Thursday, November 17, 2011

make music with us

This time of year brings out the mountain music in me. My hands are all over my fiddle, guitar, banjo, and anything else that makes music. I even have an old accordion in the kitchen now, a recent acquisition, and at night while I wait for my rice to cook or chicken to roast up, I sound like a backup person in the Decemberists. It is a gritty kind of whimsical.

With daylight waning I am indoors most evenings from 7PM till bedtime, so I have hours I didn't have when the sun set around 9PM in June. Back then, nightfall meant sleep. Now it means Dorian chords and instructional books and videos. I have been spending the bulk of these past few nights with my guitar, but every so often I pick up the banjo, and I can't stop my fiddle cravings. These instruments light me up. A few frails on a banjo totally change the house from a quiet, cold place to an alive thing. I can't imagine not being surrounded by instruments, my records, radio stations, and the Pandora channels I have come to love on the tele. Some people aren't into music, and they confuse me as much as people who are not into dogs and fireflies. I'm sure they are fine citizens, but they are not my people.

I think many of us put off buying or learning to play an instrument because we think we need to be amazing at them, as if everyone with a $200 guitar should be expected to play any song on command at a campfire or open mic night. I think owning an instrument is an invitation to creativity and company, and any expectations over that is a burden. It doesn't require your enslavement (another myth), but if you do dedicate a few minutes a day to it, you might be surprised at how much you pick up and what a joy and comfort it can be. I know 12 guitar chords and a few songs and it can make this farm shake when I need to belt out a song, home brewed or a cover. My fiddle (the most over-hyped instrument in the world that is actually simple to play) has been tattooed on my heart. I know some tunes by heart on the banjo, it makes this place swing back in time.

None of these things need an outlet, buttons, or are confined to a car stereo. These are portable sidekicks, best friends, therapists, and canvases. If you want to learn, I urge you to try. Just getting a guitar and propping it in the corner of your living room changes a place, changes you. Because once it is there, music is a possibility, and that makes every day a little better.

This winter I'm hosting an intro to mountain music workshop here at the farmhouse. Come join me and folks from all over the US for a full day on the farm to get acquainted with some of these instruments, try them out, learn how to hold and strum them, and make some new friends, just a few spots left and it really supports the farm, plus we're giving away a beginner fiddle outfit!

Mountain Music! February 4th 2012
This is going to be a fun one. A full snowy day at the farmhouse with an introduction to the mountain dulcimer, southern fiddle, and clawhammer banjo! The morning will start off around the wood stove with dogs and introductions, and then we'll go over the basics of stringed mountain instruments. You'll learn how to play a tune on the dulcimer, bow and hold a fiddle, and the clawhammer strum known as flailing. This beginner's class will be about getting acquainted with the instruments, as well as how to teach yourself. You'll learn my method of self-education that comes from using very beginner-friendly audio/visual aids like tab/cd sets as well as easy practice schedules and tips. I'll point you in the direction of good beginner instruments and anyone who already has a fiddle, dulcimer, or banjo laying around they want some re-upping of inspiration on: bring it along! We'll spend the entire day getting group and one-on-one instruction. and eat some amazing slow-cooked pork and potatoes with apple pie for dessert! We'll have drawing for a mountain dulcimer too, so some one will go home with music in their hands!

To sign up for one of the 8 remaining spots, email


Blogger Joleen said...

Animals love music too.

November 17, 2011 at 4:38 PM  
Blogger Joie said...

How I wish I could join you at your mountain music workshop, but my baby is due to arrive 3 just after the date and with my luck (and some of yours) I'd be laboring in your farmhouse! Although that would make for a GREAT blog post.

November 17, 2011 at 5:43 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hey Jenna, there is a book site called and it allows authors to join and connect with their readers. If you want to, you can claim your author page and give readers more info (your page is sadly bare). Here is a link to your author page:

Just thought you might want to join in- Caitlin

November 17, 2011 at 6:00 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

I play 4 instruments with varying degrees of success (Celtic harp, hammered and mountain dulcimer, fiddle), all learned as an adult. I think one of the things we have lost in modern times is the sense that everyone really can make music. The vast majority of music we listen to now is recorded by professional musicians and most folks think that if they can't sound like that... what's the use? I'm so glad that more people are getting interested in the old music. Wish I could come to the workshop!

November 17, 2011 at 7:22 PM  
Blogger LindaSue said...

I would love to come and learn how to play something. My hubby plays guitar, but after our son died he put the guitar down and hasn't picked up one since. I think he needs to get one and start again. That is how he won my heart, playing Stairway to Heaven on his electric guitar. He can play a horn and piano too. I miss his music, not as much as I miss my boy, but the music is for the heart too!

November 17, 2011 at 7:33 PM  
Blogger mb said...

someone is not into fireflies?! (i know what you mean about people who aren't into music. wha? but i have met them. anti-firefly people i have yet to meet!)

November 17, 2011 at 7:43 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

I find virtually all instruments painfully hard to comprehend. I "get" a great many things, but I just don't "get" musical instruments, for some reason. I've always made music with my voice - another perfectly good option one ought not to overlook! :)

November 17, 2011 at 10:14 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

Dear Jenna: I hope to buy a dulcimer after Christmas. I'll be buying it from Amazon because of gift certificates. Do you have a recommendation for a good dulcimer?
Thank you! Susan

November 17, 2011 at 10:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've long been guilty of the "not playing because it's not perfect" school of excuses, but lately I've been picking up my guitar just to play for fun a little bit here and there, and it's been lovely. A few chords is all it take sometimes.

November 17, 2011 at 11:06 PM  
Blogger Rosie said...

Great post Jenna and thanks for the inspiration. I have had the fear of not playing well and its time to get over it. Thanks!

November 18, 2011 at 12:03 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

TK 'O briens are wonderful and affordable. Also, the wood-n-strings shop near the smokies sells handmade dulcimers that are just plain amazing.

November 18, 2011 at 6:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is so very very true:
"Some people aren't into music, and they confuse me as much as people who are not into dogs and fireflies. I'm sure they are fine citizens, but they are not my people."

November 18, 2011 at 8:25 AM  
Blogger Deb Naydan said...

After reading your post, we took the guitar out from the back bedroom and propped it up in the corner of the livingroom. Now the possibility of music is so much easier!

November 18, 2011 at 1:54 PM  
Blogger Amy Coapman said...

I would love to join you, 'tho distance precludes it. I'm fairly new to the old time fiddle but it speaks to me. I love how you characterize 'frailing' as 'flailing'. My husband is a great frailer and his music lifts me up. Blessings for your music time in February.

November 18, 2011 at 9:05 PM  

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