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“A Lost Chord,” a poem by Adelaide Anne Procter.

March 9, 2018

Seated one day at the Organ,
I was weary and ill at ease,
And my fingers wandered idly
Over the noisy keys.

I do not know what I was playing,
Or what I was dreaming then;
But I struck one chord of music,
Like the sound of a great Amen.

It flooded the crimson twilight
Like the close of an Angel’s Psalm,
And it lay on my fevered spirit
With a touch of infinite calm.

It quieted pain and sorrow,
Like love overcoming strife;
It seemed the harmonious echo
From our discordant life.

It linked all perplexèd meanings
Into one perfect peace,
And trembled away into silence
As if it were loth to cease.

I have sought, but I seek it vainly,
That one lost chord divine,
Which came from the soul of the Organ,
And entered into mine.

It may be that Death’s bright angel
Will speak in that chord again,—
It may be that only in Heaven
I shall hear that grand Amen.


Feeling bad about being black..

March 9, 2018

I’m not black, and I hadn’t planned on writing this post.

However, I’m often on a question and answer website called People ask practically any kind of question imaginable, and other people answer those questions.

Here is my prologue, which I posted on facebook just now (yes, I’m a nut.. I post long essays on facebook), but not on Quora..

“Ok, so.. another very long, controversial essay.. maybe I’m sort of trying to court the ire of people.. not good. I write for a variety of reasons, and potential self harm might just be one of them (ok, it is one of the reasons).

Writing is also damn hard. But I like getting my ideas out there, and not just keep them in my head. I think a lot about things.. and some people – so far at least – have liked what I’ve written.

Tonight, I’m tackling the subject of racism against black people. I wasn’t planning on doing this, but I’m often on a question and answer website called Quora, and I found this question, which I decided to answer:”

I am starting to hate my own race? I hate being black? Am I wrong for feeling like this?”

And here is my answer..

It’s possible whoever wrote this question did so with the intention of seeing if any white people would be stupid enough to answer it.

It’s also possible that the person who asked this question was being sincere.

Regardless, I’m white, and I’m going to answer the question. Some people will object to a white guy answering, but I don’t care.

My answer is lengthy, and I get deep. I’m probably also going to piss some people off. This is not my intention. I’d just rather be truthful than politically correct.

Don’t feel bad for feeling the way you do. You are feeling that way in large part because of societal conditioning that goes back centuries. Negative portrayal of black people in the media, and in society in general. Still happening today. Some of the negative black stereotypes are self-inflicted by black people. This doesn’t help. More on this in a bit.

Decades ago, there was an experiment. Young black girls were given dolls that looked like white girls, and dolls that looked like black girls. When asked which dolls they liked best, the black girls chose the white dolls. Every time.

Things aren’t so bad now as when the study was conducted, but still pretty rough for black people in a lot of ways.

Negative portrayal of black people in the media..

Let us consider pretty much all action movies. Who dies first, or who is the most likely to die in pretty much any action movie, especially if the characters are minor, such as cops, security guards, random people? The incidental characters who are black are more likely in general to be killed.

There are spoilers in the examples I’m about to list.. I’m mentioning the films “Logan,” “The Dark Knight,” “RED,” “Hitman,” “The Black Panther,” “Thor,” “CA II: The Winter Soldier,” and “The Blind Side.”

One example, in the film “Logan.” It is a black rural family that gets wiped out when the people chasing Logan track him down to a farm.

Another example – watch the fate of various black characters in the second Christian Bale Batman film, “The Dark Knight.” Who gets a pencil jammed into his brain through his eye ball by the Joker? A black guy. The Joker is so white he’s wearing white makeup. You’ll see other black guys meeting unfortunate ends in that film. Horrible things happen to white guys too, of course, especially Harvey Dent, but more often to black guys, or at least, more noticeably.

And there’s “RED,” an action film with Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, and others. Who plays the character who sacrifices his life, while the others go on to more glory and having a good time? Morgan Freeman. Yes, his sacrifice is noble, but wouldn’t it be cooler if something unexpected happened, and Bruce Willis played the dude who sacrificed his life, and Freeman’s character lived on?

How about “Hitman?” Timothy Olyphant (white guy) plays the title character. There’s one scene where he has to fight off and kill a bunch of other hitmen. Who is the only one that is strangled by Olyphant’s character? The black hitman. I was shocked. This was a lynching.

How about “The Black Panther?” Black empowerment film, right? Yes, in a way, but.. Consider this.. The Black Panther is the only male superhero who is helped almost entirely by a group of really strong and smart women. (Yes, while Thor is on Earth, he is helped by a smart woman, played by Natalie Portman, and a comic relief woman, played by Kat Dennings, but he is also helped by a male scientist, played by Stellan Skarsgard).

T’Challa’s bodyguards and elite warriors are a group of bald, rather masculine women. He is also helped by his sister and ex-girlfriend. This seems emasculating to me. (And no, I’m not a misogynist, just making a point.. gosh I’m going to take a lot of heat for this quora answer. I don’t tend to respond to comments, so write whatever you want). I was really hoping “The Black Panther” would be a better film, since the character is awesome, and so is the actor who plays him. Chadwick Boseman is a phenomenal actor! We’ll be seeing a lot more of this guy, in a variety of roles, I hope.

What about Captain America? Yes, Cap is teamed up with Black Widow in CA II: The Winter Soldier, but she is only one woman. Not a whole group of women.

Also, in “Black Panther,” the man who is head of the rhino tribe is the lover of one of the main bald female bodyguards, and she is tougher than he is. The filmmakers make sure we notice this.

And there is a gorilla tribe.. possibly another racist connotation. Black people in times past have been called “monkeys” and “apes.”

Black men are even being dissed in “The Black Panther,” which is more a black female empowerment movie, (and a female empowerment movie in general) than a black male empowerment movie, in my opinion.

Black characters might die first in horror films as well. I’m not sure, since I’ve not watched many horror films. (Of course, there’s “Get Out,” which is blatantly, horrifically racist, but racist against white people. Payback time, folks).

There’s even a line in a comedy-horror film called “Evolution.” Orlando Jones, the black actor in the cast, is faced with a monster, and a dangerous situation, and says something like, “Oh no, I’ve seen this one. The black guy dies first.” (He doesn’t die though, at least).

There’s racism in other movies too. Consider “The Blind Side” – a mentally slow, huge black kid is given lots of help by a very very wealthy white woman and her family. I was offended by that film, and I’m white. A terribly condescending movie – and Sandra Bullock won a Best Actress Oscar (completely undeserved) for her portrayal of the generous southern white woman.

I would have liked to have seen the reverse of that film. A really rich black family takes in a slow, huge white kid, and helps him. But not many folks would take that film seriously.

How about daytime TV (which I try to avoid). On daytime talk shows, it’s usually black people, especially black women, who are going crazy and pulling each other’s hair out. This is self-inflicted negative portrayal of black people in the media.

And there’s the show “Cops,” which used to be on a lot. Seems like almost every time a person was getting arrested, that person was black. (I could be wrong though, I only watched a few episodes). But it could be that whoever made the program chose to show more black people being arrested than other folks, to make black people look bad.

It’s likely mostly white people who made that show, and who chose to put it on the air. And lots of the cops are white too, right?

Black people make life rough on themselves too. I read a statistic awhile back – don’t know how accurate it was – but it was something like 73% of black children being born out of wedlock. Not good. Just about every black person I’ve seen interviewed on TV talks about being raised by a single mom, and who knows where dad is.

And then there are your role models.. some good, some OK, and some, many, in my opinion.. bad.

Do you pay attention to the lyrics of most rappers? Astonishingly horrible stuff! I listened to less than 3 minutes of Kanye’s album, “Yeezus,” before I turned it off. I felt sick.

Donald Glover – I like him a lot! – As an actor. But not as a rapper. His lyrics get really foul too.

And look what so many rappers do with their money – they go crazy, and live ridiculously lavish lifestyles – for awhile at least, until many of them go broke.

And what about how so many of them look? Pants down below their backsides, tattoos on their faces, diamonds in their teeth. Kinda tough to take such people seriously if they look like that. At least, as far as I can tell, the members of Goodie Mob were looking that way ironically – being playful, making fun of that sort of image. But I could be wrong. A better than average rap group though, even if some of their lyrics get raw.

Best rap group? Public Enemy. Their classic albums don’t have much profanity, are very positive about being black, express better values than most rappers, (although I am not fond of their promotion of the Nation of Islam -considering some of the things said by its leaders), and Flavor Flav was clowning on purpose.

What about black people using the “n” word as a term of endearment? Confuses the heck out of those of us who are not black. Yes, I know, “it’s a black thing.” Something I of course cannot understand.

If you are black in America, especially a black male, the deck is truly stacked against you.

