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 Playing Advice: Bluegrass (Scruggs) Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: How am I doing?


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: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/390481

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Decky - Posted - 05/15/2023:  14:47:29


I‘ve been playing banjo for nearly 2 years now and I‘m seeking other’s experience on whether I‘ve reached my playing limit. It seems that there’s a minimum speed for playing bluegrass Scruggs style, anything slower than that and it just doesn’t sound right. So far, I‘ve managed to play a repeating forward reverse roll up to about 80bpm if I push it but it’s been many months stuck at that speed and I‘ve not been able to go any faster. The standard pieces I’m practicing need to be played at about 95bpm so it feels like I have a very long way to go. I‘ve been playing the piano for 40 years and I know that progress is usually made in step changes but I‘m starting to think that at 63 years old I‘ve reached my plateau and that I‘m not going to improve any more. I don’t know whether to play the banjo properly you need to start at a young age and maybe I‘m wasting my time trying.
Any insight please?

banjoy - Posted - 05/15/2023:  14:58:48


I think as we grow older (I'm your age) learning new things may become more difficult, but also more rewarding. But learning is never linear or steady. You can plateau but have a sudden insight or breakthrough when pieces come together. It's a natural thing.



Do you have a teacher or mentor, or are you self-teaching? If the later, then a teacher could help a lot. If the former, then how does your teacher answer this question?



And, how much time do you put into it? What you get out of it is directly related to what you put into it. There are no shortcuts or magic pills. But I think you probably know this already.



I think you'll find lots of help and encouragement here.



All the best to you on your (continuing) banjo trip.


Edited by - banjoy on 05/15/2023 15:01:14

Decky - Posted - 05/15/2023:  15:04:26


Thanks Banjoy. Yes I have lessons over Skype and have followed the teacher’s advice by playing against a metronome and gradually increasing the speed. I reached 80bpm some months ago and anything above that my playing lags behind and gradually goes out of sync. I know there are no shortcuts but I wondered about other people's experience of starting out in later life, am I wasting my time? 


Edited by - Decky on 05/15/2023 15:08:36

mmuussiiccaall - Posted - 05/15/2023:  15:08:45


Two things, think about the FR roll as a unit of one. Concentrate only on the first hit with the thumb. Second, try to relax every muscle that is involved even up to your shoulder.

Decky - Posted - 05/15/2023:  15:12:31


Thanks Mmuussiiccaall, you may have a point there. Playing the piano I‘ve always had a problem relaxing, specially if I know someone is listening and why it frustratingly goes wrong whenever I play in front of the teacher. Maybe that is something I need to concentrate on.


Edited by - Decky on 05/15/2023 15:16:05

leehar - Posted - 05/15/2023:  15:14:44


Firstly, do not let anyone tell you that, at 63 you are too old to learn banjo. Your progress will be in very uneven steps and plateaus which will roughly correspond to the time you put into it. Retirement was the greatest thing that ever happened to my picking. I have made more progress in the last 2-1/2 years than I had made in the ten years before.
When I first started I was 20 and an old guy, an orchestra violinist, told me I shouldn’t bother trying to learn an instrument. I was too old! I am so glad I didn’t listen to him. If you devote the time to it you will get it.

Decky - Posted - 05/15/2023:  15:29:22


Thanks Leehar. I guess I should stick with it then knowing that it will come right eventually. I retired some years ago so I should probably devote more time to practice. I sometimes practice for an hour a day but it’s usually more like half an hour. I note that you started playing the banjo at 20 which is the age I started playing the piano. I was also told I was too old to learn but I did anyway and soon found out that they were probably right. Too old means you need to start at a very early age to become a professional concert pianist and win competitions but it’s never too late to learn as an amateur. I was always limited playing very fast pieces on the piano as no matter how much I practiced, it felt like I was playing through treacle so I had to stick to playing not so fast pieces. This is why I was wondering if the same applied to the banjo because there's a minimum speed you need to play at for it to sound right.


Edited by - Decky on 05/15/2023 15:40:40

banjoy - Posted - 05/15/2023:  15:45:09


For me, the answer to your question is, no, you are not wasting your time. Perhaps you have created expectations of progress that you're not meeting for yourself, maybe causing yourself some frustration. Mores questions, do you enjoy learning the instrument? Do you enjoy the time you spend with it? If the answer to these are yes, then keep doing what you're doing, pretty much. If the answer is no, you are not enjoying this, then you should examine why.



