The Ranger, by Montana Lutherie (formerly Weber)
SRP: $555
Case: padded gig bag
Shipping & Handling: $50

This tiny little mandolin will go anywhere with you weighing less than two pounds in the case. Sporting a smaller profile than a standard mandolin, but having a standard scale/neck size, it plays like a full size mando.  The Ranger has a two-point flare giving it a larger chamber than its popular predecessor, ‘The Sweet Pea’, but it is still surprisingly quiet, perfect for hotel rooms or crowded campgrounds where people are trying to sleep!

Adam's review of the Ranger

The Ranger - A tiny quiet travel mando from Montana Lutherie

Updates & General Information

Every so often I will update my readers with studio information, event listings and other topics I feel might be relevant. 

Firstly, please come to see the Celtic Group Class Thursday,  June 20th at 7pm performing 90 minutes of music including some of our favorite sing-alongs: "The Parting Glass", Brennan on the Moor and the Gypsy Rover!  The group will be performing in the Hobbit House within The Park at Mill 180 in Easthampton, MA.  This is a free concert.  There are drinks and food at the bar, so you don't need to byob!  I hope you can come.  This will be a lot of fun. 

Secondly, put this date in your calendar: Sunday, July 28th, the Classical Group Class will be performing Bach and Mozart at the Porter Phelps Huntington Museum in Hadley.  The group will be performing the Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 for 2 Mandolas and continuo (a world premier!), and Mozart's "Dissonance" String Quartet No. 19 in C Major, K. 465 (also a world premier AFAWK).

Finally, Summer is almost here and that means some students go away, leaving gaps in my schedule.  The following slots will be open this week:

Tuesday 11am-12pm
Wednesday 11am-12pm, 7pm-8pm
Friday 5-6pm, 6-7pm

If you are a current student who would like to switch to another day/time, please let me know through Slack and I'll do my best to make arrangements.  If you've been thinking about taking lessons with me, now's the time to register for classes as these slots (especially the early ones) will fill up quickly.

Thank you!

New Octave mandolin from Mandomo Strings

The Octave Mandolin
New from Mando Mo Strings: The Octave Mandolin

This Octave mandolin is hand-carved out of 3-5 year air-dried flamed maple back, sides and neck. Triple A-grade ebony fretboard, Tusq nut and set up with Optima Octave strings, solid cast tailpiece and custom Brekke bridge!

We are currently working with a case company to build a custom case that will support the scroll and neck of this beautiful instrument.

Price: $1,449 with custom case.  We are taking pre-orders now.  2-3 month delivery.  ORDER HERE

  • Top: Solid Spruce, with tortoise binding
  • Back & Side: solid flamed maple, with tortoise binding
  • Neck: solid flamed maple
  • Fretboard: AAA Grade Ebony
  • Nut width: 1.25'"
  • Body length: 17" 
  • Scale length: 20"

The Old Copperplate on the Octave Mandolin

Irish Bouzouki Recordings

Last week I recorded several tunes on the large bodied Irish bouzouki I own.  If you're interested in learning more about the difference between an Octave mandolin and an Irish bouzouki, I wrote a post on that subject earlier as well!  Below are the videos I recorded.  I hope you enjoy them.  If you would like to learn how to play the Irish bouzouki, contact me.  I would be happy to teach you.

Blarney Pilgrim

Star of the County Down

Whiskey Before Breakfast

Coleraine & The Kesh Jig

Difference Between Irish bouzouki and Octave mandolin

Adam playing his Irish bouzouki
The Irish bouzouki (Irish: búsúcaí) is an adaptation of the Greek bouzouki (Greek: μπουζούκι). The newer Greek tetrachordo (4 courses of strings) bouzouki was introduced into Irish traditional music in the mid-1960s by Johnny Moynihan of the folk group Sweeney's Men. Alec Finn, first in the Cana Band and subsequently in De Dannan, introduced the first more-traditional Greek trichordo (3 course) bouzouki into Irish music.

In the early 1970s, Andy Irvine gave his Greek bouzouki to Dónal Lunny, who replaced the octave strings on the two lower G and D courses with unison strings, thus reinforcing their lower frequencies. Soon after, on a visit with Irvine to the workshop of luthier Peter Abnett, Lunny commissioned a bouzouki to the specifications of a classic, 4-course Greek bouzouki but with unison strings and a three-piece, partially staved back. Since then, the instrument has been adapted for Irish traditional and other styles of folk music.

By far the most common tuning for the Irish bouzouki is G2 D3 A3 D4.[7] This was pioneered by Johnny Moynihan (apparently in an attempt to replicate the open, droning sound of Appalachian "clawhammer" banjo) first on the mandolin and then transferred to a Greek bouzouki. It was later picked up by Andy Irvine and Dónal Lunny, and quickly became the next thing to a standard tuning for the 4 course instrument. Other tunings used, although by a minority of players, are "octave mandolin" tuning G2 D3 A3 E4, and "Open D" tuning A2 D3 A3 D4. "Open G" G2 D3 G3 D4, is used by some players and has proven useful for "bottleneck" slide playing.

Adam's introduction to the instrument

The G D A D tuning is closer to the D3 A3 D4 tuning of the Greek trichordo bouzouki than is the guitar-like tuning C3 F3 A3 D4 used on the modern Greek tetrachordo, and is particularly well suited to a modal harmonic approach to accompaniment as used in Irish traditional music. Alec Finn, playing a Greek trichordo bouzouki, uses the traditional D3 A3 D4 tuning with the octave pair on the low D course changed to unison

For many builders and players, the terms "bouzouki", "cittern", and "octave mandolin" are more or less synonymous. The name cittern is often applied to instruments of five courses (ten strings), especially those having a scale length between 20 and 22 inches (500mm and 550mm). They are also occasionally called "10 string bouzoukis" when having a longer scale length. The fifth course is usually either a lowest bass course tuned to C2 or D2 on an instrument with a long scale, or a highest treble course tuned to G4 or A4 on a shorter scale. Luthier Stefan Sobell, who coined the term "cittern" for his modern, mandolin-based instruments, originally used the term for short scale instruments irrespective of the number of their strings, but he now applies "cittern" to all 5 course instruments irrespective of scale length, and "octave mandolin" to all 4 course instruments, leaving out bouzouki entirely.

