Do you ever pick up your banjo or guitar or mandolin to play it, and you know that somethings "just not right?" Especially if you haven't been playing for long, you might not be able to put your finger on what the trouble is. You might just know that you're not comfortable playing the instrument, and it just doesn't sound right or play right. Well, chances are that you're NOT just making it up. Something really is wrong, even if you can't put your finger on it.
I've mentioned before that I'm a student pilot now, trying to get my pilot's license. Well, I went out to make a solo flight last Monday. I was assigned an Cessna 172 that I'd flown before, but not recently. And from the time I sat down in the pilot's seat, I just didn't feel comfortable. I started the engine and took off, and everything went normally but it "just wasn't right."
I decided to make a landing or two before heading out to the practice area. The airplane felt awkward in the landing and as I let the nosewheel down onto the runway, suddenly the whole plane started shaking loudly: BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG, and it didn't stop. I thought the nosewheel had gone flat. We often get what's called "nosewheel shimmy" after landing, but this was ten times worse than that.
Well, I did get the airplane off the runway, and after that it acted better and none of the tires were actually flat. I taxied back to parking and reported the trouble. I suspect that the nosewheel strut is badly out of adjustment. I had just KNOWN something was wrong with that airplane even before takeoff, but I didn't know what it was. I found out when it was time to land. It wasn't dangerous, but it was inconvenient! To me, something had happened to the airplane invisibly, and my hands and mind had been trying to tell me.
Something analogous happened to one of Murphy's banjo students recently. He knew that something had gone wrong with his banjo, but he wasn't able to tell just what it was. He knew he wasn't comfortable playing it any more, and the action had come up, but that was all he knew. So after his lesson, I took a look down the neck -- yep, it was pretty bowed. I took off the adjustment rod cover and got a socket-driver to adjust the nut. Sure enough, it had worked loose. I let down the string tension, tightened the nut, and brought the strings back up to pitch. The neck was straight and the action was back low again. Must have taken me at least three or four minutes. But to the student, it was quite a problem. It was something that had happened invisibly to his banjo.
When you pick up your instrument and start to play, your hands and mind send you signals. If it all just doesn't feel right, there may be something wrong! Get your teacher or an instrument-savvy friend to take a look and see what might be wrong. If something's "just not right," it might not just be your imagination!