Visit DAddario NY Steel Strings

 All Forums
 Playing the Banjo
 Playing Advice: 4-String (Jazz, Blues & Other Trad Styles)
 method/age

 New Topic  Reply to Topic
 Print

Next Page

 

 

Page: of 2

davidcava

United States
2053 posts
since 11/13/05

03/20/2017 14:49:52 View davidcava's MP3 Archive View davidcava's Classified Ads View davidcava's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

How old were you guys when you first started banjo? and what was your first method of learning? I'm curious if a lot of you had maybe a similar method of initial learning.

David

cb56

United States
342 posts since 7/24/11

03/20/2017 14:57:13 Reply with Quote

Age 61.

Melbay Fun with banjo. Complete Tenor banjo. First studies. Watch a lot of videos.

Easy to remember because it's only been a few weeks!laugh
 


Edited by - cb56 on 03/20/2017 14:57:33

Go to Top of Page

Richard Elmes

England
8 posts since 11/1/16

03/20/2017 15:21:25 Reply with Quote

Hi David ,  I was 19 - got nowhere with books till I started taking lessons ( Jimmie Edwards here in UK ) in this day and age a lot easier with internet to learn and support I guess.

Go to Top of Page

Omeboy

United States
883 posts since 6/27/13

03/20/2017 15:29:35View Omeboy's MP3 Archive View Omeboy's Classified Ads View Omeboy's Photo Albums View Omeboy's Blog Reply with Quote

Started tenor on my 13th birthday. Had a  nearly impossible time trying to find ANYBODY who could actually teach tenor banjo back in the Sixties---especially in Indiana.  I used to say it would have been easier to find a fully intact Brontosaurus skeleton in your backyard than find a decent tenor banjo teacher----they just didn't exist.  Everybody thought I was nuts to even consider it. (Maybe they were right.)  Got lots of discouragement from guitar teachers who wanted me to switch over to guitar, but I kept chasing after the banjo. In retrospect, none of them really had a clue about it, but they gladly took your money.  Finally found Warren Henderson in Terre Haute, IN who showed me the McNeil System for Tenor---God bless him. I finally had the key to the fret board----that vast mysterious landscape that had eluded me.  So I played tenor for ten years.  But being stuck in Indiana, I never knew there was a "plectrum banjo" until I bumped into a very accomplished plectrum player when I was 21. It was a lucky break that would dramatically turn me around.  That was always "the sound" I had been chasing in my head and there it was at last.  I switched over that year and with the  McNeil System for Plectrum, I started to reverse engineer all of Perry's solos and learn them note for note from his great album. It was my full time obsession.  With ten years of tenor experience under me, I made tremendous progress in a reasonable amount of time and really discovered my own voice on the instrument. (I had two of Perry's albums: one in mint condition in the shrink wrap and the other nearly worn out.)   I've played banjo now for 54 years and I'm still discovering things on it.  Since then I've added some five-string Bluegrass to the mix, but it's very secondary to the plectrum rep.  The plectrum gave me a sense of freedom I didn't preciously have.  It was exactly what I needed all along.  In retrospect, I have to admit that those guitar teachers were probably right------to an extent.  But when the "banjo bug" bites, there's no cure for it.

Go to Top of Page

sethb

United States
418 posts since 2/16/05

03/20/2017 16:19:18 Reply with Quote

I started with a 5-string banjo bought from a pawnshop when I was about 15 years old. I used Pete Seeger's instruction manual and learned most of the major/minor chords. 

Then I discovered that you couldn't strum a 5-string. So I just removed the fifth string and was playing what was essentially a plectrum banjo, although I didn't know it at the time. Learned the rest of the chords and worked my way up the neck with Mel Bay's 5-string chord book, just ignoring the fifth string.

It took another 45 years for me to discover how to play melody chords correctly, thanks to Don Van Palta's excellent set of Banjo Solos books, which I found around 2010. Also had a big assist from Buddy Wachter's videotape on the proper ways to strum a banjo (even if it was a tenor banjo). His "riverboat strum" is the one I use almost exclusively, it really emphasizes the melody note on the 1st string and is a truly graceful way to play.

