Es Mi Suerte – Alan Munde & Billy Bright

Since I started playing the banjo, I followed the career of Alan Munde.  I fist purchased his tabs and learned his arrangements some 45 years ago.  I also had the honor of hosting Alan at one of my fretmentor workshops here in Florida.  An interview we conducted then was published in issue #37 of the Fretboard Journal. Let’s just say I can’t get enough of Alan and his music.  His latest collaboration with mandolin player, Billy Bright, is a gem.

Es Mi Suerte By Alan Munde & Billy Bright

Recently, I acquired Alan Munde’s new CD from the master himself.  On the CD titled “Es Mi Suerte”, Alan Munde on banjo and Billy Bright on mandolin, together offer a selection of unique songs that are sure to thrill you all. Dom Fisher plays upright bass throughout and Dennis Ludiker (fiddle) and  Trevor Smith (banjo) make an appearance as well. Not only are 8 of the 10 songs originals but the listener gets a mix of tradition and progressive bluegrass, 1950s folk, Texas waltzes, a blend of Tex-Mex-Cajun and a tinge of country gospel.  One could call this album a journey into all styles of acoustic roots music.

Banjo Legend Alan Munde

There are certainly some wonderful compositions on this CD.

Jenny’s Desire – inspired by a line in Mother Goose’s nursery rhyme.

Wild Heron – A Billy Bright original inspired by a lake where Billy married his wife.

Mom’s Waltz – Another Billy Bright original that is a tribute to his mom and moms everywhere.

Oklahoma Bound – Alan’s musical tribute to his Norman, Oklahoma roots.

Es Mi Suerte – The title song which means “It is my fate”.  This tune is a tribute to Alan’s great friend and producer of many of Alan’s albums until his death in 2015.

Dapple Pattie – Another Munde original named after his wife’s late dachshund.

Munde’s Night Waltz – Alan’s research of fiddler’s found that they love to make up their own chord patterns, so Alan, Billy and Dennis Ludiker on fiddle, did the same.

By The Side of the Road – A cover written by Albert E. Brumley, Sr., is a gospel song about lifestyle choices.

Going Bodmin – A Munde original in which the title is also a Cornish colloquial phrase signifying someone has gone crazy.  Trevor Smith adds harmony parts and take a crazy banjo solo on this selection.

Goodnight Irene – A song credited to Huddie Ledbetter, aka Leadbelly.  Both Billy and Alan recorded it with a casual late night campfire feel and later overdubbed the  accompanying guitars.

Es Mi Suerte

Es mi Suerte is available for purchase on most digital music platforms, including AirPlay Direct, Spotify and ITunes.

I highly recommend you add this album to your collection of music.


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David Benedict’s “The Golden Angle”

Throughout my many years of studying, playing and listening to music, I always searched out new artists to add to my album or CD collection.  After listening to some of the original compositions by mandolin player, David Benedict, I was pleasantly surprised by his recent album “The Golden Angle”.  This 2018 album was produced by David Benedict and Grammy-nominated mandolinist Matt Finner.

The Golden Age

From up tempo tunes such as “Dorrigo”, “The Golden Angle”, and “Lawnmower”, to slower compositions like “Waltz for Griffen” or “Madrona”, this album offers a nice diverse blend of mandolin sounds.  However, no album is complete without a great supporting cast.  Other artists on various tracks include: David Grier and Ross Martin on guitar, Mike Barnett and Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Wes Corbett on banjo, and Missy Raines on bass.

Take a listen to Mr. Benedict’s new CD and judge for yourself.  David is sure to have a promising career as a mandolin virtuoso.

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A Musical Journey In Phoenix

Martin Guitar Display

Martin Guitar Display

A trip to Arizona for spring training baseball offered my buddy Jim and I the opportunity to visit the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix last week. It was our first visit there, but certainly not our last. Located just north of Scottsdale, the museum sits off the freeway in an otherwise isolated area. One is immediately struck by the sheer size of the building itself, much larger than one might think.

Largest Upright Bass

Largest Upright Bas


After paying the entry fee (one day for $20, two days for $30), you are given a receiver and set of headphones to access audio samples at various stations throughout the exhibits. The first room we entered on the lower floor centered around the tallest bass I’ve ever seen. My buddy Jim Delfel is not a short man, but he was dwarfed by this towering structure

Moving up to the second floor, the museum groups exhibits geographically in large rooms that flow naturally into the next.


Our time there was limited so we spent the majority of our time in the USA-Canada, Europe and Latin America rooms. If one were to see the entire museum, it is strongly recommended to get the two day pass. You will need it.

