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 Playing Advice: 4-String (Jazz, Blues & Other Trad Styles)
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: RockyJo - I would like to speak seriously to you.

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

Greenmeat - Posted - 11/17/2018:  17:17:14

Most Horn players - Piano - Bass/Tuba - Drums (All of which I studied myself) studied their instrument when they were young. When I grew up most all schools in the USA had Bands and Orchestra's as a part of the schooling. They even had extra instruments for students who could not afford to buy them themselves. So all of the above mentioned instruments were available to be learned in school --- However, NOT BANJOS!
When I started with a Jazz Band, I was in High School in Lafayette Indiana. The band was called "The Salty Dogs" and was associated with Purdue University which was in West Lafayette (across the river).
During this time I was playing Clarinet, Saxes and a Cornet and Bass and a little bit of Guitar. I was playing for dances etc. around town - I had joined the Union. I was making scale, which for a three hour dance was $12. and 14 cents. I heard about the Salty Dogs playing concerts at the University and other Universities in the Mid-west. I also heard there paid started at 50 Bucks and went up from there. So - got in touch with the "Dogs". I was told that the only opening was for a Banjo player --- So, I went down to the local Music Shop -- started on a 6 week trial plan with a Banjo. My teacher was "Smilin' Jimmie Wilson" who played Guitar, Mandolin and Tenor Banjo.
The Piano player with the "Dogs" was the great Jon Cooper. He invited me to audition at one of their rehearsals at the Trombonists parents house. He was another wonderful Jazz player his name was Jim Snyder. Well, they said they would try me for awhile. Jim had a CHORD BOOK. It was a little 3 ring binder that I would place on my knee and try to find the right chords. I did it the RIGHT way -- I learned on the job. You could do it in those days. Today there is NO place to do this. From then on -- 0n one instrument or another I have been a full time MUSICIAN -- I've never worked a real job or punched a "Time Clock".
Now -- the main things I'm trying to say is: 1. There's no place to learn. 2. They don't teach the Banjo in the school system as they do the other instruments. 3. I have NOT seen a little chord book for your knee in YEARS. 4. the other musicians come to the job having already learned how to play their instruments. 5. So most of them do not have time for a learning Banjoist So, It's comes natural for them to make fun of the Banjoist. I'm NOT saying that any of this the right things or the right way to be. It's just a part of the MUSIC BUSINESS -- of which today there is NONE for most all instrumentalists.
And since you all think I've offended you, Which was not my intention -- To many people learn a little and start believing themselves and think they no of what they speak -- and I think they are just waiting to be offended. BUT -- I see why most of the good musicians that have passed thru here have left the Hang-Out. And I guess now most of you want me to go. BUT, Rocky Jo I've just been trying to give you an answer to some of your questions. Now my apologies to you with NO harm intended. Eddy

Ascot - Posted - 11/17/2018:  17:54:16

Thanks Eddy for a great story that showed your determination that won the day for you and all your followers throughout the years.Stories like this give encouragement to learners of the Banjo and hopefully add to hangout contributions.Your leadership is highly respected.


davidcava - Posted - 11/17/2018:  18:00:26

I sure the hell hope you never leave, or stop teaching Eddy. I've learned so much from you, I can't tell you. I'm constantly referring to your works. If a person really wants to learn.... they don't need to look far.......they just need to work like hell........and enjoy the work.

rockyjo - Posted - 11/17/2018:  23:14:25

Hi Eddy,

Thank you for your responses, in my forum and now. Please forgive my delay; your observations are on my list for responding to, and I still will in that forum as well.

Actually, when I walked downstairs before reading your post in the other forum, ironically, I was thinking much the same thing as your comments. Most people do not sit in the front row, play at similar volume of other instruments, or play as many solos or as long, if 1) they don’t think they play well enough, 2) they feel other band members think that way, or 3) they really don’t play well.

I was not offended by your comments at all. On the contrary, as I said, I was hoping you would respond to my questions, asked for your comments, and I really appreciate that you did.

