lblanchard: (Default)
Exercise: 5.5 miles on the bike, 1.3 miles on my feet plus an hour standing around at a party. Not terribly strenuous but better than being a couch potato.

Food: a perfect day on program. I guess I really have lost my appetite for sweets. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania threw a party for its head librarian's 20th anniversary, and the President spent the entire weekend baking the entire spread -- cakes, cheesecakes, cupcakes, pies, and cookies. I'll pause to let you get your arms around the concept of the president of a big cultural organization personally catering a staff party. I admired the look of the items, enjoyed the scent of the items, and had absolutely no interest in picking up one of the items and eating it. I had a bottle of water.

Callus maintenance: three times up and down the fretboard plus a couple of tunes. Say 45 minutes. I have a band-aid on my left ring finger, down by the nail, because I have an Evil Hangnail that may be slightly infected. That does not contribute much to dexterity. Last night was also the first time I'd played the Martin since we ripped apart the downstairs to accommodate the dining room work -- say two weeks. After two weeks on the beater guitar I really noticed the difference. I guess I won't put it on Craigslist quite yet.

2.5 out of 3 ain't bad.

Someone asked Tommy Emmanuel what his favorite chord was in a Reddit AMA. He replied with a Soundcloud file. It's an E maj 9 and he says "yummy." I have played a muddy version of that chord on the beater for the past couple of weeks -- it came out clear as a bell on the Martin. Yummy...

http://soundcloud.com/tommyemmanuel/fave-chord

(It's the real reason I've been playing all those cheater chromatics -- to strengthen and stretch my fingers so I can play a chord that has a four-fret spread.)

My stepson the Guitar Hero is coming up with his family in early-ish December, so I have a goal -- be able to play for two hours without raising blisters. We'll jam with him playing real stuff and me playing simple chords behind him. Hard to believe that when he was a stripling I was teaching him...
lblanchard: (Default)
So I didn't woodshed last night, but I did play "Countrywide" twice just to put my calluses on notice that they're still on duty. I can now play it, haltingly, at the tempo that Tommy Emmanuel plays it when he says, "I'll play it nice and slow for you." The bars o' doom are up nice-and-slow tempo but the notes aren't completely ringing yet. The bridge is shaky and the bridge lick remains a disaster. (I'm not sure that I'll attempt the final lick in this lifetime.)

I also finished the second reading of Angela Thirkell's High Rising and got deliciously into the first of the Trollope Barsetshire novels, The Warden, which I am also loving to pieces. A pity that Barsetshire is imaginary.

The transplanted Class of 2011 still looks fine -- I was able to re-pot Part II by reusing the potting soil from the two pots of cat grass. Of course, they're bulbs so they won't look terribly unhappy until it's too late, most likely. I'm still pretty surprised by all the light that's coming in my office window now that 32 hippeastrum yearlings have been reduced to six, and those six have had a crew cut.
lblanchard: (Default)
With the Big Grant now part of the past, I'm going on reduced hours for work for my semi-staycation. That is to say, I'll handle the few important things that come up in the next week or so but will otherwise do more or less what I want until my actual calendar birthday.

Today's staycation fun will be a trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to view the Visions of Arcadia exhibit (three huge canvases -- a Gaugin, a Cezanne, and a Matisse -- plus other artists of the period). This exhibit should make a wonderful complement to our planned visit to the Barnes Foundation and to the newly-reopened Rodin Museum.

Yesterday I made a huge pot of ground-pork-and-summer-vegetable stew, involving potatoes, onions, eggplant, tomatoes, and yellow squash. There's plenty left for tonight's dinner so we won't have to cook when we get home, whee!

Countrywide continues to insinuate itself, slowly, into muscle memory, to the point that I think perhaps I should pay attention to how it's actually played so I don't mis-learn some critical passages. I have the shapes for the bridge measures, for example, but not the right-hand fingering patterns (or, for that matter, the precise notes in my head). It's not up to tempo yet, and isn't likely to be for some time. I downloaded a cellphone metronome app and found I can do fairly well with it set at 89 beats per minute. It actually is played somewhere between 104 and 112 bpm. Well...I can play the four-bar introduction at that pace, but that's it.

Although I'm mostly happy playing by myself right now, especially as I build calluses, I do think I'd benefit from having some chums to play with. Sunday I will venture out to Ardmore, a near suburb well served by public transit, to check out the Delaware Valley Fingerstyle Guitar Association, which meets monthly at a coffee shop. Tommy Emmanuel mentioned them (gave them a shout out is more like it) at the June concert I attended, and that's a pretty good recommendation. If I keep rummaging, I'm sure to find a Philadelphia fingerstyle jam sooner or later, one that will tolerate my skill level.

Oh, and a wee piece of hippeastrum news -- the first of the two Hippeastrum papilio bulbs I ordered last spring has shed its last old leaf, and is putting up a new one! It's in the same pot as one that still has three old leaves, so I think I have to be careful about how I water the pot. I want to encourage dormancy in the one that still has leaves, I think, while encouraging the other to continue putting out new leaves. In other news, one of my Schlumbergera seedlings has wilted. Root rot, I betcha, so I cut off the yucky roots and buried what was left in moist vermiculite up to the first leaf joint. Hey, it worked on the Madisto I grew from cuttings from [livejournal.com profile] clindau a couple years back!