Banjo from the 1800s

Banjo from the 1800s

Being a bluegrass banjo player, I had wondered if there would be any banjos. There were many, from the early gourd banjos to the open backs to the resonator banjos commonly used today

Resonator Banjos

Resonator Banjos


There was even a electric tenor banjo, built in 1938 by Gibson. This banjo was part of a collection loaned to the museum by John Jorgenson.

Electric Banjo

Electric Banjo






A number of instruments on display were played by well known musicians crossing many genres and time periods.


John Jorgensen Collection

John Jorgensen Collection

There was Tommy Tedesco’s telecaster, lead guitarist for the Wrecking Crew. Hundreds of recordings that are a part of the music of the 1960s and 1970s came from this guitar. The very drum set that The Who’s Keith Moon detonated on national TV in 1967 on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.   I recalled watching that as a young teen and here was that drum set.

Tommy Tedesco's Telecaster

Tommy Tedesco’s Telecaster

Plenty of other celebrated instruments were on display; Hank Thompson’s and Marty Robbins’ guitars and Nudie suits and a guitar played by the great John McLaughlin

Nudie Suit

Hank Thompson’s Guitar & Nudie Suit


An area devoted to jazz had the clarinets of Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, as well as the trumpets of Harry James and the great Miles Davis. Herbie Mann’s flute, along with a video of him in concert with it was a treat to both the eyes and ears.

Electronic music was represented in part by a Prophet analog synth donated by Peter Wolf, a mini Moog and a

Marty Robbins Guitar & Nudie Suit

Marty Robbins Guitar & Nudie Suit

theremin dated somewhere from 1929-31.

A fascinating display area created by Martin Guitar Company (see our cover photo), showed guitars in the various stages of construction, along with an explanation video and photos of the members of the Martin family who have overseen this company since the 1800s.

You will notice that I have not yet left the USA-Canada room. This portion of the trip took over two hours, and I have only touched on the highlights.

Benny Goodman's Clarinet

Benny Goodman’s Clarinet



Time was running short so I blasted through the rooms devoted to Europe and Latin America. I never entered the areas for Asia and Africa. But I was resolved to return next time I am in Phoenix.

Any lover of music will find a visit to the Musical Instrument Museum enjoyable. Musicians and instrument builders will find it a must-visit. And if you visit once, you will plan to return.

Herbie Mann's Flute

Herbie Mann’s Flute



Al Price contributed this article.  Al plays and teaches banjo in Auburn, Washington.  He works by day in sales and marketing for Nechville Banjos and plays banjo for the Rusty Hinges Bluegrass Band.

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To Pedal or Not to Pedal – Part II

To Pedal of Not To Pedal – Part II

A Pedal Board

A Pedal Board

This is part 2 of our article on purchasing and setting up a pedal board (See Fretmentor’s Blog entitled “To Pedal or Not To Pedal Part 1”, where we talked about putting a pedal board together and the power supply required for the board.  Next, we look at some more details when making your purchase and constructing the right Pedal Board that meets your needs.

1. Start Small

Chorus & Overdrive Pedal

Chorus & Overdrive Pedal

Don’t run out and buy $500 worth of pedals. Start with two or three pedals. One overdrive or distortion pedal, one modulation pedal (like chorus) and one ambiance (reverb or delay) is enough to get started. Get used to them, play with the settings, the tone the level and experiment with using them in combination. Once you had a taste, you can start thinking about adding more pedals to your chain.


2. There are no Rules

Finally, there are no rules. With that said, here are the rules. Certain pedals are generally considered to sound better either in front or behind other pedals. The general order is still just a consensus opinion. For every one of these rules, you will find some famous guitarist that bucks the trend and uses a particular pedal in a different order to get a different sound. So, while these are the rules, feel free to break them at any time.

Wah Pedal & A/B Switch

Wah Pedal & A/B Switch

Expression pedals usually go first. So from the guitar, usually the first pedal is an expression pedal, like a wah pedal or other pedals that amplify or add sound. These allow you to run other behind the expression pedal and control the intensity of the effects from the other pedals further back in the chain.

Next usually comes pedals that change the tone of the guitar. These are overdrive pedals, distortion pedals and compression pedals – the bread and butter of your pedal chain. The order of these pedals is your preference. The compression pedal is commonly put in front of the overdrive and distortion pedals to increase the signal to these pedals and improve their sustain. Since the drive/overdrive and distortion pedals change the tone, they are usually put in the front so that the altered tone can be modulated and altered through the pedals later in the chain. Multiple tone pedals are common. Overdrive pedals like the BOSS Blues Driver create a very different tone and sound from other types of drivers like the OCD pedal or the Tube Screamer. Also, your tone pedals can be pre-set to different tones. You can keep one overdrive pedal fairly clean, one really dirty and one in the middle, and switch between them without spending time reseting the pedal before starting a different song.

