Time for me to start a personal diary thread

Derek_RDerek_R Posts: 1,697Member
edited August 2016 in Personal Diaries
Having been here many years, I figured it might be time for me to start a personal diary thread, as per what a few of you guys do. My posts seem to be random but linked in as much as they are written by me. So this seems to be as good a way of any of putting some structure around them.Of course, I've nothing to say of any note, but what the hell.So where to start? How about my oft-mentioned ten year plan. This is me thinking that when I'm sixty I mightn't want to be turning cartwheels and jumping off trampolines as a rock'n'roll guitar player. Instead, I fancy being a sedate, grey-bearded, acoustic picker. Kind of like what I am now, only better. So the plan is to work out where I want to be, what I want to be doing, and developing the skills - be they picking, singing, song-writing, networking, sound-engineering, marketing, fashion sense, bribery and corruption, to get there.It's been about two and a half years so far, and I must admit progress has been in fits and starts. I've done several solo slots (I hesitate to say gigs, as they have been single sets during evenings where three or four people have each played a set) to reasonable reactions, lots of open mics, a little bit of networking, and a fair bit of song-writing and guitar practice.I'm starting to see where my strengths lie, or at least where my weaknesses aren't so bad, and I've started to focus on developing in these areas. It's funny because when you frequent guitar web forums you come across a lot of fine players including some very great finger-pickers. But out there, at acoustic nights and OMs, stumbling across finger-pickers is rare. Here, and on other forums, I think - I know - that what I do is very un-unique, simple, and exceedingly average. But out there I'm amazed at the reactions a simple "Windy & Warm", "Little Martha" or a Travis Picking back-up pattern garners. So this is one of the areas of focus. I'm never going to be much of an improviser, and I'm never going to have the finesse to be a decent finger-style player. But that raw finger-picking / thumb-picking does seem to makes folk smile and it works for me. So that's the first area of focus. Getting better at that.Hey ho.Derek    


  • ESBlondeESBlonde Posts: 912Member

    "Of course, I've nothing to say of any note."

    That's never stopped any of us babbling on!

    Whilst we all might think everyone else is better at what they do than us, the reality these days is that Joe public doesn't see this variety of talent in the flesh very often unless they run a folk club or similar. The odds are well in your favour for this. Also the simple things done well are usually the most effective, the James Taylor approach to guitar playing comes to mind (not that I can do it, but his simple style is wonderful and elegant).

    So welcome to the diary section, keep it coming.

  • Reg SoxReg Sox Posts: 3,121Member

    What ES said about us babbling on.  Guilty as charged.

    I look forward to your guitar doodlings and insights all gathered together in one place so I can find them again.

    Cheers, Reg.

  • JockoJocko Posts: 7,046Member, Moderator

    Bring it on Del. We're all fans.

  • Derek_RDerek_R Posts: 1,697Member

    Cheers guys :-)

    First update is that I've now got myself a 30 minute slot at an Acoustic Evening on 3rd Feb. It's the one I've done a few times already so home ground really. But still good.


  • Mark PMark P Posts: 2,314Member

    Interesting guitar doodling post Derek.

    Simple things well done are ideal for public performances!

    The sort of highly skilled finger-style players you mention finding on forums are rare on acoustic nights and OMs because it's very much a minority sport. You only need to see how relatively small the CD sales and profile are of even the very best finger-style players.

    I'm mightily impressed with anyone that manages to put together a 10 year plan for their guitar playing! I can hardly manage to plan a week ahead.

    So you're 1/4 way to your 10 years and getting a 30 minute Acoustic Evening slot. Sounds to me like you're on target.

  • Derek_RDerek_R Posts: 1,697Member

    Thanks Mark. I'm not sure the ten year plan is that impressive. It's more like a ten year period in which I stumble from one idea to the next. It's certainly not directly related to ten years of guitar playing improvements - more like fine tuning what I'm still capable of doing (the fingers are definitely slowing - but that's not bad at my age. I heard trumpeters' lips are passed their best by their early twenties!).



  • Kevin PeatKevin Peat Posts: 3,144Member

    Derek said " I heard a trumpeter's lips were past their best by their early twenties !"

    Lady trumpeters, certainly... 



  • Derek_RDerek_R Posts: 1,697Member

    Funny how the simplest things can be the best. I had a little gadget for Christmas - £6 from Amazon - that looks like a cassette tape but is actually an interface that enables me to play my iPod through my car stereo. I don't have a CD player in there, let alone an MP3 player. I can now listen to the music I want in the car rather than what the radio producers would have me listen to. Been catching up on lots of John Prine, Jim Croce, Townes Van Zandt, Pete Huttlinger, Doug Young, Eva Cassidy, and David Grier. Wonderful! A fine present.