Mandolin-family luthiers producing an octave mandolin are more likely to use mandolin tuning machines and reproduce the details and styling of their American-style carved top mandolins. Some luthiers choose to refer to their clearly bouzouki-style instruments as octave mandolins, or even as mandocellos, despite the GDAD tuning. The octave mandolin is usually regarded as having a shorter scale length than the Irish bouzouki, in the vicinity of 20 to 23 inches (50 to 59 cm), while the scale length of the Irish bouzouki most often ranges from 24 to 25 inches (60 to 65 cm). Some instruments have scales as long as 26 or even 27 inches (66 to 68 cm). These longer-scaled instruments are generally acknowledged to possess greater volume, sustain, and tonal richness but some players find the stretches involved in fingering too difficult and so prefer shorter scale lengths.

The Octave Mandolin is a fretted string instrument with four pairs of strings tuned in fifths, G, D, A, E (low to high), an octave below a mandolin. It is larger than the mandola, but smaller than the mandocello and its construction is similar to other instruments in the mandolin family. Usually the courses are all unison pairs but the lower two may sometimes be strung as octave pairs with the higher-pitched octave string on top so that it is hit before the thicker lower-pitched string. Alternate tunings of G, D, A, D and A, D, A, D are often employed by Celtic musicians.

The names of the mandolin family instruments vary between Europe and the United States. The instruments that are known in the USA as the mandola and the octave mandolin tend to be known in Great Britain and Ireland as the tenor mandola, the octave mandola (or the "Irish bouzouki"). Also, octave mandola is sometimes applied to what in the U.S. is a mandocello.

In Europe outside the British isles, mandola is the larger GDAE tuned instrument while the smaller CGDA tuned one is known as alt-mandoline (i.e., alto mandolin), mandoliola or liola.

This geographic distinction is not crisp, and there are cases of each term being used in each country. Jimmy Moon, a Scottish luthier calls his version of the instrument by both names and Paul Shippey, an English luthier, uses the term octave mandolin. Confusion will likely continue as the terms continue to be used interchangeably.

Octave mandolin construction is similar to the mandolin: the body may be constructed with a bowl-shaped back according to designs of the 18th-century Vinaccia school, or with a flat (arched) back according to the designs of Gibson Guitar Corporation popularized in the United States in the early 20th Century. The scale of the octave mandolin is longer than that of the mandolin, and varies more widely, from 19" (48.4 cm) to 24" (61.0 cm), with 21" (53.3 cm) being typical. The internal bracing is similar to the mandolin and mandola, with a single transverse brace on the top just below the oval soundhole. On modern instruments X-bracing is sometimes used.

As is typical of the mandolin family, octave mandolins can be found with either a single oval soundhole or a pair of "F" soundholes.

As with the scale length, the number of frets on an octave mandolin also varies widely, from as few as 17 to as many as 24 frets: 18 or 19 frets is typical.

What is Klezmer Music, and What's The Roma Connection?

Originally, the word "klezmer," from the Yiddish language, meant "vessel of song" and later, simply "musician." However, it has come to characterize the style of secular music played by Ashkenazi Jews for joyful celebrations such as weddings.

Alicia Svigals - Klezmer violinist

Klezmer can trace its origins back to the 9th century in the Rhine valley, where the Yiddish language also developed. As Jews moved to Eastern Europe their celebratory music wedding/festival music found influence in that of the local cultures, specifically in present day Romania (including a definite cross-pollination with Roma music) and Moldova (once Bessarabia, where klezmer musicians started using Turkish scales already familiar from synagogue observances), Belarus, Lithuania, Russia, Ukraine and Poland, where 19th century, Polish-Russian klezmorim (esteemed klezmer musicians) who had been in Czarist military bands brought brass and woodwind instruments into what had primarily been string-based ensembles. Judaism’s ultra-orthodox Chasidic movement of the 18th and 19th centuries emphasized passionate singing and dancing while in the act of worship and bound klezmer music inextricably to Jewish festivals and joyous observances.  Klezmer music draws on centuries-old Jewish traditions and incorporates various sounds of music from European and international traditions, including Roma (gypsy) music, Eastern European folk music (particularly Russian music), French Cafe music and early jazz. In different regions of Eastern and Central Europe, klezmer developed slightly differently, leading to an exciting range of subgenres.

Like the Jews, the Roma are an ancient ethnicity that did not originate in Europe; who are believed to have migrated to Persia from northern India from around 420 BC when 10,000 Luri (a caste of musicians and dancers) were brought at the request of the King. On the move with the Turkish army who used them as professional musicians, the Roma dispersed throughout Europe from the 15th century, living on the fringes of society as tinkers, craftsmen and horsetraders, as well as entertainers. Whether dancing with trained bears or playing for a village wedding, Gypsies in the Austro-Hungarian empire made themselves indispensable as performers to villages of various ethnicities (Saxons, Vlachs, Magyar and Moldavians, etc., to name just the groups of Transylvania).

Taraf d Hadouks - Gypsy/Roma/Klezmer

Also like the Jews, the Roma  were a separate minority group generally living on the margins of the societies of the countries in which they lived.  Both groups maintained distinct cultural identities despite being widely scattered, possessed no country or homeland of their own, and were frequent targets of expulsions, discrimination, and persecution. Like klezmer, Roma music is likely traditional religious songs combined with the music of host countries, and influenced by Roma status as a wandering and often marginalized minority. Despite of all this, the music of both groups is often joyful and exemplifies the energy and fire of life and of living.

Klezmer music is intended to replicate the human voice including sounds of crying, wailing and laughing. Generally, the violin is responsible for the imitation which is mean to sound like the cantor in a synagogue. Often, a klezmer band will include a fiddle, a bass or cello, a clarinet and a drum. Secondary instruments include hammered dulcimers and an accordion.
Klezmer music is made for dancing. Most dances which are intended to go along with klezmer music are set dances (much like the Anglo square or contra dances). Klezmer music also has many traditional waltzes and polkas, and in later years, musicians picked up some tangos and polkas which remain in the repertoire.

