A Summer of Musical Adventures 2022

With the easing of the pandemic, the summer bloomed with music.  Learning to play the tenor guitar was my defacto pandemic project. Three years later I was ready to venture forth with my new skills along with my friend, and neighbor, Kelsey in our newly formed duo “The Ribbon Ridge Girls” the name pertinent to the rural area we live in.

We kicked off with the Tenor Guitar Gathering in Astoria, Oregon in early June, a gathering of 4 string guitar aficionados. Kelsey plays a standard guitar but she was more than welcomed.   The tenor guitar came about in the late 1920s when banjo was going out of style.  Those out-of-work banjo players had guitars made with tenor banjo necks with the same tuning CGDA so they could still be employed. It’s tuned in 5ths rather than 4ths of a regular 6-string guitar. The sound of a tenor guitar is brighter and a good complement to a regular guitar. It faded away in the late 1950s and currently is experiencing a resurgence.  Tenor Guitar Gathering is special as it is the only event in the world that celebrates this instrument.

This was an intimate affair of around 100 friendly participants plus local participation at the concerts on Friday and Saturday nights.  On Friday morning we packed the historical Astoria trolley strumming and singing tunes along the waterfront.  There were various workshops offered and in between, we sampled the beer, baked goods, and coffee that the town has to offer. Astoria also has an array of vintage stores we visited. At night we jammed in the local motel we stayed in along with the featured musicians.  A high point for me was meeting Tyler Jackson in person, my virtual guitar teacher from San Antonio, Texas, who was performing and teaching at the event.  We won big in the raffle, Kelsey won a guitar (which she later donated) and I won a year’s worth of virtual lessons from an award-winning musician back east (woohoo!)

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The View Beyond Beginner

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I am in my 2nd year of learning tenor guitar – in my mid 60’s.  I heard Richard Durrant play “Skye Boat Song” on the tenor guitar about 1 ½ years ago.  I was smitten. Something was rekindled down deep within me and I knew that even though late in life, I had to start playing music again on the guitar. 

I traded my standard (now vintage) guitar that I played as a teen for a beautiful tenor IMG_1543guitar handmade by the local music store owner. (See my post “Breaking up With my Guitar” for the backstory.)  With a neighbor, roughly the same age and in a similar situation we signed up for guitar lessons and attend alternate weeks in the same time slot.  Finding we both had a love of traditional folk tunes, we got over our shyness and started playing and singing together. Now we have a repertoire of about 8 songs that we have memorized and informally have played with other folks.

We are still not too polished but looking back but hey, I know the chords and the notes on this instrument.  I am learning music theory, am learning how to sing harmony and am performing with another person. It’s a musical adventure.

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A sweet beginner! Wintergrass 2020

The most difficult part of being a beginner is getting over the myths of learning as an adult, some of them being- I’m not talented enough, I can’t remember anything, or it’s too late for me.  I’m not “good”, (yet) but I am sooooo much better than when I started.

We just returned from attending Wintergrass, a huge 4-day music festival in Seattle that had the best of the best in this genre and beyond.  It was inspiring to hear all these fabulous musicians and then amateurs (including children) jamming in the hallways. There will be no fame in the future for us but that’s not the point.  It’s but there are fun and joy of the

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Hallway jammers- Wintergrass 2020

process of playing music that is what truly is important. An added benefit is keeping those brain cells firing.

Ultimately you can begin anything at any age if you have enough commitment to PRACTICE.  Show up every day and you will improve. having a buddy will help but is not necessary.

Don’t ever think it’s too late to begin and just know that the first step is the hardest.

P.S.  The best investment in life is in yourself

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The Barefoot Connection- Wintergrass 2020