Friday, December 18, 2009

Tolerance for Courageous Sucking

It's been a while since I've posted anything, so today I thought I'd drag up something from the archives from over on the Banjo Lounge Blog.

I found some pretty good wisdom. There are things that you should know. You might even know these things. We're often needing to be reminded of them.

The following quotes are from "Photography, and the Tolerance for Courageous Sucking."

I accept upfront that the improvements ... will be slow, incremental, and, largely undetectable to anybody but me — a fact that’s never more painfully clear than when I swoon over the work of the more talented friends who inspire me... far as I can tell, dedication to the process can’t help but make you a better photographer — or a better whatever, for that matter.

Nobody likes feeling like a noob, especially when you’re getting constant pressure on all sides to never stick out in an unflattering way. And, in this godforsaken just-add-Wikipedia era of make-believe insight and instant expertise, it’s natural to start believing you must never suck at anything or admit to knowing less than everything — even when you’re just starting out. Clarinets should never squawk, sketch lines should never be visible, and dictionaries are just big, dumb books of words for cheaters and fancy people. Right?

Good stuff, eh? Applies to so many things, including the banjo.

Go read the article at Merlin Mann's site 43 Folders. Oh, if you're offended by a "bad word" or three, then consider this your warning. Skip over those words, replace them in your mind with some other word, but read the article.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Playing the Banjo?

Songs? Technique? Fundamentals?

Yes... but.

I think folks get in too big of a hurry in general. Very few seem to really spend anywhere near the time they should polishing and refining even the simplest things they know. Sure, that sort of thing takes a while, but the results are worth it.

Knowing a few things, understanding why those things work, and how to take them apart and reconstruct is essential, and that's not something you learn by going from song to song to song - or roll to roll to roll.

For a clawhammer player just being able to play a bum-ditty or a basic drop thumb pattern isn't the end of the process. The same applies to a Bluegrass player; 32154215 isn't the end of that roll. You really need to know how to take those pieces apart and move things around. Memorizing patterns really doesn't get you there.

Wax on! Wax Off! Repetition is essential. Listening is essential. Take your time and have a finished product that you'll be proud of. Not only that, you'll have gained skills that you can utilize when you move to the next tune. Do that enough and you'll have skills that will help you in the jam when those tunes come up you've never heard before.

An analogy, and I'll shut up...

Imagine you have to build a step stool. What sort of tools do you need? I'd say for a beginner you could use a handsaw, a hand drill, screwdriver, and a combination square. Mind you, it won't be the most ornate step stool, but it would be recognizable as one. Furthermore if you built a couple hundred of them they'd look pretty sharp. You know, one could spend their life in pursuit of this sort of perfection right here - taking a few simple tools and becoming a master of them. Others like to try new things.

So, they buy a router. Suddenly there are a lot more options and you can do things that you just couldn't have done before. Your step stool now has nice rounded edges and the joining edges look great.

Some folks wind up building a nice wood shop with all sorts of tools: planers, joiners, table saws, band saws, and even a CNC lathe. :)

Imagine how fancy your step stool could be.

The tools, however, are only part of the equation. You need knowledge of each tool and a lot of practice.

Same goes for your banjo playing.

You have to decide. Do you want to be the guy with the huge shop? Do you want to be the master of a few tools?

It's totally up to you. Do you want to be Norm Abram or Roy Underhill? Or maybe you'd just be happy being Bob Vila doing a bathroom demolition? ;)

Spit. Polish. Repeat!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Netflix - It's a Love-Hate Thing

A little over 2½ years ago I signed up for Netflix. It was a joyous moment. I imagined all the cool movies I could have delivered right to my door. I made my queue of about 150 movies and sat by the mailbox. Today I got my 300th DVD from Netflix.

Without going back to look, I don't remember the first movie I got, but I'm sure it was great. (Okay, I went and looked. It was The Lake House). I've watched all sorts of stuff: westerns, dramas, documentaries, comedies, concerts, and all sorts of other things - things I'd probably not have bothered renting from a regular movie rental place. It was just so easy to click the "Add" button and have the DVD added to my queue. The things I wanted right now I moved to the top. The things that didn't matter I let sit quietly in the queue until they showed up in my mail box.

The joy didn't last long though. Oh, it wasn't Netflix's fault - not directly. Sure, I think that since they're sending out the DVDs they may be responsible, and I'll go into how they deal with their end of the problem later. The problem - scratched and broken DVDs. Broken ones are really rare, and I blame the USPS for that stuff. I expected a broken one from time to time based on my experience with the USPS. However, the scratched ones are my main gripe.

