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Monday, December 31, 2012

Maine's Bluegrass Band NEVAH in concert in 3D

Maine's Progressive Bluegrass Band in glorious 3D - sort of - will be in concert January 26th

For further information please contact us:

or contact the Next Generation Theatre: 207-989-7100

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Bluegrass Band NEVAH Cabin Fevah Relievah 2

Maine's NEVAH Band in Concert
 – January 26th, 2013 at 7:30 PM –
Appearing at the 
in Brewer, Maine

– See the poster below for further details or contact us: – 

Maine's Bluegrass, Newgrass, Country, Prograssabilly Band in Concert

Thursday, December 27, 2012

NEVAH Bluegrass Happy Holidays

To all our Fans in NEVAHLAND … 
we wish you a very 
Happy and Healthy Holiday Season!

Here's a link to a NEVAH Holiday Animation … 
Good Things Come Gift Wrapped

Friday, December 21, 2012

Main Street Music Studios in Bangor Maine - NEVAH - Photos #2

NEVAH, Maine's Bluegrass, Newgrass,  Country, Prograssabilly band … has been to Main Street Music Studios for our second go round this last past Thursday - December 2oth. I've got a couple of new pictures to show you from Dicks handy Nikon camera taken that night.

NEVAH at Main Street Studios - (day 2)
Ed, Phil, Larry, Dick, Hal, Richard

We were very excited because Richard was able to lay down all of his tasty Mandolin lead, fill and chop tracks for each song while Ed recorded a couple of sweet flute lines to compliment some of the tunes. Then Richard gave us some of his deep bass vocals on a couple of tracks and Ed added a "special" vocal track to one of his songs. After listening to each tune to make sure everything worked … we were good to go.
Richard in Vocal Booth - Josh from Main Street Studios Adjusts the Microphone (day 2)
Ed in Sound Booth Main Street Music Studios (day 1)
Now comes the fun part … puttin' it all together. More on that as it happens.

Band Dynamics Performance Prep - Nevah - Part 6

All of NEVAH's rehearsing has really been paying off. It certainly showed in the studio. We didn't waste a lot of time trying to decide what to do. We had it planned and then went about our business laying down the tracks at Main Street Studio in Bangor, Maine … which made for a terrific first band recording experience. Now we'll see what comes of the "mixing/editing" sessions.

However, onto the next topic … performance prep. All of this practicing ultimately leads to our live performances. We've done a few shows in the last several months in very different venues - from a Wedding in a lovely old barn, to a large backyard wedding setting up outside on a stone patio, to the midway stage at the BlueHill Fair and even a small Bar/Restaurant Andy's Old Port Pub in Portland, Maine as well as some shows at bars and local theaters.

NEVAH setting up at a Back Yard Wedding in Winterport, Maine

A Wedding at a Beautiful Old Barn
NEVAH at Pellitiers Loggers Family Restaurant in Millinocket Maine
We like to call what we do –  concerts, performances. They aren't ridged with a complete script found in theatrical performances/plays - legit theatre. However, we have a set list of songs that Phil puts together. And I must admit he has a superb sense of "time" - every show hits the mark and I don't think we've been more than a couple of minutes past our "set" time allowance … ever. And that includes times where he jumps ahead to an alternate tune if he feels the mood of the audience warrants a deviation from our set list.

NEVAH at Andy's Pub in Portland, Maine
Why? It's because we actually rehearse our show, all the tunes in the order we're going to do them, without stopping. And we do this quite a bit. Sometimes running a show two times in a row at one rehearsal - with only a couple of minutes break in between. The only thing we don't rehearse in the same manner is some of our banter which seems to flow easily on-stage between all of the "NEVAH" musicians.

NEVAH at the Blue Hill Fair
We are trying to find a nearby venue to set-up all our equipment and do a full - all out - rehearsal so we can get to another level of performance. It's coming, but finding a place and getting everyone together is not an easy task. Plus we need a sound person to make this work 100%. Luckily we've had some super folks run our board over the last couple of years and it has helped us tremendously (A big thank you to the "sound guys" - you know who you are.)

I'm going to pause here because there is a lot more to discuss concerning performance preparation. 