The tone pedals produce a lot of noise and can create a fair amount of feedback and hissing from the amp. Especially if more than one is running. So, a noise suppression pedal is often placed after the noise-producing tone pedals and before the next pedals in the chain. Some people put the noise suppressor at the very end of the chain. You will need to try it both ways to see what works for you.

Digital Delay Pedal

Digital Delay Pedal

After the tone pedals come the modulators. These are pedals like flangers, chorus phasers and rotary pedals. These pedals take the sound, altered by the overdrive or distortion and modifying it.

Finally, comes the ambiance pedals. These are delay and reverb pedals. These are the last things that should happen to the sound before it reaches the amp. While most people put the delay before the reverb, I’ve been experimenting at both. I’m still not sure which sounds better.

I recommend starting with these rules, and then experiment moving your pedals around in the chain – especially the noise suppressor pedals and the reverb/delay pedals. The variations are endless depending on your taste and the type of music you want to play. Your pedal board should alway be a work in progress. That’s what makes it fun. So, good luck!

Andrew Baumann, a fretmentor student and attorney by trade, contributed this article.

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Are Community School Music Classes For Me?

Fretmentor Group Classes

Class Instruction for students.

Class Instruction for students.

Its that time of year again.  A new year, new year resolutions, and proud new owners of musical instruments acquired from the holiday.  Now the hard part.  How do you learn to play guitar, banjo or mandolin or another instrument?  Where do you go for instruction?

There are many means of instruction.  Some are free; such as free online tutorials.  Others are an investment; such as private instruction.  A good bargain that fits somewhere in between is your local community education programs, which are taught at a neighborhood high school.  For instance, starting January 22nd, I will be offering many cost effective music classes at the local high school here in Jupiter, Florida.  If you are in the area, I would encourage you to sign up for these classes.

Palm Beach County Community Education brochure

Palm Beach County Community Education brochure

Here is the itinerary for this term: Presents:

The following fretmentor music classes are being offered through the Palm Beach County Community Education. Classes will be held at Jupiter Community High School on Monday and Tuesday nights. Registration can be done in person at the school or online at

Jupiter Community High School:
Register online (at or in person) starting January8th Classes are for 8 weeks 1/22 – 3/13 2018

  • Playing Bluegrass & Acoustic Music – Mon 7:00-8:00pm
  • Learning 5 String Banjo & Mandolin (combined class) – Monday 5:30-7:00PM
  • Children’s Guitar – Tuesday 4:35-5:35
  • Adult Beginner’s Guitar – Tuesday 5:45-6:45
  • Music Theory & Appreciation for all instruments – Tuesday at 7 PM
  • Blues & Rock Music for Guitar, Banjo, Mandolin & Fiddle – Tuesday at 8PM

There are many benefits for the student and the instructor when teaching in a classroom setting.  The students get to meet others, learn an instrument in a cost effective manner and get valuable playing experience.  The teacher, on the other hand, has the opportunity to develop a network of music students upon which to grow a business.

More detail can be provided in a later Fretmentor’s Blog, to further explain the pros and cons of classroom teaching.  Until then, have a wonderful new year.

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The Avett Brothers at the Paramount Theatre

Avett Brothers

Avett Brothers


Best time of my life!  The Avett Brothers show at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Cedar Rapids was like a dream come true.  With seats in the middle orchestra section Row C – yes, Row C! – it was a very personal experience with an up-close view of the energy and soul Scott and Seth bring to the stage.


Paramount Theatre

The Paramount Theatre is not too shabby either.  We were told it had recently been restored after flooding destroyed much of it and wow, what a beautiful place!  With seating for just under 1700 people, this was the type of intimate setting I’d been dying to see the Avetts perform in.  And they did not let us down!

The fantastic set list (see below) included several of the True Sadness singles but also included a healthy number of old classics including “Slight Figure of Speech” and “February 7” which I was thrilled to see for the first time live.  Other special performances included Seth singing “In the Curve” (beaming in the spotlight in what felt like was inches from us!) as well as a visit from sister Bonnie performing “Swept Away” during the encore.  And speaking of the encore, how great of the guys to kick it off with a tribute to Tom Petty singing “You Don’t Know How It Feels”.  Awesome.