These klezmer pieces are meant for dancing, including fast and slow tempos:

  • Freylekhs are the most popular klezmer dances and they are done in a circle while the piano, accordion or bass plays an "oom-pah" beat. "Freylekh" is the Yiddish word for "festive."
  • Skotshne, meaning hopping, is like a more complex freylekh.
  • Tango is a famous dance that came out of Argentina; Jews originally composed quite a few Eastern European tangos.
  • Sher: This is a set dance, one of the most common, done in 2/4 tempo. The name is derived from the straight-legged, quick movements of the legs, reminiscent of the shears used by tailors.
  • Halaka is a traditional Israeli dance the originated in Safed in Galilee; its tune has been handed down through generations.
  • Khosidl, or khusidl, is named after the Hasidic Jews who performed the dance which can be done in a circle or in a line.
  • Sirba is comprised of hopping and short bursts of running.
  • Hora or zhok is a Romanian-style dance; the Israeli hora is derived from the Romanian hora. "Zhok" in Yiddish comes from the Romanian word "joc" which means dance.
  • Csárdás is popular among Jews from Hungary, Slovakia and the Carpathians. It begins slowly
  • Padespan is a kind of Russian/Spanish waltz.and then the speed quickens.
  • Kolomeike is a quick and catchy dance which comes from Ukraine where it is the most common folk music.
  • Mazurka and polka are from Poland and Czechoslovakia. Both Jew and non-Jews engaged in the dance.
  • Terkish is like the habanera.

Di Grine Kuzine with Theodore Bikel

Other Articles

Introducing: Klezmer For Beginners Online Group Class

The Klezmer For Beginners Online Group Class will be broadcast from Adam's YouTube channel (here) beginning June 5, 2019 and going for the whole summer.  If there is interest in the class beyond that, we will continue.

The class meets Wednesday mornings from 9am-11am EST.

The cost is  $75 for the summer (a $15 savings).  Register and pay through PayPal (here), include your instrument (if any), name, email address and cell phone # in the comments box.

You do not need to play an instrument to participate in the class!  There will be lots of discussion, presentation of materials including links to download sheet music and other information, watching/listening to music and of course playing and sharing music together.  Singers and dancers are encouraged to participate.

Please RSVP by pre-paying for the class!  Thank you!

$35/30 Minute Mandolin Lesson Program

The $35/30 Minute Mandolin Lesson Program is available again this spring.  Class times available are Tuesdays - Fridays 8am-8:30am, 8:30am-9am, 9am-9:30am, 9:30am-10am, 10-10:30am, 10:30am-11am.

All ages welcome!  Lessons are available in person here at the studio in Granby, MA or online using Skype or Hangouts.  I accept PayPal for remote lessons, and cash for in-person lessons. Sorry, no checks!

Beginning students will learn the basics: music theory and how to read music, how to count, meter and rhythm, keys and chords; how to hold the instrument and pick (or bow for violin players); how to practice scales, arpeggios and exercises; how to play basic melodies.  At some point, usually within a few weeks, beginning students may be ready for more advanced material which will be assigned at that time.

Beginning students may be eligible for either the Music for Beginners' Group Class (Wednesdays at 7pm), or Fiddle is Fun, a group for people that want to learn how to play the fiddle together.

Advanced students that can already read and understand the basics of their instrument will study more advanced theory including the modes, advanced timing and rhythm, advanced chords, harmonization, improvisation, and will be introduced to a wide variety of music depending on the genre and style they have chosen to study.  For example, Classical musicians will be exposed to a variety of composers from the Renaissance Era up to the Romantic Era and everything in between.  Folk musicians will be exposed to a wide variety of western European traditional dance music styles including Celtic, Quebecois and Cape Breton music as well as American styles such as Bluegrass, Country, Western Swing, Jazz, Blues, and more.

Advanced students may be eligible for either the Classical Group Class (Tuesdays at 7pm), the Celtic Group (Thursdays 7-9pm) or the Bluegrass Group (Fridays 7-9pm).  Some advanced players may want to play in all three.  There is a $5 discount per class for students that wish to join more than one as long as they attend on a weekly basis.  The discount does not apply for one-offs or trial periods.

Emily's Violins

Emily's Violins was an import/export company that specialized in luthier supplies, including horse tail hair for bows; ebony, rosewood and boxwood for fittings; tonewood for violin and cello makers; tools and hide glue. 

While we still inventory some of the items and have maintained contacts among suppliers, the internet generally and specifically have veritably destroyed our online business.

Emily appreciates your patronage and thanks you for over a decade of business.

Taking Lessons At Sweet Music Studio

ASL & Sweet Music
There are several ways you can take private lessons: 
  1. In person at my studio in Granby: Private lessons in Granby are sixty (60) minutes per week for adults, and 30 minutes per week for children under 9.  For children over 9 I offer a 40-45 minute lesson (depending on their readiness).
  2. online using Google Hangouts: Online lessons are held through Google Hangouts (you will need a laptop with a webcam, or a separate webcam with a good microphone on your desktop computer).
  3. or for an extra fee, in the comfort of your home or office.
NOTE: I wrote a blog recently about what private lessons are like.  Read it here  Read and understand my Policies before coming for your first class.
    Mandolin New England / Classical Group Class
    Beginning students will learn the basics: music theory and how to read music, how to count, meter and rhythm, keys and chords; how to hold the instrument and pick (or bow for violin players); how to practice scales, arpeggios and exercises; how to play basic melodies.  At some point, usually within a few weeks, beginning students may be ready for more advanced material which will be assigned at that time.

    Beginning students may be eligible for either the Music for Beginners' Group Class (Wednesdays at 7pm), or Fiddle is Fun, a group for people that want to learn how to play the fiddle together.

    Advanced students that can already read and understand the basics of their instrument will study more advanced theory including the modes, advanced timing and rhythm, advanced chords, harmonization, improvisation, and will be introduced to a wide variety of music depending on the genre and style they have chosen to study.  For example, Classical musicians will be exposed to a variety of composers from the Renaissance Era up to the Romantic Era and everything in between.  Folk musicians will be exposed to a wide variety of western European traditional dance music styles including Celtic, Quebecois and Cape Breton music as well as American styles such as Bluegrass, Country, Western Swing, Jazz, Blues, and more.

