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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: whats the best way to learn for an absolute beginner??!!!!


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Roper Country Girl - Posted - 04/29/2013:  23:09:51


I had never even held a banjo until a couple days ago. I'm trying to learns rolls. I had no idea there were so many. Some videos I have watched refer to the strings as #s 1,2,3,4,5, 5 being the closest to the top of the banjo. The other uses letters. I believe its G,D,G,B,D. I can do either or, my question right now is" which roll do I learn? I prefer the Scruggs style music, so which ever front/back roll, alternative roll should I choose. I want to eventually learn Clawhammer, but don't want to get ahead of myself. I also don't want to start out learning bad habits or learning wrong. So please, any and all help, tips, suggestions, videos, books, anyone can recommend I'm open to hear any helpful suggestions. Thanks so much for ur time, its much appreciated!!

kevin0461 - Posted - 04/30/2013:  01:44:00


Hi Jodi!

I've tried them all... Murphy Method... Janet Davis... Tony Trishka... And I'm having the best luck with Janet Davis' books/CDs/DVDs.
Her methods are slow, easy to understand, economical and methodical. As I said though, I've been through a few and different people learn differently. Murphy's are good too but I found that I can't learn that way. I e had great teachers too but that's a lot of pressure... Kind of takes the fun out of it.

Best of luck to you... Either way you look at it, it's great fun!!!

Old Man - Posted - 04/30/2013:  01:47:09


Get a teacher



 


JedZeppelin - Posted - 04/30/2013:  02:13:47


It varies from person to person. Try them all, stick with what works.

asmcsgac - Posted - 04/30/2013:  02:33:47


quote:

Originally posted by Old Man

 

Get a teacher




 







Yes and yes.


Docmhc - Posted - 04/30/2013:  04:06:39


quote:

Originally posted by Old Man

 

Get a teacher




 







Keep in mind, banjo teachers are extremely few and far between in some areas. There are none to be found in my area.



Janet Davis' book "You Can Teach Yourself Bluegrass Banjo" is a very good learning tool if you can't get a teacher.



Don


kevin0461 - Posted - 04/30/2013:  05:13:40


Hey Don! I second that Janet Davis Book!! It's an outstanding teacher!! It's too bad that the DVD only covers what's in about a third of it. The CD isn't too bad though.

Fathand - Posted - 04/30/2013:  05:17:50



  • Alternating Thumb or TITMTITM

  • Forward Roll or TMTIMTIM

  • Forward Reverse or TIMTMITM



Practice these and change which strings the thumb and Index play but remember rolls are exercises designed to getting you used to playing any string with any finger at any time with proper timing. Get a good book, Bluegrass Banjo by Peter Wernick works. There are lots of others too which I am sure are suggested all over the BHO.


John Allison - Posted - 04/30/2013:  05:58:06


Jodi,



First of all let me welcome you to the Hangout. Now for your question: the best way to learn is from a teacher; if that is not possible, then instructional DVDs are the next best choice and there are many good ones such as those by Pete Wernic, Murphy Henry, Janet Davis; and there are always books as a last choice. I have never done on-line lessons, so I will not comment on them.



Fowlerville, hmmmm, some good eating right there at the I96 exit to Fowlerville. I stop there quite often on my way home from Elderly Instruments. And that brings me to this point. Elderly has some pretty good instructors there and perhaps you could take advantage of that. I would definitely recommend this. Good Luck and have fun with your banjo journey!



As an added note, Elderly has a fine and large selection of banjos from beginner level to megabuck level.  And, they let you play them on site.  Great place to find what you are looking for, meet musicians of all levels from beginner to pro, and just a fine fine place to spend the day.



Edited by - John Allison on 04/30/2013 06:01:45

Ron44 - Posted - 04/30/2013:  06:27:17


do yourself a favor and get lessons from a teacher lay a solid foundation
then you can begin to make informed decisions about independent study.

