It so happened on this first night I meandered into Dave’s Accordion School, 1/2 a mile from my apartment. Seeing as last month’s challenge to learn a new skill had brought an accordion into my arms, this seemed as good a jumping off point as any.
I was greeted by the titular Dave, who had an impressive arsenal of squeezeboxes on display. Accordions from all over the world covered every available inch of the store, yet had obviously been placed with a meticulous care. Dave explained that he’d been playing since he was 9, and had started in this business when he was 26. The store has now been running for 40 years, and is going strong, offering lessons AND the only competent accordion repair in LA county. Dave did not inform me of this last bit, but a woman on the pier had mentioned him on Sunday.
When I told Dave I was interested in learning French waltzes, he sat down and began playing party of a waltz. However, the door swung open mid-song, and Dave caught the eye of a gentleman who walked in and transitioned into a bold Latin American tango, then slowly began to weave in a more European theme. Well, rather than me explain it to you, see for yourself.
by Phil Warren
Below are two clips from February’s climactic street performance. I promised that, no matter what shape my accordion skills were in at the end of the month, I’d do a street performance, and I delivered! It was better than I feared it could be, but worse than I’d hoped it would turn out. Ultimately, the performance was exactly what it should have been: Fun. Nothing more, and nothing less.
by Phil Warren
Fellow Brave Newbie, Angela, has joined forces with me learning a new instrument. Look! She has a ukulele! And we’re kind of sort of covering my accordion hero, Jason Webley, with the song “Eleven Saints.” Oddly enough, Jason Webley doesn’t play accordion in this song, so I’m trying to figure out a part on my squeeze box that fits. I’ve got the bass chords figured out, but the melody’s going to take a little more creativity I guess.
Angela’s done an amazing job learning ukulele, she’s tackling this song heroicly.
Also, we were playing along with the song, and the microphone in the MacBook is apparently positioned right next to the speakers, so through much of the song the actual Jason Webley is drowning us out.
by Phil Warren
So this is getting hard. Really hard. But that’s why it’s a challenge, right?
by Phil Warren
Progress slowed slightly, as today I prepared to learn a new song with Angela, so we might play a accordion/ukulele duet. Unfortunately, after restringing her ukulele, we were not able to get it to hold it’s tuning, so, well… there was that. I was looking forward to posting footage of the duet, but it didn’t happen, so you’ll have to make something up. Angela’s an impressive girl, so I’m fairly sure once we figure this whole tuning thang out she’ll destroy me with her musical abilities.
We also pursued the pigeon man of Silver Lake to do an accordion/pigeon photoshoot. He did not show up to the photoshoot, but with a good photographer, the day was not entirely a bust.
I now present what you should consider a formal invitation to see my French counterpart, lowly pigeon farmer Pierre d’Awesome, show off whatever accordion playing skills can be gained in the course of a single month.
Remember, regardless of how good or how awful I am at the end of this month, this show will happen. Feel free to come, bring your family, bring your friends, and see what happens!
Also, for your edification, here’s the pigeon man of Silver Lake who, had he attended our photoshoot, may have prevented me from Photoshopping myself into this ridiculous scenario.
by Phil Warren
Well, practicing is giving me a break from the outside world. I’m really trying to take February to stay in and explore myself, which is a new experience in and of itself. Almost all of my past-times as an adult have been social, save painting, so this pursuit is offering me a different outlook on life. But I digress.
In some downtime at work yesterday, I was looking at some sheet music and furrowing my brow in a vain attempt to understand the situation. A coworker noticed, and offered his two cents on the matter. Come to find out, he has an advanced degree in music theory, so his two cents were worth a good deal. He taught me about solfeggio, to explain the crazy Italian words underneath the bars of my accordion arrangements. Each two-letter word represents a chord! Turns out that “Do, a deer, a female deer” song that my mom always used to sing from The Sound of Music is an academically viable concept.