For sure, if you find yourself being frustrated because you can't do something you think you should, and you feel that frustration building over time, then stop doing what it is. Often, it's a lick or phrase or roll or whatever it is, we all hit roadblocks and we've all experienced some sort of frustration as we go. If you can recognize that in yourself, when you see that and feel it, stop doing the task that's causing it, and move on to some something else, a different roll or whatever. This is important what I'm telling you. What you'll find is, the hard task seems to keep processing in the back of your mind, without you even knowing it, so then next time you circle back around, whatever it was causing issues, seems to be much easier than before. If you keep beating yourself up and beating your head into a wall, all you're gonna do is get hurt LOL.



I think you recognize that in yourself, because here you are.



Based on the descriptions your given so far, it sounds to me like your are experiencing normal stuff. I would suggest doing away with your emphasis on speed. For now. Just practice what you can at the speeds that are comfortable and you're not being frustrated with. If the tune doesn't sound right at those slower speeds, then focus on that until they do. Speed will come naturally, on its own. If you force it, well, head meet wall.



I'll shut up now on this because there are plenty of other folks here with great insights who you might hear from.



It's the journey that's the fun part, not the destination so much. Enjoy it for what it is.


Edited by - banjoy on 05/15/2023 15:46:10

thisoldman - Posted - 05/15/2023:  15:55:17


One of the things I tried was to put a tune into Tabledit, play it at the set speed, then gradually lower the tempo to the point where it sort of fell apart. I found that you might be able to get down to 80-85% of the set speed and it would still sound OK. That said, some tunes are meant to be played at breakneck speed, and anything slower doesn't do them justice.

About six months after I switched to Scruggs style picking, I chose a tune to work on, a simple version of Banjo in the Hollow. I took about 2 or 3 weeks to work on getting to play that arrangement at a very fast tempo. At the end I accomplished that...then said to myself that was enough because I really didn't enjoy the experience...and I never tried that again.

There have been posts in the past about BG tunes that are played at moderate tempos. Do a search here and one or more of them might turn up.

You might consider looking at melodic style arrangements. I find that even played at a slower tempo they sound pretty good. If you are a tab person, look at Eddie Collins' Fiddle Tunes for Bluegrass Banjo...two arrangements for every tune, "basic" and "intermediate"...not melodic style and even the basic arrangments sound good to my ears when played at a moderate tempo.


I spend most of my time playing Tony Ellis tunes. Many of them sound great at a moderate tempo.

How are you doing? Just fine. Find music that you enjoy playing at a tempo that you can play cleanly. And the key word is "enjoy".

tadams75 - Posted - 05/15/2023:  16:37:42


I've only been playing for 17 months, but I feel a need to offer what I have found useful since I had been dealing the the same issue recently but have enjoyed a recent breakthrough. The banjo is the first instrument that I've tried to learn and I didn't begin until I was 53. Up until a couple of months ago, I was struggling to play at 80 bpm. I had attended some local jams, but it was frustrating...I was not familiar with the chord progression of all the songs, I struggled to change chords quick enough, and struggled with the pace...even though they weren't exactly burning down the barn. A big part of my problem was playing with tension.

I wrote down the 12 songs that seemed to be played every week. I downloaded those songs on Strum Machine, set up auto-advance, play through at least 5 iterations, and set them all up for 80 bpm. I would start and attempt to play rolling backup, including the forward reverse roll on about half the messures. At first, I was just holding on for dear life. After a couple of weeks, I could play through all 12 songs without having to take breaks. Playing for an extended duration taught me to relax, I did have some shoulder, hand, and wrist pain initially though. Once I became comfortable at 80 bpm, I bumped up to 85, then 90. I've been doing the same drills for a few months now and am up to 105bpm for some basic rolling backup, but drop back down to 80-85 bpm when I'm practicing adding in embellishments/licks/etc. Hope this helps.

Decky - Posted - 05/15/2023:  16:40:10


Thanks for that Banjoy. I know exactly what you mean and there is an element of frustration because part of the reason I wanted to learn the banjo in the first place was to be able to share the music with others. Not because of wanting to show off or anything like that but I think you know what I mean when I say that the banjo is probably the only instrument that makes people smile when they hear it played well. Specially when those people’s only experience of the banjo is having watched Deliverance.