SWCooper - Posted - 04/30/2013:  06:39:17


quote:

Originally posted by Fathand


rolls are exercises designed to getting you used to playing any string with any finger at any time with proper timing




 



Worth repeating. You're building neural pathways for all the finger movements you'll need to play all the licks. So, expect a LOT of drill...especially up front, but throughout your banjo playing career.



And yes, a teacher is fastest and best, if you get a good one.


kevin0461 - Posted - 04/30/2013:  07:04:51


Practicing rolls are necessary but extremely boring... mix it up with learning some songs.

Not all teachers lay a solid foundation... plus they're expensive up front ($25 to $30 per 1/2 hour). If you go the teacher route... find a good one based on recommendation... do some research.

A Janet Davis book or a Murphy Henry DVD is about the same price as one lesson... and they'll keep you busy for months. Murphy's first DVD teaches you the basics (proper technique, parts of a banjo, rolls, etc.) and some basic songs.

Ok... I'm not a fan of teachers.

Quartermaster James - Posted - 04/30/2013:  07:20:31


Midwest Banjo Camp ( midwestbanjocamp.com/ ) is in Olivet June 7-9, and offers a complete novice program:



"The novice program is designed primarily for true beginners: banjoists who have been playing a few months or less, or who have not yet learned even the most basic mechanics of either fingerpicking or the clawhammer stroke. If you already know these basics, we recommend diving into either the lower intermediate or even the upper intermediate programs. Even if they are a little over your head, you'll still be taking home vital advice and mental images that will guide your growth on banjo for years to come."



 


Rich Weill - Posted - 04/30/2013:  07:21:12


quote:


Originally posted by kevin0461


Practicing rolls are necessary but extremely boring... mix it up with learning some songs. 




Necessary?  Yes.  Boring?  Here are some ways to change that:




  • Don't just work on the finger patterns, work also on your rhythm.  Rolls are your principal rhythm section when you play, so use this practice as the opportunity to get in a good rhythmic groove with your right hand.  And remember: rhythm is more than good timing.  A ticking clock has good timing, but lousy rhythm.




  • Practice your rolls over a chord progression.  For example, two measures of G, two measures of C, two measures of G, two measures of D (or D7), and two more measures of G.  Better yet, roll over the chord progression of a song you like.  After all, rolling rhythmically over a song's chord progression is one form of backup.



 


Roper Country Girl - Posted - 04/30/2013:  07:24:53


Thank yall so much. Unfortunately I don't have time for a teacher. Working 12 hr days at the Urgent Care makes it hard to find someone who can work around my schedule.:( I will however check out some of those books and DVDs and thanks to yall it sounds like I have some great selections.

John Allison, we DO have some great food here. Fowlerville Farms is just off the exit and Great Lakes is right next door! Both good:) If u head into town at our main light you will see The Bloated Goat , they have a good Goat Burger or if ya can a Mountain Goat Burger! Just A little further east of us towards Howell on Grand River and Burkhart. Is a place called Wranglers Saloon. Best food in the county!!! Wrangler Burger is amazing they make there soups all homemade. My Husband an I have been eating dinner there for years , not a bad thing on the menu!!! Anyway my Uncle also told me about that Elderly Store in Lansing/Frandor area I believe. I am for sure planning a day to go there, it sounds like a must visit!!

Thanks again everyone, I'm so excited, I told my Husband, " You better get some ear plugs, I might even make the dog howl!" He just smiled n said at least you'll know you have a fan!"

tmelvin - Posted - 04/30/2013:  07:56:47


Welcome to the world of banjo. Your are sure to get a lot of good advice here and many different opinions. With so many instructional materials available today and all the websites, youtube, and so on, it can be very over-whelming and it's hard to choose which direction to go. I would take a look at dr.banjo.com (Pete Wernick) and consider his philosophy of learning to play music. If your goal is to play with others, I believe this is the quickest way to learn how music works and will get you to jamming with others quickly. The tunes and the rolls and everything else will come with time. Good luck and have fun.

