Tell our readers all about your Weissenborn specific lessons (and also any Open D lessons that can be translated onto the Weissenborn). Give us a list to date please.
Sure, like I said, I have my "Weissenborn Basics Series". That's for those that really need a chronological order to their lessons. I also have songs for Weissenborn. That's just whatever I was inspired to record that week. You can take any of my Dobro Open D or Lap Steel Open D lessons and play them on Weissenborn too.
So what made you start up and add a division of Weissenborn lessons to your roster after concentrating mainly on Dobro and Pedal Steel for so many years?
I personally love the sound of the Weissenborn, and wanted to record lessons and arrange songs that really brought out that cool gritty sound.
From your prospective how do you see the popularity of the Weissenborn these days in relation to recent years?
I really think Weissenborn is gaining so much popularity all over the world. With artists such as Ben Harper, Thomas Oliver, David Lindley, and a slew of others that people can find videos of on YouTube, the Weissenborn is really getting heard worldwide.
Tell about your Weissenborn of choice, your beautiful Bear Creek. Was it custom made for you?
I can not say enough good things about "Ruby" (named after Bill Hardin's dog). My Bear Creek is a work of art. I told him to give me a really cool looking grained guitar, but to keep it very simple. No glossy finish, no fancy binding, but I did specifically want an ebony fretboard, simple inlays, and most specifically Black Mini-Locking Spertzel tuners. (Of which I LOVE!). The sound is absolutely INCREDIBLE! I love playing my Bear Creek. Bill really did a killer job building it.
Let's talk about your musical content in the lessons. Firstly lets talk about your choice of song/instrumental you cover in your lessons. Explain to our readers why for instance you don't cover more chart popular and current songs/instrumentals. Most of your lessons content are old traditional folk orientated tunes (very pleasant and ideally suited to learning i completely understand). Are there copyright issues which prevent these more modern tunes from happening?
Oh yeah, I try to avoid doing copyrighted tunes. I'm not a lawyer so I don't really know the ins and outs of all that, but I kind of try to avoid songs that are not public domain.
What about the possibility of approaching Weissenborn players directly with a business offer which involved you tabbing and creating a lesson around one of their popular Weissenborn tunes. Could that work in practice?
I've thought about that, but I'm so busy with my own practice and recording that I know that would really eat into my day. I'm not opposed to it, but I really want to get some current projects done first and then maybe I could do something like that. However, I know that I'm probably going to always have a "current project " going. Haha.
Secondly let's discuss your original tunes, ones written by yourself. Talk us through the writing process. Do you write songs irrespective of what techniques or scales they use? For instance do you write specifically for a lesson with say lots of hammer ons and pull offs? for a "Hammer On & Pull Off" lesson. What comes first the tune or the lesson agenda?
Honestly, alot of my songs just come from me "Noodling" around on my instrument. I play a ton of scales and do a ton of improvisation/noodling. I keep my phone handy and simply record ideas I come up with. I later listen back and see if anything jumps out as being kinda cool. I will work with those ideas and try to expand them.
Ever thought about recording an album of all original tunes on Dobro or Weissenborn as Troy Brenningmeyer?
Absolutely, it's been "in-the-works" for years now. It's something I really need to focus on each morning. I tell myself, "I need to get up and record a new song every morning". I would love to have an "Original CD", a "Gospel CD", a "Traditional CD", etc. It's just a matter of me getting out of bed, grabbing my cup of coffee, and setting up the mics and hitting the record button, and most importantly not being too much of a perfectionist, and just getting it done! It's been really hard to do honestly. I change my focus too much. haha..
Hi Troy it's great to finally make this interview happen and talk about you as a player and teacher and how the business "Lessons With Troy" was founded?
Thanks so much for interviewing me. I started my site "LessonsWithTroy.com" in 2008. I was teaching myself Dobro and Webdesign at the time. I started posting free "Lick Of the Day" Dobro videos on YouTube as a way to challenge myself to learn something new everyday, and share it with others. That took off, and I started making new lessons every week. Sort of documenting whatever I was learning at the time. Lots of Dobro stuff back then. Fiddle tunes, scales, technique, etc.
Tell us a bit about yourself as a musician first, when and how did you become a slide guitar player?
When I was a kid, my older brother Todd, played guitar. He was great! We lived in the country and at night I would hang out in his room while he practiced. He was very methodical and practiced religiously. Scales all the time, Eddie Van Halen Solos, (it was the 80's), & lots of other 80's shred guitar stuff. One time he brought home a slide, and I remember thinking even back then how cool the slide was. I also remember watching that movie from the 80's "Crossroads" with Ralph Maccio, where Ry Cooder played the blues slide on, and I was blown away. I think that's really what put the bug for slide guitar in my ear way back when I was a kid.
I later went on to play guitar when I was 16. In high school I was really into Leo Kottke and tons of finger-style guitar players. I then got into jazz, and I studied music in junior college and then got my degree in Jazz Guitar from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. I had several great teachers along the way that really inspired me too: Todd Beggs, Greg Goodhart, Andy Gurley, John Windings, Rick Haydon, and my brother Todd Brenningmeyer too.
I played a cruise ship, weddings, tons of corporate stuff, and taught most every weeknight for years before finally deciding that I needed a change in my life. That's where the Dobro came into play.
In the winter of 2007, I went into an acoustic music store in St. Louis, thinking I was going to buy an acoustic guitar and get back into finger-style, but low and behold there was a used Dobro on the wall. I had no clue even how to tune it or put on picks. However, just hearing the sound of sliding one note while another open note was ringing out got me hooked! Plus, I was always a huge fan of Jerry Douglas' playing. I practiced that thing everyday when I would get up, when I would have breaks for teaching kids "Smoke On The Water" in the basement of a music store, I would stay late after work and jam out to Jerry Douglas albums, and a year later, in 2008, I started "LessonsWithTroy".
What artists do you admirer, and what ones have had the greatest influence on you as a player/composer?
I have so many influences and artists that I admire. Since I was a kid I've had so many different phases of my musical journey. In high school me and my friends would drive around listening to Phish and Primus. I've always loved those guys! Like I said before I started off into Leo Kottke, but even before that I was way into Eddie Van Halen. In college I was really into Jazz; Pat Martino, Pat Metheny, Mike Stern, Joe Pass, Tuck Andress, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, etc. I went through a classical phase, listening to Julian Bream, Andres Segovia, etc. I went through a Nashville chicken pickin' phase and was obsessed with Brent Mason. Now in my Dobro/lap slide phase it changes daily. I was first really into Jerry Douglas, then Rob Ickes, then Andy Hall. Now I'm obsessed with C6 Lap Steel, Weissenborn, and all kinds of other Lap Style instruments. I also take Hawaiian Lap Steel lessons every other week from Alan Akaka. Who is an amazingly wonderful teacher and a world class musician.
Tell us about your traditional Hawaiian band you've recently formed? Do you play Dobro, Pedal Steel and Weissenborn in it?
Sure, actually it all started with the name of the band that I came up with in the parking lot of Arbey's! I live really close to and gig in St. Louis, MO, so I wanted the name of the band to be St. Louis inspired. Thus I came up with the name: ST. LUAU! I play my Asher 8 String C6 Lap Steel in that group. (Tuned CBbCEGACE from low to high) That's a tuning that Alan Akaka taught me.
What year did you start up the business "Lessons With Troy"? And what was the catalyst behind starting this business venture?
I started it in 2007 initially as a way to share with the world what I was learning which motivated me to learn something new everyday and document my progress on the instrument. I was learning a ton about web design and e-commerce for awhile. I was making lots of websites for other musicians, and decided it was time to put energy towards my own sites. I also was trying to start all kinds of other online businesses at the time. It took lots and lots of research and trial and error to finally have my site to where it is now. I now make my sole living running my 2 websites. www.LessonsWithTroy.com and www.OnlineLessonVideos.com (an off shoot of Lessons With Troy, where I have other teachers teaching other instruments).
On a scale of 1-10 how much do you enjoy your job?
11, it's off the charts. I thank God every single day for my life. I get to wake up, go into my studio and play music all day for a living. It's incredible. I'm so happy!
Troy Brenningmeyer has been responsible for tutoring countless players through their first baby steps of learning lap slide. Whether it be pedal steel, Dobro or now Weissenborn he has said hello and waved goodbye to many many players and has given them a solid fundamental understanding of their instrument for them to be able to spread their wings and fly the nest and go onto bigger and better things. "Lessons With Troy" is the perfect introduction to learning any one of these great instruments. He has honed a visual and audio presentation blueprint that is easy and fun to follow and coupled with his genial bedside manner they are the ideal starting point for complete beginners through to more accomplished players.
With nearly 400 videos on YouTube and 300 Lessons already available online his professional and enthusiastic approach has won him many plaudits, including my self. When I first started with open D tunings Troy's lessons were a great help into understanding how this whole "open D tuning" business worked. By clear and concise explanations and practical examples he makes the link between what sounds good to WHY it sounds good, hitting just the right balance of fun and theory.
A regular conversation topic amongst the faithful Weissenborn fraternity over at the TWiE Facebook page I thought it only right I should speak to the man and get some insight into what goes on behind the camera and website and get a better idea of the man responsible.
Do you plan any "alternative tuning" lessons planned for the Weissenborn?
Yes, I really want to first do some lessons for Low G tuning (DGDGBD). (So that I can show how to take things that you know on Dobro and apply them to Weissenborn.)
As a predominant Dobro player for many years and a music teacher too, you are in a unique position to give our readers some thoughts, comments and advice on what the transition from Dobro to Weissenborn is like from the prospective of someones who’s only relative recently done it themselves.
I find that with any new instrument I learn I carry over things from the previous instrument and learn new things to also apply to the previous instrument. (Whether that's Weissenborn, C6, Open D Lap, or Pedal Steel). With Weissenborn, I've learned to lighten up my playing, and to really work hard on getting a wider bluesy vibrato. Also, with the scale length of mine being different than my Dobro, it's taken me a bit to make the small adjustments to work on my intonation with it.
So do you advise your customers to ditch the picks in favour of bare fingers?
If they want to, but I really love the way my finger picks sound. After playing with them for so long, it feels very weird to not play with them. You just have to lighten up and play close to the sound hole to soften the sound up I find. I'm an advocate of playing all my instruments with the same picks and bar (except pedal steel...I use a round bar for it). I just get really used to the picks and bar, and once I learn new techniques, I can easily apply them to all my other instruments.
What tuning do you advise when starting on the Weissenborn and why? Is this one of the hardest things for Dobro players to get to grips with at first the different tunning?
I really recommend Open D. You really can that low gritty bluesy sound that sounds so awesome on Weissenborn. If you just think about moving anything you've learned on Dobro just down a string, it gets you in the right frame of mind. That doesn't work with every string but you just have to think about the interval relationship of the tuning. Dobro is GBDGBD (Root, 3rd, 5th, Root, 3rd, 5th) Open D Weissenborn is (DADF#AD) (Root, 5th, Root, 3rd, 5th, Root). Notice where your Root, 3rd, 5th is. That's what you really want to focus on. Take shapes on those strings and just match them up to the same intervals of the new tuning. That's what I do for most any tuning I'm doing. I try to find intervals that the tunings have in common and apply shapes that I've learned.
With the right string gauges and tensions could you tune a Weissenborn to a traditional Dobro of say GBDGBD? If so what possibilities could that open up for you as a teacher?
I probably would not recommend that tuning for Weissenborn. I would worry about the tension. I would suggest a Low G tuning (DGDGBD). I'm not a luthier, but I would think that Open D strings would work in that tuning. I just worry about too much tension on the neck of the Weissenborn in Dobro tuning.
Are there any hand techniques that need to be adjusted from Dobro to Weissenborn? such as not resting you hand on the bridge which slightly dulls sustain etc, playing over the sound hole more etc etc.
I suggest to give yourself the ability to move your picking hand away from the bridge to soften the sound a bit. I rest mine lightly on the lower strings. I also do a lot of palm blocking (muting with my right hand) on Weissenborn. That's also something I do a lot on C6 and Open D Lap Steel, and it's really helped my Dobro playing as well.
Are you an advocate of using two or three fingers when playing Weissenborn as some of the top weissenborn players around today use all three fingers when playing?
I just play it like I would the Dobro. A Thumb and 2 Fingers. I try to keep it simple.
What design of tone bar do you use and advise newcomers to weissenborn use. Do you have any preference or comments on using a flat ended bar or a bullet nose bar?