But you can be strong and smart, reject negative stereotypes, look to more inspiring role models, listen to better music – most music created by black artists in this country – jazz, blues (and we would not have rock music without blues), soul, funk, even some hip-hop – is amazing – behave wisely, and be an awesome person, no matter what others might think, and no matter how negatively black people are so often portrayed in the media.

And above all else.. don’t hate yourself.. whoever you are.


Reasons I dislike “The Shape of Water,” and why you might want to avoid seeing it.

March 7, 2018

“The Shape of Water” won best picture and three other Oscars.

I suggest you avoid seeing it unless you like to watch:

1. Two scenes of a woman masturbating in a bath tub.
2. Full frontal nudity of the same woman as she is seconds away from voluntarily having sex with a humanoid sea monster. We also see them in a passionate embrace.
3. A psychotic man fondling his wife’s breast, then vigorously humping her, while his wounded, gangrenous hand is bleeding on her. She tells him she doesn’t want him bleeding on her while they are having sex, but he tells her he insists on her silence, and keeps going. Since she tells him she doesn’t like what he is doing, and he doesn’t stop, this is rape, I think.

There’s also scenes of graphic, bloody violence and cruelty, including torture of the monster, and one man torturing another.

Octavia Spencer portraying yet another cliched, sassy, oppressed black woman – third time I’ve seen her play this part, does she know how to do anything else? At least “The Help” and “Hidden Figures” were worth watching.

An oppressed and dominated black man, so intimidated and emasculated by the white male villain that the black man betrays his wife.

Of course, there is a token likeable, long-suffering, heroic homosexual in this film. It is apparently against the law not to have such a character in pretty much all films and television programs – even cooking shows.

And a heavy-handed message about racism, cruelty to animals, white male oppression, and homophobia.. being bad. Just in case you forgot.

Wow, this is a very politically correct movie!

The only reason the filmmaker does not get an A+ for political correctness is he forgot to include a horrible, blatantly Christian character – bonus points if the character is a Catholic priest.

Although the villain does not mention Christ, he does spend some time talking about God. Perhaps we are to assume the villain is a Christian?

Many of you will like or already do like this film. I figure if the content in “Game of Thrones” and so many other intensely graphic shows and movies doesn’t piss you off, then not much will. Except possibly me.

Well.. it’s really no wonder “The Shape of Water” won best picture.

Life Inside and Outside a Box.

February 23, 2018

I don’t want to be in a box, because I want to be able to open boxes and look inside. I cannot do this while I’m in a box.

This thought is my paraphrase of a quote from Jordan B. Peterson, a psychologist and philosopher.

If I were strongly progressive, conservative, Christian, Buddhist, Pagan, etc., then I would have trouble peering into other boxes and examining the contents inside. My vision would be blocked by the insides, the walls, of whatever box I’d be in.

I was in a Christian box for over two decades, but had to exit that box for a variety of reasons.

I’ve jumped into other boxes in the past, but had to jump back out. I can’t handle being in a box.

There’s a serious, even terrible downside to not being in a box. Not being in a box makes for a very lonely existence.

There’s plenty of company inside a box.

To be honest, my life would probably be better if I were in a box. And liked being in a box.

My first statement of this post is not my full story. It is true, but only partially true.

The other part: I cannot be in a box, even if I try. And this, at times, really does not feel good.

I wonder if Jordan Peterson feels this way.


Jordan B. Peterson is a psychologist, career researcher, distinguished professor, and philosopher.

He is also my personal hero, and a guide for millions of people – leading us to meaning in this post-modern, nihilistic time.

Here is one of his lectures:


And here is his youtube channel:

Perhaps not the best way to prevent mass shootings..

February 18, 2018

I just read an article on facebook about a technique that may help prevent mass shootings.

What is this technique? Noticing those around you who are socially isolated, and befriending them.

Sounds great, right? If you become friends with them, they will not be socially isolated anymore.

After reading the article, it didn’t take me long to spot the major flaw of this technique.

Some people are difficult, destructive, even dangerous, and are better left alone – and observed from a safe distance.

I’ll give you a couple examples..

Back in college, I had a friend named Wendy, who was one of the nicest, most social people I ever met. She probably knew at least half the people on the campus of the community college we attended.

But she wasn’t too careful about who she talked to. Also, She was quite attractive, and always wore tight, sexy clothes.

Frankly, I’m surprised nothing seriously bad happened to her. She did end up with two guys that were following her around. But, she knew me and some other guys who were looking out for her. We didn’t even have to directly threaten the two guys who were starting to bother her. It helped that I’m 6’3″, my brother is 6 feet tall, and our friend Randy, though a little shorter than us, was stocky and a known martial artist.

What if Wendy didn’t have friends like us? She should have been more careful. Us guys, her friends, talked to her about that, and she learned from the experience. Not everyone is safe to talk to.

One other example, from a job I had many years ago..

There was a guy where I worked. He looked quite nuts – unkempt, wearing purposely bizarre clothes, reading dark poetry and horror novels, and hanging out by himself, all the time, avoiding everyone.

I thought I’d be nice to him, so I started talking with him. This woke him up. He was quite social after that. And this was not good. He was a genius at being a verbal bully – the sort of person who knows no one will likely hit him just for using words, and that he is better at using words to harm than anyone else. He tormented me and others for months, and was one of the main reasons I quit my job.

It didn’t help that he teamed up with the other socially isolated guy who worked during my shift. That guy, almost always silent, was far bigger than the first guy, (even bigger than me) and acted as a sort of bodyguard for him. The smaller guy kept harassing people. Especially after he found a protector.

Do I think he would have shot up our place of work if I hadn’t talked to him? I doubt it. Should I have left him alone? I think so. He would have kept to himself, and likely not bothered anyone.

Something else to consider – women should be especially careful about trying to befriend those who are socially isolated, especially if those people are men.

Even isolated women can be dangerous, or at least, unpleasant.

One woman at a cafe where I spent a lot of time at during the ’90’s turned out to be dangerous. I and the other regulars, who at first talked with her, left her alone because she was verbally mean. She didn’t like being left alone, and started hitting people at random. She slapped me in the back of the head a few times while I was climbing down some stairs. She got tired of being shunned, and eventually stopped going to the cafe.

Another example of a negative consequence of being in contact with an isolated woman..

Two people I know, a man and woman who were close, and appeared to be a couple though they were not, ended up with a female stalker. This woman was someone they tried to be nice to. She got a crush on the guy, and followed him and his female friend around for months. My friends got a restraining order. That helped. The woman gave up, and is probably stalking someone else now.

Befriending a socially isolated person is a great way to end up with a stalker, or worse.

Are all those who are socially isolated dangerous? No. I am somewhat socially isolated, and not dangerous (unless someone physically attacks me or a loved one – then yes, I’m as dangerous as the next person).

Sometimes I LIKE being socially isolated. I like to read, write, cook, listen to podcasts and music, study random subjects, play with my dog, and practice my ukulele. I spend most of my free time at home, and I am never bored. When I’m feeling lonely, I have people to talk to – so might the person who appears isolated.

Yes, this technique of trying to engage isolated people might be helpful, but it could also bring harm to one’s self and others. I know from experience.

guitar, cigar box guitar, bass, banjo, ukulele, guitalele, merlin, or mandolin? which to choose?

February 3, 2018

This is a brief introduction to several instruments. It is a post for those who have never tried a stringed instrument before, and are now trying to decide what to play. This post is also for those who have tried a stringed instrument, and feel like it might not be the right one for them.  I have tried all of these instruments. I have not played any stringed instruments with a bow, except for squeaking maddeningly for a few minutes on my friend’s violin, so I will not be writing about violins, cellos, etc.

I will briefly describe the instruments, and some positive attributes and disadvantages of each instrument which you might consider trying.  Also, I’ve included at least one video of each instrument being played well.

I do not make any money endorsing any products. Everyone has their favorites, and I have mine.

One other thing before you read any further.. You might be tempted to buy an instrument online. I recommend avoid doing this if possible. Best to go to a store, and get the feel of an instrument. Even if you buy the same model of guitar or whatever online, it won’t be the exact same instrument, and will therefore feel differently.

Oh yes, and be extremely careful about buying from people on craigslist, for two reasons.. 1. do you really want to walk into the house of a stranger? Better to meet in a public place if you can. 2. Don’t buy an instrument unless you have a friend or relative with you who already knows about the instrument you are interested in, and can spot a bad one.

The first part of the post I am writing as much as a note to myself as I am for others, but since there might be a few of you who are simultaneously (dammit I can never spell that word right – instead of trying four times, just googled it instead) ok then.. simultaneously insanely passionate about music AND suffering from severe attention deficit disorder (or in my case attention deficit hyper-activity disorder-combined type, so I was told) you might feel a strong desire to start learning more than one of these instruments at once.