Avett Brothers

Overall a fantastic, unforgettable show that I’m so thankful to have attended.  A big thank you to Angela in Minnesota who was gracious enough to sell us her tickets without some ungodly fees like the brokers were going to charge.  Thank you, Avett Brothers for a great show!  Keep doing what you’re doing and we’ll see you in St. Augustine!

Avett 10/6/17
Satan pulls the strings
Live and die
Morning song
Distraction #74
Go to sleep
Le Reel Du Pendu/Les Bars De La Prison
Die die die
True sadness
Ain’t no man
February 7
I Wish I was
In the curve
Laundry room
The Prettiest thing
Head full of doubt/Road full of promise
Living of Love
Murder in the city
When I paint my Masterpiece
Slight Figure of Speech
No Hard Feelings


You don’t know how it feels
Swept away
You are mine
I shall be released



Note:  Kristi Johnson, from Tequesta, Florida, contributed this review for the Fretmentor Blog.  Kristi is a student of the guitar and an accomplished singer.

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Leo Fender – “Quiet Giant Heard Around The World”

A Memory-Filled Journey Into The Life Of Guitar Legend Leo Fender

On November 1, 2017, a new book entitled “Leo Fender: The Quiet Giant Heard Around the World” will be released.  I have had the chance to briefly review this book.  The 180 page paperback gives an intimate portrayal of the life of Leo Fender.  There are many intimate family and personal photos that have unlikely been seen by the general public before.  This book is easy to read and it provides a useful summary of the life of Leo Fender.


So here is a little background on the man who is the father of the Fender Stratocaster guitar:

Fender, one of the first innovators of the electric guitar, grew up in Fullerton, California, where his interest in electronics lead him to open his own radio repair shop in 1938. It wasn’t long before musicians and band leaders turned to him for help in repairing their equipment. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Fender’s revolutionary guitar, the Fender Stratocaster, has been the preference of world-renowned musicians like Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, David Gilmour, Eric Clapton, George Harrison and Jeff Beck — to name a few.

While his name is synonymous with fist-pumping rock and roll sound, in reality, Fender was a shy, unassuming inventor who was nearly deaf and had one glass eye. In 1946 he founded Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company — the launch pad for his most iconic designs — and later on, G&L Musical Instruments.

Fender’s game-changing contributions to the music world have been widely recognized. He was presented with the Country Music Association Pioneer Award in 1981; was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Rock Walk of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His accomplishments were also acknowledged with a Technical Grammy Award in 2009. Fender died in 1991.
Today, Fender is a household name. But the quirky, shy inventor never lived large or flaunted his fame. He lived in a mobile home, even after selling his company for $300 million (in today’s dollars). His daily routines and obsessions made him truly fascinating, and thanks to his enduring instruments, Fender’s legacy forever lives on.


LEO FENDER: The Quiet Giant Heard Around the World

Leadership Institute Press

Release date: November 1, 2017

ISBN-10: 0996793143

ISBN-13: 978-0996793148



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Country Music Hall of Fame

The Country Music Hall of Fame

Hank 2_n

Hank Williams Martin D-28 Guitar

A Visit Down Memory Lane

My wife and I spent the weekend in Nashville for our anniversary. We live an hour and a half south and believe it or not, had never been to downtown for a visit. Aside from the great food and live music, we made time for a tour of the Country Music Hall of Fame.


Johnny Cash’s Suit & Guitar

Tickets were 25 dollars each and were well worth it. As you walk through the doors, you get this sense that “wow, this is history!”. As we rode an elevator up to the 3rd floor of the 300,000 square foot facility, we were informed that while video was not permitted, we could take all the pictures we wanted ! Attached to this blog are a few of my favorites.

The tour starts with life size pictures and videos of musical performances going back to the early 1900s and large displays of early instruments including Martin guitars from the 1800s!.  By the time you make your way through the hallways of endless musical artifacts and memorabilia you’ve seen more than you can imagine. Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, to name just a few; all had extensive displays.


Earl Scruggs Gibson Grenada Banjo

If you have a favorite country star from the past or present, they are all there.  I would highly recommend that the next time you are in Nashville, you schedule some time to see the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Peg and Kirk_n

Kirk & Peggy Wickizer

Note:  Kirk Wickizer is a former high school classmate of mine and good friend.  He was a willing contributor of this Fretmentor Blog and submitted his review of the Country Music Hall of Fame, while on a recent trip to Nashville with his wife Peggy.  Kirk is a flat-picking guitar player and an accomplished artist.  You can visit his facebook page to see his artwork at the following link: /about/?ref=page_internal.

Below are some more photos taken by Kirk at the Country Music hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee.