I do enjoy playing but it sometimes gets a bit monotonous playing the same pieces hundreds of times over and over again. My experience learning the piano is tackling pieces that look impossible, sticking with it and then suddenly finding that I can play it after all (albeit in a fashion). Transferring that to the banjo, I‘m expecting to be able to do the same but it’s not happening, specifically attaining the right speed. There are tricky passages in pieces of course but they get ironed out with practice but only at the maximum speed I‘m capable of at the moment. I will, as you say, stop trying to ‘beat the metronome‘ and let the speed increase naturally through experience.

Many thanks Thisoldman, I have some recordings of pieces that to me sound too fast, they need to be slowed to about 85% to sound about right, then slowed to about 50% to get to the speed I can play it at.

I‘m impressed that it only took 2 or 3 weeks to get a piece to a fast tempo. One piece I really want to be able to play is Jed Clampett, I started it about August last year and I‘m still only up to about 80% to 85% of the speed it needs to be played at. I made a list of my favourite banjo pieces and there aren’t many slower pieces on it. Wildwood Flower is one which is probably the only piece I can play close to the right speed. Yes I am a tab person and I‘ll look out those pieces you mentioned.

Decky - Posted - 05/15/2023:  17:07:52


Thanks for that Tadams75. I think tension may be my problem too but I‘m not always aware of it. One thing I did on a particular piano piece I was learning was to write on the music a reminder to lick my lips. This was because I knew that you can’t lick your lips and clench your teeth at the same time, it did help! Another time I became aware that I was holding my breath when playing a particular passage so I had to concentrate on breathing normally.

I don’t know what Strum Machine is but I gather you’re advising to play along with pieces that have been slowed down and then gradually increase the speed. I have practiced that against a metronome but a few months ago I reached about 80bpm and was never able to progress beyond that. Well done for reaching 105bpm. The problem I have playing along with pieces is that when I make a slip and I can’t get back into sync with the music. I have to start it again every time and never get very far into the piece. At least using a metronome I only have to get back into sync with the beat. I guess playing along is another skill that takes practice but as things stand, I don’t plan to play along with others.

mmuussiiccaall - Posted - 05/15/2023:  17:12:30


for the logical mind



Earl Scruggs tempos

Decky - Posted - 05/15/2023:  17:17:28


Thanks Mmuussiiccaall yes


Edited by - Decky on 05/15/2023 17:17:54

tadams75 - Posted - 05/15/2023:  17:21:03


Strum Machine allows you to download backing tracks to various songs and adjust the tempo as needed. I think it cost about $50 a year. another thing that I've learned to is to power through mistakes. I had an issue of making a mistake and then getting lost and having to restart. I've since learned that I just delivered an awful messure, ignore it, onto the next messaure. There are far more experienced players that may be able to provide you with better advice. I just wanted to relay what has worked for me. I tried various methods to try to relax and play without tension. But, I guess that I needed to experience the pain of playing for a long period with tension to teach myself to relax.

tadams75 - Posted - 05/15/2023:  17:29:27


Stick with it. You will get there.

Cheers!

Decky - Posted - 05/15/2023:  17:43:09


I think powering through mistakes without breaking tempo is a special skill professional musicians can do so that you barely notice them. I’m rarely in performance mode so in practice mode I got into the habit of stopping and going back a bar just so that I can practice playing the sequence properly. A difficult habit to get out of and remembering to carry on before the instinct to stop takes over.

The other problem in powering through mistakes is that I don’t memorise pieces by the notes, I naturally only memorise the transitions between the notes. So if I make a mistake I lose track of where the transition came from and have to go back to a familiar point in the music. I have difficulty imagining how I would memorise pieces any other way.

Banjopilot - Posted - 06/01/2023:  19:53:31


Here's my few cents worth; listen to good " great and BEST" Earl " the man " Scruggs! The " go to " standard recording " Foggy Mountain Banjo " showcases the clear melodies and some of the best " easy instrumentals ". I would strongly urge you to listen to it at least fifteen minutes a day. You may find yourself listening for more than an hour! You have the very unique insight of playing the keyboards and all the theories that go along with playing well. I've been an acoustic folky guy for fifty years; most my learning came from playing with others. I was fortunate to live a couple of miles from Red Rocks Amphitheater in Golden Colorado. Google Red Rocks to see Billy Strings; Doc Watson, Pete Seegar, Arlo G, etc. I would super suggest listening to EARL and FLATTS recordings of the 1950s thru the 1970s. This is the bedrock of Bluegrass Music. Anything you find with Scruggs playing will be great; he experimented with music his sons were recording; which goes a little bit north of the Mason/Dixon line. Probably get flamed for that comment. Anyways, good on ya' for taking up the five-string; learn some easy songs and have fun! {leave the metronome at home...}
A last-minute idea; I learned Much from "The Murphy Method"! Murphy starts out with the basics and then applies lessons learned to the next DVD. Murphy teaches her method without any tablature, and she means NO tablature! Listen-watch-do-repeat! The tunes you've mentioned are taught in her way, meaning "...how did Scruggs do it." You might just find you're way in the madness of her method! You can go from " Banjo in the Hollow " to "Earls Breakdown" without tabs; I know, it sounds near impossible! But the overused truism of "...if I can do it, well then anybody..."

