If It Ain’t Right, Make It Right

A couple months ago I finished constructing my first violin. Or fiddle. Or whatever you prefer to call a tiny shoulder mounted cello. I began to learn to play and achieved a few decent phrases in the midst of the bumbling screeching of a man’s first attempts to play the fiddle. The thing is, I could hear that something was amiss. I am so used to listening intently for the way an acoustic instrument is resonating that I couldn’t ignore a certain brashness in the tone. A rawness that seemed inappropriate for the age old singer of melodies. Frankly, it sounded like a stereo with the highest slider on the EQ thrown up to 11.

 

I realized that just sealing and treating the wood with tung oil is not enough for a violin. I immediately did some research and ordered some proper violin varnish. A couple days ago I finally got around to disassembling the thing and applying the ground coat to the body and headstock.

 

The varnishing process will take weeks to perform, but here is some photographic evidence of the first step!

 

Before, with just Tung Oil. I like this finish a lot, not for its ease of application, but because it lets the wood really speak without being interfered with. However, a violin needs a bit of taming.

fiddle before fiddle before 2

 

 

And after the first coat of varnish.

fiddle after

 

 

I am very interested to find out how this will affect the voice of the instrument!

 

Laters,

Kynan

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Ukulele, Baby!

A few months ago I undertook a fun little project. I had always wanted a ukulele to take to the beach or to take backpacking, but never got around to buying one. I suppose I thought of them as toys instead of real instruments. Later on, being exposed to some amazing uke players changed my mind and I decided it was time to add one to my little music family.

 

What better way than to make one?

 

Here are a few pics of the process. It was really fun and turned out really well. The mahogany just sings in a sweet, mellow voice. Plus, it’s a scientific fact that a frown is impossible whilst strumming a ukulele.

 

 

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Fin

 

Thinning the Herd

Possessions shift as do the interests which necessitate them.

 

Once upon a time I was fresh out of high school, working in a guitar shop, playing in a band and obsessing about all facets of music. As a direct result, I began to collect guitars. A lot of guitars.

 

In my view back then, each guitar was an arrow in the quiver. Each one had a unique voice and a proper application. While recording or performing, having several to choose from was akin to having different members of a choir, each with a unique specialty to employ when appropriate. To create my best, I felt I needed to have that versatility at my fingertips. That’s just the way I approach things; out of respect for the activity itself, I am a servant to its needs.

 

Over the last ten years, though, my interests have shifted and my life has very different goals and purposes. I’ve happily given up gigs in coffeehouses and parties and traded them in for hours of traveling by foot through wilderness. Through this new world my mindset has changed dramatically. I like the idea of “traveling lightly and efficiently”. Carrying less and making it count is a fun goal, and I believe streamlining makes for a simpler, happier life.

 

So…

 

It’s time to downsize! I need more closet space and I simply cannot justify keeping that many instruments solely to have different tones at my disposal. Honestly, the more I think about it, the more I am sure that the reason certain guitars are my favorites are because they jive with my natural musical voice. There are some others that sound great, but I just don’t feel the same sensation of “singing” with them. Therefore, I can do without them.

Here’s to a simple life!

 

 

 

New Things, Familiar Feeling

A little background, when I was fourteen I spent one summer working for my dad’s roofing company. When I had finished, I had achieved three things. Enough cash to buy my first electric guitar, a killer farmer’s tan, and a healthy distaste for roofing.

I bought that guitar, and played it constantly. My parents would laugh at how often they would find me asleep on the couch, “Old Blue” clutched right beside me. Playing those six strings gave me a constant during the awkward years of high school and has been a constant for me ever since. I graduated and got my dream job at the time, apprentice luthier at a local music shop. I sold guitars, fixed guitars, talked guitars, breathed guitars, and above all played a LOT of guitars.

I met my wife at that music shop, and some of my fondest early memories of us involve music. She’d be there cheering at gigs or bringing pans of brownies to band practice. I’d often go home after a date and play for hours, sometimes until dawn, just feeling inspired. It’s something that’s always been with me during the moments I want to remember.

In the last couple years, it’s had to share that distinction with another loved activity. Since my wife and I began running it has provided me with an outlet to explore new boundaries and expand my concept of who I am, what I am capable of, and who I want to be. Running and racing ultramarathon distances is an opportunity to challenge myself in ways everyday life could never offer. It has become an integral part of who I am and how I see the world.

When we decided to first try trail running I had no idea how much it would take hold, but the air was filled with the excitement of a new spin on something I already loved. When I decided to attempt to take up a new instrument, the banjo, a similar excitement arose in my gut. A new breath of life given to something already held dear.

So when the thought struck to use my banjo head as a canvas, one thing popped into my head immediately. One of my favorite and most scenic landmarks of the Western States Endurance Run course is No Hands Bridge in Auburn. To me it represents all the work and emotions that go into training for an enormous undertaking like running that race, just as an incredible amount of practice and effort go into mastering a new instrument, or any other art, for that matter.

So here it is, in several states of progress.

Banjo 1 Banjo 2 Banjo 3 Banjo 4

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go practice….