Hank Williams_n

Hank Williams Boots

Help me make it thru the night_n

Lyrics For The Song “Help Me Make It Through The Night” by Kris Kristofferson


Bill Monroe’s Gibson F-5 Mandolin

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Meeting Alan Munde

An Interview With Banjo Legend

Alan Munde

Alan Munde & Dave Jakubiak

Alan Munde & Dave Jakubiak

On the weekend of January 28th, 2012, I had the honor of hosting banjo legend Alan Munde at my Fretmentor workshop for banjo, guitar, mandolin and fiddle players.  Additional instructors at this event included Byrone Berline, a fiddle legend, and Jim Hurst on guitar.

What made this a special event is that I have studied Alan’s banjo style since the day I first started playing the banjo.  That was back in 1970.  I read about Alan, studied his various musical transcriptions, and listened to some of the best banjo albums (such as Alan Munde’s Banjo Sandwich) that I have ever heard.  I never imagined at the time that I would be hosting Alan at my home in my lifetime.

Alan Munde's Thank You Note

Alan Munde’s Thank You Note

Now, as we adjust the clock forty two years later, I had the pleasure of sitting down and picking a couple of tunes with Alan Munde,  as well as Elliot Rodgers, one of Alan’s music partners.   In addition to the workshop, we had the opportunity to walk our beaches here in Jupiter, Florida and enjoy some of the restaurants in the area.  He was a great guest and one of the most humble musicians I have met.

AlanJupiterFloridaNext, we sat down and I conducted an interview of Alan Munde about his life and the impact he has made on the history of bluegrass music.  This idea came to me many years earlier, when I first saw a copy of the Fretboard Journal on the news stand.  I contacted Jason Verlinde, the publisher of this high quality quarterly magazine.  Jason was very receptive to publishing an article on Alan Munde.  He recognized how significant Alan Munde is as a musical icon and as a banjo legend.

It took awhile to get this article published but we finally saw the final product in print with Issue #37.  You can order a copy of this magazine by contacting the Fretboard Journal at their website.  You may also still be able to find a copy of this magazine at your local Barnes and Noble or other book store in the area in which you live. I highly recommend that you read the article on Alan, as well as subscribe to or order other issues that are available.

Fretboard Journal Issue #37

Fretboard Journal Issue #37

Finally, it was a thrill to get a personally signed copy today in the mail, from Alan himself which read “David, Thanks for all of your work – Alan Munde”.  In return, I have to say to Alan, thanks for the great memories and thank you for all you have done for the music world.

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Tuning Your Banjo Head Using A Drum Dial

What is a drum dial and how can you use it to set up your banjo head correctly?

A Drum Dial

A Drum Dial

Fretmentor student, Justin Lambert, explains the process of tuning your banjo head with a Drum Dial, in today’s guest blog.

Drum Dial & The Banjo

Tuning the head on a banjo is quite simple with the use of a “drum dial”. I bought mine online, though you can check your local drum shop. Your banjo head should be tuned to G#, this will help your banjo ring and have good sustain in each note. First, tune your banjo as close as you can to open “G” tuning and move the bridge to set the intonation. You can chime the #1 string at the 12th fret to see how close your intonation is to true. If your banjo is in tune when “open, or unfretted”, yet sharp when fretting at the 12th fret, you need to move the bridge towards the tailpiece. Move the bridge towards the neck if you are flat when fretting at the 12th fret. Once you have this accomplished, you can begin to tune your banjo head.

Tuning the Banjo Head

First, you need to calibrate your drum dial by placing it on a piece of glass and setting the needle to “0”.

Second, remove the resonator from your banjo by loosening the 4 caps or screws holding the resonator to the flange. Place your banjo on a towel or stand lying flat and place the drum dial about 1 inch from the edge. As you move the drum dial around your banjo head next to each hook, you might notice the dial registers 89, or 92. The number is not important, you just want the number to be the same at each “hook” all the way around the head. Go ahead and tighten, or loosen each hook working on opposing hooks all the way around the banjo. Do not work around the head in order, you will never get the numbers to be the same and most likely will damage the head. Tighten hook 1, then 12, then 6, then 18, then 3, then 15, etc. until you have the same number all the way around. Inevitably some hooks will be loose from tightening others, just snug these and keep moving around until they are all snug and you have the same number on the drum dial all the way around your banjo.

Drum Dial & Banjo Head Tuning

Drum Dial & Banjo Head Tuning

Third, you will have to retune your banjo and possibly adjust the bridge ever so slightly. You should definitely notice your banjo “ring”, especially when hitting the first string. If it isn’t ringing just yet, you can go back and slightly tighten each hook (paying attention to your drum dial numbers, and the hooks closest to the tailpiece).

