This page is about resources for playing guitar or banjo.
September 3, 2010 - My good friend Kenny Garren and I were talking today, and he told me that he had gotten a new digital recorder that he really likes. He has a very keen ear, so for him to say that it must be good. He says that he can also use it as a microphone on his video recorder, because it has a microphone jack. It improves the sound quality of his videos. It can probably be used in other places that don't have a decent microphone. It is called a Zoom H1. Here is a link to it:
I told him that I thought that he already had a handheld recorder that made good quality, and he said that what I was remembering (which he said makes excellent quality recordings) was the device that he has connected to his desktop PC. It is called an EMU 1616M. Here is a link to see what it is like:
My favorite bluegrass album is, as you might expect, one by Flatt and Scruggs. It is when they played at Carnegie Hall and it is awesome!
Earl Scruggs' Book helped me learn to play and also helped me build my banjo.
This book helped me learn to play melodic style banjo (sometimes called chromatic style or fiddle tune style). This was where I first learned to play "Blackberry Blossom" in 1974. It also has a great overview of the banjo players who developed melodic style. Like Don Reno, Bill Keith, etc.
Bluegrass Guitar - Among other songs, I learned to play "Under the Double Eagle" on the guitar by using this book. Once I learned it on the guitar, I was able later to arrange it on the banjo.
I quickly learned to play mandolin from this book. I don't know what it is about a mandolin, but to me it seems like it is much easier to play a mandolin at bluegrass speed than it is to flatpick a guitar at bluegrass speed.
The banjo that I play is a Washburn. I bought it used over 10 years ago. Here is a link to see what Washburn banjos look like nowadays.
My next guitar will probably be a Blue Ridge. When my very close friend Kenny Garren, who is a superb musician with a very keen ear, was shopping for a guitar for his daughter, he discovered the high quality of Blue Ridge guitars. He said that usually when you go to a music store and there are 10 guitars there of exactly the same model, that the 10 guitars will each be different, and one of them will be better than the others. But he found that with Blue Ridge guitars, all of them sounded very good and of equal quality. He was so convinced that every guitar they made was of identical quality, that he decided to order the guitar for his daughter over the Internet, where they were cheaper. He was not disappointed. She got a great guitar. One of the guys that I pick with on Tuesday nights has a Blue Ridge and it sounds great. He is an awesome picker too. He always brags about how nice of a guitar it is and how reasonably priced it was.
A handheld digital recorder can be used to make a quick and dirty recording of your group's song so that you can take it home and copy the mp3 to your computer and use it to learn the song or to work on your part in the song. You can used headphones to listen directly from the recorder too. Recording is also useful to record yourself and then play it back to see if your timing is consistent, or transfer the mp3 to your computer and check your voice quality.
This is the recorder that I use. As you can see, it is very inexpensive. There are more expensive ones that make better quality recordings, but I was mostly interested in quick and dirty recordings to help me learn new songs. This recorder is also a digital camera, so you can take a photo of the person playing the song. You can also use it like an ipod - download music to it and then play it over your car stereo or using headphones.
Did you know that you can download a song for only 99 cents from Amazon.com ? Sometimes if I need to learn a song for church, I will download the song. Then I can play it right on my computer, or burn it to a disk. They call this an mp3 download. For example, here is where a person could download Laura Story's "Immortal, Invisible" song. I picked Laura Story for this example because she used to be in the group "Silars Bald" with some of the young men who grew up in my church, and because my praise band does many of her songs. She is a great song writer.
And Laura has a songbook: