Keep the Door Open. At least some of the time. This is about nipping stage fright in the bud. Go ahead and let people hear you play. So you make mistakes? It’s fine. You’re making music and music is to be shared. Also, when people find out you’re learning to play, they’re going to want to hear you play something. Go ahead! The more often you take advantage of these opportunities, the more at ease with an audience you’ll become. That’s the idea, right? You want to avoid becoming a person who has “been practicing” but who is still reluctant to play in front of others.
Call 90% “Good Enough for Now.”
Perfection is an elusive target. Strive instead for 90% – or even 85% (a sold ‘B’), knowing that you will circle back again and again to every key concept and skill. This understanding will help prevent you from becoming bogged down, frustrated or bored.
Memorize. Not only does memorization help create synapses in your brain, as you memorize melodies and scales you will begin to develop a better ear for individual notes and solos.
Yes, memorization is going to be more difficult at the age of 60 than it was at 16, 26 or even 36.
Stay with it. It’ll come.
Think of other things people come to later in life and, over time, master. RVing, fly-fishing, birding, baking and cooking can seem overwhelming at first. Yet, with repeated practice knowledge that once had to be constantly reviewed gradually becomes ingrained until various water and electrical hook-ups are done without hesitation, knots are tied easily by rote, a glance reveals the difference between a crossbill and a grosbeak, and a properly seasoned dish becomes almost instinctive.
Even if you don’t get everything you play memorized perfectly, you’re still building music connections in your brain. And you’ll probably surprise yourself. The more music you memorize, the easier additional memorization becomes.
Healthy? Yes, but more importantly beautiful and delicious! Imagine this wine-colored spread on crispy crackers or as part of a vibrant plate of garden-fresh crudités.
This hummus is just as creamy and smooth as my white bean hummus recipe. My favorite thing about hummus is the flavorful marriage of garlic, lemon, and cumin. Inspired by a couple of beets in the fridge, I decided to do what beets like best – roast them. Roasting brings out the sweetness in this beautiful root vegetable. I substituted beets for the white beans in my original recipe and was really happy that the main garlic, lemon, and cumin flavors still shine through. The beets add a subtle earthy, sweet flavor. Best of all, they take the presentation through the roof with their color.
Roasted Beet Hummus
- 2 medium beets
- 1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- a few dashes hot sauce. We like Cholula.
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 375° F (190 C. Remove the stem from the beets. Scrub and wash them with cold water.
Place beets in foil, drizzle with olive oil, wrap tightly and roast for one hour or until the tines of a fork pass through without resistance. They should be tender. Let cool slightly.
- You should be able to rub the skin off of the beets. Otherwise, use a paring knife to peel off the roasted skin.
- Cut beets into chunks. Place in deep bowl.
- Rinse and drain beans. Add to bowl.
- Combine lemon, cumin, garlic, hot sauce, salt and half of the olive oil with beet mixture. Use a stick blender to mix and purée hummus. This can also be done in a food processor.
- Process mixture until smooth, adding more olive oil to reach desired consistency.
- Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a crack of black pepper.
Chewy, soft pretzels with a not-so subtle just-right hit of salt, stuffed with your favorite hot dog – a recipe for a delicious lunch easy to take with or one to stay in with on a snowy spring day.
Many years ago, actually just approaching ten, we decided to move to Alaska. There are many different Alaskas within this beautiful state. The one we chose to move to was the Alaska Bush, a place we knew would be challenging, fascinating and exciting and a place where we knew we would need indoors hobbies to entertain us during cold and dark winters. One of my first goals was to become a baker. To set myself up for success, I sent out hundreds of pounds of different flours, sugars, flavorings, pans, cutters, and a beautiful tapered rolling pin with inlaid bamboo for inspiration (a lovely gift from Jack).