Fourth, replace the resonator and then play your banjo, you should notice a difference in both the sound quality and sustain. I recommend checking the head with the drum dial again within the next few days to weeks as some settling in will occur. Simply follow the above steps to get your banjo ringing and sounding great.

About today’s author:  Justin Lambert is a ceramic artist specializing in one of a kind wood fired functional pottery made and fired at his home studio in Jupiter Farms, Florida.  He has wanted to learn banjo for many years, having played some piano as a child, and alto saxophone seriously as a teenager for many years.  He is a current Fretmentor banjo student.

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To Pedal or Not to Pedal – Part I

Experimenting with Pedal Boards

Part I

By Andrew Bauman

Andrew's guitar rig with pedal board

Andrew’s guitar rig with pedal board

After years of playing the acoustic guitar, I finally branched out a few years ago and bought my first electric guitar. My “starter” amp came with some built-in effects – distortion, overdrive, reverb, chorus and delay. Before long, I was interested in finding different sounds or trying to duplicate sounds from guitars in my favorite songs. And so… I began experimenting with effects pedals. A couple of years into it, I am still just scratching the surface. But I have learned a few things that might be helpful to anyone who may be thinking of, or doing, the same thing. Here are a couple of basic lessons I have learned that are worth passing along.

1. KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid

First, effects pedals are like fishing lures – most of them are flashy and are designed to catch more fisherman than fish. Don’t run out and buy the shiny pedal with the maximum number of flashing lights, knobs and sophisticated features. If you are just branching out into effects pedals, these pedals are way more than you need. You will spend more time messing, tweaking, tuning and fidgeting with knobs and buttons than playing, and you still won’t understand how the darn things work! If you do some research, some of the highest rated pedals are also the most simple. Many of these pedals have been around for 30 years for a reason. They are easy to use, they work and they give you a great sound. Save your money and start out with fairly straightforward, simple pedals.

Andrew's Pedal Board

Andrew’s Pedal Board

2. Pedal Power

Second, while most pedals will take a 9-volt batter to power them, it’s best to connect them to a reliable power source. Battery power is probably best if you are transporting your pedal board a lot (most boards come with their own brief case to transport them). But if you are like me, you will forget to turn them all off when you get up to answer the phone or something. There’s nothing more annoying than sitting down to play, warming up your amp, tuning your guitar and then… changing 3 or 4 batteries. Most pedal battery cases are not snap-off – it involves a screwdriver. Also, the pedals are usually attached to the pedal board by adhesive velcro on the bottom. So, frequent battery changes are out of the question.

A power source is the way to go. There are a couple of different power sources. The One-Spot is a simple power source that plugs directly into the wall and has a chain of up to eight connectors for pedals. They are fairly cheap. However, the One-Spot is really only useful if you are using one or two (three tops) pedals at once. The more pedals you have on, the more the system has a problem evenly distributing the power and the effects will fade in and out. If you are going to use more than one or two pedals, it’s best to spend the money on a real power source, like the Voodoo Labs. These are converters that will run 8 or 10 pedals and deliver steady power to multiple pedals at once.

Note:  This article continues in the article entitle “To Pedal or Not to Pedal – Part II”

Andrew Baumann, a fretmentor student and attorney by trade, contributed this article.

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Sierra Hull, Mandolin Virtuoso, Takes Her Trio to the Lyric

Sierra Hull’s Trio Is A Hit

Sierra Hull's Trio at the Lyric Theatre.

Sierra Hull’s Trio at the Lyric Theatre.

Sierra Hull introduced her newest music project “Weighted Mind” February 11, 2016, at the newly renovated Lyric Theater in Downtown Stuart. She was joined onstage by Ethan Jodziewicz (double bass) and Justin Moses (banjo, dobro and mandolin). Ms. Hull easily lived up to her widespread acclaim as a mandolin virtuoso while her voice was both expressive and soothing. Although it had been five years since her last musical release it was obvious she has been working very diligently continuing to master her craft and expand into the landscape of songwriter and lyricist. While the roots of bluegrass could be found interspersed throughout her presentation it seems her music has moved into another realm where it intersects with a variety of styles.