Decky - Posted - 06/02/2023:  04:24:03


Thanks Banjopilot. I have watched Earl Scruggs‘ on YouTube, I will look for lots more to watch and listen to. I found the Murphy Method website so I will look into that as well.
I don’t have an opportunity to play with others where I live and I still have problems playing when people are listening. I think I can play to friends and family the same as when I‘m practicing but the pressure always makes me tense up and it creates an awkward moment when it all goes horribly wrong and sounds like I‘m trying to play it as a raw beginner. I know I should often play in front of people to get used to it but I know that saying "listen to what I can play" will increase the pressure even more to play it properly.

Texasbanjo - Posted - 06/02/2023:  04:53:28


You've gotten some excellent ideas and information, just let me add.....

.... instead of worrying about speed, work on timing tone and technique. Speed will come when it's ready. If you try to play too fast too soon, you'll end up being a sloppy banjo picker.

Do you go to jams? Are there jams in your area? If so, that's one of the easiest and most fun ways to increase your experience in picking. Learning to play with others will do more for you than sitting at home working on a forward-reverse roll.

No jams, no friends to jam with? Find a software that has a beat and work with it. I use Band in a Box (pricey) and input chords to whatever song I'm working on and play along with it, slow if necessary and at speed if possible. Tabledit is another software that you could play along with. You can put in just chords or silence whatever instrument is doing the break. There are probably other softwares that do the same thing that could be used.

To answer your question: no, 63 is not too old and you probably have not reached a plateau that you can't rise from. I started my own band when I was almost 60 and the group sang and picked and went to various local festivals. The more I worked with those folks and played onstage, the better I got, the easier it was to do.

Decky - Posted - 06/02/2023:  05:24:29


Thanks Texasbanjo. There isn’t anywhere for me to go to jam and I don’t know anybody else who plays the banjo. This is the UK after all so probably not very surprising. My Skype banjo teacher sends me videos to play along with but I have yet to master the technique. I normally end up hesitating early on, I go out of sync with the recording and can’t get back in. I end up starting the recording again and I never get very far into the piece. I do slow down the MP3 conversions of the videos. I tend to use the metronome more as it’s only the repeating tick that I have to get back into sync with. Once I can master playing along with the recordings I can then look at apps like Band in a Box.

So thanks, I will endeavour to stick with it knowing that I still have scope to increase my speed and not worry about it. I did once play a recording of me playing Jed Clampett to the teacher, speeded up to the right speed and he said it sounded really good, just as it should sound. So it seems that my playing isn’t that bad, it just lacks the necessary speed.


Edited by - Decky on 06/02/2023 05:26:31

pmartin9363 - Posted - 06/02/2023:  05:33:30


I am a bit younger than you, 53, and I have been playing for about 2.5 years with a couple somewhat extended breaks in there due to injuries. I have just now started to try to play at 100bpm. It is not easy, and I know that it is not even at the speed that is needed for many bluegrass songs. But, I am really enjoying myself, and I think that is what is most important.

mike gregory - Posted - 06/02/2023:  05:44:14


There is a huge similarity between JAZZ and BLUEGRASS, in that familiar melodies are "dressed up" with fancy improvisations.

And the old (VERY OLD) saying goes like this:

"If you hit a note that you weren't intending to hit, and you wince and pause, that's a MISTAKE. But if you hit a note that you weren't intending to hit, and just keep on playing, that's JAZZ!"

Look at any of my videos, and you'll notice that I'm not super fast, nor fancy, but I'm having a lot of fun.

monstertone - Posted - 06/02/2023:  11:13:42


Started playing piano @ age 23, 40 years experience. You, most likely, are able to sight-read music while playing piano reasonably well, or you would have quit long ago. Very few of us read music well enough to play banjo up to speed, at the same time. You have hand/eye coordination as well as dexterity, a certain amount of muscle memory, & you know music.  Music is music. All the rules, theory, timing yada, yada, are the same, on paper anyway. wink  Don't sell yourself short. Sounds to me like you have a lot going for you.