DON’T !! !! !!

Yes, there are tons of multi-instrumentalists out there, and I know some, but I’m guessing they started on ONE instrument, became proficient at it, and THEN began work on learning another instrument.

Think about wanting to learn both Spanish and Japanese. Wouldn’t it be better to pick one than to start on both?

Yes, ok, it is a good idea to at least dabble a bit with several instruments, just as it is a good idea to check out language materials for both languages from your local library.

But then, make a decision. And stick with it for at least a little while. Give yourself some time.

If you are having trouble picking a stringed instrument, spend some time in a music store, or over at a friend’s or relative’s house if that person has more than one instrument, etc. Try different instruments, and different models of the same instrument before you buy.

And if you find yourself in a music store with unfriendly staff who don’t seem to want you to try out instruments, go to another music store if you have that option, or just don’t mind the staff.

Here are some reasons not to start learning more than one instrument:

String spacing. The space between strings on all these instruments is quite different from all the others. Even on a ukulele, there is more space in between the strings than there is on a guitar.

I’ve got a uke and a classical guitar in my room right now. I play both most nights, but this feels kinda awkward. I’ve spent lots of time on guitar already, without getting very far on it. I’m going to put away the guitar, and will concentrate on the uke, which I have just started to learn, but on which I am already making progress. (Yay!!)

Number of strings: Guitar – 6. Mandolins have 8 strings, but they are played like instruments with 4 strings – just as 12 string guitars are played like 6 string guitars.

Ukuleles and basses have four strings.

A guitalele (also called “guilelele,” depending on the brand) is, as you no doubt guessed, a cross between a uke and a guitar. It looks like a miniature guitar, and has 6 strings, but it is not tuned the same way as a guitar, and its four highest pitched strings are the same notes as on the ukulele, except that the G string is an octave lower than on the uke, If you don’t know what that means, that’s ok.

Actually.. I will explain octave – “oct-” meaning 8. Look at a piano keyboard, and put your finger on one of the white keys. Count to the left or the right 8 places.. just the white keys. Let’s say you start on a key that is a C note, and start moving toward the right – higher in pitch.. C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. The 8th key is also a C, just an octave higher in pitch.

The Seagull Merlin (I have a separate post on this one, but I’ll reintroduce it in this post too), is an instrument based on a mountain dulcimer, but can be played like a guitar. It has 4 strings, but two are very close together, so it is played like a 3 stringed instrument.

Cigar box guitars usually have 3 or 4 strings.

Most banjos have 5.

Tuning – The instruments are tuned differently! Only two exceptions – the notes on the 4 string bass guitar are the same as the four lowest notes on the guitar, just in a lower octave.

The other exception – the guitalele which I already described.

Actually, there is one more exception, if I remember correctly. The baritone ukulele is not tuned like the other size ukes – the soprano, concert, and tenor ukes are all tuned the same, usually, but the bari uke is not. That one has notes that.. I think are the 4 highest pitched notes on a guitar. If you are interested in ukulele, don’t start out on a baritone. You’ll have serious trouble finding any educational material relating to that instrument – except for maybe a few youtube videos.

Here’s an example of how a differently tuned instrument can throw you off..

If you switch from guitar to guitalele, the chord shapes (finger positions) will be the same, but the chords will be different. The guitar is tuned in E, and the guitalele is tuned in A. (These letters refer to musical keys. Each key has a certain set of notes that make up each key. Almost all the instruments, regardless of what key they are tuned in, can play music in all keys. The merlin and cigar box guitar are the exceptions).

You can play the same song with the same finger positions on both guitar and guitalele, however, the guitalele will sound like a guitar with a capo (a clamp put on the fretboard of a guitar to change the guitar tuning/key) placed at the 5th fret of the guitar.

It’s best to get used to one tuning. If you are going to pick two instruments to start at once (which you shouldn’t), then start on guitar and bass, since four of the same notes are found on both.

I’ll have a little section on each instrument in a moment, but first..

Here are notes on the strings of the various instruments:

Guitar tuning (standard tuning in E) : EADGBE

Bass (standard tuning in E) EADG

Cigar Box Guitar – usually tuned in open G.. 3 string: GDG, open D: DAD..

4 string CBG: open G: GDGB. Open D: DF#AD

But there are some variations.

You can likely tune your CBG either way. I bought mine in open G tuning. If you are unsure whether yours can be tuned differently, send in a question to your vendor. Lots of sellers of these instruments on ebay.

Uke – key of C: gCEA. The “g” is little because it is higher in pitch than the C or E. This makes playing awkward, especially at first, for those of us who have already learned how to play guitar, bass, mandolin or violin. Banjo players, however are used to this odd style of tuning, called re-entrant tuning.

Guitalele – key of A, due to the lowest two strings: ADGCEA

Mandolin tuning: (two strings for each note) GDAE – like on a violin.

Seagull Merlin – two models: Open D – DADD, Open G: GDGG. You cannot alter the tuning on your Merlin from D to G. You’ll break the strings. You’ll have to buy replacement strings in a different key, instead of trying to re-tune your Merlin. Some Merlin enthusiasts own one in D and one in G, so they don’t have to change the strings on one instrument. Merlins are not expensive, so for serious Merlin players, this is a practical choice.

Ok then.. a bit of info on the various instruments, and some great videos of each.


Banjos tend to have 5 strings, though you can get 4 string uke-banjos or 6 string banjo-guitars.

But if you want to start playing banjo, get a standard 5 string banjo.

I don’t know much about banjos, and have spent almost no time playing them, but here are some things to consider:

  1. You might find the banjo a bit awkward, especially at first, to play and hold. I have found it to be the most awkward of all – but you’ll get used to it. A bit tough compared to the guitar to play while sitting down, but again, with practice, no problem.
  2.  Unlike guitar, bass, and mandolin, the 5th string (the string closest to your head, when the instrument is held horizontally, unless you are left-handed – the string closest to the floor is the 1st string) is not the lowest pitched string. This can make playing single note lines more challenging then on the instruments I just mentioned. The ukulele shares this peculiarity called re-entrant tuning. Grrr.
  3.  You’ll likely be wearing plastic picks on thumb and fingers – but you’ll get used to these.
  4. Guitar teachers are everywhere – even if you live in a small town. Good luck finding a banjo teacher. Plenty of videos on youtube though.
  5. Not all that many music stores sell banjos, and those that do will likely have few to choose from.
  6.  A good beginner banjo might cost at least $300. I don’t know enough about banjos to give a solid recommendation on a variety of brands, but I did play an Ibanez banjo this past week that felt and sounded surprisingly good. I don’t remember what model it was. Price was close to $300, I think.

Difficulty-wise.. the verdict is not in. However, I just read part of an article, which you can find here: which you might find helpful,

Best thing about the banjo is it is tuned in such a way that when you play it without pressing down any strings, it already makes a chord. You can just slide one finger down the neck, barring all the strings, and there you go – lots of good sounding chords (called major chords) with just one finger. This is called “open” tuning. You can’t do that with mandolin, guitar (in standard tuning), bass, or uke. Merlins and cigar box guitars also have open tuning.

Disadvantages of banjo, besides those I already mentioned – if you want to be in a rock band, and play your favorite hits – unless you and your buddies want to get creative, you might have difficulty finding other people to jam with, since banjo is usually associated with bluegrass, americana and country music. Here’s one of the best banjo pickers. He’s actually the lead guy in a brilliant, unconventional jazz band, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. He’s also teamed up with Dave Matthews.


Just for fun.. for those of you who LOVE the U.S. version of “The Office,” here is Ed Helms talking about (but not playing) the banjo. (I have a clip of Andy and Dwight at the end of this post):


Alright then.. moving on..

Guitar.. so many people have become proficient learning guitar. It is probably by far the most commonly played instrument.

I struggled with this instrument for SO MANY YEARS!! Although I know a few hard rock and metal techniques on electric guitar, and can do some cool finger-picking on the classical guitar, I still can’t get through a song very well.

I don’t need to write much more about guitar really, except to suggest that if you really want to get serious about guitar, and can put up with some genuine pain for awhile, the best way to learn is to get a good acoustic guitar with steel strings. because steel strings are rougher on your fingers. This means playing them will hurt more than electric guitar strings – also steel but easier on the fingers – or classical guitar strings, which are mostly made of nylon – easier on the fingers.  Why would you want more pain? You will strengthen and toughen up your fingers faster. This type of acoustic is the most common.

The other type of acoustic guitar is the classical guitar. The neck is wider, the strings are easier to push down, and the sound of the instrument is softer than the steel string guitar. Many teachers of guitar classes in high schools and colleges insist that students use classical guitars in class. This is because some classical music will likely be taught, and because classical guitars are not as loud.

