What was it that first got you interested in playing the guitar, mandolin or banjo?
Began playing guitar 42 years ago when my youth leader at church showed me a few chords and gave me some lessons for a short time. I thought it was “cool” to be able make the sounds like I had heard on records and the radio.
How long have you been playing and what’s your motivation to play?
My motivation to play is like my motivation as a woodworker. I love making and building things. Playing guitar is a building exercise in a sense that takes small parts and pieces and once put together, produces a song. I can get satisfaction that I went through the process. However, I do recognize that I can always improve and do better. Trying to work out the timing or the fingering of a particular piece and then finally getting it to flow, makes my heart smile. It gives me a great feeling of accomplishment.
What’s your favorite lesson on Ben’s site and how has it helped you improve?
I’ve enjoyed a lot of lessons of Ben’s, no favorites here. I particularly enjoy his build a breaks and short riff lessons. This lets me build on my lead playing. But I also enjoy his song breakdowns as well. Put your left finger here, pick the string here, repeat. I know its the same as tablature, but hearing and see Ben play through it first and then breaking it down note for note, just makes it easy for me to pick up on it. I don’t always play it the same way, but I get to learn alternative methods and ways of completing a piece.
What’s your goal when playing?
These days it’s more about stress relief than trying to reach a goal. I enjoy playing for the fun of it and never want it to get to a point to where it isn’t fun. I turned a hobby of woodworking into a full time business. As much as I love and enjoy woodworking, once I turned it into a livelihood it became a job and lost some of its appeal. I never want making music to lose that enjoyment.
Are there any other instruments or genres of music that you enjoy playing?
I’m not limited to bluegrass by no means. I enjoy southern gospel, contemporary christian, classic rock, classic country, blues, southern rock and yes, even some top 40, I don’t want to be locked into one category. All those genres have some fun songs and great chords and leads to learn, and I want to be able to play anything I want.
Do you have a favorite technique? What is it?
I appreciate the fingerpicking techniques of the banjo. I’ve always wanted to do that. I’ve tried numerous times and continue to do so, but I just can’t seem to unlock my thumb from my fingers.
If you could play in anyone’s band, who would it be and why?
My first choice would be…the Eagles. I learned on their type of music. Yes, my church youth group leader of the time used the songs of Frey and Henley to teach me rhythm. The music shop that sold my my first “real” guitar held a bluegrass jam on Friday nights. So I got a dual education in Bluegrass and Rock. The Eagles, back in the 70’s used several different forms of music to form their sound and revolved around sounds heard in country music and southern rock. But those sounds were also influenced by the lonesome sounds of bluegrass. Now that Vince Gill is in the band, how cool would it be to attend some practice sessions with that group of individuals? Vince Gill and Joe Walsh…what a combination!!
What type of gear or accessories have you found that work best for you?
Keep it simple! Today, its easy to get sampler equipment to emulate and reproduce any sound you can think of, and many sounds you can’t think of. But at the end of the day, nothing sounds sweeter than my Martin HD 28 with a fresh set of strings on it. No pickup. No electronics. I do like my Kyser capo. Simple, lightweight, easy to use.
If money was no object, what would be your dream instrument(s)?
I’ve always wanted to try a compound radius neck on an acoustic. I would like to have someone like Wayne Henderson build me a custom, or a series of custom guitars based on Martin D18’s or HD28’s or Collins, with different neck set ups. One with lower action and thinner neck for faster picking and more hammer on’s and pull-offs and one with slightly higher action and a little fatter for chords and rhythm. I would also like to have a sloped edge at the armrest. That sharp edge sometimes bites into my arm and causes my hand to tingle or go numb. A contoured body would be nice to try as well.
If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
I like my rest time. I think we all need it to decompress and reset for the next day. However, if it would not affect my mind, I would use the time to listen or watch my favorite musicians do what they do best all the while keeping my own guitar in my lap ready to grab a lick or two to add to my repertoire.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I don’t want to leave out that the most enjoyment I get from playing is when I get to do so for the Lord. I give Him all the credit and thanks for my ability to take a wooden box and some steel strings and make something called “music”. I have the pleasure of playing and singing some for my church and I always pray ahead of time and ask God to use me as a conduit for His word to flow from my fingers and my mouth. Each song I sing in His name, evokes a response from the congregation and it always fills my heart to see and hear that response. Each and every time I play, it gives me a deeper and more sincere love for my creator. That He can use someone like me to share His gospel is truly Amazing Grace.
How did you find out about Banjo Ben?
Saw Ben on Youtube using a method to teach guitar very similar to how learned to play. This was long before he started the membership program. To have someone take a song and break it down for you, or to take lead riffs and fills and show you to make a turn or a break without all the music theory and mindless scale repetition was welcomed for someone just wanting to learn some new licks to a song I wanted to play or play better.