Interesting fact: The song was transposed down to B-flat when Julie Andrews sang it, so it’s actually incorrect in the movie. “Do” is supposed to be a C, but is a B-flat! Julie Andrews lied to us via song! Isn’t that interesting? No? Cram it with walnuts, ugly.
The solfeggio shenanigans helped me in piecing together the bass line for the song I’m learning, as the chords for the bassline are Re min, La min, Fa, and Do… I feel like my sheet music is putting on airs by speaking in Italian, but whatever. Here’s the result:
In addition, I’ve been getting reports back from other Brave Newbies on their skill development. I’ve learned some awesome things from them. Like what a zither is. I can’t wait to start integrating communal progress into the blog!
by Phil Warren
So you’re on board. You’re ready to explore the limits of your existence, or at least how to do a blanket stitch. You want to learn something new! Where do you look?
The main resources I’d recommend:
Meetup.com - Find people who do what you would like to do, and join a community! Make new friends, who you will be surprised to find are happy to teach you the skillset they love!
EHow.com – Find instructions to do just about everything.
Google - Seriously. You’ve been on the internet. You know how this works. If you don’t find the answers on this page, just google it. Google the crap out of it. Google til you can google no more.
While Google can reveal more than I ever could, localized to your neighborhood, I thought I’d offer some suggestions.
Here are just a few things that I would suggest, or have been suggested to me, EVERY ONE OF WHICH IS OBTAINABLE IF YOU AREN’T AFRAID TO TRY NEW THINGS!
For those just looking to grow:
Shy? A little timid? Not quite comfortable voicing your opinions at a dinner party, much less dancing half-naked in front of a crowd? I’ve had more than a few friends approach burlesque as a tool to fight this anxiety, and succeed! You’ll never need to perform, but it’s a self-confidence builder and possibly your only opportunity to wear a bikini made out of Splenda packets. It just so happens the glamorous Penny Starr Jr has opened her burlesque school in Los Angeles, with a special super-bowl(esque) class on February 6th! I’m told the best way to learn to do burlesque is simply to go to shows and meet the girls, however, as they are friendly and inclusive.
All Star Burlesque Classes - Run by Penny Starr Jr, who taught my friend Ali Oops, pictured to the left.
Lili’s School for Wayward Girls – Run by the legendary Lili VonSchtupp, this is not a beginner’s course, but a polishing course for burlesque dancers looking to step up their game.
Curious about the more reserved side of socialization? Want to rediscover the joys of staying in with some close friends and playing some games? Maybe you want to look into Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, or simply some more esoteric board games! It doesn’t seem like a new skill at first, but you’d be learning a new past time, and in my book that qualifies.
Game Empire - Hosting gaming sessions every Wednesday night and Sunday during the day, I understand this a great place to pick up new gaming skills in Pasadena.
Melrose Music and Comics – Hosting Magic: The Gathering sessions every Friday night, this shop is owned by the family of one of the Brave Newbies met in the first month of this project. So you should go there repeatedly.
Want to bring a little classical romance into your adventuring? Maybe something to do as a couple, with your partner in crime? Maybe you just want to be a little more light on your feet, or want to meet someone special in a less-boozy environment? In Los Angeles, as well as every major city, the number of dance studios and groups is innumerable.
3rd Street Dance - Offering inexpensive classes catering to every level of dancer, one can learn salsa, tango, and various disciplines of swing dancing with groups of skilled dancers. This is my personal preference.
Isabelle’s Dance Academy – Offers drop in classes for $20, specializing in salsa and tango. A favorite of some of my friends, though focuses largely on couples. Read more »
Brave Newbie Writers
- No Weekend Left Behind An adventure group dedicated to ensuring that when the work week is done, the weekend lives up to it’s potential.
- The Eskhaton The life and times of Cub, an adventurer I respect blossoming with energy who sucks the marrow out of life.
- This Tumblr Will Change Your Life Part instruction manual, part therapy, part religious cult, part sheer anarchy, this is a day-to-day quest very similar to “This Book Will Change Your Life”