Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bridge Review-Gary Sosebee "Red Maple"

When I got my Gibson Earl Scruggs model in 2006 it came with a Grover bridge. I had it setup professionally by Mark Bramlett and he installed a Gary Sosebee Cottonmill Bridge. The bridge made a big difference; however, for some reason it wasn't "perfect" to my ears yet. I liked the banjo but it was still missing something, I thought maybe it just needed to be played in. I preface that by saying I'm extremely hard to please when it comes to instruments.

Two weeks ago I was talking to Gary and he mentioned a new bridge he was making. A soft or Red maple bridge. The wood is slightly softer than your standard hard maple that is used on most bridges. Gary gave me one to try. I put this new bridge on and could not believe my ears.

The note separation went through the roof and the bass response was now perfect.

If you play a maple banjo or an instrument that's bright and you want to increase the bass response, these bridges are the real deal. I'm not given to tinkering and I'm skeptical of new banjo products, but in this case I'm SOLD.

You can purchase the bridge from my good friends at

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Proper Stage Etiquette

The following will serve as examples of what NOT to do while on stage and how to protect yourself from damage:

1)Do not EVER stand on a stool that only has slightly enough surface area to fit both of your feet on it. The Bon Jovi Poster didn't help but playing a guitar that is not symmetrical is his greatest of violations. If he had been playing a D-18 he probably wouldn't have fallen, the wings threw him off balance. That is clearly seen in the video.

2)This guy took his "flying V" literal and tried to fly. Just stick to a dreadnaught and you'll be ALL that much safer. Also, don't impersonate a police officer onstage, it's bad karma.

3)Go Cordless. Don't let a fool from the audience onstage with you, they do not realize that wires are connected to instruments sometimes. Keith Richards wouldn't have let this happened.

4)Yet another person STANDING on an amplifier.

5)My personal favorite. Don't put your foot on the monitors ever. Soundmen don't like the guitarist anyways, because he always has his amp too loud. So the wedges might be a little loose. He also went for the "pick slide" and the head bang, that quickly led to his demise.

6)Even if you are a famous guitarist, do not and I repeat DO NOT move your pick as fast as possible while moving backwards, suddenly stop playing and throw your hands over your head. The result:

7)Oh yeah, guitarists are not the only ones susceptible to falling. If you are going to turn your back to the audience please take note of where you are in relationship to THE EDGE.

So, In summary,
1)Stay on the Ground
2)Symmetrical Instrument
3)Acoustic with no cords
4)Move forwards or side to side and limit backwards movements. Quick/Sudden movements
are your enemy onstage.
5)Monitors are not footrests, they are only there for looks or potential traps
6)Maybe think twice before becoming "the guitarist"

Monday, June 27, 2011

Plays Well With Others

Beginners are often not made aware of group intricacies early enough in the learning process.
I have actually received students that took lessons from other instructors that have been playing almost a year and do not know any chords. Their instructor only concentrated on the lead aspect of playing. A banjo solo only takes place like 15% of the time, the majority of the time you are either backing up a singer or another instrument.

So let's examine the skills you need in order to "play well with others."

-Know the proper Volume level
-Ability to play chords in a variety of positions up and down the instrument
-A common repertoire (this is why learning tunes is important). If you don't know tunes then you can't play them in the beginning stages

You will also need what I refer to as multi-dimensional hearing. In one case you'll need to listen to yourself to make sure you are playing the right thing in right time. On the other hand, you'll need to listen to those around you to make sure you are locked in time with them.