Also, now that it's the month of August I really should cull my Trader Joe x Gervase crosses from 2011. They're huge plants with leaves that are a full two feet long, and I'd like to reduce my thirty plants to eight. No signs of mosaic virus on them, happily, nor on the Class of 2009 out back. Fingers crossed!

Also also, I'll want to remember that on Monday I cut two more willow wands, stripped most of the leaves, and stuck them in a gallon milk jug, slightly cut down. I like the look of my one willow "topiary" so much that I think I want three or four of them to serve as visual barriers on the east side of the back yard. The wand I rooted for [livejournal.com profile] halfmoon_mollie, meanwhile, has put out roots that resist a gentle tug. Another week and I'll be looking for a mailing tube!

And that's the news...
lblanchard: (Default)
With the Big Grant now part of the past, I'm going on reduced hours for work for my semi-staycation. That is to say, I'll handle the few important things that come up in the next week or so but will otherwise do more or less what I want until my actual calendar birthday.

Today's staycation fun will be a trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to view the Visions of Arcadia exhibit (three huge canvases -- a Gaugin, a Cezanne, and a Matisse -- plus other artists of the period). This exhibit should make a wonderful complement to our planned visit to the Barnes Foundation and to the newly-reopened Rodin Museum.

Yesterday I made a huge pot of ground-pork-and-summer-vegetable stew, involving potatoes, onions, eggplant, tomatoes, and yellow squash. There's plenty left for tonight's dinner so we won't have to cook when we get home, whee!

Countrywide continues to insinuate itself, slowly, into muscle memory, to the point that I think perhaps I should pay attention to how it's actually played so I don't mis-learn some critical passages. I have the shapes for the bridge measures, for example, but not the right-hand fingering patterns (or, for that matter, the precise notes in my head). It's not up to tempo yet, and isn't likely to be for some time. I downloaded a cellphone metronome app and found I can do fairly well with it set at 89 beats per minute. It actually is played somewhere between 104 and 112 bpm. Well...I can play the four-bar introduction at that pace, but that's it.

Although I'm mostly happy playing by myself right now, especially as I build calluses, I do think I'd benefit from having some chums to play with. Sunday I will venture out to Ardmore, a near suburb well served by public transit, to check out the Delaware Valley Fingerstyle Guitar Association, which meets monthly at a coffee shop. Tommy Emmanuel mentioned them (gave them a shout out is more like it) at the June concert I attended, and that's a pretty good recommendation. If I keep rummaging, I'm sure to find a Philadelphia fingerstyle jam sooner or later, one that will tolerate my skill level.

Oh, and a wee piece of hippeastrum news -- the first of the two Hippeastrum papilio bulbs I ordered last spring has shed its last old leaf, and is putting up a new one! It's in the same pot as one that still has three old leaves, so I think I have to be careful about how I water the pot. I want to encourage dormancy in the one that still has leaves, I think, while encouraging the other to continue putting out new leaves. In other news, one of my Schlumbergera seedlings has wilted. Root rot, I betcha, so I cut off the yucky roots and buried what was left in moist vermiculite up to the first leaf joint. Hey, it worked on the Madisto I grew from cuttings from [livejournal.com profile] clindau a couple years back!

Also, now that it's the month of August I really should cull my Trader Joe x Gervase crosses from 2011. They're huge plants with leaves that are a full two feet long, and I'd like to reduce my thirty plants to eight. No signs of mosaic virus on them, happily, nor on the Class of 2009 out back. Fingers crossed!

Also also, I'll want to remember that on Monday I cut two more willow wands, stripped most of the leaves, and stuck them in a gallon milk jug, slightly cut down. I like the look of my one willow "topiary" so much that I think I want three or four of them to serve as visual barriers on the east side of the back yard. The wand I rooted for [livejournal.com profile] halfmoon_mollie, meanwhile, has put out roots that resist a gentle tug. Another week and I'll be looking for a mailing tube!

And that's the news...
lblanchard: (Default)
Something finally clicked and I "get" the Bars o' Doom on Countrywide (the song I'm working on for those who aren't following my guitar adventures with bated breath).

Still slow, and still sloppy, but the muscle memory is starting to form and my fingers are going where they're supposed to with less schreck and hesitation. Even the stretch isn't quite as bad.
lblanchard: (Default)
Something finally clicked and I "get" the Bars o' Doom on Countrywide (the song I'm working on for those who aren't following my guitar adventures with bated breath).

Still slow, and still sloppy, but the muscle memory is starting to form and my fingers are going where they're supposed to with less schreck and hesitation. Even the stretch isn't quite as bad.
lblanchard: (Default)
Except for two pyrotechnic runs, the Four Bars o' Doom are definitely the most difficult part of the piece. I picked my way through the bridge this evening, deciphering the tablature note by note, and it will indeed be easier. Roy watched the Tommy Emmanuel instructional video I downloaded and was suitably awestruck. "This is a step up from Linda Cohen," he said. I'm sure he meant no disrespect to Linda, but I get what he meant.