As you have discovered, Earl Scruggs instrumentals just don't sound right at slow speeds. Earl was no beginner when he wrote those tunes. The first time I put that Foggy Mountain Breakdown album on the turntable, it blew me away, too. Start on some of the slower, vocal numbers & work your way up to the breakdowns. Keep in mind, some of Earl's instrumentals were experiments with different roll patterns he was working on, at the time. Earl would practice those patterns, sans banjo, while doing other things.



If you really want to learn to play Bluegrass banjo, you need to hang out with people who play Bluegrass banjo. Or, at least, a reasonable facsimile of BG music. It does exist in the UK. BTDT. You have to dig for it, but it's there. Take my word for it, there is a big, huge difference between Skype, & the real(time) McCoy, staring you in the face.



Playing any type of music is a never ending journey. The twists, turns, & plateaus are just part of the ride. Never give up.

Decky - Posted - 06/03/2023:  06:36:48


Thanks Pmartin9363, good to hear you reached 100bpm, after nearly 2 years I‘m still only up to about 80bpm playing a repeating roll and think that I still have a long way to go. I‘ll be happy if I can reach 95bpm. I do enjoy playing but it’s disheartening thinking that it’s only ever going to be me listening.



Thanks Mike Gregory, I found some of your videos on YouTube, mainly talking about banjos. I know what you mean though about the speed, it’s just that the pieces I want to play tend only sound right played above a minimum speed. I play Wildwood Flower and that one sounds ok at the speed I‘m playing at.



Thanks Monstertone, after playing the piano and making progress learning pieces I was expecting to be able to do the same on the banjo. The doubt and demotivation crept in when I reached a certain speed and then not made any further progress for many months. I listen to recordings I made last September and there isn’t a lot of difference to how I play now. Hence this topic to sed what other older learners have experienced.

I don’t have any inclination to tackle Foggy Mountain at the moment, not until I know I will be able to do it justice playing it at the right speed once I’ve learnt it. So I‘m still learning other pieces at a slower speed.

I‘ll look out a local BG group, we‘re moving house (house is on the market) so best look around when we get to the new place.


Edited by - Decky on 06/03/2023 06:38:32

steve davis - Posted - 06/03/2023:  07:02:50


There is a basic foundation to playing that is to play with other people with no help from machines or written material.You are not the only musician within a reasonable distance of you if you look a little harder.
I sometimes have had to travel 100 miles to play music for fun and education.Once you find one person to play with(lots of guitar players in this world) others will be easier to find.
The ear must be fed!

Texasbanjo - Posted - 06/03/2023:  08:30:06


quote:

Originally posted by Decky

Thanks Texasbanjo. There isn’t anywhere for me to go to jam and I don’t know anybody else who plays the banjo. This is the UK after all so probably not very surprising. My Skype banjo teacher sends me videos to play along with but I have yet to master the technique. I normally end up hesitating early on, I go out of sync with the recording and can’t get back in. I end up starting the recording again and I never get very far into the piece. I do slow down the MP3 conversions of the videos. I tend to use the metronome more as it’s only the repeating tick that I have to get back into sync with. Once I can master playing along with the recordings I can then look at apps like Band in a Box.

So thanks, I will endeavour to stick with it knowing that I still have scope to increase my speed and not worry about it. I did once play a recording of me playing Jed Clampett to the teacher, speeded up to the right speed and he said it sounded really good, just as it should sound. So it seems that my playing isn’t that bad, it just lacks the necessary speed.






Check your local music store(s) and see if there's  any jams anywhere (don't have to be bluegrass).  Try to find a guitar picker that would be willing to play rhythm while  you work on melody.  



If you can't keep in time and tempo, do you count as you play (either in your head or out loud)?  Perhaps you aren't counting and that's why you can't keep in time with the music.   Not all notes have the same duration, there are quarter, 8th, 16th and so on and each one has a specific amount of time to pick it and get off it and get to another note/beat.  



When I was first learning, I counted each note and made sure I was playing the right notes in the right measure and for the right time measurement.   In bluegrass, a lot of 8th notes are played, but occasionally you'll get a quarter or 16th or even (gasp) a rest.  Yes, rests are important, too.



I remember working hard at my weekly lessons and then freezing up when I tried to play the same thing for my teacher.  Frustrating, stage fright deluxe.  I finally taped one of my practice songs and played it back for my teacher (no, I didn't fudge and make it faster) just to show him I could play it and I was practicing. 



