About comparing and music made well

I often hear this: "When I hear him play, I want to sell my guitar/banjo/mandolin/whatever".

Hmm. What exactly do you mean with that? I understand that it's an expression to say that a certain musician is brilliant. But like, don't you enjoy playing music anymore just because there are others who are better? Aren't you allowed to play just because there are others who are better?

Everybody can't be (insert name of brilliant musician here). But you can still enjoy playing, and people can still enjoy your music.

Personally I've stopped comparing myself to others, because it's useless. I will never be like Norman Blake, Tim O'Brien or Noel Hill, but I can get inspiration from their playing, try to copy the bits that I like, try to learn some of it, and continue playing, and enjoy it. The only person I compare myself with is - myself. The level I was at a few years ago, compared to now. That's inspiring, to see my own progress.

Today I picked up the guitar, for the first time since ages. I've been learning some fingerpicking, but today I first did some flatpicking. I quite soon took up the fingerpicks again, because I've become so used to that that I adapt the same patterns with flatpicking, which doesn't work particularly well (because of different picking directions, etc). So this means that fingerpicking (in a simple Maybelle Carter style) has become a habit and is natural for me now. This is great! I have lots, lots and lots to learn, but it's in my muscle memory somehow and that is good.

I usually don't enjoy those so-called brilliant kids on You Tube that people continue to put on Facebook. They are usually kids who play blazing fast on their instrument, but really, do they play well? Or do they just play fast and it sounds impressive because of the speed?
I prefer musicians who can play at speeds that are adapted to the type of tune, and who can do it beautifully, with a good tone. I may get the cyber mandolin mob after me now, but I don't like Bill Monroe's playing. He's made some lovely tunes, but his playing was rather sloppy. I prefer those who can play with a nice tone. And, while the early videos of the Tuttle kids were lovely to see because it's always good to see kids learn to play bluegrass, they would have played better at a more normal speed.

I may be boring, but I like music made well.

Music inspiration and the concertina

After the bluegrass festival my playing-music inspiration was on top, but then I had to spend my time putting together the music magazine I've been doing layout for, and after that was done, my inspiration was kind of gone, because my mind was just exhausted.

Good thing that last Thursday I finally had the evening off at the same time that there was our monthly Irish music session. First I even hesitated to go, because I haven't played Irish music since May, and I'm not really competent with any instrument in playing Irish music. Sure, I can play the tunes we used to play at the session in Clonakilty, on the mandolin, but I haven't learned the big mass of Irish music that is faster jigs and reels in minor or modal keys, and I'm not able to just join in on them either. In the end, I can still just play a few tunes, on both mandolin and concertina.

So I've decided to focus on learning tunes on the concertina, because that's what I want to make my main instrument for Irish music. I brought the guitar, but gaah, I really suck on that. I'd better leave the guitar for bluegrass and old-time.

In other words, if I want to play at the sessions, I need to practice tunes on the concertina. A lot. This spring after the concertina event, I started learning to play my favourite tune of all time, which is Chief O'Neill's favourite. I learned it once on the mandolin, but gave it up because of a tricky bit in the B-part where I always lost the rhythm, but a player at the concertina event helped me get through the tune and now I can finally almost play it. Good news, and I'll continue with some other tunes today. I need to get more comfortable with playing in D, so that I can more easily join in on D tunes.

Also, I need to learn more tunes that I can play comfortably on my own, because on that concertina event we have both a Saturday night concert for ourselves which is basically a session when each player plays a tune for the others like in a concert, and we also have a concert for other people on Sunday afternoon. I never feel I have anything to contribute with there, at least not if I only have the concertina. I love this little instrument but don't feel competent enough with it yet. I'd love to not having to bring the guitar or such to the concertina weekend just for this reason.

About me


I'm Susanne, and I'm a happy amateur and lover of bluegrass, oldtime & trad music. I attempt to play a few musical instruments, and on this blog I'll share good links as well as thoughts and reflections regarding learning to play music, info about music events, and updates about my own playing.

Keep in touch