    Advanced students may be eligible for either the Classical Group Class (Tuesdays at 7pm), the Celtic Group (Thursdays 7-9pm) or the Bluegrass Group (Fridays 7-9pm).  Some advanced players may want to play in all three.  There is a $5 discount per class for students that wish to join more than one as long as they attend on a weekly basis.  The discount does not apply for one-offs or trial periods.

    What is Slack, and Why We Use It

    Slack Logo
    You’ve probably heard a lot about Slack - the messaging app that almost every workplace seems to be using. 

    If you're a member of the Sweet Music Studio, you should have received an invitation to join the studio Slack.  If you have not, click here and request an invitation.

    What is Slack?
    Slack is essentially a chat room for your whole team, designed to replace email as your primary method of communication and sharing.  Its workspaces allow you to organize communications by channels for group discussions and allows for private messages to share information, files, and more all in one place.  Plus, Slack integrates with a host of other apps so you can manage your entire workflow through one platform.

    Here are a few of Slack’s key features:

    Teams & Workspaces
    Slack allows businesses, communities, and other organizations to create a private, dedicated workspace complete with a custom URL.  After a simple signup process, you’ll be able to invite your team to join and start getting work done.  For small to medium-sized teams, you’ll likely need just one workspace organized by public and private channels to meet all your needs, but Slack also has features to help enterprises manage multiple workspaces if that makes more sense (more on that below).

    Team-Wide and Private Messaging
    Slack messaging is grouped into channels and direct messages to organize conversations and replace communications that might otherwise be scattered across emails, text messages, or in person meetings.  Public channels are open to all members of a workspace and can cover everything from different marketing and sales operations to random discussions and streams of memes (if you’re company likes to have as much fun as we do).  You can also create Private channels in Slack to help break down large teams into their relevant working groups or restrict sensitive conversations or work materials to relevant team members.  And Slack allows private messages, sent directly to other team members, so you can have one-off communications or keep things organized between you and specific members of your team.

    Integration with third-party services is one of Slack’s most powerful features.

    These let you use some of your favorite apps right within Slack - so you don’t have to keep switching tabs, remember where that shared link went to, or open up another application just to quickly double check something.

    Some of Slack’s major integrations include:

    • Google Drive
    • Dropbox
    • Heroku
    • Github
    • Zendesk
    • Zapier

    The History of Celticado - My traditional Celtic duo

    About 14 years ago, I was living in Hadley in a rental apartment on route 9 not far from whole foods.

    I was playing at the time with a string quartet that played traditional Irish and Celtic music called Woodkerne. The first name was cracker Jack. We had to change the name because one of our members discovered that there was a punk rock group in the Saratoga Springs area with the same name and didn't want to conflict with the group. So we saw out a name change, everybody came up with their own ideas, and we voted and the one we liked the most was Woodkerne. Now most people don't know what that word means, and I'll just say that in the history of Ireland when the English were driving the Irish landowners out of their homes and castles murdering them and taking their women and children it was a tumultuous time and groups of young men would flee to the woods where they would set up camps and try to make a living as subsistence and as rangers and and what not. This might just well-be where some of the most famous stories about rogues and Robin Hood certainly and some of the other stories like the wonderful Clancy Brothers tune Brennan on the moor originated.

    The name Woodkerne means woods obviously, and Kern is the English word for Cannon fodder. Back in the middle ages, unskilled farmers and young men and boys were often recruited by advancing armies to go in front and basically be hacked down, slowing the advancing enemy army. They were called Kerne, and so the name Woodkerne essentially refers to people who live in the woods who come out and try to take their land back. So if you go to Wikipedia and you look up the word Woodkerne you should be able to find a much better definition than the one I've just given you.

    Our band consisted of banjo, fiddle, guitar, and bodhran. We played a mixture of Celtic fiddle tunes that were tunes that I had picked up over the years playing in bluegrass bands and contradance bands. The members also contributed their own songs that they wanted to play and we sang a few songs as well. We played a variety of jigs and horn pipes and polkas and waltzes and because of my classical music background and it specifically my chamber music background I really spent a lot of time making up interesting arrangements for the different musical instruments. Now I got kind of in trouble for that, because one of our players in the group specifically said on many occasion that traditional Irish music was not harmonized there was no improvisation and nobody took turns playing at that everybody played the same melody all together at the same time without any cordial backup or at least very minimal. So I thought that that was pretty hokey and not something I wanted to do. Which is why I started calling the band style music Celtic, rather than traditional Irish. I had done some reading about what traditional Irish really meant, and I had learned that there is a lot of confusion about what traditional Irish meant and the history of Irish music is so convoluted that it would take further study. Now this was the 1990s, 1998 as a matter of fact, and I had not done the deep research on the topic yet, but I knew enough about the music that I really felt it wouldn't be fair to call it traditional Irish. So we billed ourselves as a Celtic band. Thankfully, it didn't seem to hurt us in the slightest.

    We played for a lot of weddings and concerts and private events and public events. We played at a golf course. We played on the side of a of a mountain in a stone chapel, in an abandoned camp, in hotels, and all over New England. Two of us went to Egypt and played in front of the great pyramids in a world music festival. We were hired to play in a real swanky wedding in California and the bride and groom paid for our tickets and put us up in a very nice hotel and Anaheim. We played a lot of really interesting places and had a really good time doing it.

    In 2001, our guitar player, Paul Burton, had to move away. And that meant that we had to find another
    Irish Bouzouki
    guitar player. Now the banjo player and I were the really oldest members of the group. He and I had been playing together since the early '90s with another band called Maple Ridge. His name was John Rough. John and I used to go to an Irish session that we helped set up in North Amherst at a public house called The Harp. The session was on Friday nights and we would go over there and sit and have a couple of Guinness and play some tunes. At one of the sessions, we met a man from Connecticut named James Bunting. He was playing an instrument that looked like a very large mandolin and later when I got to talk to him he told me it was called an Irish bouzouki. But I never heard of a bouzouki before so of course I had to go online and learn everything I could about it. As it turns out a member of the Bothy Band which is a very famous Irish band, took his family on vacation degrees in 1966 and there he picked up a Greek bouzouki which he played a little bit while he was there and brought it back with him to Ireland when he returned and started playing around with it in the Bothy Band and soon after several other bands including the De Dannen which is another famous Irish super group and all tan started incorporating the bouzouki into their music and now it's highly unusual to find an Irish band that doesn't have a bouzouki player. but I didn't know any of that at the time, so it was a great conversation starter. I went up to gym and said "hey my name is Adam I really enjoying your playing, what is that instrument?" We chatted for a while about that turned out he also played guitar one thing let to another and I invited him to come to a Thursday night rehearsal at my house and Hadley which she did the following Thursday. So it seemed like we had our guitar player.