Just what the heck are the other Netflix users doing with these DVDs? Some of them look as if they've been used as an air-hockey puck at the local poolhall & gameroom. Seriously, how does this happen? Do they drop them and the scuff them across the floor when trying to pick them up? Do they put sandpaper skids in the tray of their DVD players? Are the other Netflix users using them for dinnerware? I don't get it. Do people really just abuse these discs because they think it doesn't matter? None of my personal DVDs have scratches, why do these?

Message to other Netflix users: Stop screwing up my DVDs before I get to watch them!

It's very irritating to be a 3rd of the way through a show to have everything freeze up or skip. At that point I usually remind myself that I should have probably made sure it was clean beforehand. So now I go through the process of ejecting the movie, cleaning the disc, starting the movie again and trying to get back to where it got stuck or jerky; all the while hoping that it will work this time.

Most of the time I can get the DVD to work. Sometimes I have to skip forward a bit to get to a working section of the movie. That's anonther aggravation, because I paid to watch the whole thing; if I wanted to miss parts of a movie I could have gone to the theater and got up to go to the restroom or get more popcorn just as the "best part" comes on.

So that's the "hate" part of the relationship. Sure, like any sort of endeavor there are bad parts. All in all, that's probably the worst of it, and Netflix is pretty nice about resolving the problem. You just log in, tell them the movie doesn't work and they'll send you a new one out. Of course you lose that day, but at least they don't make you send the defective one back before they send out a (hopefully) working copy.

Netflix is a great idea. In a perfect world it's a perfect solution to getting the movies I want to see. In a not-so-perfect world, it's a not-so-perfect solution, but I'm happy and I've saved a little money. I've also watch a lot more DVDs; I've considered turning off cable because of it too.

Well... that's probably enough of a commercial for Netflix. I'm not one to rant or rave about much, but did want to share.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Wrong Number

The following is an all day conversation that took place between myself and a stranger that sent me a text message. I'm not quite sure where this went wrong, but for whatever reason, my initial attempts to tell the "texter" that he had the wrong number didn't go as planned.

I imported the conversation from my phone and converted it to a format that I can use here, but the spelling or lack of spelling is all original. I couldn't make this up if I tried. :) I made one or two minor edits and I changed the names, but nothing that changes the dialog.

I'm getting in the car for lunch, it's 1:25pm on Friday, and I get the following text.

Him -- 1:25pm - Was up this is Shane do u wont 2b buddey if so text back if not dont but dont tell diane please.

I should probably translate that, but I think you can figure it out. I did.

Anyway, I ignored it. Figured if I didn't respond back he'd get the idea, and check his number. I was wrong. Almost an hour later I get another message.

Him -- 2:17pm - U dont wont 2be frands

Frands? Yes, I live in the South. I responded:

Me -- 02:18pm -no

I hoped that would do it. The next message I got gave me hope that it was over.

Him -- 02:19pm - Cool

I was wrong. In a few minutes I got the following:

Him -- 02:31pm - Do u wont me 2 lose ur number

To which I responded

Me -- 02:32pm - Since i have no idea who you are, yes.

The next round of text took an interesting turn.

Him -- 02:50pm - U going 2 tell on me
Me -- 02:53pm - Why would i? I don't know you.
Him -- 03:35pm - U can get 2 know me by text me
Me -- 03:36pm - Rather not
Him -- 03:50pm - Dam y not your somking ass hot we would be frands i have a sweet boat i go 2 the lake all the time iam not a bad person iam realy cool

Now, I'm a nice looking guy (my mom says so). But "somking ass hot" has, as far as I know, never been used to describe me. When I showed this to some friends and to Tina they all laughed. So much for my ego. Anyway, on with the story...

When he mentioned the boat, I was reminded of an old joke so I responded

Me -- 04:00pm - Send pic of boat

He sent me a picture of the boat!

Him -- 04:04pm - dont seen 2 her

I can only assume he doesn't want me to send it to Diane. He's apparently worried.

Him -- 04:28pm - So u going 2 black male me with my pic lets see your pic
Him -- 04:42pm - Did u not like pic
Me -- 04:44pm - nice boat.