BanjoRW - Posted - 04/30/2013:  08:24:53


I really like Tony Trischka's School of Banjo, a part of Artwork's Academy of Bluegress  artistworks.com/banjo-lessons-...-trischka. The cost is $90 for 3 months or $240 for 12 months. Private instructions would be better, but that's a lot more expensive and smoetimes hard to find.



Have fun with whatever learning method you pick.


wrangler - Posted - 04/30/2013:  10:28:31


I started on the Pete Seeger book but I am an old timer.  The best advice I ever got came from a desk clerk in a hotel.  I was in New York City going to a concert at Carnegie Hall.  I asked the desk clerk, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?"  He answered, "Practice, practice, practice."


LCKrisher - Posted - 04/30/2013:  11:06:45


Since we have a few opinions already, I'll throw mine out too. If you don't have time for a teacher, don't think you have to have one. You can learn pretty much any instrument on your own if you have ambition and some learning material. Check out Banjo Ben on YouTube--he has a lot of awesome stuff for free, and you'll get some chuckles out of his intros! Good move in getting a banjo--go get 'em!


dickinnorwich - Posted - 04/30/2013:  12:21:31


Yeah, Wrangler and I come from the older generation. We used to have to slow down records. Records are those big, black, vinyl, disks your parents and grandparents used to have.
There's a cute ad on TV for U-Verse (I think) which features a teenager talking his or her younger siblings about how good they have it, now, and the things they had to do "their day"....which you know by looking at them wasn't more than five or six years ago.
The point is, your generation does have many more good ways to learn than anybody who came before you. That's a fact. I'm going to argue that there isn't a bad way to learn so take advantage of all of them. In addition to all of the (vast) internet and electronic options, I still think the one of the best ways to learn is to find one more friends who play guitar, mandolin, fiddle or banjo and work off of each other. If I was going to start over, I'd start by learning the basic chord positions first and learning how to listen for the chord changes. Murphy Henry has a DVD for this that I think is terrific. Rolls are obviously important, too, but the basic building block are the chords. They come first. Find some slower three-chord songs in the Key of G and just start out by strumming the G, C, D chords behind whatever media is convenient. Later, you'll find your fingers starting to roll in a pattern behind those chords. But first, learn how to listen to the chords.

Roper Country Girl - Posted - 04/30/2013:  12:34:57


quote:
Originally posted by dickinnorwich

Yeah, Wrangler and I come from the older generation. We used to have to slow down records. Records are those big, black, vinyl, disks your parents and grandparents used to have.
There's a cute ad on TV for U-Verse (I think) which features a teenager talking his or her younger siblings about how good they have it, now, and the things they had to do "their day"....which you know by looking at them wasn't more than five or six years ago.
The point is, your generation does have many more good ways to learn than anybody who came before you. That's a fact. I'm going to argue that there isn't a bad way to learn so take advantage of all of them. In addition to all of the (vast) internet and electronic options, I still think the one of the best ways to learn is to find one more friends who play guitar, mandolin, fiddle or banjo and work off of each other. If I was going to start over, I'd start by learning the basic chord positions first and learning how to listen for the chord changes. Murphy Henry has a DVD for this that I think is terrific. Rolls are obviously important, too, but the basic building block are the chords. They come first. Find some slower three-chord songs in the Key of G and just start out by strumming the G, C, D chords behind whatever media is convenient. Later, you'll find your fingers starting to roll in a pattern behind those chords. But first, learn how to listen to the chords.



Roper Country Girl - Posted - 04/30/2013:  12:41:32


Lol!!! I know what a record/album is! I had Dolly Patton an Tanya Tucker when I was 3!! Haha:) I like the old school ways! I would like to find someone to learn with IRS just hard finding the time!! Thanks for the tips tho, much appreciated!!

Rich Weill - Posted - 04/30/2013:  13:10:04


quote:

Originally posted by wrangler


The best advice I ever got came from a desk clerk in a hotel.  I was in New York City going to a concert at Carnegie Hall.  I asked the desk clerk, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?"  He answered, "Practice, practice, practice."






I wonder how long that desk clerk had been waiting for someone to ask him that, thereby allowing him to use what may be one of the oldest punch lines around.



