Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Mandolin Lesson: how to improvise on your bluegrass mandolin

 A while back, one of my students asked for some tips on bluegrass mandolin improvisation.  I put together this video: 


Here's another video on the subject of improvisation:


This video was made for TikTok, which has a 3GB limit:



Monday, January 17, 2022

Mando Mo Strings Holyoke, MA


Mando Mo Strings is a company in Holyoke, MA, the birthplace of American Industry, that has developed a line of affordable musical instruments made with top quality materials and workmanship.  These instruments are on par or better than similar brands, such as Eastman, TDK, The Loar and Northfield.  The instruments are designed in Holyoke, Massachusetts, assembled in China, and finished/set up in the US.

Here's a post I wrote in 2018.  Some of the text is a little dated.  If you would like to try any of the instruments, please contact me to set up a time.  Due to Covid19, restrictions apply.

Changes to Websites, Covid19 Updates and More 1/22

Hi everybody!

I wanted to update the community with what's going on here in Granby, Mass at the studio location.

Firstly, the Granby Music website now points to www.adamsweetonline.com and will probably for further notice.  The domain host (Wix) recently doubled their pricing and due to the loss of business because of the Pandemic, it's become an issue of affordability.  If you're looking for something you thought was available on GranbyMusic.com, please ask.

Secondly, the rate of Covid19 infections in Massachusetts has increased astronomically since January of 2022.  Due to that fact, I have decided to close in person lessons and classes until further notice.  I had hoped to open up in February, and even made plans with a couple students, but it just doesn't make sense at this point.  I will write an updated blog post if and when that changes.

All 30, 45 and 60 minute weekly lessons are online.  Here's some more information about getting set up for online lessons.  Workshops and Classes are temporarily (I hope) closed due to Covid19.  Online Workshops with Google Meet and YouTube Live will be announced as they are set up.  While I don't have a specific events page, you can do a search for the keyword Events to see if there's anything new.

The weather has been cold and harsh these past few weeks.  They are predicting heavy snow the week of Martin Luther King, Jr's Day, so it's probably a good idea that lessons are online and not in person.  I am looking forward with great anticipation for the Spring.  I have many outdoor plans!  


Monday, September 27, 2021

Adult vs. Child Learning

Just because you are not a kid doesn’t mean that you can pick up new skills. Adults (and teens) can learn much faster than they believe if they understand how the brain learns new things

Why YSK: adults can learn things faster than what they believe, and learning new things and skills can be a very satisfying process on its own, but many people wished they had learned to play an instrument or some other skill but never do something about it because they feel that “it is too late”. It isn’t.

Okay, how do I do that?

There is this common misconception that just because you are older and the brain doesn’t “learn as fast”.

While this is true by some regards, kids don’t learn in the same way as adults do. Kids learn by imitating actions from their environment, they can do that because their brain has significantly more synapses(=connections between brain cells) than adults, so it’s easier for the brain to find the right pathway and reinforce it while pruning “wrong” synapses.

In contrast, adults have preexisting synapses that have been reinforced for a long time and so it’s significantly harder to learn by imitation.

But adults also have a significantly better world model (=understanding of the world), and significantly more developed frontal cortex (=rational thinking and control of functions and behaviour). This means that by employing pre existing knowledge and understanding you can attain a much better understanding of the skill you are trying to learn than kids. This, then means that you can explore and generate new “actions” and behaviour much better than kids because you have better understanding of what is going on under it. By doing that consciously you will be able to turn the actually “correct” and “high quality” conscious actions into subconscious actions that are second nature. 

Finally, even learning itself and creativity are skills that can be trained for (as a grad student with publications from undergrad, and a lot of original work, who has ventured into other fields in her own time because she found it interesting, I recommend the Feynman method with flashcards and extensive notes).

The brain is a very strong pattern matching and creative computer. It’s a shame that many people live with regrets of not learning to play instruments or some other skill. 


Some authors that I can recommend:

- Gina Rippon - The gendered brain (I read this today so I am adding it now)
- - Kahneman (eg. “Thinking fast and slow”)
- David Eagleman (eg. “Livewired”, ”the brain”)
- - Robert Sapolsky (eg “Behave”, “why zebras don’t get ulcers”)
- Elizier Yudkowsky (eg “Inadequate equilibria”)
- - Lieberman and Long (The molecule of more)
- Oliver Sacks (eg “The man who mistook his wife for a hat”, “Hallucinations”, “On the river of consciousness”)

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Final Days of Summer

 As the summer winds down, I reflect on the last couple of years and how it has affected musicians and music teachers like me.  The first thing that comes to mind is that many more people are choosing not to learn an instrument, and that goes for adults as well as children.  There are at least two generations of people who went without music in the public schools and don't have the subject matter ingrained in their system as I do.  But I wonder also if the pandemic has had a detrimental effect on people who would otherwise look for a good teacher.  Could it be that these people are waiting until the pandemic is over?  Possibly.

I look forward to September.  I am in a couple weddings, which is my favorite thing to do next to teaching.  The first wedding is in W. Brookfield, MA which is near Worcester.  I will be playing for an hour in the "cocktail hour" part of the wedding.  This is usually the time when the bride and groom and wedding party go off to some nice location with the photographer for some posed shots.  The hour is time for the wedding guests to mingle and catch up.  I usually play lively jigs and reels, but since I will be joined by Claudine Langille, I can take a break from carrying the melody...and sing!  I don't usually get to sing, but it's nice to play with someone who is also a good singer.  The other wedding is just ceremony music for a wedding ceremony in Rhode Island.  I will be playing solo there.

