Reminder: If you are lucky enough to own a quality acoustic guitar now is the time of year you should be using a humidifier to prevent damage to your guitar. If the wood gets too dry it will crack and your guitar will lose value even if it does not immediately affect the playability.

If you stop by this blog please feel free to comment or leave a helpful tip or just say hi.