Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

Banjo Lovers Online

Discussion Forum

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

 All Forums
 Playing the Banjo
 Playing Advice: All Other Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Practice advice for learning a new music style

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:

dan_the_man - Posted - 02/09/2020:  12:58:07

As my other recent posts have eluded to, I am completely taken with Classical Banjo music right now. I have been playing bluegrass Scruggs style banjo for about a year and have about 20 songs memorized and practice them every day, plus various other licks and vamping techniques.

I picked up John Bullard’s Scales & Arpeggios for the Classical Banjo instruction book and am going through memorizing/practicing them, and I’m hoping to get his or Claudio’s Bach book next to begin learning songs.

My question is this: should I continue practicing my bluegrass pieces every day still or would it be better from a learning curve perspective to only practice Classical Banjo pieces for awhile until I get up to speed with the genre?


Texasbanjo - Posted - 02/09/2020:  13:19:07

Depends on how quickly you learn, how much you retain, how much time you have to practice, and what you're most interested in doing. If you enjoy both bluegrass and classical, then try to keep up with your bluegrass and keep learning classical. If classical is what you'd rather do, then do that.

dan_the_man - Posted - 02/09/2020:  13:23:59

That's great advice, thanks. I try to put an hour in every day on the banjo. I think I will continue to practice certain bluegrass selections but not all of them, in the interest of devoting a bit more time to classical pieces. I think long term I would like to have bluegrass and classical as options.

m06 - Posted - 02/09/2020:  13:54:59

Fingerstyle or classical banjo and the typical repertoire is technically demanding. But that just makes for a fun challenge and will widen your scope as a banjo player.

There's no reason to restrict your bluegrass practice if you have enough time to commit to both styles.

If you are referring to a classical repertoire rather than a style e.g. Bach, Mozart etc, the same practice time assessment applies.


I'd like to to listen to examples if you post them up to the Hangout jukebox.

Edited by - m06 on 02/09/2020 13:57:48

beegee - Posted - 02/10/2020:  03:37:39

I, also, have been pursuing Classical and jazz styles. I find it very difficult to break the bluegrass habit. I am also exploring clawhammer, which I can do to a slight degree, but would not call myself adequate. Add to the mix the British-type Classic banjo and perhaps even some ragtime...I have so many styles in my "want-to" category, that they tend to get in each other's way. It is a puzzlement. What I really like is the stuff Bill Knopf does....

thisoldman - Posted - 02/10/2020:  07:52:36

I'm on my third style (clawhammer to 2ftl to Scruggs) so this question caught my attention. Don't know much of anything about the classic style, other than looking at the classic-banjo.ning site a few years ago and refreshing my memory yestereday. There seems to be a lot in common with the 2 styles. You are fingerpicking (TMI), you have to learn chords, and there is some single string work. Differences? Tuning (making fingering of chords a bit different), the song repetoire, bare fingers (no picks, although you could still use them I suppose), and looks like lots of triplets in the classic style.

When I switched from 2ftl to Scruggs style, the biggest change was getting used to picks, which took me about 3 months as I recall. I could switch from bare fingers to picks during a practice session with little trouble, so I did that for awhile, then bit the bullet and went to picks full time. I had some fretting hand skills, so there wasn't much of a transition there to speak of.

I will also share that I set the banjo aside the summer before last, after I had split the tip of one of the fingers on my fretting hand. It was, I recall , almost 3 months to heal and not be tender before I could really play banjo again. I was pleasantly surprised how quickly banjo playing and the tunes came back.

I still play bluegrass tunes, but am more interested now in learning Tony Ellis tunes, whose arrangements are more like old-time tunes (although some of his tunes are straight up bluegrasss). With my background in 2ftl and Scruggs style, being able to pick his tunes was not much of an adjustment. And when I looked at a tab or 2 from the classic repetoire it didn't look too strange for me.

So if it were me, and I was in your position, I would probably think about spending about 45 minutes of my practice time working on that new classic style, and the rest of the time (15 minutes) running through 4 or 5 bluegrass tunes (like dividing the 20 songs into 5 sets of 4 tunes and rotating through them during the week). That way I would put a lot of time into the new style and music, yet refresh those BG tunes regularly.

dan_the_man - Posted - 02/10/2020:  09:45:48

My inquiry could have been better worded. I was inquiring more to the classical music *genre* that uses Scruggs style picking, as heard on Béla Fleck’s Perpetual Motion album as well as all of what John Bullard has released.

thisoldman - Posted - 02/10/2020:  12:20:21

I should have read more carefully. Classical vs Classic should have been the clue. Sorry about that.  So the music rather than the style, like this Classical Themes for Banjo and the Bach book you reference.  I've played around with Irish tunes on a tenor, and have dabbled in melodic banjo.  In looking at the tab examples in the Classical Themes and Bach book it looks like you are going to be playing a lot of melody notes, like you do when playing Irish tunes or melodic banjo.  You are a year in with the banjo, hopefully have learned chords and their inversions (maybe by learning vamping skills using (partial and full chords)) and you've learned several  tunes you probably have adequate fretting and picking hand skills to play those classical tunes, although you will probably have to up your game on single string work if you haven't done a lot of that.  I'm guessing that once you work your way through the Bullard book you will be well on your way.  I would suggest that you get that second book soon, as working on simple tunes will be more rewarding than plugging away at scales, arpeggios and chromatic runs, but that's just me.  My personal schedule would be to spend each session concentrating on one genre.  I alternate playing BG tunes one day, Tony Ellis tunes another day (more old time) and melodic on another day.  I'll try to throw in a day of doing backup stuff once a week and I try to concentrate on up the neck playing once a week.  It helps me to do it that way because of the different flow of the fretting and picking hands when playing the different genres of music.  Good luck and have fun.  Let us know how this works out for you, as I'm always looking for ways to add variety to my playing and improve my skills. 

Edited by - thisoldman on 02/10/2020 12:22:13

stevedenver - Posted - 02/14/2020:  16:08:30

Me, im big into immersion. Thats cos i have a tiny brain when it comes to doing too much, intensively, at once. And, i like to feed my enthusiasm / obsession while it lasts.

Imho, you'll lose little that you know with a hiatus. ( provided its ingrained already)

But, by really focusing, you are more likely to internalize, retain, and refine.
Plus, you'll become familiar with the genre more quickly.

And, youll get quality, fresh practice time w/o burnout, or, reverting to whats familiar and easier.

I am currently multi tasking sight reading /jazz for guitar, and bass.

Laurence Diehl - Posted - 02/18/2020:  15:30:21

I play both styles. I think you might want to switch back into Scruggs occasionally just to get some relief and 'let it rip'. Classical technique can be quite demanding (not that Scruggs isn't). But it's a different emphasis - clean fretting is essential, rapid movement up and down the neck is very common and above all, your tone and execution must be as pristine as you can get it. It will improve your Scruggs playing as well. I would jump into some Bach sooner rather than later - but also listen to the material as played on violin, lute, harpsichord,cello or whatever as you will understand the phrasing and dynamics that make that music work.

dan_the_man - Posted - 02/19/2020:  07:17:32

Thanks all for the responses. My instructor gave me a Bach Minuet No 1 piece to learn and it’s quite fret intensive up and down the board as hinted. I will integrate it into my practice repertoire and go from there.

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories