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August 2005: Using Music Nibs: No Grind for This Lefty

Extra Fine Points Index  ]

BY DON FLUCKINGER • For those who don’t know, another Binder grandkid’s on the way, due in January. I’m battening down the hatches and consolidating my hobbies, interests, and all that other stuff, gouging big holes in my schedule to make more time to spend with the little ones.

As such, I sold my motorcycle. That great machine was just rotting in the driveway, unridden. ’Twas sad to see it drive away, but oh well, I’m not the first Dad to make the call.

I’ve seen the light and understand the coolness of music nibs and why they’re a hot thing on the message boards and in the pen-show halls. Extra Fine Points

My baseball trips have pretty much been curtailed, and therefore the concomitant autograph chasing. Maybe Patrick and (to use the baseball general manager’s term) the kid to be named later will get into the autograph game and we’ll start anew in five years.

The pen-hunting’s slowed to a trickle, too. It’s gotten to the point where, at the few pen shows I work with Richard — such as Toronto last weekend — people crack wise with lines such as “Barbara, you’ve sprouted a goatee! Looks good on you!”

I have, however, taken up keyboard lessons, something I did for 10 years back in my youth and discarded about the time I entered college. It’s happening for three reasons: one, I want the tykes to grow up around music; two, I have some unfinished business — I learned structured classical piano, but what I wanted was to play improvisational blues, jazz, and rock; and three, it keeps me around home more than the bike did.

I sought out a teacher, a jazz player who wrote a method book, and he’s doing a good job of rewiring my Hanon-and-Bach brain to take on Bird, Miles, and Coltrane.

This guy’s pushing me to write, too. “Anytime you’re screwing around soloing and you play something really cool, write it down,” he says. Then he reminds me I’m a writer, he claims I’ve shown myself to be creative, and I know how to read music — three qualities that not every musician has.

That doesn’t mean I’ll ever write anything of consequence, or even guarantee I’ll play worth a whit. But it’s tons of fun trying — playing the Rhodes, the Hammond organ, and the other stuff I picked up and have jammed into my little studio here.

And this music thing makes a phenomenally great excuse to play with … music nibs.

Sort of like the “unintentional” intentional walk in baseball, Richard hasn’t yet announced his capability to make music nibs — but I’ll unofficially acknowledge it here and confirm it’s true, validating the rumors rumbling around the hobby. And he well nigh might not announce it for a long time. A lot of us know how meticulous he is, and he refuses to publicly acknowledge this music nib thing until he achieves what he feels is perfection. But he’s making them. And testing them. And testing and testing and testing.

Writing with these things, let me say, I’ve seen the light and understand the coolness of music nibs and why they’re a hot thing on the message boards and in the pen-show halls. They work sort of like those ballpoint tipped nibs where you lean it one way, it’s a broad and the other way, it’s a fine. Now imagine that kind of nib … on steroids. Not just GNC steroids any home weightlifter can pick up at the mall, but the heavy duty stuff that landed Rafael Palmeiro an unplanned vacation and stripped Ben Johnson of Olympic gold.

Writing music

The idea is that a person actually writing music can, before it fades from memory, whip off a 20-note phrase complete with narrow stems and flags on the notes, yet draw their fat heads with single strokes and not have to “color them in.”

It’s an archaic method of writing, for sure, considering the great software that aids today’s musicians with songwriting, but what the heck? It’s a great exploration for a pen collector who has no business entering his hack musical diddlings into such a permanent electronic record, anyway.

And oh yeah, for you non-musicians? A music nib truly is the Babe Ruth of signature pens. I endorsed a check with this thing and it looked more official than the Declaration of Independence.

Fenway 2005

A quick funny story: Richard and I went to Fenway Pahk August 2, and we sat in the upper bleachers. I looked at the field.

Fenway Park 8/2/05

And I asked Richard, “What does that pattern in the grass remind you of?”

“[Car] racing stripes,” he said.

“Come on,” I said. “Where else have you seen it before?”

“Uh …” He couldn’t think of anything.

“If it’s anything, it’s those thin-fat-thin Vac Duofold cap bands,” I said.

Fountain pen

Then he shot four pictures with his cell phone camera to make the above Fenway panorama.

Then Manny Ramirez hit a three run shot and we started paying more attention to the game.

cover Further Reading: Hearing and Writing Music: Professional Training for Today’s Musician (2nd Edition), by Ron Gorow

So you’ve got a music nib, a little music training under your belt (or some hard-knocks experience), and a tune rattling around in your brain. How to proceed? Get professional help.

Freelance writer Don Fluckinger lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, and is the son-in-law of Richard Binder. His articles have been published in Antiques Roadshow Insider, The Boston Globe, and on the collectibles Web site. Please note: Any opinions stated in this column are Don’s alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Richard Binder or this Web site. Don Fluckinger
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