    Over the next eight years would current played 100th of concerts weddings parties and other events together. We lost our bodhran player who developed a severe rheumatoid arthritis and couldn't use the tapper anymore. So we had to look around for another bodhran player and I found one whose name was Andy Weiner. Andy was just learning how to play but he could play sufficiently so that he could provide a solid beat behind the group the group smelly and that's all we really needed. Andy was a real good guy very friendly very upbeat always wanting to help out with a contradict background so we kind of lucked out with that.

    We recorded our second album at Avocet recording studios in Colrain I forgot to mention, that our first album was also recorded there and if you go to my band camp page which is you can download the music from those albums directly from that page if you want a CD of either the first or the second album let me know and I will do my best to burn one for you from my desktop.
    Woodkerne 2009

    So after losing Dan and acquiring Andy, we were able to get back into the gigs and get back to work but all good things must come to an end, and in 2009 we played our last gig together which was at a Irish night in New Haven Connecticut and unfortunately I mean it was a great show but the organizers refused to pay us because they said that they hadn't drawn enough people and we were only going to be paid a percentage of the door so we ended up not making much money that night. And when I went to tell the guys, they were not happy at all. After that we played one or two more gigs together but the magic had gone.

    Celticado, was a duo that James Bunting and I formed way back in 2005 at the beginning of all this to play strip down easy cheap weddings and other events for clients that didn't want to pay for the full quartet. So when the band broke up in 2009, James and I continued to play together. we've had several people join us over the years and work on several projects, for example in 2010 Marc Vocca joined us for a special concert at the Windsor Art Center in Connecticut:

    We've also played with other great musicians and had some wonderful experiences as a duo and then as a trio with Claudine Langille. Now I would like to talk about Claudine, but I believe it deserves a separate podcast or blog post so I will get to it at another time suffice to say that Claudine is one of the world's greatest traditional Irish mandolin players alive today. And it is always a treat to be able to play a gig with Claudine.

    Celticado's Website:

    Well thank you very much for reading this post and/or hearing it on my podcast website if you have any questions or comments look forward to receiving them through my website at have a great day.

    Five String Violins

    I bought my first Five String Violin from a seller on eBay back in 1998.  I wanted something I could play on stage with my country band, Wild Heart, and bring with me to Egypt for a concert I was gearing up for in front of the Great Pyramids in Cairo.  I did some online research and learned about a company called Straus that was based in Korea.  They made a lot of other models including the one I liked (which was shaped like a treble clef).  The factory also built mandolins for some top American brands including Fender (electric violins), Michael Kelly and Rigel (mandolins) and Saga (banjos, guitars, bouzoukis).

    Here's a picture of me playing my Straus electric violin with my friend Brian Bender on the trombone.  You can see the Great Pyramid of Giza in the back.  We were literally dozens of feet in front of the Sphinx.

    Brian Bender / Adam Sweet - Cairo, Egypt 1999

    After a while, I decided I wanted something acoustic that I could play with my celtic band Woodkerne.  Back to the internet, I learned about a maker in Chicago named Martin Brunkalla.  I contacted him and worked out an arrangement to distribute his 5 String Violins for a fee.  I sold probably six or seven of them before finding a supplier in China that was willing to make them for me directly.  So in 2004, I started importing Five string violins under my own TwoTree brand for sale in the US and Europe.  Below are some pictures of those instruments:

    TwoTree Base-model Five String $899 with HSC
    TwoTree Dragon Head Five String $999 with HSC

    While I still play a five string fiddle in my Celtic group, Celticado, I don't import them any more.  They are capricious and difficult to keep in tune.  The C (low) strings tend not to sound very good, even on the higher quality instruments, due to the short length of the neck.  I can still get the TwoTree violins by special order for customers that are interested.  I have a video here of me playing one.  I apologize for the sound.  It was recorded in my basement ten or eleven years ago.

    Mandolin / Guitar Picks

    Tusq White
    The type of pick you use affects how you play and the tone you create. That's why we created TUSQ picks, the world's first and only pick with 3 distinct levels of harmonics. By formulating our proprietary material, we created a whole new class of picks, with highly resonant characteristics that produce three distinctive tones: Bright, Warm and Deep. TUSQ picks have a feel and articulation like no other picks on the market, very reminiscent of vintage tortoise shell, crisp tone, and thin, yet stiff. White is Bright, when you want your tone clean, clear, precise and rich in harmonic content.

    Tusq Warm
    The type of pick you use affects how you play and the tone you create. That's why we created TUSQ picks, the world's first and only pick with 3 distinct levels of harmonics. By formulating our proprietary material, we created a whole new class of picks, with highly resonant characteristics that produce three distinctive tones: Bright, Warm and Deep. TUSQ picks have a feel and articulation like no other picks on the market, very reminiscent of vintage tortoise shell, crisp tone, and thin, yet stiff. Bronze is Warm. Our vintage colored pick will Warm it up a bit

    Tusq Deep
    The type of pick you use affects how you play and the tone you create. That's why we created TUSQ picks, the world's first and only pick with 3 distinct levels of harmonics. By formulating our proprietary material, we created a whole new class of picks, with highly resonant characteristics that produce three distinctive tones: Bright, Warm and Deep. TUSQ picks have a feel and articulation like no other picks on the market, very reminiscent of vintage tortoise shell, crisp tone, and thin, yet stiff. TUSQ charcoal colored picks go Deep to give you a smooth, very warm feel and tone. 

    Optima Mandolin Strings

    Optima - Hand Polished - Made in Germany
    SKU: OC2105
    World famous and popular due to their amazing sound characteristics with extremely long durability. Countless orchestras play our STRINGS CHROME and express its excellent quality every day. Years of development, the right selection of the best materials, and especially the exclusive handwork during the production of the string are its secret. Finely polished, they offer an inimitable feel combined with the best sound. These strings are available with ball as Ball-End version with a 10% surcharge.