Consequently, for the apparently 1-3 people who were offended or seemed like it, they can blame me; I started the forum, wrote the questions, and asked for comments. And I really respect and am GRATEFUL for straightforward, honestly-given comments. Also, of course, it is human nature for any of us to speak up when we feel offended, while there may be many others who are quiet, and still thinking about your comments.. maybe headed off to practice again, or spurred to rethink how they can better get to where they want to go on the banjo.

Not commenting doesn’t necessarily mean something negative; no one has asked you to leave, and no poster would have that authority anyway. (If someone thinks you or anyone should leave, at least they should have to really work on it! (And you live in NY, that’s a whole extra level if leaving was ever even hinted at that you should make them work :) )

The last thing we non-professional and wanna-be players need is to inquire about jam and band “culture” matters, which stem from how professional bands operate historically and now, and be talking in a circle only among ourselves, and not be appreciative or at least open minded about the perspective of banjo professionals, particularly pros who have been members of those bands “then and now.”

Beyond that, I think there is a great deal of valid frustration all around.

I know I am speaking for many that we in the “audience” side are seeing many talented, skilled, knowledgeable, dedicated musicians in many genres that we love leave music for other industries so they can make a sufficient living. At the same time, a lot of decent-paying gigs are going to newer, so-called pro bands that can “barely play,” because they can “ramp up” an audience which isn’t discerning and apparently didn’t really come to listen to the music. Too often, I find myself wondering how many of the best artists can make it. In spite of areas of brilliance by a younger generation, there are far more great players who have to turn music into a hobby, and we are scared that the talent that produces the music that we love may be slipping away. And we don’t know what to do about it that would have any effect on a broader scale.

I can’t imagine the frustrations of being a talented, skilled, dedicated and knowledgeable musical artist today, trying to make a living, and at the same time, still advance the craft.

Likewise, many of us who want to play the banjo or better, did not start at age 9 or 15 or 22. As you say, we may have had some musical background at that age, but now it’s a long time ago. As an example, you and another poster have already taught me that to do what I want to do on the banjo, I need to learn the neck. Not just chords. Agh! I look at the vintage tutor books that I have with chords and notes on a musical staff and it leaves me dead cold with how I’m going to read that (basically instantly) and then translate it onto 4 strings.

Do some of us wonder what we did with “all that free time” we had in years past and why we didn’t get on this a little sooner? Yah. Do some of us wish we could have had even 1/4 of the background you had for learning the banjo? You bet.

The point is for all of us: in my view, we all need to allow that there are valid frustrations in this challenging environment, and keep seeking and finding ways that we can benefit from each other, in order to go forward with more insight into, better playing, and possibly increased interest, in the 4 string banjo and this music.


Veerstryngh Thynner - Posted - 11/18/2018:  06:20:32


Here is another one taking his metaphorical hat off and bowing deeply. You're not only a great musician but a resourceful and resilient person to boot. Respect, sir. And thank you so much for sharing your story.

Secondly, several things went through my mind, when reading your post. The first a question. Two, rather. One: what time period are you writing of, with respect to your college experience? Two (as a European never having visited the US): you are referring to 'the river', in your post. I'm guessing that fellow- Americans immediately know which river you mean. But I don't, and I'm curious.

Thirdly: my immediate thoughts, on reading your post, are threefold:

1•.Are you still playing all those instruments you mention?

2•  How good are you on your Personal Computer?

3• How good are you with a video camera?

What's more: these three questions are interrelated.

Re 1• If your reply is affirmative and you still have access to all the instruments you mention and your skill at playing these is undimmed, 2• and •3 swing in place.

Re 2• If 1• applies, would you be tempted to install Audacity, a free multitrack recorder, on your computer, to use Audacity to create a one-man band, with all or some of the instruments you mention, and to post resulting audio files to BHO? You'll probably need to invest in an audio interface (closer to $50 than to $100, these days), but I guess you already own microphone(s) and mic stand(s). Alternatively, you might like to buy a hand-held 4-track recorder with integrated stereo directional mics (Zoom's and Tascam's highly recommended). These can be mounted on a mic stand, too, by the way.

Re 3•  Your regular vids show that you have a video camera and the skills to handle it. But Marco Levi (and, I think, Don Lewers, too) have posted videos, in the past, in which they are featuring several times within the same frame, playing various instruments in perfect sync. You'll have to ask Marco and Don how they do that, since I have no experience with this myself. But could this also be a path speaking to your imagination, Eddy, in principle?

