Spend, Spend, Spend

A few months ago, when I began to really think seriously about re-focusing my energies on the guitar, money quickly started slipping out of my pockets.

The first thing I did was re-subscribe to Flatpicking Guitar magazine. I had been as subscriber for a few years when the magazine was first launched. At some point I let the subscription lapse, and then when we moved from Pennsylvania to New Jersey in 2003, I threw away the issues I had saved. I knew at the time that I was going to regret it, but in the general discombobulation of moving my judgement was off and out they went. Now here I was, regretting it as expected, so when I re-subbed I also ordered a copy of every single back issue. Twelve years’ worth.

And while I was clicking around on the FGM website, I discovered Tortis picks from Red Bear Trading Company. According to what I read, these picks mimicked the feel and tone of real tortoise shell. I never actually played with real tortoise shell picks, but I had heard all my life about what a perfect material it was. The final straw this particular day was the endorsement from Jack Lawrence, one of my favorite flatpickers and longtime performing partner of Doc Watson. I knew that Jack used tortoise picks, and according to his testimonial on the site there was no appreciable difference in tone and feel between the Tortis picks and the real thing. So there went another $20.

To my mind this is my most extravagant purchase so far. I’m accustomed to spending considerably less than a dollar apiece for picks, and subsequently loosing them under the seat of my car and/or washing them in my pants pockets. To think about laying out a twenty for a single pick sort of blows my mind, but I did it. Luckily, I love the thing. It’s quite a bit thicker than the Clayton picks I’ve normally used in the past, but after using it for a couple of days I don’t notice that any more. But the difference in tone is noticeable every time I play. Remarkably different. I’ll never go back.

Anyway, back to the shopping list…

Past experience showed me that I was not very good at using a metronome. It’s not so much a timing problem as a rhythm problem. I can keep pretty good time. I just don’t always feel the beat in the same way most people do. For example, I tend to tap my foot on the opposite beat that everybody else taps. I don’t speed up or slow down so much as I accent in the wrong place. This makes using a metronome kind of confusing to me.

Of course that’s the strongest reason of all to get one and use it. The things that are the hardest to do are exactly the things you need to practice the most, ya know? So I ordered up a metronome.

During our phone conversation when I set up my guitar lessons, John told me to bring manuscript paper. I went online to order that, and as usual I found a few other items to “Add To Cart” while I was on Amazon.

A paperback copy of Clapton’s Guitar: Watching Wayne Henderson Build The Perfect Instrument. And a CD of River Suite for Two Guitars, the album of duets John recorded with Tony Rice. I had the vinyl album when it was new, and later on a cassette copy when we got rid of all our LPs, but I’d never gotten the disc. Oh, and a copy of Zen Guitar, a book I read about in the FLATPICK-L archives. Finally, while I was at it, some plastic inserts for three-ring binders to store all those magazine back issues.

No sooner had these items arrived than I went to my first lesson. John suggested I look for a good songbook with some jazz standards to work with. Returning to Amazon, I discovered pretty quickly that I can’t shop for songbooks without actually holding them in my hands. But there’s plenty of other stuff there that I can shop for. I went ordered A Modern Method for Guitar, written by William Leavitt, Chairman of the Guitar Department at Berklee College of Music when John studied there. John had mentioned that this is the book he works with for “serious” theory study. He hasn’t actually told me to get it, but I figure it can’t hurt to have it. I also ordered Music Theory for Dummies and a copy of John’s solo CD, Further Adventures.

Finally, today at lunchtime I walked down to Guitar Center and found the huge Just Jazz Real Book, with lead sheets to 250 songs. I’m thinking this will keep me busy for some time to come.

I believe I have everything I need for awhile now, but really, what do I know?