    SKU: OS4105
    The CHROME SPECIAL STRINGS are a further development of our CHROME STRINGS. The use of slightly modified alloys and the special polishing which was developed only for this set, create a set of strings that emphasizes the mandolin sound even much better. A top quality product „Made in Germany“. These strings are available with ball as Ball End version with a 10% surcharge.

    SKU: OMS2145
    The OPTIMA SILVER STRINGS for mandolin convince mainly with the sound of the silver plated D and G strings and have a traditional posy (Sträußchen) at the string end. This string is suitable for beginners, but also for advanced students and professionals. These strings are available with ball as Ball End version with a 10% surcharge.

    SKU: OMSG2125
    GOLDIN STRINGS are characterized by a selection of the finest materials. The D and G strings are wound with Tombak and finely polished. Years of development, the right selection of the best materials and especially the exclusive handwork during the production of this string are here the secret, too. These strings are available with ball as Ball-End version with a 10% surcharge.

    What is a Mandolin, introduction to my online lesson series

    Bulldog F5 Mandolin
    A mandolin (Italian: mandolino pronounced [mandoˈliːno]; literally "small mandola") is a stringed musical instrument in the lute family and is usually plucked with a plectrum or "pick". It commonly has four courses of doubled metal strings tuned in unison (8 strings), although five (10 strings) and six (12 strings) course versions also exist. The courses are normally tuned in a succession of perfect fifths. It is the soprano member of a family that includes the mandola, octave mandolin, mandocello and mandobass.

    There are many styles of mandolin, but three are common, the Neapolitan or round-backed mandolin, the carved-top mandolin and the flat-backed mandolin. The round-back has a deep bottom, constructed of strips of wood, glued together into a bowl. The carved-top or arch-top mandolin has a much shallower, arched back, and an arched top—both carved out of wood. The flat-backed mandolin uses thin sheets of wood for the body, braced on the inside for strength in a similar manner to a guitar. Each style of instrument has its own sound quality and is associated with particular forms of music. Neapolitan mandolins feature prominently in European classical music and traditional music. Carved-top instruments are common in American folk music and bluegrass music. Flat-backed instruments are commonly used in Irish, British and Brazilian folk music. Some modern Brazilian instruments feature an extra fifth course tuned a fifth lower than the standard fourth course.

    Other mandolin varieties differ primarily in the number of strings and include four-string models (tuned in fifths) such as the Brescian and Cremonese, six-string types (tuned in fourths) such as the Milanese, Lombard and the Sicilian and 6 course instruments of 12 strings (two strings per course) such as the Genoese.There has also been a twelve-string (three strings per course) type and an instrument with sixteen-strings (four strings per course).

    I have several mandolins for sale, listed here

    Much of mandolin development revolved around the soundboard (the top). Pre-mandolin instruments were quiet instruments, strung with as many as six courses of gut strings, and were plucked with the fingers or with a quill. However, modern instruments are louder—using four courses of metal strings, which exert more pressure than the gut strings. The modern soundboard is designed to withstand the pressure of metal strings that would break earlier instruments. The soundboard comes in many shapes—but generally round or teardrop-shaped, sometimes with scrolls or other projections. There is usually one or more sound holes in the soundboard, either round, oval, or shaped like a calligraphic f (f-hole). A round or oval sound hole may be covered or bordered with decorative rosettes or purfling.

    I have started an online mandolin lesson series offered for free on my Youtube channel.  If you like what you have learned and want to support me, you can send me a donation through my PayPal channel, or my Patreon.  Lesson I can be found here, Lesson 2 here. Thank you!

    The History of The Waltz

    The Waltz 
    The Waltz is the oldest of the ballroom dances, dating from the middle of the Eighteenth Century. The German "Lander", a folk dance, is supposed to be the forerunner of the Waltz. During this time period a dance developed which was called the "Walzer", a word owing its origin to the Latin word Volvere, which indicates a rotating motion. Napoleon's invading solders spread the waltz from Germany to Paris; then the dance glided across the channel to England and finally made its way to the United States.

    When the Waltz was first introduced into the ballrooms of the world in the early years of the Nineteenth Century, it was met with outraged indignation, for it was the first dance where the couple danced in a modified Closed Position - with the man's hand around the waist of the lady.

    Beginning about 1830, the waltz was given a tremendous boost by two Austrian composers Lanner and Strauss. They set the standard for the Viennese Waltz, a very fast version played at about 55 - 60 measures per minute. The fast tempo did indeed present problems. Much of the enjoyment of the new dance was lost in the continual strain to keep up with the music.

    It is not known exactly when the waltz was introduced to the United States. It was probably brought to New York and Philadelphia at about the same time, and by the middle of the Nineteenth Century was firmly established in United States society.

    During the later part of the Nineteenth Century, Waltzes were being written to a slower tempo than the original Viennese rhythm. Around the close of the Nineteenth Century, two modifications of the waltz developed in the United States. The first was the "Boston", a slower waltz with long gliding steps; there were fewer and slower turns and more forward and backward movement than in the Viennese Waltz. This version eventually stimulated the development of the English or International Style which continues today. The American Style Waltz is similar to the International Style except the American Style has open dance positions and the dancers legs pass instead of close. The second modification was the "Hesitation Waltz", which involves taking one step to three beats of the measure. Although the "Hesitation Waltz" is no longer danced, some of it's step patterns are still in use today.

    Today both the faster Viennese Waltz, made forever popular by the Strauss family, and the slower American and International style waltzes are extremely popular today with dancers of all ages.

    Mozart - String Quartet No. 19 in C major, K465 'Dissonance'

    The String Quartet No. 19 in C Major, K. 465 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart*, nicknamed "Dissonance" on account of its unusual slow introduction, is perhaps the most famous of his quartets. It is the last in the set of six quartets composed between 1782 and 1785 that he dedicated to "A Very Celebrated Man": Joseph Haydn.
    Although legends persist regarding Mozart’s rivalries with other composers, he established a friendship with Haydn that was untainted by envy and characterized by mutual admiration. Haydn asserted to Mozart’s father,

    "I tell you, before God and as an honest man, that your son is the greatest composer known to me, either in person or by name. He has taste, and, what is more, a most thorough knowledge of composition."