    Also just sent another video submission off to Bryan Sutton. I've wasted my last three months subs to his school on account of I haven't had time to do anything much with a guitar. But I'm starting to find a little time and energy and motivation again, so off the video went. Lots of catching up to do.



  • Reg SoxReg Sox Posts: 3,121Member

    Ah, but you have the advantage over the rest of us in that you can play your old cassettes!

  • Derek_RDerek_R Posts: 1,697Member

    Had I not thrown them all (*) out when the CD was invented!

    (*) Give or take the half dozen that I still have in the car. But there's only so many hundreds of times you can listen to the same thing without going mad. As anyone who listens to my music will testify.


  • Reg SoxReg Sox Posts: 3,121Member

    BTW.  This will shock you Derek.  I've been listening to some Americana verging on Country (sort of country rock and country blues).

    I bought an album (Beautiful Lies, by The Long Haul) that is one of Oysterband drummer Dil Davies' other bands that he plays in a couple of years ago.  I listened to it once and confined it to the "Listen to once in a blue moon" shelf that houses all the overflow CDs in a different room to our main music system.

    But now I'm retired and spend most of my day in the garage building stuff I'm listening to CDs almost constantly.  This means I'm having to venture into the "Listen to once in a blue moon" category for some variation.  I thought I'd give Beautiful Lies another, perhaps fairer, hearing.

    Mmmm, it's a worry, but I've actually enjoyed listening to it and it's grown on me.  mainly because the playing is superb, and whatever I might think of a couple of the more C&W oriented songs I can't get away from the fact that it is beautifully recorded (by current Oysterband bassist and long time producer Al Scott). 


    However, having said all this, if anyone sees me out shopping for a large checked shirt or a bootlace tie please shoot me.

    Cheers, Reg.

  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,153Member

    Just thought I'd check in on your new diary thread Derek, and add my own bit of babbling re nothing much. On the subject of throwing tapes out - a confession really, forgive me for using your diary as a place to make it. I used to have a collection of well over 1000 cassette tapes, most of them copies I made of other people's albums, or albums from the local music library - so guess I was a part of that whole "home taping is killing music" issue that the recording companies were so concerned about. I did also tape things from the radio sometimes - live session broadcasts for example. But it got to a point where I really became more of an obsessive collector than an enthusiastic listener. A hoarder in a way, in fact. Of course I've always been a keen music listener, but for years most of the tapes sat untouched in cardboard boxes. And then finally, last year in fact, I went through them all, and picked out about 40 or so I actually wanted to keep (mostly stuff it would be hard to find or replace anyhow) and chucked out the rest.

    Is there a moral to this tale? No, it's pointless babble, although I do kind of miss those days of home taping - going out to buy a nice fresh pack of TDK SA tapes (or whatever brand) setting the bias control, getting the levels right, whether to use Dolby B or C... Oh dear... image

  • Derek_RDerek_R Posts: 1,697Member

    re Cassettes tapes, at my gig that wasn't really a gig on Saturday (but as gigs go, went really well) the chap opposite me was saying how his daughter is now into vinyl again. A lot of youngsters are - and only this week I went into HMV in Coventry (closing down - everything must go! But only moving round the corner) and the amount of vinyl on sale was staggering. But also, the fellow opposite me said, his daughter is into buying cassettes - at about £6 a pop off eBay!!

    Reg, I can't listen to the Long Haul now but will do later. At the risk of raising a "label" debate I'm really not into C&W either. I like a bit of C and I like an occasional W - but rarely together :-)   Perhaps I'm weakening, too, back in HMV in Coventry I found myself perusing the folk section. didn't buy anything...but I was standing there. Perhaps we'll pass in an aisle somewhere!

    Lastly, more good news - following the gig that wasn't really a gig on Saturday (but as gigs go, went really well) where, apparently, lots of people in the bar (we were in the restaurant) were enjoying our music we've been given two more gigs at the same hotel. That's three gigs in the diary for the duo and one for solo Del in just a week. Rock'n'Roll !!



  • Reg SoxReg Sox Posts: 3,121Member

    I wish we still had a local record shop.  Nearest one these days is a schlep into Reading.  Used to be a nice second hand vinyl shop in Thatcham (fairly local) but the recession did for that.  HMV in Newbury shut down a few years ago now - one of the many that didn't survive their financial troubles.  HMV wasn't brilliant but at least you could go in a browse and I even got into one band (Delays) just by hearing a track played while browsing.  You just don't get that experience online.