But there's always something new to learn about playing the banjo, so I expect that eventually, something else will come down the road and expand my horizons even further! SETH


Edited by - sethb on 03/20/2017 16:21:29

Go to Top of Page

Chris Bowsman

United States
69 posts since 6/18/16

03/20/2017 16:53:27 View Chris Bowsman's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

I'm 37, have played electric guitar since I was 13, and added mandolin about a year ago and banjo soon after. On a typical day, I watch a bunch of Bela Fleck and Noam Pikelny videos, then get really frustrated I can't play like them. I do not recommend my method.

Go to Top of Page

Dogrich

United States
51 posts since 3/16/17

03/20/2017 19:16:31 Reply with Quote

I'm pretty much brand new to this at 47. I've been playing guitar since adolescence, but my musical tastes have evolved. Wanting something new to challenge myself, the banjo bug bit. I've been using the internet for vids and lessons for clawhammer. I'm coming along, but I'm not to a point where I'm ready to play w/ others.

I absolutely love what Omeboy says in a post above...

"when the "banjo bug" bites, there's no cure for it."

DR

Go to Top of Page

Westvon

United States
3248 posts since 4/16/06

03/20/2017 20:10:02View Westvon's MP3 Archive View Westvon's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

I was 15 years of age (1975);  I started out with the Earl Scruggs banjo book but within a month or two I was able to pick the melodies out by ear.  I took about four months of lessons and then started hanging with some outstanding musicians my age and older who threw me into the mix by forcing me to play.  That's a great way to learn.

Go to Top of Page

Clive M

Canada
305 posts since 8/27/15

03/20/2017 20:15:39 View Clive M's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

Started at 10. I had a couple tab books, but i didnt learn anything from them. Either than that I mainly used youtube to learn material.

Go to Top of Page

banjoman56

United States
3563 posts since 9/21/09

03/20/2017 20:20:51 View banjoman56's Photo Albums View banjoman56's Blog Reply with Quote

Age 63.

I messed around with a banjo for a year or so when I was somewhere around 18, but had too much going on, so I sold it and didn't start back till I was around 43. I play Scruggs style and never took lessons. I have used the Scruggs book, as well as books by Jack Hatfield and Janet Davis.

Go to Top of Page

L50EF15

53 posts since 9/6/16

03/20/2017 20:46:49View L50EF15's MP3 Archive Reply with Quote

I taught myself to play the kalimba at 18 by improvising parts while listening to Yes, Steely Dan and the Dave Brubeck Quartet, and took a freshman year music theory class for the fun of it at the same time. I've been playing guitar since age 19 (the Yamaha dreadnought in my avatar; got a pickup for it a couple of years later. Several years after that, I bought a Telecaster), just for the joy of it. I remember thinking to myself that Steve Howe was using only 20 frets and Wes Montgomery also started playing at 19 years old, so I could do the same thing.

I never took guitar lessons, but taught myself by playing along to records, from the beginning playing along to stuff I had no business trying to emulate (Yes, Wes, Barney Kessel with The Poll Winners, Coltrane, Al DiMeola, Brand X, Renaissance - the band, not the period - my Dad's Dave Brubeck records, Emily Remler). Certainly, that stuff fell well outside of the mid-'80s guitar norm. Most seemed drawn to playing Van Halen licks (the era of the Floyd Rose and two-handed tapping), else Johnny Marr/Smiths stuff, punk, thrash, Neo-classical metal, or REM-style Southern Gothic. Jazz and prog? Not so much.

I also bought, and closely studied (thereby opening my awareness to players like Allan Holdsworth and Steve Morse, among others too numerous to mention), EVERY issue of Guitar Player Magazine from November 1985 until February 1999. That string broke only because my subscription lapsed while I was laid up post-knee surgery. Larry Coryell's columns, and Rick Emmitt's, Howard Roberts' and Arnie Berle's, really helped.