    Mozart, for his part, spoke equally highly of Haydn in his dedication:

    "Your good opinion encourages me to offer the[se string quartets] to you, and leads me to hope that you will not consider them wholly unworthy of your favor. Please, then, receive them kindly and be to them a father, guide, and friend!"

    According to the catalog of works Mozart began early the preceding year, the quartet was completed on 14 January, 1785.

    As is normal with Mozart's later quartets, it is in four movements:

    1. Adagio-Allegro
    2. Andante cantabile in F major
    3. Menuetto. Allegro. (C major, trio in C minor)
    4. Allegro molto

    The first movement opens with ominous quiet Cs in the cello, joined successively by the viola (on A♭ moving to a G), the second violin (on E♭), and the first violin (on A), thus creating the "dissonance" itself and narrowly avoiding a greater one. This lack of harmony and fixed key continues throughout the slow introduction before resolving into the bright C major of the Allegro section of the first movement, which is in sonata form withe fugues and counterpoint (Thematic Workings)

    Mozart goes on to use chromatic and whole tone scales to outline fourths. Arch shaped lines emphasizing fourths in the first violin (C – F – C) and the violoncello (G – C – C' – G') are combined with lines emphasizing fifths in the second violin and viola. Over the bar line between the second and third measures of the example, a fourth-suspension can be seen in the second violin's tied C. In another of his string quartets, KV 464, such fourth-suspensions are also very prominent.

    The second movement is in sonatina form, i.e., lacking the development section. Alfred Einstein writes of the coda of this movement that "the first violin openly expresses what seemed hidden beneath the conversational play of the subordinate theme".

    The third movement is a minuet and trio, with the exuberant mood of the minuet darkening into the C minor of the trio.

    The last movement is also in sonata form.

    There is a lot of evidence to suggest that Joseph Haydn's Quartet Opus 33 was the inspiration for this one, itself a set of six string quartets. Taken together, Mozart’s six are known as the Haydn Quartets (written 1782–85).


    *Mozart – Quartet in C major, K465 (Dissonance)', lecture by Professor Roger Parker, followed by a performance by the Badke Quartet, Gresham College, 10 October 2007
    ** Mozart - A Life, by Maynard Solomon, available on

    Fiddler's Bow For Sale - $209

    This carbon fiber bow was designed for the fiddle player in mind.  It has a slightly higher balance point (between 9 and 10" from the frog) than a standard French bow.  The tip is very slightly heavier than a standard French bow.  The end result is that it's easier to play fast at the tip without "choking up" the stick.

    I take PayPal.  I'll ship it anywhere in the US for an additional $25.

    Here’s what music sounds like through an auditory implant

    For some people with severe hearing loss, it is possible to restore their hearing with an auditory implant (also known as cochlear implants). These electronic devices are surgically implanted into the inner ear, converting the sound from the world into electrical signals that are sent through the auditory nerve to the brain. The damaged parts of the ear are bypassed and people are – almost miraculously – able to hear again. With practice, auditory implant users emerge from a world of silence able to hear the doorbell, to use the phone, to talk and laugh with their friends. Unfortunately, though, music can be hard to enjoy. Smooth melodies become harsh buzzes, beeps and squawks.

    People with auditory implants find that much of what they used to love about music is now absent. The implant is poor at conveying the pitch of voices and instruments, as well as the quality (timbre) of the music. This can make it hard to follow the melody, understand the lyrics, or separate one instrument from another. As you can hear in our simulation (below), almost all of the raw, untrammelled emotion that Ed Sheeran brings to his performance of Thinking Out Loud is lost, leaving the music abrasive and flat.

    This poor transmission of music through the implant can have an enormous impact on people’s quality of life. Music is all around us, not just at home or in concerts but also in the background in cafes, pubs, shops, TV shows and films. For people with auditory implants, this can make it hard to enjoy things they previously loved to do. People tell us that music is one of the main things they would like to be improved in their implant. This presents a challenge for engineers and scientists.

    The trouble with music
    In healthy hearing, the sound of music is captured by the activity of thousands of highly sensitive “hair cells” – sensory receptors that respond to minute changes in pressure in the ear, translating sound into electrical activity that can be interpreted by the brain. This extraordinary sensory system is able to code the tiny fluctuations in sound that we interpret as notes, instruments, timbre and emotional resonance. It is this complex coding that allows us to enjoy the melodic voice of Mr Sheeran. In an auditory implant, that system is replaced by a tiny number of micro-electrodes – usually between eight and 22. These electrodes are only able to transmit very crude pitch information, missing the more detailed sound information.

    Over time, some people with auditory implants are able to adjust to their new hearing, finding ways to enjoy and love music again. They often find that they must actively learn to enjoy music again to adjust to their new experience. Others have decided to engage with it differently, reading the lyrics while they listen to improve their understanding. Because the implant is able to transmit rhythm much more effectively than pitch, some users find that they can only enjoy certain, more rhythmic genres of music (such as the Michael Jackson song in our simulation). Some, amazingly, have even learned to play instruments when using an implant.

    New approaches may hold the key to helping people with implants enjoy music again. One possibility is modifying musical tracks or even writing entirely new music specifically for implants, with qualities that can be more easily transferred by existing technology. For example, researchers have found that increasing the volume of the vocals and removing harmonic instruments improves the experience of listening to pop music.

    Another option is changing the way that sounds are processed by the implant before sending the signals to the auditory nerve. Several implant makers now advertise their cutting-edge processing as best for listening to music. However, most implant users are still unable to enjoy music.

    It may be necessary to take a radically new approach. We think that the information bottleneck at the implant could be bypassed by providing sound information through the sense of touch. We have recently used this approach to improve implant users’ ability to understand speech in complex sound environments – perhaps we can improve their experience of music too.

    Who was Saint Patrick and why do we celebrate St. Patrick's Day?

    Patrick, whom almost everyone calls “Saint Patrick,” although he was never canonized by the Catholic Church, was born to a wealthy family in AD 387 in Kilpatrick, Scotland. His real name was Maewyn Succat. It was his extensive missionary work in Ireland for which Patrick is famous. During the thirty years of work there, he supposedly converted over 135,000 people, established 300 churches, and consecrated 350 bishops. Patrick died on March 17, 461. For over a millennium, the Irish have celebrated St. Patrick’s Day on March 17.