I recommend two brands for beginners, because of best quality for the price: Seagull or Yamaha. Ibanez and Fender make decent beginner guitars too. Best to spend at least $200. If you are renting an instrument, as part of a school music program, you might also come across a Takamine or Alvarez. These are likely to be good too.

These cheaper instruments will all be foreign-made  – most likely in Indonesia, or perhaps China. If you want to buy American, be prepared to spend $500 at the very least, and perhaps a lot more. Some major American acoustic brands are Martin, Taylor, and Gibson. Don’t worry, foreign-made usually doesn’t mean bad. I’ve owned a LOT of instruments, and most of them have been of good quality – and made in Indonesia.

If you can tough out playing a steel string acoustic, you will build finger strength, and build up your calluses quickly. But this will be tough, and it will hurt at first.

Find a teacher, or learn online if you can’t afford a teacher – but start out with the basics. Don’t try to use tablature (simplified sheet music with lines and numbers) and figure out your favorite songs right away. That’s what I did. This was a dumb move. I didn’t get around to learning the basics until some time had passed.

Far better to start out with basic chords and strum patters. Get fancy later.

Since there are millions of people who play guitar, I’d say don’t be discouraged by the difficulty, but if you’ve given it a year of serious work and have made almost no progress – time to change up. Don’t be dumb like me. Actually – I get fixated on things – a mental health issue I have..  still dealing with this.. have to keep reminding myself I’m pretty damn hopeless on this instrument, and I should be playing another.

Disadvantages.. finger pain, instrument can be a challenge – especially when you are first learning barre chords – chords that you have to use your index finger to “barre” all the strings, and the rest of the fingers for the different chord shapes. This is difficult. Every experienced guitarist remembers the time he or she was working on playing the barre F – the first barre chord taught.

Here’s one of my favorite acoustic guitar players, Johnny Butler. He’s from the Boise area, where I also live. I’ve heard him play live three times. He’s still gigging around here on occasion. He mainly plays a steel string acoustic guitar. This dude is awesome, and has a unique, percussive style of playing.


Cigar Box Guitar

I’ve owned both 3 and 4 string cigar box guitars. As you might guess, the number of strings affects the tone. The ones with 4 strings have a fuller sound, but not necessarily a better sound.

These are also tuned to an open chord, like the banjo and merlin – you can slide your fingers up and down the strings, or use a glass or metal slide that you wear on your finger (usually ring finger or pinky finger) – all the way down, and get chords all the way.

Fewer strings -easier to play than a regular guitar.. mostly.

Disadvantages.. less notes available to you – you won’t be able to play all your favorite songs on one of these.

Finding a teacher will be really tough. Loads of videos on youtube though.

Be careful.. some cigar box guitars are made with the strings so high off the fretboard (where you press on the strings) that you won’t be able to play the instrument using your fingers to fret the strings, you’ll be stuck using a slide only. These guitars are made this way on purpose.

There is a guy on ebay who uses the name weeklyhouse. He builds his guitars to have action (string height) low enough to play with either fingers or slide.

I don’t know about any other builders. If you are wondering about a cigar box guitar you’ve found online, send in a question.

Some independent music stores might even sell cigar box guitars made by local builders – but these stores are rare. You will likely have to buy a CBG online and hope for the best. Both of my weeklhouse CBG’s have been good. He’s built hundreds over the years – maybe even thousands.

If you love old-time blues, you will have a LOT of fun with a CBG!

Here’s a video of actor Jeff Daniels playing a song on CBG. Good fun!


If you decide to buy a cigar box guitar, and want some slides to use, I suggest buying a sampler from Blooze Bottles on ebay.

Weeklyhouse guitar auctions start out at $65 (usually) and shipping is around $25. Some builders charge a lot more.. sometimes CBG’s are built with electronics like those found on regular electric guitars.. but you’ll have to pay more for those.

Difficulty.. learning to play with a slide can be fun, and is not very difficult, but will require some practice. Playing with fingers – easier than with standard guitar, but you might have some trouble finding resources for fingered guitar chords on CBG. Most people use a slide.

A cigar box guitar is easier to learn than a standard guitar, but you’ll be able to play less songs on it. This is because of less strings, less frets, and the way the CBG is tuned. You are somewhat limited also if you are playing with a slide, because you won’t be fretting chords with your fingers – although some people who play slide manage to use a slide and fret some notes with their other fingers.

Bass Guitar

This one is a LOT easier on which to learn the basics than a standard guitar. Why? 1. Only 4 strings on most models (and almost all bass lines are played on 4 string basses). 2. You don’t have to play chords! Just one note at a time! How great is that?!

There are basses that have 5 or 6 strings. Almost no bass guitarists use these compared to those who use 4 string basses, and those who do tend to play extremely challenging music, like progressive metal or jazz. Start out on a four string, unless you are very ambitious, and your goal is to play really tough music.

If you are wondering if incredibly difficult music, such as jazz, can be played on a 4 string bass, the answer is yes. The late Jaco Pastorius, generally considered to have been the best bass guitarist ever, used a 4 string bass, and usually played astonishingly difficult music called jazz fusion. Another of my favorite jazz bassists, Avishai Cohen, also uses a 4 string bass (when he’s not playing an upright bass), and Victor Wooten, one of the best bassists currently living, sometimes uses a 4 string too.

If you want to learn a LOT more about bass guitars and related gear, etc., check my post “bass guitar buyers guide for beginners.” It is usually one of my top posts. You can find it also in the tag cloud, by clicking “music.”

My favorite bass for beginners – actually two models – they feel the same, but sound a bit different from each other: Ibanez GSR 180 (this one does not need a battery put in the back) and Ibanez GSR 200. The 200 model is commonly sold in stores, the 180 is not. The GSR has electronics which require a 9V battery to be put in the back. The 180 usually sells for $179 and the 200 for $199.

Some used models of GSR-200, those that were discontinued years ago, do not require a battery, and, in my opinion, sound even better than the newer GSR-200 model that requires a battery.

Why a battery? Some bass electronics are more complicated than others, and process electronic signals differently from basses with simpler electronics. It would take awhile to explain this in more detail. The basses without batteries are called “passive” basses because their pickups (electronics) have passive pickups. “Active” basses have pickups that are active – these require a battery.

If you do buy an active bass, make sure not to leave the instrument cable plugged into your bass! When the cable is plugged in, regardless of whether the bass is being played or not, the pickups are active, and the power of the battery is running out. Once the battery goes dead, you’ll get no sound from your bass, because there is no longer any electricity powering the active pickups.

Personally, I like the sound of passive pickups better, but you might feel differently. If you do get an active bass, don’t turn up the bass equalizer knob all the way up – you will likely cause your amp to make sounds you won’t like, and will eventually damage the amp’s speaker.

Besides Ibanez, Squier and Yamaha also make good beginner models, and cost less than $300.

Best amp? Go with a Fender Rumble. These come in varying sizes. The cheapest costs about $100, and will suit you well for practicing. Second choice would be Ampeg. Stay away from Guitar Center’s Acoustic brand. I love shopping at GC, but do NOT like their house brand of amps. They rattle. Poorly made.

Do NOT crank up the volume on your amp all the way, unless you want to soon buy another amp. Small practice amps are not meant for playing with bands, especially bands that have drummers. You’ll need a much larger and louder amp to play in a band. These amps cost more money. No point in buying a bigger amp if you haven’t yet learned how to play.

Disadvantages to learning bass – this is the only instrument on the list which you won’t sound good accompanying yourself while you sing, if you are playing by yourself. You’ll need to be part of a group. Why? Bassists don’t generally play chords. It doesn’t sound good singing at an open mic night, and playing bass, by yourself, because you will be playing one note at a time.

Other disadvantages – many people who teach bass are primarily guitar teachers. They’ll likely do an adequate job, so don’t really worry about this.. but if you find someone whose main instrument is bass, that is a plus.

Something you will likely notice:  limited selection of bass guitars, especially in smaller stores.

Another disadvantage.. so many basses are quite heavy. Ibanez models I already mentioned, and some of their others, being an exception.

To offset the weight, I recommend a leather, 3″ wide strap. Levy’s is a good brand, but I prefer Franklin straps. Unfortunately, these great leather straps might cost over $40. Worth it. But if you get a light bass, even an average guitar strap might be ok.

And lastly, bassists who do not also sing, are generally ignored by fans. Singers and guitarists attract the most women. Drummers, and especially bassists, are more often ignored, unless they also sing. There are exceptions of course, like Flea, from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who does not sing, usually, but who is still a rock legend.

Another of the most famous rock bassists is Steve Harris, from Iron Maiden. He’s the band’s founder, and writes a lot of their songs. Unlike music by most bands, the bass can very easily be heard on Iron Maiden’s albums.

