Author: Ramos, Jean


I really gave some thought to Bert Danielís recent Welcome Column. It had to do with the Eight Year Rule; the premise being that if you stuck with playing a musical instrument for eight years, you would probably be proficient at it by the end of that period. He mentioned that it might be better if you began learning during your formative years but itís never too late to begin. I think this premise is true, and in more areas than just music.

I believe that anything you want to accomplish or become good at requires discipline, commitment, persistence and lots of practice. More importantly, you first have to have a passion for what it is youíre trying to learn. It canít be someone elseís desire for you.

About twenty years ago, I took piano lessons for a few years. I learned the music theory and practiced my scales backwards and forwards and nearly died of nervousness at piano recitals. I didnít enjoy piano all that much. Why did I put myself through all that? To learn new songs from music books so that I could sing them while playing my guitar. That was life before You Tube. Piano was never my passion.

Iíve always loved to sing, no one has ever had to encourage me to do it. In fact there have been occasions when I was told to be silent; a very hard thing to do for a person who has a song in her ďheartĒ and has lyrics constantly streaming through her head both day and night. I began playing the guitar to accompany my voice fifty-five years ago. I really should be much more proficient on the guitar, but you see, it had never been my passion.

A few years ago, when I was first exposed to bluegrass jamming, I began paying more attention to the instruments and took an interest in improving my guitar skills and it has opened up a whole new challenge for me. I have made improvements that are even noticeable to me and Iíve even learned to do a little flat picking. Through the bluegrass events, Iíve gained exposure to many stringed instruments and have developed great admiration for those who have become masters of their chosen instruments. Not just those who perform on stage but folks Iíve had the joy of jamming with. I think of Lucy Smith on the guitar, Mikki Feeney on the fiddle, Jonathan Bluemel on the banjo, Randy McKnight on the mandolin, Bruce Campbell on bassÖand the list goes on. These are obviously people who have a passion for what they do and have been willing to put in the time it takes to reach their level of skill.

Itís hard for me to imagine Randy McKnight stumbling over the notes to ďGo Tell Aunt Rhody,Ē or Jonathan missing a few licks on ďBile Dem Cabbage Down,Ē but weíve all had to start somewhere, right? That being said, this is about where I am with my fiddling but a little beyond with the mandolin. However, I am learning, and do quite well at my D, G, and A scales and finally understand why scales are important. I am taking formal fiddle lessons and putting in the practice time. Another lesson to be learned is that it helps to be accountable to another person. I have tried learning from DVDs but there is no one to tell me if my bow grip is wrong or if Iím developing some bad habits that will be hard to unlearn later. Well eight years will go by at warp speed and hopefully, at the end of that period, Iíll be able to grab my old fiddle and say, ďLetís find a jam!Ē

As I said before, you may apply this lesson to any worthwhile achievement. Whether it is cooking, diet, exercise, writing, artwork, or a favorite sport; make it your passion, commit yourself to it, put what you learn into practice, have someone hold you accountable, and you will reap untold benefits. Oh, and while youíre at it, share your skills with others who have a desire to learn.

While youíre reading this, I will be down in the desert jamming with my friends. If you hear something on the news of coyotes making a mass exodus from the desert southwest, itís because Iím practicing my fiddle; ďBuffalo Gals, Wonít You Come Out Tonight and Dance by the Light of the Moon?Ē

Posted:  2/26/2012

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