I started banjo in October, at age 51, again just for the joy of it, inspired after reading around BHO and the greater Interweb in trying to answer two questions, "What can you play on the banjo besides bluegrass? Can you play a banjo with a flatpick?" That led me to the old Bopjo site, and then to 4-String Land, first via this forum, and then by downloading the Harry Reser "Banjo Crackerjack" collection. After listening to that album constantly for a month, I bought... an open back 5-string.

Why not a tenor or plectrum?

New tenors and plectrums are thin on the ground retail, and I had no intention of buying anything I couldn't try at length first, so I spent several hours at Sam Ash experimenting with a plain old Deering Goodtime. I found that I enjoyed having access to that fifth string; it doesn't have to be an open drone, I like the easy to get a Wes-like octave with it from the fifth fret up, and having it allows for some interesting chord voicings. I've since found that I do NOT like having the fifth string there, fretted or open, if I drop the fourth string down to C. Keeping it tuned to D (and thus to open-G "Bluegrass" tuning) works better to my ear. I understand the Sean Moyses uses that tuning.

In short, I'm enjoying the heresy of the road not taken, "plectrum 5-string," and I'm basically doing it the same way I learned the guitar. Substitute BHO, Deering's Hooks & Nuts blog, YouTube, and various and sundry spots on the web for Guitar Player Magazine. Substitute Reser, Fleck, Peabody, for DiMeola, Montgomery, Howe et al. Still jamming along to lots of guitarists, sax players, and pianists (especially Bill Evans), however.

I expect to get a 4-string later this year so that I can officially join the club.

Go to Top of Page

ldieckow

United States
222 posts since 1/27/14

03/20/2017 21:25:23 View ldieckow's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

Started on a tenor tuned guitar/Chicago tuning at 9. Changed teachers at 11 and a tenor player/jazz guitar wiz then insisted that I learn plectrum from the McNeil book as he thought 'Peabody" tuning was best for me. almost 49 years later I'm real happy how things worked out!

Go to Top of Page

Hot Club Man

United Kingdom
157 posts since 11/22/09

03/21/2017 01:24:16 View Hot Club Man's Classified Ads View Hot Club Man's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

Started on Guitar at age 13. A couple of years later I heard the 'The Kenny Ball Jazzmen'--loved the sound of the band--especially the banjo--thought I must  get me one of those!. Joined a jazz band on guitar--all the guys in the band were beginners (Must have been good!)--used to practice above a garage once a week by putting on 'Hot 5' and 'Hot 7' recordings. Learnt a few plectrum banjo chords.  The leader bought me a zither banjo for £2  from a junk shop! (It must have been a good one!!). Bought a proper plectrum banjo awhile afterwards--played in various jazz bands. Heard Eddie Peabody--thought: How did he do that? Found out it was known as chord melody style. Got into that. 50 years later 'getting the hang of it!'

Go to Top of Page

pearcemusic

United States
3116 posts since 10/10/08

03/21/2017 05:17:31View pearcemusic's MP3 Archive View pearcemusic's Photo Albums View pearcemusic's Blog Reply with Quote

Age 60 and very similar to Westvon. I Bought a Harmony 5 string for $25 in about 1971-72. I had no books until I found a Seeger book. Everything else came from learning by ear and dropping the needle on "Uncle Charlie". After I found a Scruggs book, it was all F&S until I heard Bobby T and Carl J. This all happened by the time I was 17. My interest in jazz came about 10 years later. I put the 5 string away for about 10 years but continued studying music and playing electric bass professionally. I came back to banjo about 15 years ago and have been obsessed about making up for lost time. 



 


Go to Top of Page

Compass56

United States
5006 posts since 4/7/08

03/21/2017 06:21:38 View Compass56's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

I started on 5-string banjo at 14. (I was terrible.) At 20, I switched to jazz guitar. I had a decent career playing casuals on guitar only for over ten years. In my 30s, my mentor (an incredible jazz guitarist) encouraged me to take up banjo and lap steel. He knew I would need those instruments if I wanted to work regularly. (We have so several major guitar players in this area, and he knew I would have trouble competing on guitar only.)