Sierra Hull On Stage

Sierra Hull On Stage

The trio performed most, if not all, of the offerings on Weighted Mind. She told the audience the album had been a couple years in the making and lyrics for several songs referenced the growth pangs associated with travel from teen years to full adulthood, not to mention living up to lofty expectations coming from her early success. It seemed as though the age of twenty-two must have been especially rough for the now twenty-four year old. Both “Stranded” and “The In-Between” describe the turmoil of being twenty-two. Other lyrics also revealed doubts and insecurity (“Compass” and “Lullaby”). Perhaps the most revealing song was her first encore offering which she shared with the audience as being written on a particularly vulnerable evening even though the words were positive and future-looking.

Musically the trio was inspiring and complex. Ms. Hull lived up to her reputation and training on both the mandolin and mandola. Mr. Jodziewicz excelled on the double bass, bowing the strings as much as plucking. Mr. Moses’ banjo style was reminiscent of Allison Brown and he played mandolin toe to toe with Ms. Hull. His dobro work was just as enjoyable. All in all, a wonderful show in a wonderful setting, especially if you were lucky enough to be front and center!

Note:  Our guest Blog writer, Randall Cameron, who critiqued Sierra’s Trio, is a Research Biologist for the USDA, Agricultural Research Service. He  has been “playing” the banjo, for better or worse, a total of about three and a half years interspersed over a much longer period of time

Posted in Concerts & Festivals, Mandolin | Tagged | 1 Comment

KT Tunstall & A Bahamas Cruise

KT Tunstall Concert

& A Cruise To The Bahamas

KT Tunstall

Talk about going to see a concert in style.   On the weekend of May 16-17, 2015, a very special woman in my life and I took a romantic two night cruise to the Bahamas to celebrate my birthday.  An enticing aspect of the cruise was to see Scottish  born singer/songwriter KT Tunstall.

KTposterKT has recorded five studio albums and has received multiple Brit Award nominations, including winning the  Best Female Solo Artist and a 2007 Grammy nomination for Best Song “Black Horse and a Cherry Tree”.  This is a great song to not only dance to but also to perform yourself.  Her hit “Suddenly I See” was featured in the motion picture The Devil Wears Prada, which lead to her interest in composing for films, including “The Kid”, “A Winter’s Tale” and the latest “We Could Be Kings” for Disney’s motion picture “Million Dollar Arm”..  For those of you who do not know of KT Tunstall, I highly recommend you check her music out.

The Cruise

So a little about the cruise.  The two night cruise originated from the Port of Palm Beach, in West Palm Beach, Florida.  A friend and I got an early start on Saturday May 16th, wandering the ship, and enjoying the food and drinks.  While having dinner in the dining area, the cruise took off at about 6:30pm.  After dinner, we went to the clubs, a martini bar and the casino.  I danced the night away with my incredible dance partner to both a country rock band, as well as in the disco lounge.  Sunday morning was spent away from the ship in the Bahamas Yucatan Grand resort. We walked the white sandy beaches, laid out at the lap pool overlooking the ocean and toured the Freeport Market Place after lunch.  Upon arriving back at the ship, dinner was followed by the KT Tunstall concert.  Afterward, we danced well into the night, until we arrived back home at 8 am.

The KT Tunstall Concert

Once back from the Bahamas, I made sure we upgraded the general admission tickets to get the best seats possible at the Grand Theatre section of the ship.  We waited in line and sat in the 2nd row. KT Tunstall promptly started at 10 pm.

For those who are not aware of KT Tunstall, she is a master at using effects pedals and especially loops to supplement her rhythmic guitar strums and singing.  The effect is like a drum machine, except she provides background vocals, hand clapping, guitar tapping and even a kazoo to get special effects.  Not only can she sing but her timing, dynamics and rhythmic guitar strums sets her apart from many performers.  She jokingly introduced her band (the effect pedals) as coming from Taiwan.

KT Tunstall Playing "Hold On"

KT Tunstall Playing “Hold On”

Ever since playing a couple of Tunstall’s tunes, I always planned on seeing her in concert.  In addition to my two favorites (“Black Horse & A Cherry Tree” and “Hold On”), KT performed a number of her songs from her albums “Drastic Fantastic” and “Eye To The Telescope”.  Songs such as “White Bird”, “Other Side of The World”, and “Under The Weather” all were well received.  Yet, KT played a number of cover tunes such as “Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer”, Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”, “Walk Like An Egyptian” and ending with an audience favorite Jackson Five “I Want You Back”, with her own signature style rhythmic variation .

KT Tunstall’s show lasted an impressive two hours. Throughout the show, KT Tunstall engaged the audience and telling stories such as the time she was recognized by one of her favorite female vocalists; Fleetwood Mac’s own Stevie Nicks.  She even invited many of the women (and the men who all chose to stay in their seats) to join her on stage to dance during one of her songs.  The show was an intimate and personal experience.  Both the concert and the cruise made this one of my favorite birthday experiences of all time.