 



 

steve davis - Posted - 06/03/2023:  08:34:15


Years ago I'd travel 1 1/2 hours to Portland or Bangor just to look through their lp offerings.
My "bluegrass" band lives 105 miles north of here.
Some of my favorite jams are in North Yarmouth which is over an hour away.Tomorrow's jam at the Sail Power and Steam Museum is only 20 miles.

Look into joining your town/state bluegrass association and get their monthly/quarterly newsletterf for reaching out to other players.

You go where you have to.

pmartin9363 - Posted - 06/03/2023:  08:39:04


There is a lot of Bluegrass music that is not fast. Mighty Poplar, which is a new "super group" just put out an album and there are any songs on that are slow. I like tend to like the slow songs more than the super fast ones.

monstertone - Posted - 06/03/2023:  16:36:08


I started learning banjo long before cell phones, the internet, computers, even before "let your fingers do the walking". In those days, finding anything usually involved a lot of leg work. I knew of no one who played banjo, or anything else for that matter. Nor did I know the difference between Folk, Old Time, or Bluegrass. All I knew was the sound I was attracted to, originated from a 5-string banjo. To complicate matters even more, I resided in greater metropolitan Los Angeles. I doubt I am alone, in that respect.



Follow the bouncing ball sing-alongs, accompanied by straw hatted piano & (tenor) banjo players, was a popular draw at pizza parlors back tin the day. That was my start. And I had to twist Walt's arm to get him to teach me "hillbilly" banjo.



Two years study under Walt taught me a lot. However, something was missing. With considerable leg work, the fog began slowly lifting. Attending a bluegrass Festival opened a few doors. Lo & behold, So. Ca. was not only teaming with Bluegrass festivals, but more Bluegrass pickers, & teachers than you could shake a stick at! The exchange of a single phone number led to another & another. Small novice Jam sessions, first at home, then in public places. Old Time Fiddlers Association jams, more & better pickers, driving, supporting, encouraging the less experienced. Not only that, but quicker, easier, & more fun than ever imagined!



Even a blind pig digs up an acorn now & then. smiley


Edited by - monstertone on 06/03/2023 16:38:33

Decky - Posted - 06/04/2023:  05:13:36


Thanks Steve Davis, I‘ve only had a quick Google for other players so far and all that came up were teachers and bands for hire. I‘ll look harder when we‘ve moved into the new area.

Thanks Texasbanjo, I don’t count out loud, it does all tend to happen in my head. I‘m ok playing notes of different duration, my piano playing helps with timings. I also have the same problem playing for the teacher, he‘ll sometimes think I don’t have the right technique to play something and go to great lengths to explain what I need to do when I know that it was just the pressure of performance that made it go wrong. At times I have said that I can play it normally but I had no proof! I guess I need to record everything.

Thanks Pmartin9363, I gave my teacher a long list of pieces I really want to play and he‘s introducing them in order of difficulty (Foggy Mountain being last I expect). I‘m not a fan of super-fast pieces and I can tell when pieces are being played too fast, they sound better when they’re slowed down a bit in the MP3 player. My teacher said that the pieces on the Deliverance CD are pitched higher than normal because they have been speeded up slightly, they are a bit too fast for my liking. I had a listen to Mighty Poplar, was good but I can understand the need for a slower speed when you’re accompanying.

Thanks Monstertone, I became a fan on BG banjo in the 1980s when I too was attracted to the sound on an old LP and was when I first thought about possibly learning. Back then you could only find local teachers by searching for ads in the papers, cards in shop windows, etc. Being in the UK there was nothing available of course and if there was, I would probably be an expert by now! I only started learning 2 years ago when on an impulse, I bought a cheap banjo on ebay (which I‘ve since upgraded to a Deering Sierra) and had to have lessons over Skype. There are bluegrass festivals in the UK but it doesn’t have anything like the same following as it does in the US.

monstertone - Posted - 06/05/2023:  07:56:02


quote:

Originally posted by Decky



Thanks Monstertone, I became a fan on BG banjo in the 1980s when I too was attracted to the sound on an old LP and was when I first thought about possibly learning. Back then you could only find local teachers by searching for ads in the papers, cards in shop windows, etc. Being in the UK there was nothing available of course and if there was, I would probably be an expert by now! I only started learning 2 years ago when on an impulse, I bought a cheap banjo on ebay (which I‘ve since upgraded to a Deering Sierra) and had to have lessons over Skype. There are bluegrass festivals in the UK but it doesn’t have anything like the same following as it does in the US.