Major advantage! Bass players are always in demand, and many bass players are not all that great. If you can get good at playing bass, tons of musicians will want you to be in their bands. Which is awesome.

For some inspiration on bass.. two videos.. one for you metalheads.. presenting the late, great Cliff Burton:

And here is a much softer song, by one of my favorite bands, Hooverphonic. The bass line is simple, but it drives the song more than most bass lines do. One of my favorite bass lines..

The bass you see in the video is a Longhorn by Danelectro. These basses sound awesome, but are a bit awkward to play, due to their shape, especially while sitting down while pracitcing – I  know, I tried one for quite awhile in a music shop – I found it too uncomfortable to play, and didn’t buy it. Also, these aren’t cheap. New ones are selling for $419. But damn, their tone is great. Also, they tend to be quite light, unlike a lot of basses.


I’ve just started playing the uke – been at it about two months, but I can already tell you it is definitely easier than learning guitar! But, as I am gradually finding out, not as easy as I first thought. Many of the chords are really really tough, in spite of, or maybe because of the instrument having 4 strings.

I’ve been working on chords, and strumming, and have applied some guitar finger-picking patterns to the uke.

Yes, the re-entrant tuning, which I mentioned earlier, is a bother when I am playing single notes as opposed to playing chords. This is something I either have to get used to, or I can buy a special set of uke strings, in which the G string is an octave lower than usual. The disadvantage to that is pretty much all learning material – books and online  – is for standard uke tuning.

I’ll stick with standard tuning, and put up with the G string being higher in pitch than the one next to it. This tuning sounds nice.

But yes..

Disadvantage – re-entrant tuning is not so fun for guitarists, but won’t be as much of an issue for you if the uke is your first stringed instrument

The uke has a far less full sound than guitar, not exactly great for hard rock and metal playing – although it is possible to play metal on a ukulele.

The sound is more high-pitched than a guitar. I have bad tinnitus – ringing in my ears – pretty much all the time I’m awake. Playing the uke bothers my tinnitus just a little sometimes, but the guitar, bass, CBG, and merlin do not.

Only four strings – you can’t do everything on a uke that you can on a guitar.. but almost..

You might enjoy this video..I sure did..  A classic metal song played on a ukulele!


It is even possible buy electric ukuleles. I don’t just mean acoustic-electric ukes – ukuleles with some electronics built in. No, I mean electric ukuleles that look like electric guitars. There is even one made by Epiphone that is shaped like a Les Paul guitar.

If you want to start out on uke, I suggest avoiding the smallest size, called soprano – like the ones you saw in the video above (as far as I can tell, those are soprano ukes). The next largest size, the concert, is a little easier to learn on – it is a tad bigger, and the spaces in between the frets are a little wider.

The concert-size uke feels fine to me, for the most part, except when playing some chords that require three fingers on strings in the same fret. Like this E chord:

That one is tricky for me, on my concert uke. I’d probably find the tenor size easier to play, but I like the uke I have, and don’t want to spend any more money on instruments.

I previously owned a soprano uke, but the spaces in between frets were too narrow. I sold it to a woman, who has shorter, thinner fingers than I have.

Some people really do like a soprano uke though.. try one if you feel like it.

Soprano, Concert, and Tenor ukes are all tuned the same. I highly recommend you NOT start out on a baritone ukulele. It is much larger than the others, and also tuned differently from all the others.

Tenor ukes, as you might have guessed, are bigger than soprano and concert ukuleles. Here is uke virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro performing on a tenor uke – over 15 million views so far!

Sorry, I don’t know much about ukulele brands. I can just tell you I am happy with the one I bought, which looks like this:


There are two models made by Mitchell, Guitar Center’s house brand. The one I bought looks more like a guitar than a uke, the other looks less fancy, and like a typical ukulele. Fancy looks aren’t why I bought this one though, I like how it sounds. I haven’t tried the other one. It is a newer model, and was released after I bought mine. But I do like how this one looks.

I tried several ukes in the $99 price range. I felt this one was by far the best.. most well-made. I found this one used at a pawn shop for $65. Score!!

The tuners on it aren’t the greatest. If you spend more money on a uke (you can even spend thousands of dollars if you want to), you will likely be buying one with better tuners.

Here is a video of 9 tenor ukes that are fairly cheap. I’m guessing these manufacturers probably make concert-size ukes too. These instruments will be made in Indonesia, mostly, or perhaps China. If you want one made in Hawaii, be prepared to pay a LOT more money. Don’t worry, Asian-made doesn’t have to mean bad. Almost all instruments I’ve owned – guitars, basses, my uke, have been made in Indonesia, and I’ve not been disappointed with any of these.

This next section is for folks in the Boise area.. scroll down a bit if you don’t live around here.

I haven’t been to many music stores in the Boise area, but I have visited a few. If you live in the area, and want to head out and try some ukes, you will find a few models at Guitar Center. And the prices will be good.

You might find some at Pawn 1 on Maple Grove and Overland. That’s where I bought mine. Usually though, there will be only one or two decent ukuleles for sale there, and the rest will be brightly colored soprano ukes, which look like toys.

The Maple Grove Pawn 1 location is the only pawn shop I’ve found that has a section of a store converted into a music shop, and a guy working there who really knows his gear. His name is Chris. He is mostly bald, and of average height. Nice guy. I’ve bought a lot of gear from him. Most pawn shops are not so dedicated to selling musical instruments. You are not as likely to find quality instruments in the other pawn shops, I’m guessing. Not all the instruments at Maple Grove Pawn 1 are of good quality, of course, but many are.

Dorsey Music, on north State Street: last time I was there, this store had a very good selection of ukuleles. Two problems with Dorsey Music – higher prices than some stores, and there might still be a creepy sales guy working there – big dude with long permed hair, probably wearing a sleeveless t-shirt and silly-lookig cowboy hat. He likes to go for the hard sale. But hey, if you’ve got the money, and have the patience to deal with a sales person you might not like, then Dorsey is a good place to go. The other people working at Dorsey seemed a bit inattentive at times, but were otherwise nice. These other people I talked with – mostly older folks, dressed classy. But I haven’t been to that store since 2016.

Some of the cheapest concert ukes at Dorsey’s were made by a company called Peavey. Peavey has a long history of making amps, PA systems, and instruments. Apart from their Eddy Van Halen signature line of guitars (EVH is selling guitars made by Fender these days though), Peavey instruments, in my experience, have not exactly been great. I didn’t like the Peavey concert ukes at Dorsey’s – too flimsy, wood too thin. I’d say, go for another brand. You’ll find others at that store.

Oh yes, I just remembered.. Dorsey’s likely sells Seagull Merlins. I saw two there last time I popped by.

Doyle’s Broadway Music: I haven’t been there in many years. I’m guessing mainly used gear is sold there. But there might be some new ukes, and buying a used uke is not necessarily a bad idea. I bought mine used from Pawn 1. You might want to check out that store. There was a woman working at the store when I was there – not friendly at times. However, Doyle is very nice. His shop is on Broadway Ave.

Gigs Music on Orchard, just past Emerald – I’ve gone there a lot. Not once found anything I wanted to buy there, but I know other people who love that store and have made purchases there. The main thing I’ve noticed is that the place sometimes has almost no inventory. I’ve never seen ukuleles there. Some of their acoustic and electric guitars have been interesting at least, and occasionally, I’ve seen some cigar box guitars from local builders. But no ukes.

If you want work done on an instrument, I hear the proprietor, Andy, is a good tech, and charges less than the techs at Guitar Center. Actually, I don’t know if Andy works on ukes. I’m guessing he does, or can.

One unpleasant thing about Gigs – sometimes one or more of the employees will smoke inside the store. I’ve only noticed this a few times though.

I have not been to Welch’s Music or Dunkley’s Music, so I can’t comment on those, except that I know those stores are similar to Dorsey’s – not only selling electric guitars, ukes, etc. but also selling pianos and renting band instruments to school kids. All these stores have sales from time to time, so you might get a good price on a uke. Maybe.


This is a fun instrument!  I’m enjoying it. But yes, it is more of a challenge to learn than I thought.

The book I am starting out with is called Ukulele: Complete Edition, by Greg Horne and Shana Aisenberg. It comes with a CD. It covers a lot more than beginner books, but is more expensive – $27.  Some beginner books are cheaper. Some books, like the one I bought, include a CD, others, a DVD, or.. just a book.

There are probably millions of uke videos on youtube. I’ve not chosen a main youtube uke teacher yet.

I recently found an excellent app for learning ukulele, called Ukulele Toolkit. I use mac products. I don’t know if this is available for Android phones and tablets.

It is great though – tons of songs to download, recorded, backing tracks that can be customized in several different ways, transposing (putting songs into different keys) scales, chords, and more features. I use it everyday.