NEXT BLOG: Performance preparation continued.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Band Dynamics Practicing - NEVAH BlueGrass - Part 5

Hello friends of NEVAH and NEVAH Band blog readers … I know I said the next blog in the series was going to focus on performance, however, at NEVAH's last  PRACTICE session we began to move our rehearsal in a whole new direction … for us.

NEVAH, Maine's BlueGrass, Newgrass, Country, Prograssabilly Band practices one to two times a week. From past blogs you know we are an eight piece band (not including our sound man). Our instrumentation is both acoustic and electric such as a Gibson Mandolin, Martin Guitars, Fender Bass, Pedal Steel, Dobro, Sax, Flute, Ludwig Drums and Percussion along with a modified Stelling Sunflower Banjo with a custom Black Kavanjo Banjo Head. Almost all of our instruments are either wireless or direct plug-ins to the board … with the exception of the drums/percussion, Sax, Flute and Penny Whistle. All of which add to our unique PROGRASSABILLY sound.

NEVAH Bluegrass / Country Music at the Blue Hill Fair
At our last practice we concentrated on just two songs. One an original by our own Ed Russell, "Slow Down Superman" and the other a Bob Dylan tune … "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight". In the past we have essentially assigned large parts, longer instrumental leads – the mandolin taking one break, then the guitar, then more singing, then the banjo lead … etc., however, we are now getting down to single measures of music. Short sweet - instrumental licks played by one or more instruments as a "taste". With two instruments we are arranging these measures to be played in harmony.

Now this might seem normal for some bands, but it has taken us a couple of years to get a basic sound we like and to hone our skills and band sensibilities reaching for a new performance level. We aren't at the point where we microscopically write/create, dissect and restructure a song to the Nth degree as our good friends the world renowned Kruger Brothers do … we simply aren't there yet. However, we are moving in the right direction, growing with each rehearsal. Listening closer, discussing openly, playing better and amazing as it may sound … we have eight musicians agreeing, and working towards a common musical goal.

One thing I believe helping us to be better is the short time we just spent in the studio which forces us to examine each individual instruments contribution to the "whole". And we realize if we take that same attention and apply it to our rehearsals and arrangements then we will produce a better product at our live performances.

Ahh … we have another rehearsal tonight and then on Thursday hit Main Street Music Studios in Bangor again to add Mandolin, some bass vocals and a few additional tracks that weren't recorded at the first go round.

Next NEVAH Dynamic Blog: Performance (For real - I promise)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Main Street Music Studios in Bangor Maine - NEVAH - Photos

As promised, here are some more photos from NEVAH's 1st-evah recording session at Bangor Maine's – Main Street Music Studios …

Ed, Larry, Phil, Dick, Hal, Jack (pre-recording)
Dick at the Drums - Kim photographing
Larry, Phil, Ed, Jack (in the back), Josh of Main Street Music Studios -at the board
Ed at the Vocal Booth
Larry, Andy (Owner /Operator) Main Street Music Studios in Bangor, ME

Eric on the snare, Jack on the cam
Keep an eye out for more photos from NEVAH's 1st-evah Album recording session

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Band Dynamics Practicing - Nevah Bluegrass - prt 4

NEVAH, Maine's Bluegrass, Country, NewGrass, Prograssabilly Band practices quite a bit and it has really paid off, in more ways then one. We try to get together once a week and spend a good three to four hours practicing our tunes. Now, that may not sound like a lot of practicing, but when you have eight members in a band, to get 90% of them there each week is an amazing task we have been able to accomplish for almost two years now.

NEVAH (sans Eric)
We have a set routine we go through, usually a warm up song we jam on a bit which leads us to our arrangement of the Beatles - "I've Just Seen A Face", from there with instruments and voices warmed up we usually play one or two more familiar tunes then jump into something new.

If we are preparing for an upcoming concert/show, then we diligently work on any new material we wish to add, going over each arrangement numerous times to solidify the songs in our minds. We play a few more of our "current set" then go back to the new one's once more and finally end with either an acappella number that took us months to work out, or one of our solidly arranged vocal heavy pieces with numerous harmonies at the end.

NEVAH Wanted Men
A perfect example of our work effort paid off the other night at Main Street Music Studios of Bangor Maine. We spent three + weeks concentrating on the songs we were going to record, six originals. In nine hours were able to lay down most of the groundwork, lead vocals, harmonies and additional fill instruments. We were totally surprised, so were the studio engineers. However, we'd practiced all the parts for each song in rehearsal, and then played what we'd practiced.