As for methodology, I approach all instruments in the same way. For me, it's all based on the tunes. I find good solid fake books with great changes and correct melodies, and I put together arrangements. I believe that's the best way to learn a polyphonic instrument.

Tony L.

Go to Top of Page

cb56

United States
342 posts since 7/24/11

03/21/2017 06:42:10 Reply with Quote

Ok, my mistake. I thought you were talking only about tenor banjo.

My first banjo was about 8 years ago. A Banjo ukulele. Already knew ukulele from books and videos. Some folks were doing some clawhammer/Frailing on their ukuleles. While researching that subject I stumbled on some great clawhamme/Frailing videos and pdf. books. After listening and watching those videos, I knew I had to have a 5 string. That was 6 or 7 years ago.

The tenor for me has just been recently but pretty much the same learning materials. Books, videos.

Go to Top of Page

Compass56

United States
5006 posts since 4/7/08

03/21/2017 09:28:43 View Compass56's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

I wasn't clear in my earlier post. I started 5-string banjo at 14, and I started tenor banjo (tuned CGDA) in my 30s. I've been playing tenor banjo on gigs ever since (including tonight).

Go to Top of Page

SunnylandBob

United States
22 posts since 7/9/12

03/21/2017 10:32:39View SunnylandBob's MP3 Archive View SunnylandBob's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

Started at 14 - Dad had started taking (tenor) banjo lessons on a New Year's challenge along with a friend of his from a semi-retired guitar/banjoist named Jim Harkins (Victor Lopez & Richard Himber Orchestras - later years with Sammy Spear on the Jackie Gleason Show). Jim became my first teacher, working me through the McNeil tenor method. In quick succession, studied with Mike Currao, Roy Smeck & a quick couple of workshops from Bob Price. Luckiest break = getting to play with Eddy Davis, Cynthia Sayer, Frank Vignola & Howard Alden as fill-in cello banjoist (octave lower than tenor) for the New York Banjo Ensemble. Later, along with Tony Lombardo, got to do a brief class with Don Vappie. Yes, I was unfairly lucky...

If you desire more info (or need more help sleeping), check out my significantly detailed bio on the sunnylandjazz.com website.

Go to Top of Page

Omeboy

United States
883 posts since 6/27/13

03/21/2017 11:59:17View Omeboy's MP3 Archive View Omeboy's Classified Ads View Omeboy's Photo Albums View Omeboy's Blog Reply with Quote

For All Tenor Students:  If you've read thru this thread, you've noticed a reference to the "McNeil System."  If you're searching for the key to understanding the fret board and how it all fits together, here's the key that illuminated the way for many successful banjoists.  The good news is, you can still buy it today (for ten bucks) even though it was originally published in the Twenties.   Follow this link:

http://www.djangobooks.com/Item/McNeil_Chord

McNeil's  section on building chords clearly explains how all chords shapes are named (and grouped) depending on the string that establishes the lead melody note. There are essentially three dominant chord shape families (for major, minor and seventh forms) that create the logical harmonizing progressions all the way up the neck.  This allows you to see how the chord forms are named on the individual strings for the lead note in the chord form. So you'll have a set of shapes for the G string, a set for the D string and a set for the A.  That's the key to demystifying and understanding the fret board.  McNeil's books are primarily musical notation, but his diagrams are excellent and the section on building chords is clearly diagramed and explains exactly what you need to become a good tenor player. (McNeil also published his  "system" books based on the same principle for plectrum banjo and guitar.   Sometimes you can find a used copy, but they're hard to find.)


Edited by - Omeboy on 03/21/2017 12:01:03

Go to Top of Page

cb56

United States
342 posts since 7/24/11

03/21/2017 13:03:39 Reply with Quote

Thanks PF (Do I know you?)

Just ordered my copy

Go to Top of Page

Omeboy

United States
883 posts since 6/27/13

03/21/2017 14:55:52View Omeboy's MP3 Archive View Omeboy's Classified Ads View Omeboy's Photo Albums View Omeboy's Blog Reply with Quote

CB.......An email (a second one) is on the way.