Start hitting the pups. smiley

Decky - Posted - 06/05/2023:  08:39:44


Hitting the pups? angel


Edited by - Decky on 06/05/2023 08:40:41

steve davis - Posted - 06/05/2023:  08:44:50


He might have meant "pubs".
Open mikes and such can reveal like-minded people.

Decky - Posted - 06/05/2023:  16:20:57


Ok thanks, I thought it was a saying I‘d not heard of. I don’t think I‘m anywhere near ready to start playing in open mike type pubs as entertainment. There are no pubs here where people meet for informal jamming sessions.

mike gregory - Posted - 06/05/2023:  16:42:28


He's been playing banjo a lot longer than you have!!



If he says "START HITTING THE PUPS!", that's wht you DO!



                                                           



                                                                       

Decky - Posted - 06/06/2023:  05:40:02


surprise

Bart Veerman - Posted - 06/06/2023:  06:36:11


Check the Hangout's member list. You might have a fellow banjoey and/or guitar player, who'd love to help you, living just a couple of blocks away from you...



banjohangout.org/myhangout/

Decky - Posted - 06/06/2023:  07:58:16


Thank Bart, I didn’t know that search was there, I found 6 other players not far away smiley.

monstertone - Posted - 06/06/2023:  08:24:40


Don't worry about mics. None of the PUBS I visited over there utilized sound reinforcement. There were more pubs than there were churches. And dogs were allowed in the neighborhood pubs, as well as banjo player's. surprise The pub jams I'm referring to are not entertainment per se. The pubs just serve as convenient gathering places, that also happen to serve alcoholic beverages. wink



No matter what type of music they are playing, there will always be at least one fiddler & a couple guitar players. They may not be familiar with Earl's breakdown, but they know every fiddle tune there is. If you can do Scruggs style back up, & fake a fiddle tune, you'll fit right in.



Like said, you may have to do some leg work. And that may involve more than walking distance. Use your imagination, network, however you can. No excuses. Find some people to pick with! And do whatever it takes to get there.


Edited by - monstertone on 06/06/2023 08:38:05

Decky - Posted - 06/06/2023:  08:42:22


Thanks Monstertone, I tried googling for those kind of pubs but it only came up with pubs with live music bands. I did try different searches (folk, etc), it probably depends heavily on the using the right words. I‘ve only learnt pieces so far, I‘ve never done backup so maybe that’s something I need to look into.


Edited by - Decky on 06/06/2023 08:42:58

conic - Posted - 06/06/2023:  08:48:39


there are hundreds of banjo pickers in the UK who have regular organised events the next one is at Baskerville Hall Hotel at Clyro Court just over the Welsh border past Hereford its only approx 150 miles from Fleet, its on 23, 24, 25 June. you can travel it, camp, of book a room . If you make the effort to go there it will blow you away and change your life.just dont forget your banjo



Also join the UK5 group on the hangout and post a message     banjohangout.org/group/uk5



Checkout the BBMA events page  britishbluegrass.org/bluegrass...weekends/



 

phb - Posted - 06/06/2023:  09:17:37


quote:

Originally posted by Decky

Thanks Texasbanjo. There isn’t anywhere for me to go to jam and I don’t know anybody else who plays the banjo. This is the UK after all




If I could find enough people for bluegrass jamming in Germany, you surely can find people in the UK! You got Sore Fingers Summer School after all which attracts people from all over Europe.



sorefingers.co.uk/



 


Edited by - phb on 06/06/2023 09:23:12

monstertone - Posted - 06/06/2023:  13:23:27


quote:

Originally posted by conic

there are hundreds of banjo pickers in the UK who have regular organized events the next one is at Baskerville Hall Hotel at Clyro Court just over the Welsh border past Hereford its only approx 150 miles from Fleet, its on 23, 24, 25 June. you can travel it, camp, or book a room . If you make the effort to go there it will blow you away and change your life. Just don't forget your banjo



Also join the UK5 group on the hangout and post a message     banjohangout.org/group/uk5



Checkout the BBMA events page  britishbluegrass.org/bluegrass...weekends/





quote:

Originally posted by phb

quote:

Originally posted by Decky

Thanks Texasbanjo. There isn’t anywhere for me to go to jam and I don’t know anybody else who plays the banjo. This is the UK after all




If I could find enough people for bluegrass jamming in Germany, you surely can find people in the UK! You got Sore Fingers Summer School after all which attracts people from all over Europe.



sorefingers.co.uk/







Curtis Ellers American Circus UK tour


These are all excellent suggestions. If you can make any of them multi day events, by all means, go for it. As Conic alludes, festivals such as these, will blow you away & forever change life as you know it. Keep your banjo handy. Don't be afraid to hang a sign on your back, (Banjo Player, your town, phone number)  If all else fails, find a shady spot & play what you know. You will not be playing solo for long. Old school networking still works.

