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Self-made musician

12/27/2013

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

Like most teens, music is a big part of Hannah Norris' life.

But Norris, a Hays High School freshman, goes beyond just listening to her favorite songs -- she writes and performs her own work.

Though music has been a part of her life "probably forever," she said, Norris taught herself to play the guitar just three years ago.

"The guitar pretty much started it all," Norris said. "It's a versatile instrument (with) just so many different sounds. It covers a wide spectrum. You can do just about anything on a guitar."

Norris also plays the ukulele, mandolin and banjo -- all self-taught -- and had some piano lessons from her grandmother when she was a child.

Not one to join the structured music classes at school, she did begin guitar lessons earlier this year to polish her skill.

Writing her own lyrics and music "seemed like a natural step because I started teaching myself from covers. You get tired of playing other people's music at some point, and you've got to play your own. That's just kind of what happened."

Mostly, she listens to folk, Indie and alternative music, with Laura Marling and Bob Dylan vying for the title of her favorite artist.

The lyrics come first when she's writing "to get a feel for the tone of the song."

Since she doesn't read music, she uses guitar tab sheet music -- "specific music tabs that tell you what fret to hit on what string" -- to write her songs.

Though she's written approximately a half dozen songs, so far she's recorded just one original song on YouTube. She likely will add to that number.

Norris has appeared at open mic night at Singers a few times, too, to get performance experience.

She's looking into recording some songs at a Lawrence studio.

"I definitely want to have a career in music, but I've got back-up plans," she said.