Go to Top of Page

banjoukebob

United States
22 posts since 2/24/07

03/21/2017 15:59:38 Reply with Quote

I started playing guitar in 1963 at the age of 30, during the folk guitar rage.  I learned to play by following the folk guitar series on public television.  The next 30 years I played mostly for fun and enjoyment such as playing around the campfire with family on camping trips.  

In 1997 I retired and took music courses at our county college in music theory and classical guitar.  Saw a notice in the paper looking for musicians for a string band like the Mummers.  I figured I could play guitar.  They needed banjo players so I bought a cheap harmony tenor banjo and tuned in DGBE.  I studied with Mike Currero and he was able to teach guitar tuning since he was also an excellent guitar player besides being a world class tenor banjo player.  

Our band plays in parades,  we also perform at  VA hospitals and adult communities.  Last week we played for the 100th birthday party for the wife of a former member and she played a mean tambourine. I'll be 84 next month and my goal is to play with the band for another 20 years. 

The banjo has really made my retirement years so enjoyable.   My wife and I have gone to quite a few banjo gatherings and also have gone on 3 Banjo Aweigh cruises with Tim Allen.

Banjo Bob from NJ

Go to Top of Page

Banjo Den

United States
12 posts since 1/21/16

03/21/2017 20:23:49View Banjo Den's MP3 Archive Reply with Quote

At 17 or 18 I discovered the Red Garter; in NYC and Your Father's Moustache and I immediately feel in love with the banjo. In my early teen age years I, like so many other kids, played a guitar by ear and could beat the hell out of WALK DON'T RUN or APACHE, and I was the original Three Chord Wonder. After my exposure to the Red Garter I bought a $60.00 tenor banjo and I became a Four Chord Wonder- again playing by ear. I heard a Banjoist in NYC named Banjo Dan McCall and soon I became his student. However, Dan insisted that I learn to read music, which to me was too much like school. I informed Dan that I had no interest in learning to read music, instead I wanted to learn to play CHINATOWN and WAITING for the ROBERT E. LEE. Despite his protests he taught me to play a number of songs and from there I progressed to become a Twelve Chord Wonder; with those chords I established a significant repertoire provided the song was played in the Key of C. I played banjo on and off for the next 2 decades when it dawned on me; I SHOULD REALLY LEARN HOW TO READ MUSIC. Some 20 years ago I heard Steve Caddick playing at a Banjo Bash somewhere in Massachusetts and never forgot how outstanding he was. Finally, last July I decided to retire from my 3rd career and vowed that learning to read music was on my bucket list. Now my task was to find a tenor banjo teacherThrough the mystery of the internet I found that Steve Caddick taught banjo via Skype and I connected with him in August 2016 and have taken lessons from him weekly since that time. Well gang, I'm finally learning to read music, but Steve comes closer to a nervous breakdown after every one of my lessons. Quite honestly, Steve has the patience of a saint, and he has a great method of teaching. Its far more challenging to learn at 60 years old (- OK I'll keep it honest, I'm 66 ) than it is to learn as a younger person, but dammit ! I'm beginning to get the hang of reading music. For all you young, or not so young Four Chord Wonders reading this, bite the bullet and invest in yourselves and take lessons. Being natural musician, being musically inclined, or having a good ear for music, will serve to take you only so far. The late Dan McCall aforementioned, should have hit me with a baseball bat and forced me to study music under threat of death ! Dennis McMahon, Carmel, NY

Go to Top of Page

Veerstryngh Thynner

United Kingdom
105 posts since 6/4/15

03/24/2017 05:30:32 Reply with Quote

Hi all,

Interesting subject, this. And great stories too!

Musicality runs in my family: almost all of my relatives playing in amateur orchestras. That talent extends to the next generation, too, apparently, if a 3-year old getting a perfect note out of a tuba three times her size is any measure! But my first ever banjo dates to at least three generations back (if not longer). And it still survives.

I'm not certain what age I was, when it came my way, but I think about 10 or 11. It had been my grandfather's and was already quite worn: a mandolin banjo, originally, with cow horn pegs and a pig skin head. And I still remember that plink-a-plonk coming from downstairs, one summer night and unable to sleep, as my dad attempted to get that instrument into some sort of tuning.