Now here's the segue into him asking me out. I say me, but I'm guessing he really doesn't know it's me... unless he does, which I'm hoping he didn't, but you never know. Anyway, I figure, he had his chance to terminate our "relationship," but since he didn't I figured I could play along a little.

Him -- 04:45pm - I here u leav close 2 the lake
Me -- 05:17pm - Close enough
Him -- 05:29pm - Yal iam go 2mor
Me -- 05:31pm - What time
Him -- 05:41pm - If the kids r mean and u need more money let me know u like fishing
Me -- 05:44pm - More into tubing or swimming, but fishing is ok too
Him -- 05:45pm - Litt cold 4 that unles ur crazy
Me -- 05:54pm - Been known to be crazy
Him -- 06:02pm - So r u telling me u wont 2 go

At this point I figure it's a good idea to bring up Diane again.

Me -- 06:04pm - Don't you think she'll be mad?
Him -- 06:30pm - Yal but its all good i like 2 have fun u in

Now he wants a picture of me. Since he thinks he knows who he's texting, I resist. No reason to end this ride so quick. I've been at this since lunch.

Him -- 06:40pm - Seen a pic
Me -- 06:41pm - Why

Him -- 06:44pm - Y not just 1

I thought since I didn't send him a picture he had given up. Wrong... again.

Here's the next round.

Him -- 07:55pm - Yal u wont 2 go
Me -- 08:02pm - Not this time

Him -- 08:17pm - Scaird

Me -- 08:18pm - Not even. Is diane going?
[Seemed like a fair question to me]
Him -- 08:20pm - Hell no just me
Me -- 08:21pm - i'll go if she goes
Him -- 08:26pm - Hell no
Me --
08:27pm - I thought you liked to have fun [He did say that, didn't he?]
Him --
08:34pm - Fun yes stuped no were the pic [Could have fooled me]

Again I refuse to send him a picture.

Me -- 08:37pm - No pic for you. Maybe Diane Will send you one. why don't you send me one
Him -- 08:54pm - Y u wont my pic
Me -- 8:54pm - Just do

A minute later he's sent me his picture. I've debated posting it, but probably shouldn't. I've been amused at his stupidity, but the last thing I want to do is set him up for even more difficulty with Diane if anyone recognizes him.

I figure he's thinking he's got a date lined up. He asks me again if I'm going fishing with him. I've played with him long enough, it's time to cut him loose.

Him -- 09:38pm - Ur going ri ght
Me -- 09:39pm - i don't think so. I'm probably not your type

Him -- 09:44pm - Y

Me -- 09:46pm - Too old for you

Him -- 09:50pm - What
Me -- 09:53pm - remember today when i said i didn't know you? I was serious. I'm obviously not who you think i am.

Him -- 10:05pm - What i dont get it

Holy Moly, what's it take to get through to him? He's as sharp as a bag of wet mice. So I ask:

Me -- 10:06pm - Who do you think i am?

Him -- 10:10pm - Just tel me

Me -- 10:14pm - Just someone twice your age. I told you several times that i didn't know you. You obviously didn't believe me. Maybe you do now
Him -- 10:15pm - Who r u

Me -- 10:18pm - no one you know. I have no idea who you are. Why not just delete this number and try another one. Maybe you'll get the right one next time

I guess that wasn't clear enough. The saga continues.

Him -- 10:20pm - U know diane so who r u
Me -- 10:23pm - you're the one that mentioned her. I have on clue who she is

Him -- 10:42pm - I look at all my text i did not say her name so who is this

Me -- 10:45pm - It was in the first message you sent.

How hard is this stuff? Really, it's just text messaging.

The final round.

Him -- 10:47pm - Y your number in her phone
Me -- 10:50pm - I have no clue. But you've got the wrong number

Him -- 10:51pm - Sweet

The 10:47 message brings up a couple other questions I'd like to ask him, but I leave it.

The next thing I did was take the few things I knew about him based on the conversation and do a Google search. I got a hit right off. I found Diane's Myspace page, and a link back to Shane's Myspace page. It was him. The pictures proved it out. He was 23, married to Diane and has 3 kids. Yet he figures to have himself a little extra-curricular activity with a number he found in his wife's phone. Idiot.

Message to Shane

You're 23. You're young. Don't screw this up. You've got a pretty wife that loves you (she says so on her Myspace page). You have three little kids. You can throw all that away and wind up paying child support for the next 18 years. You have something that many people can only dream about.

Finally, if you're still compelled to cheat on your wife, don't get a number from her phone! Sheesh!!!