Now, please don't be offended with what I'm going to write next. I'm seriously not attempting to "troll" here, or being purposely nasty to you personally; just trying to be constructive.

You are, without a doubt, an ace musician. But what I have been noticing for a while is that you and I have something in common: I believe that you, like me, are not a natural vocalist. With the emphasis on natural. 

I sincerely admire your incredible banjo technique. But as I don't like listening to my own singing voice, generally speaking, your singing voice has a similar effect on me: if vocals are involved, with respect to my own output archive as well as to your video postings, I turn off, to be honest. But please don't let that put you off from posting vids on BHO in all eternity. My guiding thought in all this, first and foremostly, that, since you obviously are an entire jazz band entirely by yourself, creating a multitrack setting, if and when practically feasible, in which you play each and every instrument, invites inserting vocals only where they will and do matter, instead of relying on vocals all the time for lack of any instrumental support being present in your living room/studio facility. This is my own experience anyway.

Do you yourself, Eddy, and everybody else reading this, out there, consider the above a reasonable approach? If not, feel free to chastise me with fire and brimstone.

Lastly, I'd like to comment on a couple of other points Eddy put forward in his OP.

Re 1: "There's no place to learn"

I profoundly disagree with this. You seem a tad too pessimistic here, Eddy. The fact that we are both writing in  BHO, as well as the incredible expertise in playing, maintaining and building banjos, as assembled in these forums, but also in banjo history, gainsays that claim in the first place, in my view

Secondly, finding places to learn depends as well on who you happen to meet, on your course to progress, and whether or not they are in a position to give your personal development a helping hand, if they are willing, prepared and qualified to do so. It does, too, on recognising opportunity when it knocks on your door, as well as a good deal of luck, I'd say.

A bit of personal history here, so as to prove the previous. My first banjo came into my possession aged 11. I was on weekly classical piano lessons, at that time,  and this was supposed to be my primary musical pursuit. But rather than in following the will of the composer intrinsically, as classical piano tradition/convention stipulate, I was always much more interested in exploring the hidden depths of musical instruments and using growing knowledge of those, to my advantage, as preferred educational tool. By age 15 or so, endlessly hammering out scales and études had defenestrated all the fun originally had with piano, as a 6-year old. And so I quit, with considerable relief. After a little break from all prior frustration concentrating on banjo instead.

On banjo, I'm largely autodidact. But I can sight-read, thanks to nine years worth of piano lessons, and have fairly solid theoretical grounding as well, due to the same. But what I also trained myself in, after piano fell by the wayside, is using limitations to the best of my advantage. Thus a banjo style developed, in due course, that I can genuinely call entirely my own.

Further serendipity has it that, at about the same time, a jazz club was opening in town. The nascent house band searching for a guitarist or banjo player. Their then bassist, later moving on to trombone, happened to live just two streets from my parents' front door and could hear me practicing at his home. Being the sole banjo player in the village helped too, so I rapidly joined in.

That band has surely been a welcoming and fertile learning environment. But my second opportunity, too, was, without a doubt, crucial to my growth as a jazz musician: a Europe-wide Trad craze that, co-incidentally, lasted for a decade, spawned many jazz  festivals, some of which are still in existence, but, most importantly, regenerated lively interest of young people, usually in their late teens or early twenties, in the pop music of their (grand)parents' day. Just 23 myself, when all that started off, this happy conflation of circumstances created, uniquely, ideal conditions for meeting, jamming, gigging, and parading with generational peers, likewise enthused, almost non-stop. At least two of those evolving to bona fide international stars, in due course. Which shows that this occurred at exactly the right time and at exactly the right place, by sheer coincidence, but also because of incredibly good luck kicking in.

But consider this as well: when I was in the midst of all this, internet and smartphones were both still about twenty years off. The digital revolution has, in the meanwhile, introduced platforms for creating opportunity that the youthful jazz scene I was once organic to could not even have imagined in their wildest dreams.

2• "They don't teach the banjo in the school system."