    History records that Saint Patrick, at age sixteen, was captured by Irish raiders and spent several years as a slave in Ireland. It was during this time that he learned the various rituals, customs, and language of Druids, and it was these people that he eventually evangelized. Patrick apparently had a dream in which God spoke to him, saying, “Your ship is ready.” Patrick was then able to escape Ireland by ship. Shortly thereafter, he experienced another dream in which he received a letter that was labeled the “voice of the Irish.” When he opened it, he heard the voices of all those whom he had met in Ireland begging him to return.

    Saint Patrick then returned to Ireland to tell people about Christ. Though the task was difficult and dangerous, he persisted and was able to build a strong foundation for Christianity. The Irish people were receptive to his teachings, especially in light of the fact that he was able to take several of their Celtic symbols and “Christianize” them. The most well-known of Patrick’s illustrations is the shamrock, a certain type of clover sacred to the Druids, which he used as a symbol of the Trinity.

    Each year millions of people celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. It is a national holiday in Ireland when people do not work but worship and gather with family. In the United States, the first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in New York on March 17, 1762. It consisted largely of Irish soldiers. Today, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by wearing green, which symbolizes spring as well as Irish culture.

    St Patrick's Day is Coming Soon!

    St Patrick's Day is coming soon and I have a few gigs lined up as usual.  I'm getting excited and I hope you are too!  Here's a Blast O'Reels for you while you wait...

    Studio Policies

    It has come to my attention that some of my new students were not aware of the studio policies. 

    Please read the policies page, print it out, sign it, and bring it to your next lesson.

    Thank you.

    Why did I blog about the 7 Celtic Nations?

    I blogged about the 7 Celtic Nations because it is my intent to visit, and play traditional music in, each of them before my end of days.  I have been to Ireland, so I have six more to go. I wish I still had pictures of my trip to Ireland.  I went there in the 1990s before the internet, before the Cloud and I've moved so many times that I've simply misplaced that box of pictures.  Perhaps my ex has some that she wouldn't mind sharing with me.   I've never been to Spain, but I have been to France - just not Brittany.  I've been to England, but not Cornwall or Wales.  I've never been to Scotland, even though my ancestors are from there originally.

     I've always wondered about the Nordish part of my DNA.  When I submitted my saliva to 23 and Me more than a decade ago, I was elated when the results came back: small percentages from each of the 7 celtic nations!  It makes perfect sense that anybody with Nordish DNA would also have DNA from the other Celtic nations as the Vikings raped and pillared their way across them for generations.  They were the early homogenizers. 

    My Mother's Father, Thomas Kielty, a sergeant in WWI, was born in Sligo and emigrated to the US with his parents around the turn of the 20th century.  They were not poor Irish and did not come over to settle in the slums of New York.  They were middle-class.  His father owned a publishing house in Dublin.  Among the many things they published were Encyclopedias, which he peddled until the day he died.  From all accounts, he was a dashingly handsome man with jet black hair and brown eyes.  He smoked cigars and drank whiskey.  He died when my mother was young and her mother never remarried.  Her Mother, Eula Reeves, was part German and part English.  Her parents were Presbyterian.  Her father was a minister in Palmyra.  He was a brutal man who took his anger out on his children and wife.  Grandmother left home as soon as she could, at the age of 14, to go study Latin and German in New York City.  She became one of the youngest teachers at 15, at Hewlett High and stayed there until she was 85!

    My Father's Father, Richard Sweet, was born in Princeton, NJ.  He was a surgeon at the MGH in Boston and also taught at the Harvard Medical School.  His wife, Elizabeth Merry grew up in Duxbury.  Her Father was the town Fire Chief and Butcher.  She was the oldest of 9 siblings.  She was sent to learn nursing at an eye doctor's office in Brookline where she met my Grandfather.  The Merry's were Tories who fled to Nova Scotia during the Revolutionary War.  The Merry's came over on one of the ships that followed the Mayflower, led by Myles Standish, who is related somehow (I'm unclear about that detail).  Grandpa Merry came down from NS to work for an Uncle who was the town butcher.  He volunteered to go to war during the Civil War and came back a Sergeant.  He was good with men and horses.  I learned lots of stories about him, but the one I like most is a story about how he rescued a man from a burning house.  Back then there was no Fire Department.  There were no paved roads, no electricity, no running water, none of that.  If your house caught fire, you might have time to get everyone out before it went up in flames, but that was it.  Grandpa was out delivering meat in the Butcher wagon when he came upon a house burning.  He heard someone screaming inside.  He unhitched one of the horses, big huge Belgian animals, hopped on it bareback and rode it into the burning house.  He was so good with animals that this horse trusted him and did what he wanted.  Grandpa found a man inside who was singed but mostly scared.  He pulled him up on the horse's back and rode back out.  He hitched the horse back up to the cart and went on his way.  A few weeks later, he received a letter from the Duxbury town council who wanted him to attend a meeting.  Baffled, he went and was awarded for saving the man's life, an important member of the council.  He was appointed Fire Chief and asked to put together a fire brigade.  His team won many medals over the years and was the first fire department!

    The Sweets emigrated to Massachusetts from Wales in 1630.  They landed in Salem and were given land in New Bedford where they lived for a few generations.  Young Isaac Sweet went to Rhode Island to live with the Wampanoags, and learn their medicine.  The Sweets were ship builders and bone setters, interested in surgery and medicine.  Isaac was called to the bedside of a prominent member of the Providence council's daughter.  She had been sick for weeks.  He had been taught how to treat fever and "consumption" by the native Americans and was able to bring her back to normal within a couple of days.  He was given a certificate designating him as "Doctor Isaac Sweet" from the Providence City Council.  I still have the certificate in my parent's library.  He was one of the first doctors in the New World.  Since then, there has been a doctor in every generation of Sweet in my family. 

    I'd love to go to the other Celtic Nations.  I don't know when I will be able to go, but I hope to go soon.  I'll be 57 in May and time's running out.

    The Ranger, by Montana Lutherie (formerly Weber) SRP : $555 Case : padded gig bag Shipping & Handling : $50 This tiny little mandolin ...