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Saying Goodbye to a Friend

Last May I posted a story here about my new kitten Phantom. If you don't remember you can go back and read it here.

Today I had to tell him goodbye.

He had been sick. He was only a year old, but had been sick with a variety of problems, but all relating to his blood, and bleeding. Teething was even difficult for him, and we had to watch him carefully during that time to make sure he didn't lose a lot of blood. He got through that, but the major trauma for him came in the form of bruises. Just a tiny bump or jar could create a hematoma. With his blood issue these could be devestating. The first instance he had with one was several months back, and we almost lost him then. However, after a blood transfusion and a few days in the hospital we were able to nurse him back to health. Unfortunately the incident changed him. He would become lethargic from time to time, limp a bit and just be unhappy for days at a time. He didn't want to play much, and when he did it was for only short periods and he would have to rest. It was as if we had an older cat. I guess almost dying takes a lot out of you, even if you're a cat.

Sunday Phantom moped around a lot, and mostly stayed in his basket. That evening when it was time for bed I found him laying on the couch in his regular spot. When I started to rub him a bit and tell him good night he reacted with a low growl. I knew something was up, so I checked him over good and discovered another hematoma (it was near his back leg). I rubbed his neck and ears good, told him to rest.

Monday morning, he was still mopey, but we knew that there's not much can be done for a hematoma, so we decided to give him a day to recover a bit before we called the vet. That evening, I picked him up and discovered that the hematoma was larger than I had expected. Tina and I decided we'd take him to the vet in the morning.

Tuesday morning, we took him to the vet. He was very tired, draggy, but alert. X-Rays and a variety of tests showed that it was a hematoma (as we had guessed). His blood work looked was fine, and we brought him home. As the evening progressed he got worse.

This morning we took him back to the vet. He had camped out in the bathroom last night, and this morning he was still in the same spot - not good. That was 5:30Am. The veterinarian office doesn't open until 8:30. A long three hours pass and we take him back in. We get a call that he needs another transfusion, and probably another several day stay at the hospital.

I had gone through this before and it was not something I was prepared to do again. I had to make a decision. It wasn't easy. Today I made the decision to let my friend go. He was hurting. He was sick. His chances of surviving something like this again was slim. We didn't even know if the transfusion would would work. What I did know is I didn't want him to suffer. I couldn't allow him to hurt.

I felt it only fair that Samuel get a chance to tell Phantom goodbye. Tina stayed with Phantom while I went to get Samuel from school. He's a good kid, smart, and known to always do the right thing. He's only 8, but I trust his judgement on things like this. We talked on the way back to the veterinarian clinic and he understood. He understood my decision.

I knew I was staying with Phantom for the whole thing; it was my decision to let him go, so it was my duty - no - my priveledge and honor to stay with my friend as he passed. He was my buddy. I didn't expect Tina or Samuel to stay, but Samuel insisted that he would stay (remember: he's been known to do the right thing). So, we all three were there to tell him goodbye.

He was a champ and a real pal. He was everything I ever expected and more. I've always had a horrible allergy to cats, but Phantom cured that for me. I can romp and play with cats and kittens now with no bad allergy issues. I really never imagined that I'd ever be over my cat allergy.

Phantom was my cat.

We buried him in the yard along with a paperwad, his stuffed toys, and some of his favorite treats. He lies just outside the kitchen and diningroom windows near "Samuel's Tree". Samuel decided on that. It's a nice spot - always cool there in the hottest part of the summer, and always shady.

On his box I wrote the words to a little song I made up for him when he first came home with us.
You've got a cute little nose
and everybody knows
about your fuzzy little chin
I'm gonna sing it all again
about your funny little fuzzy ears,
No telling what he really hears
About his cute little nose
That everybody knows.

You can hear the song here: Cute Little Nose (Phantom's Song)
Samuel and Tina also wrote a special notes on the box about how they'll always miss him and remember him.

Today I said goodbye to a most special friend.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Green Truck Tour

Our local telephone company is Windstream. If you're from a Windstream area you're probably aware of the Green Truck in their advertisements; if not, this probably won't mean much to you.

Anyway, Windstream is doing a promotional tour, and they decided to schedule the bank as one of their stops. You can check out their tour schedule at the Windstream Green Truck Tour.

I snapped a few shots of the truck, and you can see some of them on my Facebook. I uploaded more to my Picasa Web Album.

My experience didn't end with pictures though. I got to rip through town in it - and rip I did.