    I can't get into a debate on C&W labels, mainly due to ignorance of exactly which is which.  I don't mind some of it, always liked Country Blues, and other stuff I'd really rather chew my own arm off than listen to it.

    Good news on the gigs.  Del Breakout Year?

    Cheers, Reg.

  • JockoJocko Posts: 7,046Member, Moderator

    I had hundreds of cassette tapes, made back in the 70's, but found a good few of them had started to "print through", after years of storage. My grandson is well into vinyl. As I have said before, he is a big Beatles fan, and at Christmas his star present was a collection of "Mono" Beatles recordings!

  • Derek_RDerek_R Posts: 1,697Member

    C, W, and C & W in Del's world:

    C = country means singer songwriters, main of whom are very bluesy or even folksy, but generally are all frowned upon by the Nashville establishment as being outlaws or renegades...Usually come from Texas. All though some come from Wales.

    W = western swing incl. bands such as Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys and Asleep at The Wheel. More or less Benny Goodman with stringed instruments instead of horns. Guitar players tend to be very jazzy. I can do without the vocals most of the time, but the swinging instrumentation makes up for it.

    C & W = country and western = Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers and a host of modern Nashville dudes and dudesses who are improbably good looking, slim, have torn jeans, and perfect teeth. Brilliant picking and stellar production. Avoid at all costs.



  • Reg SoxReg Sox Posts: 3,121Member

    OK, in your world I guess The Long Haul are predominantly western swing, and some country blues, but with vocals that might then be less attractive to you.  Although it seems a bit more of a mash-up than that pigeon hole.  Perhaps that's just me and my lack of knowledge of the genre though.

    If you get a chance to listen I'd be interested in your categorisation.

    Cheers, Reg.

  • Derek_RDerek_R Posts: 1,697Member

    I enjoyed The Long Haul, Reg. Especially the short clip of Psychic Baby - that's great. Overall a bit too country for me, and probably one for my blue moon shelf, too. But an enjoyable few videos nonetheless.

  • Reg SoxReg Sox Posts: 3,121Member

    Psychic Baby is my favourite track on the album as it happens.  It's what I searched for on youtube to post, but there's obviously no vid of that track.  There's some great play on words and humour in the track that I thought might appeal to you given some of your own output.

    Cheers, Reg.

  • JockoJocko Posts: 7,046Member, Moderator
    Derek_R posted:

    Funny how the simplest things can be the best. I had a little gadget for Christmas - £6 from Amazon - that looks like a cassette tape but is actually an interface that enables me to play my iPod through my car stereo.

    Got one today. To my ears it sounds every bit as good as playing a CD. I have my iPod in the car now, set for shuffle, with enough good music to see me out. No more complaints from Mrs Jocko that I played that CD last time she was in the car!

  • Derek_RDerek_R Posts: 1,697Member

    I used shuffle for the first time on the way home on Wednesday. made the drive much more acceptable with the added interest of what's coming up next and will I recognize it? I know I should recognize everything on iPod - after all, I put it on there - but many years and many hundreds of albums later it's not always instantaneous - especially as half of what's on there is instrumental. Is that Dexter Gordon or Sonny Rollins? Tony Rice or Bryan Sutton? Beethoven or Doc Watson? Actually it does highlight a good point - I do recognize everyone after a few seconds or a minute of playing - just goes to show how all the greats (you don't get on my iPod unless you're great!) have a recognizable sound all of their own.

  • Derek_RDerek_R Posts: 1,697Member

    Attention to Detail

    Here's something I've been pondering on this week and that I'm continuing to muse upon :  attention to detail in one's playing.

    A couple of random things have cropped up that have created this pondering.

    1) The late great Ritchie Hayward, drummer in my all time fav' band Little Feat, was talking about how he gets the groove he gets and said a lot of it you don't always hear but it's there...

    2) Russ Barenberg, acoustic flat picker (already mentioned today) said that guitar players should pay much more attention to the end of notes, rather than the beginning. To sound smooth you need to hold those notes micro-seconds longer.

    3) Listening to Ralph McTell play ragtime and wondering why he sounds so good and pondering on what it is that he's doing and I'm not.

    In all these instances I think it comes down to a level of attention to detail and subtlety I've never bothered with. If I'm learning, say, a ragtime blues I'll get the basic thumb pattern going and the chord shapes needed to facility the melody whilst playing that bass line, and then I'll figure out those melody notes and a way of accompanying the vocals, and then that's it. Anything else I add in is either a mistake or something that falls nicely under the fingers.

