A Walking Blog
Well, this will be the first time that I've ever tried to dictate a blog while on my morning walk. It's sort of by necessity because my days at home in the studio are pretty much sucked up with studying slide blues dulcimer and doing my usual administrative crap.
I've been walking about 4 miles every day for a couple of weeks now and I already feel a lot better. Usually, when you get back on track with your fitness regimen, the first week or so you spend beating yourself up for getting off track in the first place. But once you lose that 1st pound, and notice the difference with every day moving forward, it's easy to stay on track and, hopefully, I can make this a year-round thing as opposed to falling off of the plan in late Summer, due to eating too many burritos as big as my head.
This effort has been made particularly challenging by the attendant holidays from Halloween to the present, including my birthday (thank you for all the well wishes, by the way.) Do you have any idea how hard it is to say no to eggnog and pumpkin pie and all the other goodies? But of course you do. The struggle is one that so many of us share when we are trying to eat healthy and live better.
My walk is not a very attractive one though I look for moments of beauty along the route. I live in the inner city, at least as inner-city as Orlando can get compared to Los Angeles or New York. Still, though I plot a path that includes few street crossings as possible, I am constantly on the alert for drivers who are not paying attention when they come tear-assing around corners. A good portion of my route actually takes place along the interstate and I find myself wondering how much exhaust I'm sucking into my lungs as I get healthier. Such are the problems of city life. It could be worse. It could always be worse.
Siri does a pretty good job with the dictation, but there are some things that she misses and it can be fun to go back and search for the things that she misinterpreted. Actually, a few of those misinterpretations, if not caught, could get me into trouble if I didn't have a good edit feature.
The plan this week is to begin laying down tracks for the blues album while I continue to study, listen, and practice my fingers off. I called up master bluesman Scott Ainslie yesterday and we spoke for about 20 minutes about this interesting and unique challenge of adapting North Mississippi blues style playing to the resonator mountain dulcimer. He gave me some very good suggestions, one of which I implemented immediately yesterday after we finished our phone call. He mentioned that my thinnest string, which I had set at .011, was probably too thin and did not offer enough resistance to get the appropriate blues slide feel. He suggested that I bump it up to a .013, adjusting for my scale length of 24 inches. I happen to have a .014 in the bag, and while I waited for the repair shop to put on the remaining one tire that was coming to Rita, I put the string on and immediately saw a difference in tone and playability. Score!
He also suggested that I get a porcelain slide called a Mudslide. Due to the differences between the hands of guitar player and mountain dulcimer players, the question of where to put the slide has been one that I fought with the most. I have a couple of bar slides, but they are much too heavy and don't allow me to fret notes. A wearable slide is what is needed here. The Shy Slide that I got is pretty neat, but it only covers two strings and doesn't allow for full barring and sliding. It works really well on a standard mountain dulcimer because it's light and doesn't push down too hard on the strings. But it's also thin, and doesn't generate the desired tone on the resonator. Scott suggested that I might wear a slide on my thumb which would allow me to use the other fingers for making cords behind the slide. Having already ordered a large brass and glass slide, I went ahead and picked up a medium and large porcelain Mudslide and will look forward to trying those all out when they arrive next week.
This is all very exciting stuff, and I don't feel nearly as lost as I did when I began this journey. Every day brings with it a little more confidence and a bit larger vocabulary. Musically speaking, of course. It was simultaneously comforting and unnerving to hear Scott consider some of the challenges that I had and, laughing, reply that I definitely had my work cut out for me. This is all going to make for fantastic content in my planned sequel to "Blues Method For Mountain Dulcimer 101."
Well, I'm almost home and feel like some sort of multitasking giant. These days, as I look at my incredibly busy schedule for 2015, I have been looking for lots of ways to save time and still be effective. Blogging on my walk and returning phone calls during this time make it easier to concentrate on hard-core wood shedding when I'm back in the studio. Hopefully, after The International Blues Challenge and the Florida Gulf Coast Dulcimer Retreat in January, I can take a break, plant our garden, do some landscaping and appreciate the meditative benefits of working the earth, something I've missed for a while now.
Also, I want to say thanks to my new patrons and to everyone for helping me reach the fourth milestone goal of $200 per upload on Patreon! This supplementary income is already helping dramatically with upgrades to the studio and maintenance on Rita. I'm hoping, by spring, to have put away enough funds to purchase a new desktop and new laptop for production use. When I get back to the studio, I'll upload a video showing you some new revelations about the resonator mountain dulcimer.
Until then, I need to look both ways now, crossing the last intersection before home. Hmmm, boy, does that sound like a song lyric or what?