That's true, I suppose. Worse, over here, in England, too many primary and secondary schools have quietly ditched musical education altogether, as enforced by austerity being pushed through, to the untenably extreme, relentless governmental drive making maths and English the sole spearheads of educational policy and, furthermore, endless testing and exam drilling. That isn't to say that learning how to play banjo has become totally out of the question. Internet coming to the rescue once more. And I'm sure that great banjo teachers occasionally featuring on Banjo Hangout (Steve Braddock, where the blazes are you hiding?) can confirm this. Many offering tuition via Skype, for instance. And maybe you are doing yourself a great disservice, too, here, Eddy, phenomenal teacher that you are.

So here's another suggestion I'd like to offer. Common sense as well as bold, maybe. For my next thought is that if Mohamed doesn't come to the mountain, the mountain must needs come to Mohamed, wouldn't you agree? Therefore, if young people have little to no chance of seeing banjos up close, why not take banjos to them, appeal to their natural curiosity, and use this to let them experience what playing banjo really feels like first-hand? I don't know what presently the state of music education in the US is. And yet I'd still argue that you yourself, for one, given your stature and influence, would be very well placed to set up banjo workshops for children, teenagers, and college students. Pro-actively, I mean. For example by paying suprise visits to primary and secondary schools (with the principal's foreknowledge, of course, and that of music teachers involved), popping into class rooms "unexpectedly", during "official" music lessons, with two arms full of cheap open-backs blagged off local music stores, and turning that into a fun hour. Or has it ever occurred to you to set up jams with college bands, at rehearsal times? Or targeting local and regional traditional brass-, reed- and drum bands, for that matter? A lot of youth in there to enthuse for setting up ad-hoc, temporary jazz combos, if  only for the duration of a couple of hours. But that might very well remove some bias, as to general banjo rep, and create positive impressions of banjo instead. A basis to build further on, in other words.

Besides, how many members are there, on the BHO Trad forum alone? How many countries outside of the US are represented just here? Why, if all BHO Trad forum regulars, at the very least, would venture out to local schools, colleges and more places where young people convene, in ways as sketched above, imagine how quickly banjo's rep as duff, dumb and stuffy would disappear. This would need some central coordination, too, though, if wanting to have genuine effect. And what of concerted efforts as to unleashing cool, flat-body electric banjos on them, with the aid and approval of companies like Gold Tone, Deering and Lehner (probably got that last brand wrong, so someone please  correct me). What I'm trying to say here is that moaning that everything was better in the old days was better is one thing. Alternatively, BHO could well be a force to be reckoned with, too, when out in the real world.

3• Re chord book on your knee.

Curiously, Eddy, I own two or three myself. One of which is a bulky ring binder impossible to balance on my knee. Much better placed on a solid music stand in front.

That you personally don't see them any more doesn't necessarily mean that they have faded out of existence. But I bet that there are banjo chord charts online as well. Moreover, I know a couple of places in London that sell sheet music where banjo chord charts, too, might easily be found. And I wager that such places exist in the US as well.


Veerstryngh Thynner

Edited by - Veerstryngh Thynner on 11/18/2018 07:05:31

Veerstryngh Thynner - Posted - 11/18/2018:  07:28:15

Note to the previous;

I only have a smartphone to write and send BHO posts with. Spelling control on this gadget is annoyingly interfering: especially when spelling correction is wholly unnecessary.

Named in the previous piece is 'Steve Braddock'. I'm sure that was Steve Craddock, before editing, but it became Steve Braddock afterwards, somehow.

Sorry Steve.

Veerstryngh Thynner

Veerstryngh Thynner - Posted - 11/18/2018:  12:19:51

Just a line about nothing in particular so that this thread goes back to the top again.


malarz - Posted - 11/18/2018:  14:39:20

Maybe Steve Caddick, perhaps?


Veerstryngh Thynner - Posted - 11/19/2018:  10:08:16

Hi Malarz,

Steve Caddick indeed what I meant. But automatic spelling control keeps insisting on 'Craddock' all the time and changing it back unbid. Aaaaaaaaaargh! 

Thanks for the pointer, Malarz. And double apologies to Steve, should he read this.

Veerstryngh Thynner

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