I use the same bar for everything but Pedal Steel. I use a Stainless Steel Scheerhorn bar.
Please can you explain to our readers the concept of "tempering" the F# string when tuning to open D. It's not something I was even aware of until recently so our readers might be interested to hear about this technique and why you would want to use it.
Yeah, you'll find that when you are tuned to an open major chord, the 3rd of the chord likes to be just a little bit flat in relation to your root note being in tune with the tuner. It seems to blend a bit better that way.
What practice methods would you advise someone to employ as part of there daily routine?
I say find that time of day you really enjoy practicing. For me, I really like the mornings. I get my cup of coffee and go into the studio and jam out. I suggest to jam along to CDs. Work on tons of scales (Major, Minor, Pentatonic, etc). Play with jam tracks, Band In A Box, or a Metronome. I always say too, to Always Stay Inspired. Try to avoid getting into a rut. Buy a new album, go to a concert, take a couple live lessons, go to a festival, go to a jam every week, start a band, etc. Always have a go you are working toward, and practice doesn't get boring...it becomes "Necessary".
Interview By Aron Radford
Explain to people the basic contents and structure for a typical 'Lesson With Troy', what do you get for your money?
Typically when you buy a lesson you download a file containing the Movie Lesson, Tablature, Jam Tracks, and sometimes Performance Tracks.
What's your average price for a typical lesson?
It varies really, depending of if it's with my new format, and/or how many videos come with the lesson.
Your persona and teaching manner are very personable, what do you credit with this genial placid demeanour?
I was raised by two amazing parents in rural Southern Illinois. My Mom is literally an angel on Earth. Actually the nicest most caring person you will ever meet. My Dad is very nice too, and he is super intelligent, creative, inventive and really detail oriented. I hope that a little of their great qualities came with my chromosomes.
Do you teach privately on a one to one basis separate from 'Lessons With Troy'?
Yes, I teach mostly on my website, but occasionally I teach one to one lessons either live or via Skype.
To date how many lessons in total (on all instruments) do you offer on the website?
Over 300 I think.
Break down for us what topics, categories and instruments that are covered in all your lessons across the board.
It's really all over the place. For Dobro I have tons and tons of lessons. Everything from songs, technique, scales, warm ups, licks, theory, etc. For my new instruments, Weissenborn, C6, Pedal Steel, etc I have what I call my "Basics Series" and songs. The "Basics Series" are lessons that are numbered and you just start with 1 if you want and move on from there. I also have that for Dobro too.
How long does it take to write, record and publish a lesson on average would you say?
Normally I get an idea for a lesson, I sit with my instrument and arrange how I want it to go. I then sit down at my lap top (normally in my kitchen with my dogs) and write it out, note by note. I then make my Jam Tracks (if needed), and record my performance take. I edit the tab if I need to after that, to fit the performance, and then I just do the teaching. I always say "the teaching is the easy part"! All the preparation is what really takes all the time.
Explain to us how musical theory can help to improve our playing and writing. And do we really need it, can trial and error be just as an affective teaching aid.
I don't think you really need it, but I really love knowing what chords I'm playing and knowing why things work and why other do not work. It really saves time and for me it helps me to transfer information that I learn on one instrument or tuning, to another instrument/tuning.
Tell us some bad habits to avoid both technique wise and theory wise.
NEVER OVER LOOK THE FUNDAMENTALS:
Play In Tune, Play In Time, Play With Feeling, and Get Good Tone. I always ask myself: "Can I play that more in tune?" "Can I can really lock into the groove tighter on that?" "Can I can try and play that with much more feeling?" "Are there any unwanted noises/sounds coming from techniques that I could change?" If you can really make the FUNDAMENTALS SOUND GOOD, you will sound good!
What Weissenborn lessons do have in the pipeline? And what future topics or styles of playing would you like to cover in the future?
I have some more originals I want to record. I'm also working on my arrangement of St. Louis Blues for Weissenborn (in the Key of G but in Open D Tuning).
Thanks for taking the time to answer all our questions Troy as i know how extremely busy you are and all the best for you and your business in the future, you are offering a great service to all Weissenborn beginners and players alike, thank you.
Thank You Aron! This was a blast. You really are providing a wonderful service. I'm so honoured to be a part of it. Take care,
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