NEVAH At Main Street Music Studios
Now, please don't get me wrong, I didn't say it was perfect, far from it. Several tunes were recorded, a couple of times each to relax the singers for better vocal quality. I am sure we will spend a good deal of time tweaking things and or re-recording/over dubbing certain tracks. However, we have a very strong musical foundation in which to build each tune and bring out the best sounds/moments from the session to make the songs shine. The Maine Street Music Studios recording session was an amazing experience, a pleasure, not only because the facility and owner/operator Andy, assisted byJosh, were amazing to work with … but because of NEVAH's rehearsal time.

Next NEVAH Dynamic Blog: Performance

Monday, December 10, 2012

Recording an Album in Bangor Maine - NEVAH's 1st

NEVAH, Maine's atypical Bluegrass, Country, NewGrass, Prograssabilly band went into Main Street Studios, in Bangor Maine on Saturday to record their first-evah album.

We had a terrific time, got a lot accomplished and are looking forward to getting back into the studio to add a few more tracks and tweak the one's already recorded.

Here are a few photos from our first nine hour session.
Jack on dobro
Eric a-shakin'
Josh - from Main Street Studios at the board
Ed and Phil - waiting to sing
Hal on Banjo - Larry on Guitar
Larry, Phil, Ed
Dick on Drums
Phil and Andy
 Stay tuned for more photos, more info and maybe a sneak peak or two of the actual recording.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Recording a Bluegrass / Newgrass NEVAH Album at Bangors Main Street Music Studio

I'm going to digress a little from the Bluegrass Band Dynamics series to make a special


It's finally happening … NEVAH, Maine's Bluegrass, NewGrass, Country - ish, Prograssabilly band is hitting the studio this weekend to start recording our very 1st album of original tunes. 
We are going to record at Bangor's own 

And we are "wicked" excited.

We've spent a good deal of time preparing for this moment, practicing each tune over and over, tightening our arrangements, modifying some of the tunes here and there, tweaking each song for maximum studio performance potential.

Less is More … less is more … less is more (it's either the key to success or our new Mantra or both)

Stay tuned as we post some photos and video of the recording sessions …

See ya soon …

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Band Dynamics NEVAH - Maine Bluegrass - Getting Along prt3

Hello NEVAH friends, hope all is well as we approach the Happy Holidays, all the Happy Holidays! 

Nevah at Old Towns Riverfront Concert Series
I'd like to briefly talk about "getting along" in our band - Musically. You might think a local Maine NewGrass, BlueGrass, Country, okay PROGRASSABILLY band like NEVAH would lean towards a particular sound. Well, we are hard to define, and truth be-told we have a musical spectrum that ranges from hard Bluegrass-ish to Rock and Roll to 60's accapella, And of course, everything in between.

Therefore, the question is … how do we select our music, and agree to the choices. Especially with an eight piece band? It's easy, the Men O' Nevah, have extremely good taste. 

I'm only joking, however, in reality it's pretty accurate - the band members have been around a couple of years, played numerous songs and know a lot of songs, plus we have a lot of open minds, and hearts and are willing to listen to anyone in the band who has an idea for a song, be it an original or a well worn favorite for inclusion in our "Master Set List" -

Pedal Steel and Drums
Banjo and Mandolin
Once a song is suggested, and we know someone really wants to do a song when they bring in Chord Sheets for everyone to look at, they generally have a simple arrangement in mind. 

The Band tries to:
1) Listen to the song played through by the person who would like to include it. If it's the sax player of drummer we'll have the guitar player chord it the first time.
2) Add additional instruments on the second go round … listening and leaving space for leads and instrument flourishes. (On this second go-round good listening and strong eye contact are paramount, the key to "less is more")
3) Work out vocal harmony parts on the third run through. Stopping and starting, assigning parts and trying short passages.
4) Work out leads and lead exchanges. An ever changing process until it feels right (could be several weeks or months).
5) Play it through a few times to see how we like it.
6) Rest, put it aside, STOP playing it and move on to other tunes.
7) Come back to it at the end of the evening.

The following practice we will go over it a few times refining bits and pieces, polish it, perform it and then re-work the tune as needed.

Throughout this process if someone has a thought we throw it out to the group and 99.9% of the time we give a try. On occasion a simple discussion, taking in everyones opinions might negate us trying to over-tweak a song.