Decky - Posted - 06/06/2023:  14:33:01


Thanks Conic, I‘ll check out those events and I already have the BBMA website in my favourites.

Thanks phb, yes I was at the Sore Finger Summer School last October (and the wife was there with her uke). Unfortunately I wasn’t able to play along at the speed the others were playing so I just listened.

Thanks Monstertone that sounds like a good idea.

phb - Posted - 06/07/2023:  04:38:35


quote:

Originally posted by Decky



Thanks phb, yes I was at the Sore Finger Summer School last October (and the wife was there with her uke). Unfortunately I wasn’t able to play along at the speed the others were playing so I just listened.






The more important aspect is to get connected to the scene. When I attend a bluegrass event in Germany now, I am guaranteed to meet someone I already know. And the people I meet usually know others so that I get to know more people. And sometimes I meet someone and we find out that we are located close to each other and then meet again at the next local jam session.



I know how it feels to not be able to jam with the others who often play very fast. But there are many who feel like you and are looking for someone to jam with. Also, most bluegrass players are rather tolerant as long as you don't spoil the fun for everyone. When you are at a festival, look for a jam session with music that seems the least challenging to you and that already has a few banjos in it. If they can tolerate several banjos, they will tolerate one more. Stay a little away and vamp along silently. Or when they pause, ask them if it is okay to join in mentioning that you are a beginner. Often there are people who run slow jam circles to help beginners. Don't be disappointed with yourself, when you start to jam there are many challenges other than just moving your fingers to the right string/fret at the right time. You need to develop a sense for group dynamic, keep an eye open for what happens around the jam circle mid-song, learn to change chords and to predict the next chord, learn to play in different keys and so on. It's a long process but don't be discouraged. But keep in mind that it can take years until you feel at ease in a normal jam session.



 

conic - Posted - 06/07/2023:  06:44:21


Philipp 100% spot on and talks from experience. make the effort to our organised events and there are lots of slow jams

monstertone - Posted - 06/07/2023:  09:24:48


Phillip is right on with his tips & suggestions. Initial exposure to festival jams, the number of talented musicians, the speed at which they play, their repertoire, is overwhelming! It's as if you've been thrown into the lion pit. frown It takes a while to get over the shock. However, walking around, with banjo, taking it all in slowly, a little bit here, a little bit there, you'll discover jams of different sizes, as well as different levels. Sooner or later, you'll find where you fit it, or close to it. These slower jams are often found out on the fringe, away from the crowd. The spectacular jams may not actually be jams at all, but band practice, warm-ups in preparation of their stage performance.



As Phillip said, there are many challenges, other than picking the right notes at the right time. Unexpected challenges, for which you are unprepared. In plain, simple terms, brain scramble takes the easy way out, convincing you that you cannot do this. You can do this. No matter how difficult it seems, how unsure, how nervous & shaky you are when putting on your picks, DO IT! Take a deep breath & do what you can. After fifteen or twenty minutes, you'll begin to relax. Hang in there, the more relaxed you become, the easier it gets. Vamp chords, pick lightly to cover your mistakes. Watch, listen, pay attention, learn. Learn to hear, & recognize, a one chord, a four chord, & a five chord. Between songs, introduce yourself, ask questions, get to know one another. When the music starts, shut up & pick.  When you lose track of time, you're making progress. wink 


Edited by - monstertone on 06/07/2023 09:30:10

Decky - Posted - 06/07/2023:  15:21:45


Thanks all but it does sound very daunting at the moment, specially as I‘ve never done any of the things you mentioned before (vamping, etc.), I can’t even noodle yet (is that the right term?). I think I need to start slowly and maybe I‘ll first contact some local players I found on the search that Bart sent me.

Jack Baker - Posted - 06/07/2023:  15:56:52


Derek,

You dealing with a lot of Brainiac people who are engineers and software people, and all things technical so be prepared to get hammered with knowledge, not to mention but a lot of pro players also....Jack


Edited by - Jack Baker on 06/07/2023 15:58:55

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