This reminds me of a friend whose landlord wanted his front door painted black, so it would match the other doors in the complex.  When the painter arrived, my friend (who didn't want his door painted black), calmly declared:  "Go!  And do not darken my door again!"



These opportunities do not present themselves very frequently.



Edited by - Rich Weill on 04/30/2013 13:11:58

Ladelnutts - Posted - 04/30/2013:  15:19:48


Geoff Hohwald's Banjo Primer book & DVD got me up and playing. My suggestion from experience is to not rely soley on tab to learn and work on developing your ear.

GlennM - Posted - 04/30/2013:  20:07:56


Cripple Creek



pickersacademy.com/index.php/c...t-picking


dmiller - Posted - 04/30/2013:  21:13:53


quote:

Originally posted by SWCooper

 
quote:


Originally posted by Fathand



rolls are exercises designed to getting you used to playing any string with any finger at any time with proper timing





 




Worth repeating. You're building neural pathways for all the finger movements you'll need to play all the licks. So, expect a LOT of drill...especially up front, but throughout your banjo playing career.




And yes, a teacher is fastest and best, if you get a good one.







Neural pathways - - or "New Earl" pathways of finger movements?  big



OK, OK - - - I'll go back to my corner now, and be quiet!  tongue


Roper Country Girl - Posted - 04/30/2013:  23:50:59


Hahaha! U guys r crackin me up, that desk clerk prbly has a million little puns stored away! "Don't darkin my doorstep! Too funny!!!

Martian - Posted - 05/01/2013:  04:54:15


I agree w/ a teacher, and I do teach, but ,I also understand how your schedule is pretty tough, most of your other alternitives have been mentioned here, i would also look up bluegrass associations, people love to help,


dickinnorwich - Posted - 05/01/2013:  06:03:58


Jodi:



You do know I was kidding, right?



But I was thinking some more about this last night and the thought came to me that as we speak, I'm in the process of "advising" a couple of other newbee players about getting started. The thought I had was that as modern folk, we're all busy and as such, we're all looking for "shortcuts."



My thought was this: There are no shortcuts but there are plenty of "longcuts".....pathways that people take that they think are shortcuts but really lead nowhere. Using myself as a typical example, when I got my first ($10) banjo about 38 years ago, I got the Scrugg's book and opened it right up to the page with Foggy Mountain Breakdown. I sat down and tried to learn that song note for note, without having gone through any of the basics. Other songs followed but it was a disaster and I was a disaster. I was a mistake-prone, "super-fund site" but I rationalized my approach to shortcut learning because I was a busy Dad with two children, a full time job and an old house I was renovating. The truth is that not learning the basics set me back an untold number of years. There was no possible way I could ever participate in a jam and "make music with my friends" by learning a few individual songs note for note until I went back and learned the basics about how those songs were built.



So if you have no goal of ever playing with anyone else, then the truth is that it really doesn't matter what you do. But if you want to play music with others, you do need to learn about the basic structure of the music. Figuring out how to organize that, given your busy, demanding, schedule, is something you'll have to work out, just like we all did. Just don't look for shortcuts to learning because there really aren't any. 



Edited by - dickinnorwich on 05/01/2013 06:08:24

Roper Country Girl - Posted - 05/02/2013:  19:06:25


Lol, of course I know u were kidding:) my uncle said pretty much the same thing , he had learned by just listening to songs and if he had he had it to do. Over he would've learned the basics first. I have a couple rolls down, I'm not real fast yet but I'm getting there I don't wanna rush it plus I haven't had much time.:)

Rich Weill - Posted - 05/02/2013:  21:07:44


quote:


Originally posted by dickinnorwich


There are no shortcuts ... 




This is one of those statements that sounds good at first -- but, when you think about it a little, doesn't make a lot of sense.  How many people have devoting themselves to teaching the banjo?  And none of them has found even one improvement on how to learn to play?  To make it a little easier to learn, and thus possible to learn a little faster?  That can't be possible. 