It really is that simple!

NEXT NEVAH BLOG: From Practice to Live Performance

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Band Dynamics NEVAH's BlueGrass Instrument prt-2

As mentioned in part 1 of my band dynamics blog … NEVAH, Maine's a-typical Progressive NewGrass - BlueGrass - Country (like) music band is made up of eight (8) members … with numerous backgrounds / talents. Each member can play more than one musical instrument, however, on-stage we tend to lean towards a "single" instrument" subbing occasionally when the need arises.

Our sound is really hard to define. Some folks think we lean towards a Country music sound where as others focus on our Bluegrass twangs, with a leaning toward NewGrass, and still a percentage of folks don't label us at all and simply like our overall tonality, vocals, harmonies, instrumentation and of course … fancy dress. We labeled it PROGRASSIBLLY music to cover the wide range of NEVAH.

Our instrumentation is as follows (from stage left to stage right - upstage to downstage - see photos):

We have a terrific percussionist who plays congas and snare along with other rhythm-ish instruments. Next to the congas is our drummer, a guy who has done it all, played every genre of music and who understands and works with our needs. To the right of the drummer is our Pedal Steel, Dobro and occasional 2nd/3rd and/or 4th guitar player, we all marvel at some of the sounds he creates. Back in front over to stage left is our acoustic lead guitar player who also plays banjo and mandolin and whose fingers occasionally have to be drenched in cold water to cool them down after a lead. To the guitarists immediate right is our flute, penny whistle, sax, kazoo and a few hand held percussive instrument player who adds a different touch to our tunes elevating the music to another level. Dead Center is our Electric Bass player, another talented instrumentalist who has done it all with an amazing musical sense and who keeps the band moving along. To his right is our lead Mandolin player who also picks a mean guitar when called upon for the task, the sweet leads of his mandolin playing are a joy to behold, plus he's got an ear for tuning that keeps us all … "IN" and "ON" pitch. And last, but not forgotten is our Kavanjo amplified Stelling Banjo player (me), who also plays some rhythm guitar – I'm there and try to be on and in time.

NEVAH Maine's Bluegrass Band - Set-up Sans Drummer
The pictures are of two set-ups, above shows the band without our drummer and below is the band without the percussionist (Conga player).

NEVAH Maine's Progressive Bluegrass, NewGrass Band
With so many varied instruments we create a wonderful onstage audible and visual dynamic, a wall of pleasing sound … most of the time … and as we rehearse, arrange, re-arrange and continue to grow we are learning how to"listen" and embrace the "less is more" philosophy of sound. The instruments, I think, lean towards a country, bluegrass feel, but with electric bass, drummer, flute/sax we can cover so many styles of music that we are only limited by the time we have to practice and perform. We can and have played rock-ish tunes, Celtic, Irish, Gypsy melodies, etc. The hard part is, again, the "less is more" philosophy of playing. And on top of that we tend to feature our vocals, the human instrument.

I think one of the nice things about this bands instrument dynamics is our ability to listen, discuss, try, add or eliminate, rework and then practice an arrangement. And the repetition of the process until we feel a tune is ready to be heard outside our rehearsal space. Everyone, if they so desire, has input, and we may not agree with some of the choices made, but we at least attempt to work through the suggestions and use our instruments wisely in each tune. For the most part we come up with what I feel are strong arrangements that work for us and fans of NEVAH seem to enjoy.

NEXT NEVAH BLOG: How we get along musically

Monday, November 19, 2012

Band Dynamics NEVAH - NewGrass, BlueGrass prt-1

Hey there music lovers and fans of Nevah, I have finished, for the moment, discussing my search for better Banjo dynamics and thought I would address a topic of wider interest. Something that might appeal to those outside the banjo amplification crowd. And as NEVAH prepares to go into the Studio to record our first album, I thought I would broach a subject all bands and makers of music experience at one time or another … yes, you've guessed it … HOW DO YOU DO IT,  STAY TOGETHER WITH ALL THE DIFFERENT DYNAMICS IN THE BAND?

Please note: These are my own thoughts on Nevah's Band Dynamics, and my own observations. And no innocent animals have been mishandled during this process.