As my baking skills improved, I graduated from bread-in-a-rice-cooker to a a bonafide bread machine. As I continued to improve my baking, I ditched the machines and really dug into the whole process of baking. During my initial education, I enlisted the help of The Great Courses and chef Stephen Durfee from the Culinary Institute of America (via the online class). For six Sundays in a row, the three of us dutifully watched these classes and then baked – with feedback from countless taste-testers. We learned how to create lattice-crusted pies, ganache-topped éclairs, and mousse-filled many layered chocolate cakes. That was just the start. By the way, if you’ve ever wanted to really learn how to bake, I highly recommend the Baking Pastries & Desserts class from the Great Courses. I also highly recommend sharing the experience with friends. It was a lovely introduction into serious baking.
Of course, spending this much quality time with friends can only make friendships grow. After completing our class, my friend Reba and I continued to bake together, share recipes and swap tastes of new creations. Pretzel dogs always remind me of Reba and those baking days in Point Hope. This recipe produces an agreeably light, airy roll and is part of my permanent rotation. Thanks to Reba for the spiral wrapping style!
- 1 3/4 cups milk
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- 10 good quality hot dogs
- coarse sea salt
- 1/2 cup baking soda
- 16 cups water
- Whisk milk and yeast together in a large bowl. Let stand for a few minutes until yeast starts to foam.
- Stir in oil.
- Stir in 1 cup flour and mix until well combined.
- Stir in salt.
- Mix in remaining 3 cups of flour.
- Turn dough out onto floured surface.
- Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
- Place dough in an oiled bowl, covered with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Cut dough into 10 equal pieces.
- Roll dough pieces into long snakes. Coil dough around each hot dog, pinching the end pieces of the dough to secure it.
- Let pretzel dogs rest while you prepare pretzel bath.
- Preheat oven to 400° F.
- In a large pot, boil 16 cups water and salt.
- When water is boiling, stir in baking soda.
- Place 2 pretzel dogs in boiling water for 30 seconds. Flip and continue to boil for 30 more seconds. Remove from water with slotted spoon and place on parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Repeat with remaining pretzel dogs.
- Sprinkle each pretzel dog with coarse salt.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Pretzel dogs are finished when they are a rich dark brown.
- Let cool for a couple of minutes on baking sheet.
- Serve warm with Dijon or another good quality deli mustard and a delicious red ale.
Use a metronome. Both to keep steady time and to challenge yourself to play with increased speed.
As a high school student, I ran middle distances for my track team and was introduced to a world carefully measured in minutes and fractions of seconds. Our coach, Bob Bowersox, kept meticulous records. He recorded our race times, of course, but he also kept records of our workout times as we ran repeated intervals of 440 and 880 yards and he encouraged us to do the same. Thus, over the course of a season, we had proof of our individual progress as race times and practice times got faster and faster.
It’s a strategy that applies to guitar work as well – one my daughter, Maia, used as she became an accomplished violinist and later a pianist and guitar player. I occasionally give myself “time trials” and record the results in metronome-measured beats per minute in my music book. It’s a confidence boost to document that songs and scale exercises I initially struggled with are becoming faster and smoother. At the same time, using a metronome helps me push myself toward these kinds of improvements.
The main reason to use a metronome, though, is to help develop a sense of steady rhythm. Set the metronome for a beat you can handle and play along with it. The metronome will remind you not to rush easy passages, and it will also help you identify places where you stumble and need more work.
Image courtesy Wiki Commons
7. Practice and memorize scales. Scales are the key to chords and melodies.
In his book about the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team, The Boys of Summer, author Roger Kahn provides insight into George “Shotgun” Shuba’s bat swing which was famous for producing hard line drives and was said to be “…as natural as a smile.” The backstory on that “natural” swing, according to Shuba, was that for a time in his life, each night before he went to bed he performed hundreds of swings with a 44 ounce bat. Many thousands of swings later he had developed that “natural” swing.
Think of scales like that as you work on them to develop your ear, your finger and hand speed and your knowledge of the fretboard.