It could just about hold four strings, when I finally got my hands on it: ADF#B - in soprano uke style popular in the 1920s, I think, but nowadays rather out of fashion, I have been informed. So my dad taught me the basics - and once those were more or less mastered I did the rest all by myself. This helped me to develop a mean right-hand technique, in the first place.

But when I was presented with my first "real" tenor banjo (a cheap Chinese instrument that's also still in my possession), a couple of birthdays onwards, its tuning turned out, before soon, to be completely different (CGDA). As a consequence, I had to start all over again with the chords. Which, in hindsight, was not such a bad thing, actually, since that really helped me explore my instrument in-depth and, ultimately, develop a thoroughly individual style.

Finally, in my late teens, I scraped some money together, somehow, for a quality instrument. And searching for a certain sound, rather, than brand or build, I stumbled on it when not actively looking for it. On the way back from a visit to my future brother-in-law, I popped into a music shop - and there it was. But little did I know then how much that instrument was going to mean to me, in about four decades on.

Several years ago, I had a second-hand 3/4 electric guitar adapted to CGDA tuning. It's very much more lightweight than my acoustic instrument - and a pleasure to play. But even though the latter is not much in use any more, these days, I'm never ever going to sell it. In fact, I'm presently considering to put  gut, silk or nylon strings on it, shortly.

I seem to remember an earlier  BHO thread on the very subject, but I haven't found it yet.

Veerstryngh Thynner


Edited by - Veerstryngh Thynner on 03/24/2017 05:35:08

Go to Top of Page

NYCJazz

United States
3796 posts since 4/17/08

03/24/2017 07:34:20View NYCJazz's MP3 Archive View NYCJazz's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

I picked up my grandfathers banjo uke when I was 10 and picked up a Roy Smeck method book.
I was playing cello at school so I was learning music. My dad was a pretty good piano player so we had sheet music.
I graduated to my grandfathers tenor banjo... A Tonk Bros Tonk Special. Hey, same CGDA tuning as cello! Yay!
Couldn't find much sheet music for tenor banjo, so I used whatever I could find.
I took a couple of lessons with grad student from Florida State. He sat me down at a piano and showed me how to make chords. He explained how the melody relates to the chords. Then I translated that to the banjo... chord inversions, etc. Those lessons were the turning point. That was my junior year of high school, '75-'76.

devil

Go to Top of Page

dcolpitts

58 posts since 9/30/16

03/24/2017 09:12:06 View dcolpitts's Classified Ads Reply with Quote

Hello, all.

I started last year, when I was only 65!  I finally got my late Dad's 90 year old Stella tenor setup so I can play it in fifths (GDAE) and I teach myself exclusively by ear.  My pet phrase for what I want to do is "sing with my fingers" since I can (as I suspect most can) hear a phrase and sing or hum it back more or less instantly.  I have spent the past 7 or 8 months getting to know where the notes live, so I can do the same thing with my fingers.  It gets easier every day, and I am loving it.  Wish I'd started 60 years ago!  The fifths tuning is the magic for me; I never played strings in my life (save for a week of guitar in high school) and I didn't know it could be so logical and linear.  The upside:  I can play melodies with strings for the first time ever, and I have the luxury, as a mostly-retired teacher, of being able to play up to hours a day, when I feel like it.  The downside:  No chords, and a late start means I want to get better fast.

This site is special to me now, and I appreciate all the information and support from the extended group.

Regards,

David

Go to Top of Page

 

 

Page: of 2
Next Page

 New Topic  Reply to Topic
 Print

Jump To:

Want to hide these Google ads? Join the Players Union!




You are not logged in.
Log In


Not a member? Create an Account (FREE!)



5887 BANJO LOVERS ONLINE

HOME | FORUMS | MEMBERS | MEDIA ARCHIVE | TABS & LESSONS | CLASSIFIEDS | REVIEWS | LINKS | CALENDAR | STORE | TERMS OF USE
Viewing desktop version - switch to mobile version