NEVAH, Maine's atypical, progressive NewGrass, Bluegrass band, has some amazing dynamics. I am going to try and break down: who we are, what instruments we play, how we are able to function - especially with eight band members and a revolving sound person, describe all we are doing, how we do it, why it works or doesn't work, why we have been able to play in venues of all shapes and sizes, how we practice, how we approach our tunes, how we arrange songs, how we select our sets, how we set up, breakdown, coordinate, handle bookings … in general … how we survive and are able to function with such a large band, with so many different personalities, schedules, and our own professional situations.

I'm not sure of the exact order but I'll take from the list above and each blog will tackle one area.

First: Who is NEVAH?

NEVAH is made up of nine (9) folks - eight musicians and a revolving sound person - we come from a wide variety of backgrounds and I dare say, that each member is truly gifted in more than one area of expertise, but for now I will only list basic occupations. There are several lawyers, a town manager, a doctor, a mechanic, a research scientist, and a prestidigitator. Backgrounds as varied as our instruments.

What's nice about this smorgasbord of human beings is everyone brings something special to the table and offers an insight into each and every aspect of our bands journey. We all have experiences that lend a hand in our band decisions. As a matter of fact because of the make-up we are able to easily divide tasks. We rarely have to look outside the group to find someone who can "get the job done" - whatever that job or task may be. And, if we can't handle a particular project or aspect of any situation, someone in the band knows the perfect contact to handle anything. It's quite remarkable. I think there is a respect for each member of NEVAH, shown by and to everyone in the band and that is one major reason we continue to move forward at a nice pace.

The Men of NEVAH

NEXT NEVAH BLOG: The many Musical Instruments we play

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kavanjo Banjo Solution IT WORKS for ME - Pt 4

In part 3 of my banjo amplification search I left off after ordering a KAVANJO completely BLACK BANJO HEAD …

Hey, Hal the banjo guy from Nevah, Maine's atypical progressive NewGrass, Bluegrass Band … we call it PROGRASSABILLY for short. I hope this series of "blogs" helps folks to find a Banjo Amplification solution that is efficient, effective, effortless and enjoyable.

A very quick recap … I play a wonderful Stelling Sunflower Banjo in a large Band - NEVAH - 8 band members total, not counting our sound person. In order to be heard I tried several avenues, playing into a vocal mic, playing into a dedicated mic, installing a Fishman banjo pickup which worked for a while but wasn't 100% reliable, which could certainly be my fault, however, it would not work with my wireless system desires. Therefore, I finally purchased a Kavanjo Banjo Head with a built in pickup so I can play through a Line 6 G-30 wireless system.

… so there you have it, you are up to speed. The first ever Jet Black Kavanajo Banjo head arrived, complete with black screws and the external 1/4 jack as requested. I was a bit nervous about installing it, but John Kavanaugh has published installation videos demonstrating, in terrific detail, the process on a variety of banjos including Gibson, Deering and Stelling. The site does recommend you have the head professionally installed, but after watching the videos I felt confident I wouldn't have a problem putting it on by myself.

Installing the Kavanjo head was easy with the videos to guide me. I suggest you watch them first, and make sure you watch all of the videos relating to your instrument. For me there were three videos to watch. I'm glad I did because it alerted me to the proper technique and placement I had to be aware of.

And, I must admit, installing the 1/4 inch jack was so easy I was ecstatic by the process. I did have to do a little dremel work on the inside of the banjo resonator to get it to fit perfectly, but it was a couple of minutes detour. Hey, Stelling makes an amazing product with incredible tolerances.

1/4 inch jack provided by Kavanjo
Once I had the head in place, aligned and tightened down, tuned (the head that is), the strings and bridge repositioned I did my first test plugging directly into my Fender Acoustasonic 150 amp … and Wow, what an amazing sound … like a BANJO. It was perfect.

The Jet Black Kavanjo Banjo head - Note the black bridge.
Then I unplugged from my direct connection and plugged into the Line 6 wireless setup and again … PERFECT! I couldn't be happier.

It worked! After a couple of years trying various things, I finally had a solution I could rely on to give me an amplified banjo sound, one I really like, one the band liked. It also gave me peace of mind knowing I wasn't going to cut out, and I didn't have to worry about getting close to a mic. It's a real joy.

