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Thursday, September 26, 2019

I Don’t Play Well with Others

I Don’t Play Well with Others
My friend, Frog, the bagpiper, has taken up guitar.  Actually, it is a bastardized guitar.  As a former banjo player, Frog removes two strings and tunes the remaining like the banjo.  If this seems strange, we have a rule, that is there are no rules in music.  If it sounds good and you are comfortable with it, then it is legit.

Now we have decided to try and play together.  Once every two weeks we have been joining forces.

This has not been easy.

Frog finds sheet music, and follows the timing; he rests where there are rests, and strums along with the quarter, half or whole notes that are on the sheet music.  He actually counts!

I download the chords and the lyrics.  I listen to a YouTube version for the beat and the pauses, and strum however feels right while picking out the bass notes in the melody if I can.

When Frog tells me the song is in 4:4 or 6:8, I have no idea what he is talking about.  He starts counting and it drives me nuts. 

“No, no, there is no rest there, it is one, two, three, four; one, two, three, four; pause, pause, three, four!”

I can not count, strum, and vocalize.  It is like spinning a pie plate while walking the dog with a yoyo.  I can’t do it.

“I can’t do that count thing!  Just listen to Johnny Cash, he drags out the words in that measure, and as long as I strum down on the chord change it works for me.”

“It should be down, up, down, down, up down.”

“Frig that down up shit!  I think Chink-ah, chink, chink-ah, chink!

“The book says down up.”

“You do down up, down, I’m doing chink-ah, chink!”

If that is not bad enough, I’ve been playing longer than Frog, so of course I play too fast.  I have it in my mind that fast is good.

“Slow down! You’re killing me…it is not a race!”

“When I slow down, I get confused.”

“The song is played slow…and you should use a pick!”

“I can’t use a pick; I am a thumb strummer.”

“The best players use a pick.”

“There are no rules remember.”

“We need a metronome.”

“OK, but you need to listen to the YouTube version to get the rhythm, I don’t do that count thing.”

“How about I just watch your left hand, when you change chords, I’ll follow.”

“OK then.  From the top…One and two ‘chink-ah, chink, chink.”

“No, start at four, not two.”

Were having fun when not fighting; but apparently, I don’t play well with others.


  1. I was watching a documentary on bluegrass music today and learned that Bill Monroe was not upset when Elvis Presley redid his "Blue Moon of Kentucky" at twice or more the speed. Monroe said that was fine, as he collected royalty checks every time Presley's record moved up the charts!

  2. Does Frog still play the bagpipes? My high school had a Scottish theme and there was a bagpipe band. Something so poignant hearing them. As long as you guys have fun (most of the time) its a win win situation!


  3. As former Band President of my high school, I must side with Frog for following the music and counting. As someone who's in awe of people who can play by ear, and even sing while playing, I must side with you. I'm sure you and Frog will eventually make beautiful music together.

  4. I didn't understand any of that, never learned anything about music apart from learning that I don't sound good when I sing. I do like to listen though and tap my feet and fingers on floor and table.
    I think with a lot more practice you and Frog will "come together" in rhythm and timing.

  5. I thought music was easy, how wrong can I be? As a kid I was forced to play the piano, hated it, never tried again. Nevertheless I love to listen to the music of string instruments.

  6. I took music lessons as a kid, so I know what Frog is talking about. There are many different styles musicians use successfully, whether you play by ear or not. I'm sure you and Frog will iron out your differences and make beautiful music, together.

  7. You're a better player than me. My efforts came to zero. (See my Blog for today).

    God bless and well done, Joe.

  8. Yikes. I knew there was a reason I could never play an instrument-- ukulele doesn't count and that was by ear. To me music was a foreign language. Hang in there Joe, you can bend Frog to your style.

  9. It's so hard to find good partners nowadays.

  10. i think you are free soul and follow your own mood dear Joe
    Frog is organized and follow the instructions
    both are good in their skills in different ways
    when i hear the song of water fall then straight smooth man made stream i find the former more attractive

  11. I expect the Stones spend most of their time disagreeing! You rock stars are all argumentative - it's the creative brain!

  12. I can't play anything but the radio. We have 2 organists at plays slow and one will play super fast. Both play better than I ever could so I just pick up the pace or take it slow! Hope you both can get it together in perfect harmony!