Here’s a picture of one of the functions from the app, showing chords used and then the chord progression. If you look closely at the picture, you will no doubt realize that some of these ukulele chords are.. pretty tough. I had thought mandolin chords were all more difficult, and that there weren’t that many challenging chords on the uke. I was wrong. Keep this in mind if you are trying to decide between mandolin or uke. The nice thing about the uke – strings are easier to push down, being nylon, not steel, and there are 4 strings, not 8.

I don’t know if you’ll be able to find a ukulele teacher in your town. Ask around if you know uke players – maybe one of them can teach you. Maybe check craigslist. Sometimes community education programs offer beginning ukulele classes. You might want to look into that.

There is probably one such class still being offered in the city where I’m from, Modesto, CA, but here in Boise – a uke group for experienced players – but no beginners group or community ed. class. That’s ok, I am learning on my own.

Here’s a performance by a community ed. class for beginners in Modesto, CA. I was in the audience, and made the video. It was a fun night.

One last thing to consider regarding the ukulele: Some people, maybe most, prefer to play the traditional way, without using a strap. I don’t. I found trying to hold and play the uke at the same time to be too awkward, and had a strap button installed on the back of the instrument. A tech at a music store did this. I’m not exactly great with power tools.

I bought a ukulele strap and a strap adapter. A strap adapter is needed to attach the strap to the headstock – a piece of string or shoe lace will work,  but I like the look of a leather strap adapter.

I bought a strap and strap adapter on – great site –  the items being sold are made by individuals or small businesses mostly, and you’ll find unique stuff there that you won’t anywhere else. There are factory made ukulele straps, I’m guessing, but I wanted something unique. The woman who made the strap I bought is named Martha Crow. I bought a great guitar strap from her too.

Much easier and more fun to play with a strap attached to the uke, I think. Also, some playing styles and techniques aren’t possible when not using a strap. Even Jake Shimabukuro uses a strap, just a different kind. Mine is a guitar-stye strap, just narrower than a guitar strap – only 1″ wide – and works great.


Looks like a miniature guitar. You can play it like a guitar, but as I mentioned earlier, it is tuned in A, not E, so a chord, for example, a G chord on the guitar will be a C chord on the guitalele, even though your fingers are in the shape of a G chord.

Guitaleles are fun, much more portable than standard-size guitars, and sound nice, but there really isn’t a point in starting out on one of these – if this is your first stringed instrument.

If you do buy a guitalele, also called a guilele, I’d say buy a Yamaha.These sell for about $100.  I like the one I bought. I purchased it because I could already play guitar a little – not well – but enough to have some fun on the guitalele. However, since I couldn’t play the guitar well, I couldn’t play the guitalele well either, and eventually sold it. Later, I bought a concert-size uke instead.

For guitarists.. hey.. you already know how to play the guitalele! Just remember it is in a different key. If jamming with guitar slinging buddies, make sure they use a capo on the 5th fret!

Here is an awesome performance on guitalele:


These really do sound nice. You are going to have to spend more on a beginner model to get a decent one than you would for a ukulele, as far as I can tell. For example, I like my Mitchell uke ($99.99 new), but do not like the Mitchell basic model mandolin. And the Mitchell mandolin costs at least $50 more than the Mitchell ukes.

Best starter model mandolin that I have tried so far is The Loar, but it will likely cost you around $300. This one felt better built than the others I tried, which were made by Mitchell, Epiphone, Fender, Gretsch, and Ibanez. The Gretsch New Yorker G9300 (I think that was the model) was pretty good though. Pretty close in price too. Advantage: Loar.

Mandolins come in 2 shapes – A style and F style. The Loar I tried was an F-style. The two styles do sound a tiny bit different from each other. I don’t know enough about these instruments to recommend a style for you.

There are some other cheap models, such as those made by Ibanez, Epiphone, or Kentucky, which might be alright to start on, if you want to spend a bit less money than what The Loar costs.

As with starter guitars, basses, etc., these instruments will be foreign-made too – from Indonesia or China.

Disadvantages of mandolin.. difficulty level.. the neck is very narrow and very curved – narrow like the neck on a uke, but much more curved – making fretting the strings difficult. Some of chords are really tough too. I got frustrated with my mandolin very quickly.

It was a decent instrument. A local luthier (stringed instrument builder) made some mandolins from kits and sold them cheap. The problem wasn’t the instrument, I just didn’t like the feel of the neck, combined with the challenge of the chords, so I sold the mandolin.

You will need more finger strength to play this than play a uke. The strings are steel, and you’ll have to fret two very close together strings at a time. Also, I’m not aware of anyone who plays the mandolin finger-style – you’ll be playing with a pick.

I like playing finger-style, and that is a big reason I am learning uke instead of mandolin. I don’t want to bother with a pick.

Ukes can’t be heard very well when jamming with a band though, unless you can plug your uke into an amp and crank that amp up. Mandolins have a far more bright and punchy sound. They go nicely with guitar and other instruments, and can easily be heard without amplification.

Mandolin teachers might be hard to find. Check craigslist, or maybe find a cafe in your town where there are open mic nights – a mandolin player might show up. Lots of videos on youtube, and books and DVD’s are available in stores and online.

Here is some inspiration..


Seagull Merlin

I’ve got a separate post on this one.. and it, like my bass guitar post, is among my most popular.

Here is an introduction to the instrument (watch the little dog bobbing his head – he keeps good time!):



You are vastly limited by having only 3 strings (4 but two are played together) and only a few frets. Yes, there is a surprising amount of songs you CAN play on this instrument, but this is the only one I’m mentioning in this post besides the cigar box guitar that you cannot play music in all keys. For example, there isn’t even a “C” note on the Merlin tuned in open G.

There is a guy on youtube selling Merlin songbooks, but these might be the only ones available for purchase.

If you want tutorial videos, I think the best teacher on youtube is:

This is a very easy instrument to learn, and it is hard to play a wrong note. It is fun, but not the most practical instrument to start on, in my opinion. Better to start with guitar, mandolin, or ukulele. You can play in all keys on those instruments, and accompany yourself well when playing alone.

Seagull is the name of the brand. Merlins sell for around $130.. sometimes cheaper. I bought a new one from Elderly Instruments online. Sometimes they offer free shipping, sometimes not. I have also seen these in music stores. The key of D Merlin is the more common model. If you don’t know which key one is in, just ask. They are listed by key online.

I had one of these for awhile, but felt too limited. I still wanted an instrument that was easier to learn than guitar, and smaller and more portable, but could play songs in all keys, so I bought a uke. I still like the Merlin though. It sounds great.

One other thing I should mention.. the neck is quite curved, even worse than the mandolin, and felt quite awkward at first.

Which is right for you?

Before I get to that.. I want mention a type of instrument tuner is best, and that is a little tuner that you can clip on to the headstock (where the tuners are) of your instrument. Snark is the main maker of this type of tuner, but there are others. These and all tuners can be used for all stringed instruments that I’ve mentioned. Prices vary on these tuners.. between $10 and $30. I’m guessing the more expensive ones are more precise.

Only problem with these tuners is they can be easily lost, due to their small size. I still haven’t found mine, and am using a larger tuner.

Ok then.. which instrument is the right one for you?

The vast majority of people who play a stringed instrument start out on guitar.

But, if you feel passionate about another instrument, go for that one instead.

For example, you might naturally, when you listen to music, pay attention to the bass line, especially if you are listening to funk music, like James Brown or Sly and the Family Stone, or are listening to wild hard rock bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Faith No More (one of my favorites), or Iron Maiden.

Maybe you are blown away by Jake Shimabukuro, or love that song “I’m Yours,” by Jason Mraz. (This is going to be the first song I’ll learn). You might want to start out on a uke.

If you love Nickel Creek (the main band Chris Thile is in), then mandolin is your thing.

If you love bluegrass, or are a fan of the US version of “The Office,” (one of my favorite shows..ok.. one more video of Ed Helms, as Andy, and Rainn Wilson as Dwight..)


or comedian Steve Martin (who is an ace banjo player) or Kermit the Frog (yes, I’m a Muppet fan) – you might be inspired to play the banjo.

If you mostly just want to play old-time blues, on an instrument most people have not seen, heard, or heard of, go for a cigar box guitar.

If you want something easy that you can play some songs on, and sound great almost instantly, try the Merlin.

Whatever floats your boat.. but if you want to play an instrument that you can use to play songs in all keys, is versatile, and accompany yourself, I’d say go for a guitar, mandolin, or a ukulele.

Hope this post has helped!

Now go play!

LGBT, Feminism, and the Attack on Traditional Masculinity and Free Speech.