Now, I did have to tweak my set-up a bit, it's a NEW Head and has to be adjusted and tightened along with the bridge and tail piece to get the sound you want. And YES - I actually colored my bridge black too so it would be almost invisible on the banjo head. Don't ask, its just me.

Anyway, I am thoroughly delighted with my Kavanjo Banjo Pick-up System and highly recommend it to anyone who needs to amplify their banjo, wireless or not.

Hey, if you have any thoughts or questions about my setup just contact me at -

Thanks for reading this series of blogs …

NEVAH Banjo Guy

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Banjo Wireless Solution That Works (for me) - Pt 3

All right … Pt 3 of my Banjo amplification search

When last we left off … "I was stuck in amplified banjo sound hell … and then to top it all off I added to my troubles and decided to go wireless …"

Actually it was the wireless desire that changed everything. One of our NEVAH band members a wonderful bass player, singer, song writer, arranger and harmonizer, plus all around nice guy, Phil Pitula, bought a Line 6 G-30 wireless set up. I was thoroughly impressed as he walked around the rehearsal space with a wide range of full mobility and 100% clarity. No long chords. The only thing keeping him in one spot was singing into his microphone, an issue we will address in the near future with wireless headsets. I went on-line and looked at the device, then went to a local music store in Bangor Maine, Northern Kingdom Music … they had one in stock, sooooo … I bought it.

Line 6 G-30 Wireless Rig

I took my newly acquired Line 6 G-30 wireless system and rushed home. I plugged the receiver into my Fender Acoustasonic 150 amp, then, after putting the battery in the transmitter, plugged that into my fishman pick-up and NADA, nothing, zip, no sound. AHHHHHHHHHHHHH! 

I was a bit perturbed to say the least. I called Fishman and spoke to a super nice technician who explained to me why the Fishman Banjo Pick-up probably wasn't working with the Line-6, nor would it work with the wireless system. Technical stuff, I think he said Ohms, that had my head spinning. In plain terms … the Fishman and the Line 6 G-30 were not compatible.

I hung up the phone, and then it hit me … I saw the MTV music awards, or one of the numerous music award shows and Taylor Swift, yes, Taylor Swift was playing a Deering six string banjo, moving about the stage freely and her Banjo Head had a built in pick-up. The Banjo sounded fantastic, albeit the sound equipment and crew was a little out of my budget and could possibly be the reason the six string Deering sounded so good –  I now had a direction. The solution was right in front of me. I googled Deering Banjos and there it was … the KAVANJO banjo head. I called Deering and they directed me to John Kavanaugh inventor, patent holder, designer and manufacturer of the Kavanjo banjo pickup system. I went to his site, called and left a message. 

Kavanjo White Banjo Head
A short while later my phone rang and it was John Kavanaugh. I asked him numerous questions especially the one concerning the Line 6 G-30 and John assured me it would work. I then asked him if he had made one in BLACK. He had not, but would be happy to provide me with the FIRST BLACK KAVANJO Banjo Head pick-up system … with black screws of course. Don't ask me why, that's a whole other story. Let's just say, I wanted it in Black. I also asked for an external 1/4 inch jack setup as opposed to plugging the wireless chord directly into the head. John said, "no problem" - he was shipping it out the next day, and pointed out that there were video installation guides on his site …

Yes … I was in amplified banjo heaven …

Next Blog: Kavanjo Banjo Solution - installation and the real TEST.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Banjo Fishman Magnetic PickUp a Solution - Pt 2

Amplifying my Stelling Sunflower banjo wasn't as easy as I thought it would be … picking up where I left off … being in NEVAH, Maine's Progressive Bluegrass, NewGrass, Prograssabilly band with eight (8) talented band members, I needed to be heard. After hoisting the banjo up to my vocal mic during a good portion of one of our shows the conclusion was … NOPE. Then trying to mic it separately standing real close to it for most of the show and playing as loud as possible during the breaks, again for me … NOPE.

Therefore …

Third Banjo Sound solution:
I broke down and decided to see what was out there in the way of pick-ups. At the time I started looking there weren't too many. I'd discussed this with Tony Trischka at one point and if I am not mistaken Tony had a "custom made" pickup that had been tweaked for his needs. I am certainly no Tony Trischka, anyone who has heard me can certainly attest to that, so I thought I'd see if an off the shelf pickup would work.

