Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Tour of Folk and Bluegrass Instruments

Recorded in September of 2010.
Thank you, Gary and Suzie Solomon, for inviting us to Pickin' on Tennyson for a homeschool field trip!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fare Thee Well, O Summer

Things learned as a band and a family over the summer:
  • You can perform with nasty colds, bruised knees, and lack of sleep. People will still like you.
  • When children act up on stage, people laugh and like you more, despite parental attempts to crawl into the nearest hole.
  • It is possible to do a 4 hour gig in near 100 degree weather and not whine, it's just not probable.
  • Cows can dance.
  • Foggy Mountain doesn't break down no matter how often you play it.
  • You can make a guitar strap from the things found in the back of Papa's truck.
  • Colorado has some awesome people - and a few who should not be out in public until they learn to pull up their pants.
  • Our quiet child gets a 'tude when you put her in shades and stick a banjo in her hands.
  • Ice cream is fine bribery for young musicians.
  • Not so young mandolin players can learn to play breaks, sometimes fast, when hyper children provide no alternative. We won't mention accuracy yet. ;)
  • The quality of our performances go up immediately when a certain teenager gets coffee. So does the speed everything is played.
  • Bass players must get bored easily and always want things faster too, rushing mandolin players.
  • At certain speeds there is no place to breath when playing the fife. You must, however, breath when playing the fife. It's a conundrum. Playing the fife in the wind is a challenge too.
  • Working with a family band is not for sissies, but it is for us.
When we went into this last year with our band, we had some hard talks as a family. Do we want this to just be an occasional thing, or are we in it for the long haul? It was unanimous. We were not going to just be a quaint little side gimmick, but instead a band of honest musicians. We were, however, still a quaint little side gimmick at the time, so there was work to be done with some hard on-the-job training. So, I signed us up for a lot of gigs for a bunch of youngsters starting out. We had street gigs, where we had to learn to balance our sound, project voices without a sound system, and work in the heat for hours. We had to be flexible with sound systems that were often not what we specified for other gigs, sometimes with poor quality. At times we performed for almost no one, other times large numbers would gather and cheer us on. It didn't matter, we still had to give it our all. Other times we signed up for more music than we knew, and had to learn music fast. There was individual practicing, group work, metronomes, and occasional frustration. Most of it was laughs and good times, however.

We're not the band we were last spring, and we won't be the same band by next spring. The kids are flying on their skills, but they are still kids and need time off sometimes. I noticed our schedule has lightened dramatically now that the summer season is over. As tempted as I am to fill it right back up, I may give them a chance to breathe for the holidays, just taking things that find us, instead of things we hunt down. We need to polish up new original songs. Believe it or not, we're already thinking ahead towards a new CD. Though the last is still a fine CD with wonderful music, (you have one, right?), we aren't the band we were last year when we recorded it. Next fall, God willing, (and willing to supply us once again with the funds for the project), we will start a new one. We'll write, arrange, and learn them through the winter, then next summer we'll perform the new tunes to wet the appetites for new music, and polish them to perfection for the next CD.

We also plan to add things to our new music program, Costello Family Music. Should be fun!

Happy Pickin'!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Our First Music Videos

Our newest video!
Episode 3: Helping Your Child Match Pitch
Most children can easily learn to sing and match pitch. Here are some fun ideas you can implement into your playtime to help get them started.

Episode 2: Music with Children
Do you have young children in the home? Here are a handful of fun ideas you can incorporate into your day to develop musical skills.

Episode 1: An Interview with Al Brouillette
Michael interviews Al Brouillette of "For the Blessed Hope" on the benefits and challenges of a family band. Due to the limits of the equipment, you may wish to turn up the volume during the interview.

If you enjoy them, and are on Facebook, please "fan" our page, linked on the post below. I am posting the youtube ones here for the moment for those not on facebook, and you can subscribe through youtube. Additionally, if you know someone who would be blessed by these videos, someone into music in the family, or the mother of young children, please consider passing them the links!

I would also love further suggestions. Some things I may show in the future include practicing ideas for different ages, starting to play as a group with very new players, having Alex and Katie introduce very basic chords for beginners, and I'll be interviewing Suzie Solomon of GospelGrass Productions and Pickin' on Tennyson. Sean has played some bass and knows a few guitar chords/strums, but he's picking up mandolin now, and perhaps some Dobro. We'll see if that progresses and perhaps he can give a report on what he's learned about the different instruments. (For the record, he wanted banjo too, but Katie won't share!)

The kids plan to add comedy to the mix. Alex has promised me an episode, a silly short flick. She just needs to write it out and rehearse a bit! I'm looking forward to seeing what she has in mind.

Happy Pickin!