Here are some specs for you:
  • Crate ZZ4 Engine; 8 cylinders, 350 c.i. with 380 h.p.
  • Edelbrock carburetor and manifold.
  • 700 R4 Transmission;
  • 148-mph top speed; 0-60 in 5 seconds
It even had a built-in DVD player with dash-mounted flat screen; Garmin GPS; and a premium Pioneer stereo system.

Not bad for a '53 Chevy, eh? It was, to say the least, peppy. I can't attest to the 148 mph, but I can assure you that the 5 second 0-60 is accurate.

I hope you can catch the Green Truck Tour near you.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Pinewood Derby - District Race

If you read the previous posting you're aware of Samuel's winning performance in his Pack. That win allowed him to enter the District race.

District is always the best of the best, and we really had no idea how that was going to play out for us. We knew going in that it could turn out to be a last place day... or a first place day. We'd much rather be on the winning side, but it's all fun.

There were some awesome cars at the race. Some of the times were astonishi
ng, and by the time Samuel got to race his I knew what sort of times his car would have to get to be in the run
ning. His first race was pretty good, he won it. The next seven heats he placed 1st in one, 2nd in five, and came in 4th in the other.

His times were good, but I knew it wasn't going to be a 1st place day. His times were good enough to place him 5th overall. He wasn't so thrilled about 5th, but considering that we built the car here in the dining room over a couple days I'm thinking we did quite well considering that a lot of the kids had parents with a lot more tools, time and resources to put into their cars.

For me it proved that Samuel and I could build an awesome car with simple tools. It was a positive experience for us both.

I guess our next race will be the Awana Grand Prix. I think that's in May.

See you on the track!


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cubscout Pinewood Derby 2009

Well folks, another year has come and gone and the ritual of the Pinewood Derby happened today at noon.

We only had a couple of weeks to get our car planned and built, We usually have a month. This time we had to make some hard choices. Did we want a fast car? Did we want a car that looked really awesome? Did we want a car that was fast and looked awesome too?

Under optimal conditions we'd have probably chosen the latter. But that was going to be tough considering my lack of personally owned power tools and the short amount of time we had. We also didn't think we'd have time to make a car that we thought might win best of show, so we had only one option left. We'll build a fast one!

As you can see from the picture we opted for a thin wedge design. Samuel chose to paint it black. So that was it, a solid black wedge. We stretched out the wheel base a little, got the weight close enough and allowed ourselves some wiggle room when it was time for weigh-in. It really doesn't look all that spectacular, but we figured it was a speed machine, and fancy looks doesn't add speed.

Race time!

I had a good feeling about the car. Samuel had already said he thought it may be the fastest one we've built yet. It certainly looked like it had potential, but the only way to know that is to put it on the track and run it.

Watching the race we picked out a few of the better cars. There were 2 or 3 that had really good potential, and soon became the cars to beat. We kept tabs on them, and felt like we still might have a chance, but you never know what might happen. We knew our car was pretty good, but the finish line is the proof.

Samuel's up. He will race against each car in his division. Some we've already seen run, and we knew that we wouldn't be last, but the better cars could still pose a challenge.

Truth time. Samuel, so far undefeated, comes up against the car we figured would be the best challenge. Samuel's car won that race by about a car length! Our plan to build a fast car paid off! Samuel won his division! Hooray for him! Hooray for us!

With that done now we're on to the race to see who was the fastest in the Pack - all divisions. There was only one other car we thought might pose a threat, but again, we were ahead by better than a car length, giving Samuel the fastest car in his Pack. He was happy, I was happy.

So, as you can see from the picture he's a proud Cubscout! It was a fun day, and we went to have a good time no matter what. We built the best car we could in a short time, and we knew there was no guarantee that we'd even place, much less win. No, winning isn't everything, but it's a nice way to end the afternoon!

Dad's, Mom's, families, get your kids involved in Scouting. If the only thing you did in Scouting was Pinewood Derby, it's a great way to have quality time with your kids.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Ron Block – A Fresh Look at Bluegrass Banjo

For the past couple of days I've had a white DVD mailer from AcuTab on my desk. In it is a copy of AcuTab's latest instruction DVD, Ron Block – A Fresh Look at Bluegrass Banjo. I've been waiting for the weekend to roll around so I would have time to give it a good look. The weekend arrived so I popped open the mailer.