Violà … I found the Fishman Magnetic Pickup for my banjo. Highly recommended by tons of banjo folk and used by at least 3/4 of a ton of banjo folk. I didn't know anyone up in Maine, at the time, who had one so I took a chance.

Hal's Fishman Banjo Pick-up
The Fishman pickup arrived and after carefully installing it … it worked. They recommend it should be professionally installed. And I agree, installing micro electronics needing to be soldered at any point in the procedure should be professionally installed …

… mine wasn't, and that could be the reason why, after months of using it I had "issues." I spent a lot of time trying to figure out if my soldering joints weren't right, and I took it to a professional to double check. Everything was soldered correctly. Then, again, I replaced the battery even though it was the first thing I checked, it was fine …whatever the reason was, whatever excuse I came up with for WHY I wasn't getting the consistent sound I wanted … was merely an excuse.

I even went out, on the recommendation of Philip Zanon - who runs sound for the Kruger Brothers and purchased a Fender Acoustasonic 150 Amp thinking that maybe the marshall acoustic amp I'd borrowed wasn't working. I'm pretty sure that Yens Kruger has a Fishman Pickup in his Deering Banjo  and his works fine. So I concluded that it must be me.

I was totally stuck in amplified banjo sound hell … and then to top it all off I added to my troubles and decided to go wireless …

Next Blog: Fourth Banjo Solution - A Terrific Wireless Banjo Setup that Works for Me

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Banjo Dynamics in a Newgrass Bluegrass Band - pt 1

I want to discuss my take on BANJO dynamics or being heard in a NewGrass / Bluegrass Band. And in particular my experience playing in NEVAH, Maine's own Progressive NewGrass, Bluegrass, Prograssabilly band. This will be in several parts … each one describing a "different" approach to solving my banjo sound.

To start with Nevah is an 8 piece band, hardly your typical Bluegrass Band. Our instrumentation is more a progressive newgrass, country, with a twist. Our music selection is hard to pin down to any single genre  … we have: An acoustic lead Guitar, Electric Bass, Mandolin, Banjo, Pedal Steel, Drums, Percussion, Flute … and we double down with acoustic rhythm guitars, dobro, sax, penny whistle and all sorts of percussive devices.

NEVAH at the Blue Hill Fair
Plus we have anywhere from 2 to 5 part vocal harmonies … lots of vocal sound along with the instrumentation. I dare say we've filled up our 16 channel board and are ready for 24 channels plus.

NOW, here was my personal dilemma … my banjo, a beautiful - very loud Stelling Sunflower - was getting drowned out. Acoustically speaking if you stood in front of the instrument (6 to 8 feet away) you would vibrate from the intense sound, however, when performing live I was never able to get the sound to be heard over all the other instruments. Everyone is plugged in, amplified, etc … and due to many factors I will touch upon I just couldn't deliver the sound I wanted.

Stelling Sunflower (oops - one solution revealed)
The factors were simple to identify:

1) My lack of experience performing with a lot of electrified instruments …
2) My lack of banjo mic-technique
3) My desire to be able to move around while playing
4) For some reason I couldn't hear myself
5) I know nothing about sound … I thought you simply play and let the sound technician take care of everything.

Once I identified the factors I was able to attack the problem.

My first Banjo Sound solution:
To amplify my banjo without any cost, I thought would be to simply raise the banjo up near my vocal microphone and play harder. This proved to be difficult, very difficult … for me. The Stelling Sunflower banjo is incredibly well made, heavy, and I could never get it close-enough to the raised Shure SM58 microphone and at the same time play to my best ability (another story, another time).

Second Banjo Sound Solution:
Therefore, when the initial solution failed to provide adequate sound I figured that by putting another mic in place I could play into it and be heard without any problem. After all I'd seen countless banjo players do this effectively. So, I purchased an extra mic, put it on a stand, aimed it at my banjo and during setup, sound checks, it was fine - very nice, really good-ish. However, during the show I tended to back away or move from side to side and the sound would get lost. Not the microphones fault, merely my own. And of course you didn't want it turned up too loud because then it would drown out everything or pick up unwanted noise. And without a dedicated sound person at all performances there would never be any consistency.