Then again, what's a "shortcut"?  Legend has it that Earl Scruggs never heard of a "roll" until Bill Keith introduced him to the concept.  If true, did Keith come up with a shortcut?  There are numerous books and videos devoted to learning modular licks.  Aren't ready-made licks a shortcut?  Hey, how about the Circle of Fifths?  And I thought that playing with a metronome speeds improvement -- so isn't that a shortcut?  Isn't playing with others a shortcut?  And what about studying with an excellent teacher?



No, no, no -- that's not what we mean, you may say.  We're saying that nothing will let you avoid hours of practice, learning the fundamentals, understanding music theory, and progressing step-by-step.  Okay, but that's not the same as saying that no form of instruction can help you learn any better or faster than any other.  That's all a "shortcut" is -- a more effective way.



Just like the "10,000-Hour Rule" now being discussed in another forum, I wince at statements suggesting that disappointment and frustration are unavoidable.  If the way you're learning isn't working, there probably is a better way for you.  And if that something else cuts a path through the frustration for you, that's a "shortcut" as far as I'm concerned.


Stiv_MacRae - Posted - 05/03/2013:  05:23:02


quote:

Originally posted by Rich Weill

 
quote:


Originally posted by dickinnorwich



Legend has it that Earl Scruggs never heard of a "roll" until Bill Keith introduced him to the concept.  




 



You know, this oft-repeated story simply can't be true.  We know from Earl's own statements that his big breakthrough was learning to play Reuben with three fingers.  Reuben is a square roll (alternating thumb), so what he learned to do was to play a square roll with three fingers rather than two.  He also spent a lot of teen years playing dances with a fiddler.  To do that he would have hand to play something that supported the fiddler by defining the changes and staying on the beat.  That's pretty much the function of a square roll.  So, my belief is that he may not have heard the word "roll" or put rolls into categories (forward, backward, etc) until Bill Keith deconstructed his playing, but he was doing it anyway. And by playing with a fiddler, he was practicing them over and over and over.



 


SWCooper - Posted - 05/03/2013:  05:28:40


Never. Earl was playing three finger rolls before Bill Keith was born. He pinched it off Snuffy Jenkins, maybe (though Snuffy didn't teach Earl, another old legend).


Banjophobic - Posted - 05/03/2013:  06:01:42


quote:

Originally posted by Rich Weill

 
quote:


Originally posted by dickinnorwich



There are no shortcuts ... 





This is one of those statements that sounds good at first -- but, when you think about it a little, doesn't make a lot of sense.  How many people have devoting themselves to teaching the banjo?  And none of them has found even one improvement on how to learn to play?  To make it a little easier to learn, and thus possible to learn a little faster?  That can't be possible. 




Then again, what's a "shortcut"?  Legend has it that Earl Scruggs never heard of a "roll" until Bill Keith introduced him to the concept.  If true, did Keith come up with a shortcut?  There are numerous books and videos devoted to learning modular licks.  Aren't ready-made licks a shortcut?  Hey, how about the Circle of Fifths?  And I thought that playing with a metronome speeds improvement -- so isn't that a shortcut?  Isn't playing with others a shortcut?  And what about studying with an excellent teacher?




No, no, no -- that's not what we mean, you may say.  We're saying that nothing will let you avoid hours of practice, learning the fundamentals, understanding music theory, and progressing step-by-step.  Okay, but that's not the same as saying that no form of instruction can help you learn any better or faster than any other.  That's all a "shortcut" is -- a more effective way.




Just like the "10,000-Hour Rule" now being discussed in another forum, I wince at statements suggesting that disappointment and frustration are unavoidable.  If the way you're learning isn't working, there probably is a better way for you.  And if that something else cuts a path through the frustration for you, that's a "shortcut" as far as I'm concerned.







Even a method that one thinks is an 'improvement' over a more established one, will not eliminate the need for countless hours of practice, or listening to lots of great banjo music. In the end, regardless of how much 'faster' someone 'think's they are learning to play banjo with "X" method, its still dependent upon the student to work hard. Thats what Dick is saying I think and I agree 100%.


bluenote23 - Posted - 05/03/2013:  06:20:56


Well, no one has made this suggestion yet so here is my trajrectory.