January 28, 2018

This is the most controversial post I have written. I originally wrote this on facebook, but have decided to put it on my blog as well.

Before you choose to comment, please read everything I have written. This will take some time.

I have spent over four hours working on this post. I don’t just take a few seconds to put up a meme. I think for a long time, then work very very hard to communicate my ideas.

If you’ve chosen to read all of what I’ve written, please think awhile about what you have read before writing your response. Thank you.

Secondly, despite how you might feel about anything or everything I’ve written in this post, I do not hate anyone.

I have noticed a noose, and it is tightening. Gradually, but hopefully not inexorably.

What is this noose? It is the systematic strangulation of free speech. It is the intentional elimination of dissent.

Many many years ago, a good friend of my mom’s said that if the people who were most vociferously preaching tolerance came to power, there would be less and less tolerance.

And mom’s friend was right.

Some of you don’t even understand the meaning of the word “tolerance.” It means putting up with something you don’t like. It means letting other voices be heard, even if you don’t like what those voices are saying.

We have entered an era of Orwellian double-speak. So many of those preaching tolerance really want conformity. By force of law or persecution if necessary.

I feel that in the face of such intolerance, my taking a controversial stance on various issues is more than justified.

I have for months put off writing what I about to write because of fear of retaliation from some of those on the far left. I am, by nature, a timid person who avoids confrontation.

I realize and accept that many progressives are well-meaning people, and, no matter what I write, these people are not likely to wish me harm, even if I offend them. But there are others out there who I am concerned about.

Also, I don’t want to seem intolerant or hateful. I don’t want to make anyone upset. I’ve so often felt I’d just rather let things go then challenge the beliefs of anyone, no matter how often those beliefs are plastered all over facebook, and spread constantly in so many forms of media.. TV, radio, film, newspapers and magazines. There is a brutally conscious effort to get all of us to think the same way, and to to accept the same “truth.”

I had set a goal for myself to keep my posts apolitical so that everyone can enjoy them. I am not an activist. But I feel it is time to finally write how I feel, even though I risk criticism and abuse. Even though I feel nervous and uncomfortable writing this.. doing such a thing that is against my nature.

Sometimes people don’t find their courage until they are pushed into a corner. Courage is being scared to do something, and doing it anyway. I feel like I have been in a corner for far too long.

It is my turn now to share how I feel and what I believe, no matter how much it may bother you.

LGBT and feminism.. Let me start with LGBT issues..

I am not a religious person. I do not even define myself as a conservative. I am a moderate, although, to be honest, I find myself to be more conservative these days, since so many people have become extremely liberal.

I am neither a Republican, nor a Democrat. I could not stand either Hillary or Trump, but Trump scared me just a bit more. Even though I was and still am against some of what Hillary stood for, I voted for her.

Nevertheless.. I still have some counter-culture opinions. I find it ironic and even surreal that the opinions I am about to share are counter-culture. How things have changed.

Straight vs. LGBT parenting..

You have been told, and probably believe, that, in general, homosexual parents are just as good as heterosexual parents.

I would argue that there is something called objective truth, and that nature has given us a template for the ideal family unit.

It takes a man and a woman to create a child.

To be crude, but frank.. if a naked man and a naked woman face each other, it will be obvious that, between his legs, the man has a pole, and between her legs, the woman has a complimentary hole. The pole goes in the hole. And procreation can happen. That is nature’s way.

And since I’m on the subject of anatomy, the structure of the vagina – muscles and tissues etc. is obviously meant by nature for penetration.

The anus, however, is designed by nature very differently. The tissues rip much more easily, the muscle structure is different, etc. The anus is not meant for penetration.

Why am I bringing up anatomy? To show you the way of nature, which all of you know, but so many of you wish to ignore, and even loudly denounce and deny.

Let us consider two couples.. The first couple is a highly functioning, mentally stable, compassionate heterosexual couple. The second is a homosexual couple made up of two people who are just as highly functional, mentally stable and compassionate as the heterosexual couple.

It is my belief that the heterosexual couple will make superior parents, because this is nature’s way.. the masculine and the feminine coming together to make and raise life.

Of course, if the two people in the heterosexual couple are abusive and psychotic, and the homosexual couple is kind and loving, the homosexual couple would be the superior parents.

But, the ideal is a heterosexual couple.

Now.. on to gay marriage. I am not against gay marriage being legal. Though – full disclosure..

When I was living in California, in 2008, I voted against gay marriage. I was going to not vote at all, and let things be. In years past, I’d had a great number of gay, lesbian, and bisexual friends, acquaintances and co-workers (I only met one transgender person). I got along well with them. I wasn’t going to vote either way, even though I found myself to be somewhat conservative in regards to this issue.

What changed my mind? Why did I vote against gay marriage?

Three reasons:

1. Back when I was living in California, a decade ago, there appeared on the ballot something called Proposition 8. The goal of this ballot measure was to ban gay marriage in California.

My parents asked me to put up a sign in the front yard, supporting Proposition 8 – a vote for Prop 8 was a vote against gay marriage – confusing.. I know.

I put up the pro-Prop 8 sign because they asked me to, and I was feeling somewhat ambivalent. Somebody stole the sign off the lawn. Trespassing and theft.

There were MANY anti-Prop 8 signs all over town. I would not dream of tearing down any of those signs. I believe in equal right to free speech. But someone stole the sign in our yard.

2. There were newscasters at both the pro- and anti- Prop 8 headquarters. The people in the pro-prop 8 group were respectful and civil. The people at the anti-Prop 8 headquarters were anything but. Homosexual couples kept jumping in front of the camera, disturbing the broadcast, making out and practically taking off each other’s clothes on live television. This kept happening, on multiple broadcasts, during different days and nights. I didn’t like that.

3. My parents and one of my aunts are Catholic converts. Although there are millions of very liberal Catholics, the Catholic church is and always has been against gay marriage and very much in favor of traditional families.

At the parish where my relatives attended mass, there were many pro-Prop 8 signs – supporting the ban against gay marriage.

One Sunday, after mass, a man tore out many of these signs, and threw them over the wall of the cloistered convent where the nuns lived. This is a terribly disrespectful thing to do. The man then proceeded to start a fist fight with a another man who was verbally confronting him.

(By the way, Prop 8 passed, gay marriage was banned in California, but the measure was later ruled unconstitutional. What’s the point in having something on a ballot if a judge can overturn it?)

These three things pushed me over the edge. Yes, I know.. there were many thousands of LGBT and straight people who were not only in favor of gay marriage, but who were kind, well-behaved people. But even so, these three things were too much for me. I left my home, and I cast my vote against gay marriage.

Why did I later choose to be in favor of the legalization of gay marriage? I know very little about the law, but after much thinking, I found myself to be of the opinion that it was likely that banning gay marriage was unconstitutional.

I also eventually supported the choice to make gay marriage legal in all 50 states. Why? It is insane for a marriage to be legal in one state, and null and void in another. So, I supported the federal decision.

How do I personally feel about gay marriage, and homosexuality in general?

I have always felt homosexuality to be wrong. Not wrong in the sense of it being sin, an abomination, or anything like that. I don’t believe in “sin,” and decades ago found my belief in the Judeo-Christian God to be unsustainable. I have already shared my thoughts about the nature of God in a previous post, and won’t get into all that now.

No, I mean wrong in that I feel and have felt that it goes against nature, and how the human body and sex and procreation work. This is not so much a moral judgement as an observation. And when I use the word “nature,” I am talking about objective nature, natural law, not subjective nature.

By subjective nature, I mean a person’s individual nature. Yes, some individuals are naturally gay, through no fault of their own. But I can’t help but think something went wrong.. in the womb or.. I don’t know.

It has been said that 10% of the human population is not heterosexual. I don’t know if that figure is accurate. It has also been said that 10% of the animal kingdom is homosexual. Scientists are definitely not in agreement on this.

Does my thinking that homosexuality is an abnormality make me a bad person? No. I do not act on my thoughts. I do not advocate discrimination against homosexual persons in the work place or the housing market, etc., and, as I wrote earlier, I am in favor of keeping gay marriage legal.

I am also in favor of keeping the lines of communication between me, LGBT people, and their supporters, open, if that is what they want.

But I feel the way I feel, even though some of my closest friends, and some of the people I’ve most respected have been gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals. I’ve never told them how I felt, because I did not want them to feel alienated, and I wanted to stay friends.

So why am I sharing all this now?

Because so many people do not want me to be able to share how I feel. I am not taking revenge against anyone. This is a defensive act.

The political climate has shifted dramatically and even drastically since the beginning of the new millennium. Free speech is under attack. Every day.

I would now like to address the issue of transgenderism.

I am returning to objective reality vs. subjective reality.

You can’t be any gender you want just by wishing it, or by having things done to your body.