Next Blog: Third Banjo Sound Solution

Monday, October 22, 2012

You're My Home by Billy Joel - From Banjo to Nevah

Hey there … Hal the Nevah prograssabilly Banjo Guy here …

When I first brought "You're My Home", a song by Billy Joel, to a NEVAH practice I hadn't quite worked out the entire arrangement. All I had was an opening lick and an interesting descending chord progression ending. However, as with all the material we choose to perform everyone pitched in an idea or two and before you know it … a Nevah twist.

After we worked out the Nevah Band arrangement I played with my own variation, a really sweet banjo instrumental played on my Stelling Sunflower that sounds flashy, looks harder to play than it is, travels up and down the neck and makes me feel like I have "chops." I find it's fun to play fast, however, when singing it I like to keep a medium tempo.

Below you will find some information about the song and I've included the lyrics. The next time you come to a NEVAH performance, if you'd like to hear our arrangement of the song, let us know. After the show I'd be happy to demo the banjo instrumental version too.

"You're My Home"
music and Lyrics by Billy Joel  (a You Tube link to a 1976 performance by Billy Joel)

"You're My Home" was introduced on Billy Joel's album Piano Man, in 1973. It appeared on four other albums and was covered by several well known singers including Helen Reddy.

When you look into my eyes
And you see the crazy gypsy in my soul
It always comes as a surprise
When I feel my withered roots begin to grow
Well I never had a place that I could call my very own
That's all right, my love, 'cause you're my home

When you touch my weary head
And you tell me everything will be all right
You say, "Use my body for your bed
And my love will keep you warm throughout the night"
Well I'll never be a stranger and I'll never be alone
Whenever we're together, that's my home

Home can be the Pennsylvania Turnpike
Indiana's early morning dew
High up in the hills of California
Home is just another word for you

Well I never had a place that I could call my very own
That's all right, my love, 'cause you're my home

If I travel all my life
And I never get to stop and settle down
Long as I have you by my side
There's a roof above and good walls all around
You're my castle, you're my cabin and my instant pleasure dome
I need you in my house 'cause you're my home.
You're my home.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bluegrass and Country bars in Tokyo

Hal here, the NEVAH Banjo Guy …

I kiddingly mentioned to the group that one of my goals, for NEVAH, was to get us on tour in countries who appreciate our type of progressive New Grass, Blue Grass Music … Japan just happens to be one of the countries I would like to see us tour.

I personally visited Japan many years ago, I love the people, the culture, the food, Aikdio (the martial art) and was excited to find there is a rich Bluegrass, Country, NewGrass culture throughout the land.
A friend and Teacher of mine … Tony Trischka has toured Japan several times and been well received.

Below is a list of some bluegrass and country bars in The Tokyo Area. Nevah has these on their mailing list and hope that someday we'll get an opportunity to perform at a few of them.

Japanese Bars and Restaurants with Live BG and Country Music

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Knowles Benefit - Nevah in concert

Nevah, Maine's newgrass-ish, prograssabilly band, will be performing on Sunday, October 14th - at the Knowles Family Benefit.

Come join us at the NEW … MORITA'S School of Dance Studio in Hermon to help support this family.

For more information please see the poster below …

Sunday, September 16, 2012



NEVAH, Maine's progressive bluegrass, newgrass, prograssabilly band appeared at the Blue Hill Fair Sept 1, 2012 …

Here are some images of the event that captivated the fair attendees and drew a huge crowd for the hour and a half performance of NEVAH fan favorites including original songs, soon to be featured on the upcoming NEVAH Album …

The day was perfect, the sun was shining, and there was a slight breeze as the Men of Nevah arrived at the Blue Hill Fair Mid-Way stage.

Set-up was a breeze and the sound check went without a hitch … before you knew it was
Midway Stage at the Blue Hill Fair - as Nevah Set's Up
NEVAH on Stage at the Blue Hill Fair 2012

Phil Pitula Bass & Vocals  & Ed Russell Lead Vocals, Flute & Sax from Nevah 
NEVAH's Larry LeBlanc Lead Guitar & Vocals
Nevah's Banjo Guy Hal Meyers a Singin & Richard Silver Singin and playing Mandolin

Jack Anderson - Pedal Steel, Dobro & Guitar next to Dick Knipping on Drums

Kent Palmer - Making NEVAH sound great!

Nevah's Jack Anderson on Pedal Steel

Ed on FLute and Phil on Bass

Dick Knipping NEVAH's drummer settin' the beat

Crowds gathered around during NEVAH's Show