As I inspected the cover (no, you probably shouldn't judge a DVD by the cover, but I'm thorough) something immediately caught my eye. This wasn't just a DVD, it was two DVDs with, according to the cover, over three and a half hours of instruction! I consider my task, drag out the banjo, a notepad, and settle in for the ride.

First impressions are always important, and I'm instantly impressed with the quality of the production. The audio is good, the lighting is good, and everything just looks and feels good. The conversation between Ron Block and John Lawless is relaxed, but not so much as the pace feels slow. As a matter of fact nearly and hour goes by before any formal instruction takes place. “Was that really almost an hour?” I asked myself. It sure didn't seem like it.

There's a lot of information in that hour. John Lawless and Ron talk about his learning process. How he started, who is influences were (some may surprise you), and how he thinks about the banjo are just a few of the things he covers in that time. Listening to him discuss his progress from beginner to where he is today should be encouraging and helpful to any student of the banjo. I found this section of the DVD loaded with all sorts of tips and advice about practicing and playing. It was also great seeing Ron go through some of his practice routines, and to just see him think out loud musically. I think it was very important for Ron to take the time to explain his approach; I found it very helpful in understanding his style, and without it, I'd still be scratching my head over some of the licks, and wondering where he came up with the ideas. The explanation makes all the difference. Too many instruction DVDs just dive into the tunes with no explanation of the style. I think I could have turned the DVD off right then and felt that it was a great value, but there was more.

The balance of the two disks is made up of eight tunes: Cluck Old Hen, Tiny Broken Heart, Man of Constant Sorrow, I'll Remember You Love in My Prayers, Every Time You Say Goodbye, Bright Sunny South, My Poor Old Heart and Smashville. As with most instruction videos Ron plays the tune, then breaks the tune down bit by bit and then plays it at tempo, then slowly. This is where I noticed that I had more than one camera angle available to me. I had already thought the production was very good, now I'm really impressed. Each angle has a split screen with emphasis on the right or left hand, or both equally represented. I could focus on each separately making the learning process much simpler. If I was confused about a roll I could switch to the right hand angle; if the left hand was tricky, I could switch to it. Having a choice was helpful, and fun.

So, Ron goes through the first tune (Cluck Old Hen) and then John and he discuss the other takes they did with the tune, and then they show a couple of them. This was great. Each was a little different and you get to see that Ron isn't just playing back things he's worked out or memorized. The tunes happen as they happen, each time different from the last. This is where the previous discussion of his style begins to make sense. Ron's playing is in the moment and it's very improvisational.

There's just so much to take in. It's like having Ron Block move in with you for 3½ hours. The amount detail he goes into is substantial, and teaching style makes it easy to understand. As he explains each lick he also explains why he does certain things. So, you're not just getting the how, but you get a good dose of the why. In my opinion, the whys are often more important than the hows. Knowing why something works, or why a player chose a particular sound or lick helps you use those ideas in other songs.

Final Thoughts

The two DVDs are packed with all sorts of advice and concepts. It's not something you'll absorb in an afternoon, or a weekend, or even a month. Some of the things just take time to sink in, and that's just part of learning the banjo. Just because you know how, and can play through the tabs provided doesn't always mean you understand the why. Honestly, even though I'm in the process of internalizing some of the ideas presented here it will take a while to really assimilate them and populate it into my own playing. Even some of the things Ron covers that I thought I knew, I've discovered even more depth to the ideas, and I hope to apply those ideas somewhere too.

So, who is this DVD for? That's a fair question. The tunes, while they're presented in a very detailed manner, are not geared for the beginner. I'm not trying to suggest that a beginner wouldn't get something from the instruction; Ron's ability to articulate his ideas so simply should leave a good impression and be a sense of encouragement to the beginner. However, for the intermediate and advanced players there's a plethora of ideas, concepts, licks and tunes to work on. However, don't expect to sit down with this set and rush through it; there's enough material here to keep you coming back again and again.

I feel like I should mention the band assembled for the DVD. Kenny Smith, Sierra Hull, and Zak McLamb provided remarkable backup for Ron. The group was a treat.

Finally, if you're a fan of Ron's playing you'll enjoy watching him play and listening to him talk about his approach to learning and playing. That said, I feel very comfortable recommending this DVD set to anyone interested in Ron Block's playing style, or anyone looking for a fresh approach to bluegrass banjo.

Ron Block – A Fresh Look at Bluegrass Banjo is available at and other stores that carry bluegrass instruction material.