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Banjo versus TV: Week 54

Posted by jrjenks on Thursday, April 16, 2009

A check-in on the Banjo versus TV project — J.R.'s ongoing plan to spend more time on his banjo than on TV. This post covers 3/8/2009 through 3/14/2009.
Banjo 338 hrs, TV 315 hours

I've recently gotten Steve Martin's CD The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo. The first track, Daddy Played The Banjo, brought to mind the cover of Earl Scrugg's book Earl Scruggs and the 5-String Banjo:

One day Daddy put my fingers down upon the strings
He picked it with his other hand; we made the banjo ring.

The possible connection to that cover art is made even stronger by Steve Martin's choice of singer for this song: Gary Scruggs.

I shared these thoughts with Dave, who told me the sad story of who that kid really was.

He was Earl's son Steve Scruggs who, as Dave described it, "had a lot of demons." Steve Scruggs died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds in 1992.

I'm not sure whether Steve Martin intended his song to make such a connection, but I found one. Listen to the song, think about that cover (and Steve Scruggs) and see if you don't find the same thing.

Things I learned at this week's banjo lesson:

  • It's been easier to adjust to my new, higher bridge than I thought. I suggest that maybe this is because my fingerwork is kind of sloppy.
  • I'm not letting my notes ring; I'm changing my left fingers too quickly, causing the sustained sound to be the open string and not the note I'd played.
  • Where should I set the 5th string capo when I'm in other keys? Dave says that the Scruggs answer to that question is 7 for D and 9 for E.
  • My pull-offs aren't really audible. I need to angle my left fingers and pluck the string a little when I pull off.



Also in the last week:

  • TV really kicked the banjo's butt this week, seven hours to one-and-a-half. I'm really liking Dollhouse, which is excellent, and Tool Academy, which is pure trash.
  • At the festival I purchased a somewhat worn Lotus banjo from Shorty. I told Dave I'm thinking of replacing its strings with heavier ones, creating a lower-tuned banjo akin to Tom Nechville's Atlas banjo.

    Dave told me that John Hartford had a low-tuned banjo. Dave played a John Hartford record and we dope out that Hartford probably tuned his banjo low by 6 semitones.


Cross-posted at J.R. Jenks' blog

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