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I will treat my banjo training like sports training

Posted by jrjenks on Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Why, thank you, I *have* been working out.

What did I mean when I said that one of my looking-ahead-from-my-2nd-banjoversary plans is to "treat my banjo training like sports training"?

It's like this. I'd really like to become an impressive banjo player. At this point, I'm just not.

Oh, I'm having fun. As anyone can tell from my banjo antics over the last year (both halves), I'm having lots of fun.

But I'm not making people go, "Wow!" And I really want to do that. So I'm going to knuckle down and be really purposeful about how I practice.

  • I will observe myself as I play and as I practice. (More on this when I blog about the audio/visual aspects of one of my other plans: "I will create a terrific banjo practice area.")
  • I will identify problems with my technique and will do exercises targeted at these problems. I'm not going to try to correct all of my problems at once; they're too numerous. Some examples:
    • I raise my left fingers way off the fretboard; I need to minimize that movement.
    • I plant only my right pinky and my right ring finger is left flailing about; I need to plant both my ring finger and my pinky for a more stable foundation.
    • My vamping stinks.
    • My D-form and F-form are weak and I'm slow to change into them.
    You get the idea. So I'm going to pick a few targeted exercises and do some every day, rotating the exercises when appropriate.
  • I will track my practice daily. I've been using my weekly posts about the Banjo versus TV project to track my banjo hours at a per-week level. I'm going add a chart to these weekly posts that will look something like this:

    Actual (minutes)
    Forward Rolls, easyish (Trischka)53507333
    Hammer-Ons (Trischka) 33333333
    tude (backward roll) (Trischka)33333333
    Active listening 10381010101510

    And, see? There are some examples of those targeted exercises I was talking about.
  • I will stay relaxed and I will breathe.
  • I will isolate my movements, then integrate them. This means seperate right-hand and left-hand exercises, then doing them both.
  • I will vary my position when I practice. This means playing while standing up and while sitting down.
  • I will end my practice sessions well. I'll have a cool-down period at the end of my practice session in which I do something well, even if I had a hard time during my practice session. James McKinney stresses the importance of concluding your practice session with a positive feeling so you're more inclined to begin again at your next practice session.

Credit for these ideas goes to Dave, Bill Evans, James McKinney and Janet Beazley.

Coming up next: "I will create a terrific banjo practice area."

Cross-posted at J.R. Jenks' blog

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