PLEASE NOTE:  I will be posting concert photos (WITH A LINK HERE) and maybe some more cruise photos on my website at and on my Fretmentor Facebook page. So please check back for updates.





Here is a link to a recent podcast of KT Tunstall:

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Meeting The King of The Blues

The Night I Met

the King of the Blues

April 2, 1992 BB King Autographs

April 2, 1992 BB King Autographs

I remember it as though it was yesterday.  On April 2, 1992, an old friend and I attended the BB King concert at the now defunct Carefree Theatre, located in West Palm Beach, Florida.  It was a great concert and I believe his album “Live At The Apollo” was recently released.

After the show, I waited until the audience cleared out and went to the stage.  I asked the set up man if there was a way BB King could sign my program.  I never collected autographs until then, but I was impressed enough with BB King that I wanted to take back a memento.  The man suggested that I go to the side of the building where his bus was parked to see if he was available to sign.

We walked to the bus and I ran into his cousin (the trumpet player) who signed the program.  I was thinking to myself, this just wouldn’t cut it with my friends if I didn’t get BB to sign the program himself.  I asked if BB King could sign it and his cousin said while BB is eating between sets, maybe I should try to come back after the 2nd show.  So, we went home, changed clothes, and returned an hour later.

We patiently waited outside, even though it started to slightly rain. You could hear the last show coming to an end.  When it did, BB King appeared and was escorted into his bus.  He sat at the passenger seat, got a back massage and drank some orange juice.  Approximately 30 people were waiting to greet him. I was one of the lucky ones that night as well.

At 1:30 am in the morning, BB King took the time to greet each and every fan.  When it was my turn to meet him, I shook his hand, chatted with him briefly about his music and told him I am studying his instructional videos.  I even suggested he write a companion instructional book and he said that is a good idea.  I doubt I had any thing to do with it but a book came out later to match his instructional VHS tapes.

From that day, I felt blessed to meet a man as humble as BB King.  Although he was a star at the time, he never forgot his roots, which explains his desire to please the fans that sat in the rain to see him that night.

The Concerts

BB King Concerts I Attended

BB King Concerts I Attended

I went and saw him another eight times.  All the concerts provided lasting memories.  Yet, none of them will surpass the night I was able to personally meet the King of the Blues.

On May 14, 2015, the music world lost a legend.  In my heart, the memories of BB King will always live on.

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Serious Music Students?

Raise Your Hand

If You Are A Serious Music Student

I regularly teach community education music classes through the Palm Beach County School system.  The classes at Palm Beach Gardens High School are primarily for beginning students, many who have had a limited or no background in music.

2014 Adult Beginning Guitar Class

2014 Adult Beginning Guitar Class

At the first class, I usually ask my class to raise their hands if they are serious music students.  Each student always enthusiastically raises their hand.  I then, ask the question again but this time emphasizing the word “Serious”.  I explain to the class that to be successful at playing music, one must have patience and be dedicated to practicing each and every day.  A student should practice an hour a day to develop finger strength and follow their instructors advice regarding the instructional materials.

Community education classes offer a unique opportunity for a student to learn an instrument at an unquestionable cost savings.  A typical half hour lesson in this area of the country is $32-36.  The community education class, which last for seven to eight weeks at an hour per session costs a total of $28-$36 (not including materials).  I sometimes joke that the school should charge $500 and refund all but the $28-36, based on perfect attendance.  That would create a financial incentive to attend each and every class.

Above is a picture of the latest class of students who started a six week beginning guitar class.  Keep in mind that they insisted they were going to be serious guitar students.  Yet, if you refer to the picture below, you will see our final smaller group of students who were dedicated enough to at least complete the course.  Hopefully they will continue in their pursuit of becoming competent musicians.

The magnificent 7

The Magnificent 7

I truly believe that at first, students have very good intentions when starting to learn an instrument.  In their own mind, they are very serious about learning.  Yet, playing a musical instrument is not simple.  If it was simple, than becoming a musician wouldn’t be special.  As I mentioned above, learning about music requires patience and dedication.  For adults, it means accepting the fact that you are once again in grade school and have to place your ego aside and accept your early limitations.  However, hard work will pay great dividends.  Just read the comments below from those who have made it happen.

I extend my congratulations to these seven students who completed the class.  For every class I teach, a handful will step up and become good musicians over time.  Hopefully, their enthusiasm will stay with them throughout the many years ahead.  I wish them luck.

Posted in Classes & Workshops, Other, Uncategorized | 8 Comments