The VAST majority of people ever born have been born either male or female – either having a penis and testicles, or having a vagina. In EXTREMELY rare cases, babies have been born with genitalia of both sexes. The parents have had to choose what gender their child would be, and the doctors would perform a surgery so that the child would be one gender, not another.

As for everyone else.. born either male or female.

There is something called Gender Identity Disorder. The keyword is DISORDER.

Meaning.. something is wrong.

I have sympathy for people suffering this disorder. It must be beyond horrible. However, I will not be an enabler, and encourage people to be delusional and to act on their delusion.

Most of you would likely feel that it would be immoral to encourage a schizophrenic person with a Christ fixation to go around dressed as Jesus, argue with Jewish religious leaders, and try to nail himself to a cross.

I think it is also wrong to encourage someone who is delusional about the reality of his or her gender. A man who feels like he is a woman is still a man. A woman who feels like she is a man is still a woman.

Some people go so far as to have their bodies mutilated.. what is euphemistically called “sexual re-assignment surgery.”

I call breast removal that is not done to prevent cancer, but is instead done because a woman is suffering from GID to be mutilation. I feel the same way about a man who has his penis and testicles removed.

There can be no more obvious a sign of disorder than this.

I continue to be shocked that so many people support transgender people in their delusion. I think this is terribly wrong, and should not be celebrated. It’s a psycho-sexual disorder.

Do I hate transgender people? No. But they need serious psychological help, not to be thrown parades, nor told what they are choosing to do or have done to themselves is wonderful or courageous.

Some parents are even going to far as to allow their young children to receive estrogen or testosterone shots, and to try to psychologically condition their children to be the opposite gender of what the kids actually are.

I will not call a woman who thinks she is a man “he,” nor will I call a man who thinks he is a woman “she.”

I am against transgender people serving in the military.

Many years ago, I was interested in joining the Navy, but was turned away because for some years I was on anti-depressants. I was rejected simply because I’d suffered from depression, but people with a far more serious disorder are being welcomed in?

Are we to allow men to wear female dress uniforms and lodge in the barracks of women? Are we to allow women to wear male dress uniforms and lodge in the barracks of men?

Also, some transgender people are joining the military so the military will pay for sexual re-assignment surgery. I do not approve of this use of taxpayer dollars.

Transgender bathrooms..

Here is why I think it is horribly stupid and dangerous to let people use whatever bathroom they wish.

1. Men who are sexual predators will use this law to put on dresses, hang out in women’s restrooms and locker rooms and wait around to prey upon women and girls.

2. Women pretending to be men, even those who have had their breasts removed and who look like men, are at serious risk of being abused and even raped by men. I think it would be far safer for women who think they are men to avoid men’s restrooms and locker rooms.

Dress codes.. I do not think it discriminatory for men at places of work with a professional dress code to be expected to dress like men and women to dress like women. People dressing like they are of the opposite gender will distract others. I do not think this is professional, nor is it proper workplace etiquette. The same rules should apply to all people, regardless of who or what they think they are.

On to my last subject.. feminism.

Some aspects of feminism are very good. For example, yes, I believe women should have the right to vote, and should get paid the same for the same work, if they are putting in the same amount and quality of work as men.

But so many feminists have gone crazy. So much so that millions of women willingly put on pink knit caps shaped like vaginas. These are called “pussy hats.” I am not making this up. Classy.

If I were to walk around wearing a hat with foam cock and balls attached to it, I would not only offend people, I would be arrested.

Do I want to wear such a hat? No. I have self-respect, and do not wish to offend others.

I understand that women want to promote vaginas as symbol of female empowerment, but crowds of women with giant vaginas on their heads look like lunatics to me.

That is just one example of feminism gone wrong, and isn’t something to be seriously concerned about.

What is immeasurably worse is the concentrated and very strategic efforts on the part of many women to destroy any and all traditionally male roles in society.

Women are pushing hard to get involved in the skilled trades, such as construction and electrical work, any form of mechanics or engineering.

I have no problem with women doing any of these jobs if they are just trying to make a living. I DO have a problem with women getting into these jobs with the intention of alienating men.

I also STRONGLY object to women being allowed on the front lines of combat. It should be blatantly obvious to everyone that men have a killer instinct that the vast majority of women do not possess.

The vast majority of homicides in the world have been and are committed by men. Yes, women can kill. Yes, some rare women can be incredibly effective fighters, but in general, I do not think women are nearly as psychologically or even physically suited to killing as men are.

Also, there is already an epidemic of sexual harassment and assault in the military. So many women are treated terribly by men. (Men don’t like being pushed out of their traditional roles, and some few of them act in very bad ways. I’m not saying this is right, I’m just saying this happens). This will get FAR worse if women are fighting in combat alongside men.

A third reason why women should not be in combat – if they are taken as POW’s, they will not only be tortured as men are tortured, but the women will also be constantly gang-raped. Men are not likely to be raped while imprisoned, but women are.

There is one other way women are trying to alienate heterosexual men. These women do so by promoting gay and transgender lifestyles with astonishing ferocity. They know that by doing this they are alienating many many heterosexual men.

Most heterosexual men are naturally somewhat, at the very least slightly uncomfortable with homosexual and bisexual men, and even more uncomfortable with men who are trying to be women.. dressing up as women, taking on female names, having their anatomy altered, etc.

Women are more sexual fluid than men are. Women are much more likely to have had at least one same sex experience than men. I think that’s why women are more comfortably with homosexuality and transgenderism.

I’m not making this stuff up. I spent seven years in college. A great deal of that time I was studying psychology and sociology.

What are the effects of women destroying the traditional, societal roles of men?

So many men are just checking out of reality.. abandoning their lives.. refusing to be responsible husbands and fathers, retreating into their man caves, getting lost in sports and violent TV shows, video games and porn. They feel disparaged and lost, like they have no place, no value, no role anymore.

So many men are discouraged, demoralized, alienated. Some feel so bad they are even becoming and have become dangerous.

I think the calculated destruction of men has lead to more domestic abuse, religious radicalization (Islam is the most masculine religion) and has something to do with the marked increase in mass shootings. Mass shootings, with only one recent exception – the killings by a Muslim couple in California – all the rest of the mass shootings have been committed by men.

And I think things will get worse.

Why are so many women trying to eradicate even the notion of traditional families? Maybe some women can answer that question. I’m guessing they are so sick of patriarchy in any and all forms.. but that is only partly why.. other than that, I don’t know.

What are two of the main things the women who take part in marches want?

Unrestricted abortion rights, and promotion of the LGBT community.

Abortion destroys tiny lives, and LGBT families are promoted aggressively in part to break down the model of the traditional family.

There is something only a woman can do, and that is being a mother. But the women who most fully commit to motherhood – those who choose to be stay-at-home moms (those who are financially able to do so), are so often denigrated by other women.

The most noble and most beneficial thing a woman can do is raise good and responsible children. I know not all women are capable of this, and I tend to lean pro-choice sometimes, in part because of this.

I accept that I have conflicting feelings about abortion, and that a very good case can be made for keeping abortion legal. But I am for some restrictions, and I take abortion very very seriously.

I also think Planned Parenthood is a truly evil organization. It was started by a woman named Margaret Sanger, who was a Nazi sympathizer and diehard racist. Also, Planned Parenthood traffics in body parts of aborted fetuses. The organization might not make a profit on the body parts, but it certainly distributes them for various purposes. Does this not trouble you?

If this does not bother you, then why are you troubled by such things as genocide in Africa, and the Nazi Holocaust?

Why are women so astonishingly insensitive about abortion? Don’t they understand what they are doing?

I guess this is what so many women want: Societal upheaval, the right to terminate the lives within them, and sex without consequence (sex without consequence is impossible, by the way).

Do I hate women? Certainly not. Am I troubled and even greatly upset by things that some women are saying and doing? Absolutely. Some women, in the name of progress, are bringing about a great deal of destruction, even if they don’t know that is what they are doing.

Even though I have yet more on my mind, I think I will stop here.

I hope you have realized that I have given all these things a great deal of thought, and that I care deeply about life in this country and the world.

Lastly, I care greatly about free speech. We cannot truly have diversity without disagreement.

We cannot have democracy if people are silenced.

I finally just had to sit down and write. While I still have the right to do so.


I will respond to any genuine comment, but I ask that if you disagree with me, please present your case.

I will not respond to any insults or abuse.

Lastly, please realize that you may be one of the people who has made me feel like I’ve been pushed into a corner because of all your far left rhetoric and memes that you have posted here on facebook.

I also realize you have posted what you have because you’ve felt marginalized and pushed in a corner by heterosexual men, traditional gender roles, societal norms and so forth.

But the pendulum has swung too far. I am not only responding to those in the media, but am responding to you as well.

I too have a voice.