Roy's going for a night out with the guys tomorrow -- a bunch of his friends get together on the odd Saturday night to compare pictures they've taken of trains and railroads. It used to be called "slide night" but just about everyone is digital now, so they show up with their SD cards or flash drives and one guy brings his projector.

While Roy is gone I am going to play that Countrywide thing to death, and probably play my fingers to death, too. I'd be really really really happy if at the end of the weekend I am able to fumble through a slightly stripped-down version (sans the pyrotechnic runs) even if it's at 1/4 speed and full of mistakes.

A work thing that I was a little worried about has come together nicely, too, so it has been a good week. Now, if it would only rain so that I won't have to spend an hour behind the hose tomorrow, my happiness would be complete.

I saw no fungus gnats today.
lblanchard: (Default)
Except for two pyrotechnic runs, the Four Bars o' Doom are definitely the most difficult part of the piece. I picked my way through the bridge this evening, deciphering the tablature note by note, and it will indeed be easier. Roy watched the Tommy Emmanuel instructional video I downloaded and was suitably awestruck. "This is a step up from Linda Cohen," he said. I'm sure he meant no disrespect to Linda, but I get what he meant.

Roy's going for a night out with the guys tomorrow -- a bunch of his friends get together on the odd Saturday night to compare pictures they've taken of trains and railroads. It used to be called "slide night" but just about everyone is digital now, so they show up with their SD cards or flash drives and one guy brings his projector.

While Roy is gone I am going to play that Countrywide thing to death, and probably play my fingers to death, too. I'd be really really really happy if at the end of the weekend I am able to fumble through a slightly stripped-down version (sans the pyrotechnic runs) even if it's at 1/4 speed and full of mistakes.

A work thing that I was a little worried about has come together nicely, too, so it has been a good week. Now, if it would only rain so that I won't have to spend an hour behind the hose tomorrow, my happiness would be complete.

I saw no fungus gnats today.
lblanchard: (Default)
I'm a happy girl today.

First of all, I watched the instructional video and heard Tommy Emmanuel refer to the Bars of Doom as "probably the hardest part of the song." Nice to know the bridge won't be that hard.

Second of all, he has an alternate fingering that's much easier although the notes don't have quite the same voice. But I can use the easier fingering to learn the song and then tackle the harder bits later.

Third of all, I've now seen his calluses. And heard him speak of "these great honking flat surfaces on the ends of my fingers" that make it possible for him to fret two adjacent strings with one finger. That explains the six-fingered guitarist effect. Two of my fingertips are starting to flatten just a little bit, so there may be hope.

Net result: I can now fumble through "Countrywide" from the intro to the bridge. The bridge feels like a bridge too far at the moment but maybe after the weekend...

And I've recruited one of Linda Cohen's students for a play date next Friday. Callus maintenance!
lblanchard: (Default)
It's another nice day, the fourth consecutive with no rain, so plants in pots will need tending to. I don't want a repeat of Friday's disaster with the curly willow.

The mother plant is still abundantly supplied with new shoots, so yesterday I chose a nice unbranched willow wand, cut it, and brought it indoors to root somewhere that's less likely to breed mosquitoes. It should be ready for [livejournal.com profile] halfmoon_mollie just in time for her to have to plant it and nurse it through the dog days of August. Some friend I am!

Since I can't listen to the same Tommy Emmanuel album, even a double album, all the time without getting serious ear fatigue, I'm working on tuning my Pandora "artistic wizardry" station so that there are no vocals and no intrusive other instruments (nose flutes, etc.). I'll tolerate some well-behaved bass or percussion as long as it's not the main event. The station is getting pretty well-tuned; I only reject about one track out of ten now.

Callus maintenance sessions are now up to 45 minutes a day. Since I'm shifting from holding the guitar on my left knee to holding it on my right like the rest of the non-classical world, and since I'm also switching to using a thumb pick, everything is unfamiliar and I sound like crap, I think. Roy says he can see improvements but I think he's just being loyal and supportive and all that. I think I mentioned reading that water is not the friend of the callus builder, so I'll be rummaging for my rubber gloves. Rubbing alcohol, on the other hand, is my friend. We'll see...

I got my mailing for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's member's day with the annual beg for plant donations. The cupboard is awfully bare this year, but in the coming years it may be a home for extra hybrid hippeastrums, now that I have some interesting ones to share.

Afterglow

Jun. 8th, 2012 07:55 am
lblanchard: (Default)
2012-06-07_17-59-44_804



This guy played two full one-hour sets, and toward the end of the second set he stopped and talked about being a young musician, about his mentor Chet Atkins, and about the process of moving to music making ("first you figure things out, and then you build the skills of playing a song until it's completely inside you, and only then do you make the music of the song").

He began with Doc's Guitar, which made me cry, and ended with an encore performance of Classical Gas shot through with a million sly jokes, which made me whoop.

What a musician!

Tommy Emmanuel at the Colonial Theater, Phoenixville PA, June 7, 2012

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