Wednesday, January 09, 2013

1120 A Lot of Brass but No Soul

1120 A Lot of Brass but No Soul

You get a certain age and some things begin to wear out.  Backs, various joints, memory.  It’s the kind of deterioration we all either have experienced or will.  So, we adjust.

Those of us who have spent a lifetime playing stringed instruments begin to do things differently.  We learn to play sitting down if that wasn’t our style to start.  We put aside our ten pound Les Pauls and go for the new breed of carbon fiber guitars that weigh next to nothing and sound like well aged pieces of wood.

Then, there’s the banjo, and this is a problem.  Banjos are made mostly of stuff from hardware stores.  The bigger and better ones weigh a ton.  Even seated, they’re hard to hold without strain.  You look at players like Earl Scruggs who played standing until he was in his 80s; wore a banjo that weighed almost as much as he did.  Guy must have had a back like a mule.

Hunting up a suitable light weight guitar is not a problem.  Hunting up a great sounding banjo that doesn’t double as free weights at the gym is another story.
First, they’re not well balanced.  All the weight is on one end.  Second, the bodies are made of combinations of wood and metal parts designed in the Victorian era and the roaring 20s long before amplification existed.  You had to be loud enough to be heard in a band.  And in vibration, weight equals volume.  Today, there are amplifiers to take care of that.

So the hunt is on for a light weight banjo.  And the choice of many is an all metal body with fewer than usual parts or even one of the new bodies made of carbon fiber instead of metal.

This upsets the purists.  “Metal?” one asked?  “Unlike wood, metal doesn’t improve with age.  Metal has no soul.”

Tell that to the millions of players of trumpets and cornets and trombones and French and baritone horns, saxophones, flutes, tubas, Sousaphones, triangles, kettle drums, euphoniums, bells, Dobros and even washboards and musical saws and kazoos and slide whistles.

The soul is in the player not in the materials.  In his or her hands and mind and lungs.

Shrapnel:

--A lot of us expected the BCS Championship game to be a bit closer than Alabama’s 42-14 win over previously undefeated Notre Dame.  But the Irish were out played from the start.  Can we go back to sleep now?

--Does anyone do traffic control on TV spot breaks?  How many different lawyers trolling for disfigured or dead users of pharmaceuticals, victims of auto accidents, receivers of structured settlements who “need cash now,” and phony trade schools can you cram together at one time?  It seems endless.

--Speaking of crammed together, where do they get the term “back to back” episodes when they mean to tell you about showing several in a row?  If they were truly “back to back,” the first one would run normally and the second would run backwards.  Actually, some episodes of some shows would be better if seen in reverse.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© 2013 WJR

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