    The results tend to sound okay. Not bad. More than good enough for an Open Mic down the Cross Keys. But it's not sounding like it should do. I reckon the answer is attention to detail. All those extra little things that you don't always hear overtly but added together created the right sound, ensuring that notes and chords are clean and held as long as they can. All that stuff.

    On his response to a recent video submission of mine that was all about cross-picking, Bryan Sutton pointed out that I was cutting short the last note of each of my six note patterns. It's a common mistake (apparently) as us amateurs race to get our fingers in position for the next chord - i.e. focusing on the first note of the next phrase rather than the tail-end of the last note from the previous phrase. It was barely noticeable to me - I mean, I hadn't noticed it. I thought I was doing fine.

    And he's right. I've spent five or ten minutes twice a day this last week just focusing on a simple C to D cross-picking pattern and trying to get that transition right. It's getting better, and it's sounding better even if it is one of those things that Richie Hayward refers to - most people won't hear it overtly, but overall it'll imbue the music with a little something more.

    I don't know if it's practicable for an amateur with limited time to go into this much detail, but I think to move to the next stage it's what I need do.

    I'm trying to do it on my finger-picking, too. No doubt I'll post some stuff here when the time is right.

    Hey ho.





  • JockoJocko Posts: 7,046Member, Moderator

    I think attention to detail counts in everything you do. Whether it be music, photography, work, driving or relationships, attention to detail is the key. Which sums up what I have been doing wrong throughout my life.

  • Derek_RDerek_R Posts: 1,697Member

    I'd hate to let attention to detail (or lack thereof) prevent me from doing something, such as standing up and playing a song at an Open Mic. But I think I need to ensure that I stay with a tune even after a basic version has been mastered and continue to add in all the little extra bits that take it to the next level. I think that's where the hard graft really lies, and it's that which I've neglected in the past.

  • Reg SoxReg Sox Posts: 3,121Member

    I'm approaching three years into relearning the guitar almost from scratch after a 25 year layoff.  And it's a subject I've been thinking about recently as well, prompted by my goal to finally nail barre chords properly.  I'm much the same as you Derek, worrying too much about getting the fingers in position during the transition and racing ahead a bit.

    Now I've got to the stage where I am finally starting to land straight into position on some barre chords I've been more critical of how it's sounding.

    Some time ago I suggested to Jocko to try and disengage his conscious brain when playing and try to get a closer connection between ear and fingers.  He made the comment about should he just let the force guide him, which while funny was actually a pretty good comment.

    So I'm at that stage with barre chords where I'm listening to what I'm playing rather than thinking about what I'm playing.  I really should practice what I preach more often because every time I do that I do start to improve.  The thing is I'm not sure how I'm improving because I think it's unconscious adjustments - I don't think I'm good enough a guitarist to actually analyse and remedy (e.g. I don't think I could do the analysis your teacher has done and point to why it was only sounding average).  But just by listening and being repetitive, rather than thinking about it, improvements do get made in how it sounds.

    So try to get into automatic and concentrate only on the act of listening.  I find then that my fingers make whatever adjustment is necessary to make improvements without having to analyse it.  This process doesn't work if you record and play back (or it doesn't for me) because I then get into analysis again and start thinking about it while I'm playing.

    I'm sure all the greats just unconsciously react to what they are hearing rather than consciously thinking about what they are hearing because the latter is a process step too many and the time for instant reaction is past.

    I think this sort of links into my thoughts on the tone discussion in that other thread as well.  It's that unconscious competence we should be aiming for.  If we have to think while we're playing then we're stuck at conscious competence and there's not enough reaction time left.

    And if I really could put all this into practice I would be a damn sight better player - I still need an extra dose of raw talent!

    Cheers, Reg.

  • Kevin PeatKevin Peat Posts: 3,144Member

    Don't do it Del !!!

    Last thing we need is another anal muso and I think you might find it a bit of an anti climax when you do get your new bag of licks.

    At open mics they want presence, projection, confidence, attitude and personality (be that fun, aggression, anger - whatever.) and - above all - the right face. You have the wherewithal to do that already.

    I see so many amateurs (and I include myself here) and think - I can't put a finger on it, you're playing all the right notes, and you've got that riff off pat; you're a really nice guy, but you just shouldn't be doing music. It's not you. I don't know why. You're not a musician and I'll clap politely but I'd rather you weren't doing it at all - get off the stage and make way for that other guy that blows the room apart. 

