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At last you can get your Jazzed Desserts!

After much fumbling about and a truly hideous number of hours editing, I’ve finally put together a show based on an idea I got from Fran Snyder of ConcertsInYourHome.com.

They’re essentially a “mini house concert.” A brief gathering of friends for food, conversation and live music in an intimate and approachable setting. They’re easy and inexpensive to host. They’re strictly acoustic so you won’t upset the neighbors. (But you should invite them, they’re a great way to strengthen existing friendships and forge new ones.)

I’m available solo for these shows and with my duo, Hobbit & Hare. Currently we’re limiting this to the greater Seattle area, but we could be convinced to roam a bit farther in the future.

Find out all the details here.

Rinse, Repeat

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As I posted here, I’ve been working on bringing back my harmonica on the rack skills, so as to be able to play ukulele and harmonica at the same time. My practice has been sporadic (at best) and I was feeling like I wasn’t making any progress.

So yesterday I decided to lean on it pretty heavily and, after a half hour or so of much the same, it occurred to me that the fault may lie with the harp rather than with me. I slowed way down and, sure enough, there were several notes coming out quite fuzzy. Aha!

I used an old trick, to wit, rinsing the harmonica with very hot water and then tapping/patting it dry. It made a huge difference! I can’t remember how old the harp is, much less when the last time it was rinsed. If ever.

There are harmonica players who will tell you never rinse ’em, but I can’t afford to spend another $30 to $35 to replace a harp when such a simple fix works. (I bet them other folk buy a new car when the floor mats get dirty.)

I’m still “not ready for prime time.” But maybe it’ll be ready for a test run some time this week. Meanwhile I’ve got to finish breakfast (I’m at the Market Diner) and get out to the bridge spot for a solo busking set.

6/8, Is It?

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I recently had a conversation with a fellow busker about time signatures wherein he mentioned that he simply treated 2/4 as 4/4 and it was all good.

Well yeah, but…

There really is a difference in feel between the two. (You can replace “feel” with “pulse” there.) The pulse of the music is different between the two time signatures. I struggled with it myself and found that putting in the extra work paid off. It’s the pulse of the music that determines how (or whether!) the audience is going to shake their booties. However, I seem to have missed that point with Miranda.

Miranda is a tune I wrote 4 years ago and have returned to several times since. I keep chipping away at it but never seem to get quite right. Nobody’s even heard more than a bit of it, except for my long suffering sweetie and my cats. I thought it was a plain old waltz — living and dying in 3/4 time, y’know? — but there are a few places in it where I lose the beat and it sounds like I’m playing in 4/4 time. I think it’s the lyrics throwing me off.

So the other night I was noodling about with it and the thought occurred to me to give it a whirl in 6/8. Holy Smokes! It’s much smoother now. (OK. There’s still a fuzzy patch in it, but at least now I know where to aim!) A hair more rewriting and I may end up with another song for my all-too-slim “tunes I have written” folder.

As a small final irony, I often take a stab at writing a tune in something besides 4/4 or 3/4, mostly without success. I find it amusing that I may have written one in 6/8 completely by accident.

Old Skool Tech

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I am now the proud owner of of a “No Knot” banjo tailpiece (patented on the 19th of this month, 114 years ago) and a bog standard banjo wrench, which has been around since at least the mid-19th century. These are to get my 30’s era banjo ukulele up and flying.

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I got this ukulele from the estate of Hokum W. Jeebs, famous busker and neo-vaudevillian, and it is simply soaked with mojo. So I’m pretty tired of just looking at it. I want to play it. I feel like I’m disrespecting Jeebs’ memory by letting it sit around collecting dust instead of making music on it.

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Also I’ve been thinking for some time about putting a band together which resembles some of my favorite bands, including Trashcan Joe and the late, lamented Asylum Street Spankers. (Pennies for bombs, billions for hokum!) Having another “voice” in my regular act wouldn’t hurt my feelings either.

The major problem with the little uke is that fancy-schmancy tailpiece. It’s intended to allow fine tuning of the strings but was designed for a full-sized banjo, at least twice the size of the little fella here. The upshot of all that is the angle where the strings go over the bridge isn’t sharp enough and therefore the strings don’t press hard enough on the bridge. So if you strum with any exuberance one or the other of the two outside strings pops loose. And believe me kids, I strum exuberantly.

I’m hoping this will be sufficient to fix the issue, but I suspect it may also need a neck reset. Since I’m going to wait until I get a new set of strings before I change the tailpiece, it may be a week or so before I find out.

A week or so shouldn’t be too bad, it’s been four years since I got it. But I’m getting closer!