October brings more weddings with the cooler weather.  The first is with my good friend Brian Bender at Mt Holyoke College in South Hadley.  The second is a solo wedding ceremony in Hadley, MA.  I am looking forward to them.

Monday, August 23, 2021

The Ultimate Guide for Learning to Play the Fiddle

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It's absolutely critical to have a teacher who is passionate about traditional music in order to learn how to play the fiddle well.


Why is it important to learn from a teacher?
If you learn from a teacher who is not passionate about traditional music you will not have the best, most thorough education in music. A teacher that is passionate about traditional music will expose you to every type of traditional music you can imagine. They will make you work hard to master every type of traditional music and in this way they will push you to be the best fiddle player you can possibly be. A teacher who is passionate about traditional music will also use a wide variety of different teaching styles and will not be afraid to go over your head a bit. A teacher who is not passionate about traditional music will not make you work hard enough to master the fiddle.

What makes a good fiddle teacher?
They must: Respect and encourage you. Respect and encourage you in the same way that they would encourage their own children. Treat you as an artist and a person. Encourage you to develop your own personal voice, a signature sound and unique style of playing. They must be skilled at explaining music in a manner that you can understand and internalize. They must also understand that a person can learn to play the fiddle for many reasons, and no one is right all of the time. Fiddle lessons must be taught in a way that reflects the different levels of musicianship that each student has, so students of different skill levels will learn differently. Finally, a good fiddle teacher does not place a high value on one particular style of playing over another.

Where do I find a good teacher?
The first place you should look for a teacher is on online websites that allow you to book lessons, such as lessons.com From there, you can usually book a lesson or two and take your pick from among the teachers listed. They may not necessarily be your teacher of choice, but if you find a teacher who sounds good to you, you're looking in the right place. In some cases, the teachers may require payment before they start teaching, but you can always try to find a free teacher first. When should I take lessons? It's a good idea to take lessons as soon as you can. Ideally, you want to be able to play a piece and have the teacher give you pointers. As soon as you've taken a few lessons, you'll be a lot closer to playing smoothly. Some people believe it's best to play less and learn more.

What are the best resources for learning how to play?
There are many fantastic books available on this topic. The Complete Fiddler's Companion by Tony Trischka is one of the most popular. There is an old tunebook called "Dagger Days" which was published in 1999. It has over one hundred tunes, including "John Henry" and "Dixie Land." And I've also heard good things about "The Lost Fiddler" by Jim Stuckey. Finding a teacher who teaches "traditional music" is essential to success. Here are a few suggestions about teachers for learning the fiddle: 1. Enthusiastic Fiddle Player - Find a close friend, classmate, or family member who plays traditional music and who has been teaching for many years. A good teacher will want to practice with you. This person may be a younger family member, a friend you have known for years, or a schoolmate.

When you've mastered the traditional music styles, you'll have a better understanding of the fiddle, what it's capable of, and its unique tone. You'll also be able to identify the differences between the styles, as well as how they sound and play so that you'll get an overall appreciation of the fiddle itself. Our Free Complete Beginner Fiddle Course is packed with a wealth of tips, tricks, and knowledge to help you play the fiddle. Click here for more information on our premier beginner fiddle course.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

The "Haydn" Quartets by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The "Haydn" Quartets by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart are a set of six string quartets published in 1785 in Vienna as his Op. 10, dedicated to the composer Joseph Haydn. They contain some of Mozart's most memorable melodic writing and refined compositional thought.

The six quartets:

1.  String Quartet No. 14 in G major, ("Spring"), K. 387, Op. 10, No. 1 (31 December 1782)

2.  String Quartet No. 15 in D minor, K. 421/417b, Op. 10, No. 2 (17 June 1783)

3. String Quartet No. 16 in E-flat major, K. 428/421b, Op. 10, No. 4 (June–July 1783)

4. String Quartet No. 17 in B-flat major ("Hunt"), K. 458, Op. 10, No. 3 (9 November 1784)

5. String Quartet No. 18 in A major, K. 464, Op. 10, No. 5 (10 January 1785)

6. String Quartet No. 19 in C major ("Dissonance"), K. 465, Op. 10, No. 6 (14 January 1785)

The quartets were published in a set (labelled Mozart's "Op. 10") in Vienna, 1785. Dates of completion are shown in parentheses above. Mozart arranged the six quartets in the order of composition, except for reversing the order of K. 428 and K. 458.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed 23 string quartets. The six "Haydn" Quartets were written in Vienna during the years 1782 to 1785. They are dedicated to the composer Joseph Haydn, who is considered the creator of the modern string quartet. Haydn had recently completed his influential "Opus 33" set of quartets in 1781, the year that Mozart arrived in Vienna. Mozart studied Haydn's string quartets and began composing this set of six, which were published in 1785. During this time, Haydn and Mozart had become friends, and sometimes played quartets together in Mozart's apartment, with Mozart playing the viola, and Haydn playing violin; see Haydn and Mozart.

Haydn first heard the quartets at two gatherings at Mozart's home, 15 January and 12 February 1785 (on these occasions he apparently just listened, rather than playing a part himself). After hearing them all, Haydn made a now-famous remark to Mozart's father Leopold, who was visiting from Salzburg: "Before God, and as an honest man, I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name. He has taste, and, what is more, the most profound knowledge of composition.

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