    I've had that feeling when I've played at open mics too. That I'm not really wanted. The detail doesn't count for anything in that situation except to fill a hole before the next act. So I haven't done an open mic for five years. I haven't done a gig for three now. 

    I wouldn't expect to be able to train to be a comedian. Why should I expect to become a musician ?

    When it comes to detail I am the detail man !!! Exquisite detail. 

    Dang. My family wouldn't even bother to listen to me play a single piece I'd been rehearsing after Christmas dinner without taking the pee and making a lot of noise. If I can't be heard after dinner in my own home then I'm struggling to think of a place where hard learned detail fits. So disheartening. 

    Vocal harmonies always do well at open mics - as does layering of instruments. But to do a solo spot requires the ingredients I listed above. 

    Some of us aren't entertaining, no matter how hard we try or what qualifications we get. We never will be. I know a guy who has a degree in guitar - and yet he should have been an accountant. His stage presence (and safe, precise sound) screams ACCOUNTANT. Recently (after trying for several years to break into the London scene) he got the message and gave up.

    Good decision.

    The Universe tells us sometimes.

    There are no spiders on planet Vanilla.

    This is not to say that the good acts are skilled. More often than not they aren't. They pick up a guitar and six months later they are doing it for real. Blasting rooms away - having fun and being appreciated. If they want detail it just comes. And by 50 you'd have detail if you needed detail. 

    My experience is that there is little market for detail except from the innately gifted and right looking. If it seems remotely like you're finding it difficult (no matter how accomplished the sound) then people aren't going to buy it. It doesn't make for a good act. And if you've rehearsed the detail so much that it comes over slick and insincere that doesn't go down well either. It takes the edginess out of the performance and makes people want to punch you.

    Invest your time in being a blast instead. If you are gifted with being interesting without really trying then it's all you need. 



  • Derek_RDerek_R Posts: 1,697Member

    Thanks for the reply, Kevin. I think there might have been a compliment as well as a warning in there – not sure though!

    First things first - I think you’re far better than you say you are – most definitely a very fine musician. Clearly, modest too :-)

    A couple of thoughts spring to mind. First, this is all about having fun. I’m at an age where I’ve no expectations or desire to make it beyond this very simple idea of getting out there and playing some of my original songs, a bit of finger-picking blues, and some thumb-picking country. My plan, for what it’s worth, is to try and improve in all respects – playing, singing, stage-craft, song-writing, and so on. I do okay at the moment – I know there are a few people out there who enjoy what I do (either that or they lie to my face) and look forward to my occasional gigs, and there have been a few re-bookings recently so it can’t be all bad. But I know it can be better – and that’s why it’s time to try a bit harder. If it’s better I’ll enjoy it more and have more confidence. If I enjoy it more and have more confidence the show will be better. But mainly, it’s for me – I just love doing it and want to improve.

    As regards if I’d have needed detail by now I’d have found it. It’s a valid point and probably true. But this is the first time in almost 40 years of gigging that I’ve actually started going out doing this stuff - my own songs, solo finger-picking, singer-songwriter material. I still play in bands and still do the duo, but the stuff that I’m talking about is my first foray into solo territory. The previous 40 years do count for a lot, but not everything. I must admit I’m knocked out at some of the comments I’ve been getting on the songs, and the playing and the performances. It’s like a new beginning and whereas I mightn’t have needed more detail to knock out Carl Perkins’ numbers in pubs, I think there may be room for more attention in what I’m currently attempting, or will be attempting over the coming years.

    But I agree, detail is only part of it and maybe not the most important part. Having a blast is indeed more important. You should see the duo – no detail, pure fun, a real blast and more gigs than the other streams combined!

  • Kevin PeatKevin Peat Posts: 3,144Member

    How about this for detail ?

  • Derek_RDerek_R Posts: 1,697Member

    Good stuff. I always like street corner doo-wop (what little I know of it) and this reminds me of that.

  • Mark PMark P Posts: 2,314Member

    Regarding that working on the detail there's something of a balancing act. If it all becomes hard work it stops being fun and stops being a hobby to enjoy. If there's no work done on anything it all stagnates and it stops being a hobby to enjoy. So if it stays fun and gives you a purpose and some sort of pleasure in the process or the challenge then it shouldn't do any harm.

    It's true though that subtleties are lost on most. Skills only seem to be in demand if they're flash!

    Meanwhile I'll stick to trying to hit the right notes!

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