I started playing about 4 months ago. I have been learning with Banjo Ben Clark's online video lessons at banjobenclark.com. There are some basic lessons like 'how to string the banjo' and 'choosing your picks' but most of the videos show Ben playing a song at normal speed and then playing the song very, very slowly. In the newer lessons, he does this measure by measure making comments for the measures and phrases. He provides tabs in .pdf and .tef.



I started with his 'section rolls' lessons and that really helped me get a handle on rolls. I think it's good to have a single source for a consistent series of lessons that take you through various levels of progression. If you need it, he weaves some basic music theory into a lot of his beginner lessons so you can take it in without getting bored.



There is a monthly subscription fee that can be as low a $12.50 a month. As long as you subscribe, you have access to the videos and the tabs so you can go at your own speed.



Edited by - bluenote23 on 05/03/2013 06:22:35

Rich Weill - Posted - 05/03/2013:  06:24:01


quote:


Originally posted by Stiv_MacRae


So, my belief is that he may not have heard the word "roll" or put rolls into categories (forward, backward, etc) until Bill Keith deconstructed his playing, but he was doing it anyway. 




I'm sure you're 100% correct.  But, even so, deconstructing Earl's right-hand patterns and organizing them into categories facilitates one's ability to practice them as a discrete component.  That, in turn, speeds improvement.  How many people say, "Even though I've been playing for X years, I still put in Y hours each week practicing rolls"?  You couldn't do that if rolls had not been isolated from the other elements.


dickinnorwich - Posted - 05/03/2013:  07:45:51


"Originally posted by dickinnorwich



Legend has it that Earl Scruggs never heard of a "roll" until Bill Keith introduced him to the concept.
"



Stiv:

In my defense, I never (ever) said this. Rich Weill said this.



Edited by - dickinnorwich on 05/03/2013 07:46:59

Rich Weill - Posted - 05/03/2013:  08:13:37


quote:


Originally posted by dickinnorwich

 

"Originally posted by dickinnorwich



Legend has it that Earl Scruggs never heard of a "roll" until Bill Keith introduced him to the concept.
"



Stiv:

In my defense, I never (ever) said this. Rich Weill said this.







Actually, it was Bill Palmer, author of the 1964 instruction book, How to Play Folk and Bluegrass Banjo, who said it:



"In 1965, I visited Earl at his home in Madison. This was where he told me that he had never heard of a 'roll' until Bill Keith told him about them. He said that he basically played the melody with his thumb or his index finger, whichever seemed best, and filled in the gaps with whatever was left over. So simple—so arcane!"



billpalmer.com/advent.html


SWCooper - Posted - 05/03/2013:  13:07:25


I think that's probably of a piece with Earl being unable to TAB his own work because he wasn't sure what it was he was doing, he was just doing it. He may not have thought of rolls as a distinct musical entity, but he certainly played them.


Fishrrman - Posted - 05/03/2013:  18:57:52


One thing I haven't seen mentioned for the player starting out, is…



… try to listen to bands with songs that are easy to learn.



Ralph Stanley is a good choice. His songs (by design) are structured simply, easily-learned melodies, basic chord progressions.



Once you've got the keys figured out, you can put on a capo, and just "roll along" trying to get the chord changes in.



I'd practice simple chord changes (even if you just strum for now, when learning chords the emphasis is in the fretting hand), just over and over, say G, C, D, or G, D, C. Try to toss in an Em now and then. Or C, F, G, with an Am or Dm.



Once you can get the chords changing, start rolling as you chord. I wouldn't even worry about trying to follow any particular melody at first, just "roll along" as you change chords.



Years ago, when there wasn't much to learn from, I learned by playing along to records.



Back then, it was harder because you might be out of pitch with the recording -- you'd have to "tune up" or "down", sometimes with each song!



Now, you can use software to adjust the speed of playback...



Edited by - Fishrrman on 05/03/2013 18:58:35



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