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Television....the great banjo killer

Posted by thetexan on Friday, December 4, 2009

Let's face it, learning to play the banjo well, idealy, requires a lot of time.  Stated another way, you have never heard a good banjo picker who hasn't logged lots of time strapped to the backside of a resonator.  It is a great, immutable, irresistable law of the banjo universe.  This law can't be cheated and it can't be circumvented. Yet, even with these unwaivering attributes, this one rule is the one most challenged by most of the 'good player' wannabes of the world. 

I emphasis 'good player' wannabes because there is a large segment of banjo 'enthusiasts' out there who want nothing more from their instrument than the enjoyment of a good friend.  A friend who's company can soothe, relax, excite, stir emotion, and gratify all at the same time.  A friend who obediently serves at a moment's notice or can retreat into a closet for weeks, months, or years at a time without so much as a whimper.  And while these player's may, through the sheer passage of time, and love of a friend, achieve a reasonable level of accomplishment, these are not the 'wannabes' to which I refer.

I mean the players who desire the gold!  You know who you are....the "I can be as good as Tony'  Fleck worshipers, and all of the others from beginners to long-time devotees who dream of being the one on stage wow'ing the onlooking wonderers with expert 5-string demonstrations or who simply would be satisfied with great jam performances.  The majority of banjoist who desire to be worthy of the title but have yet to attain it; that's who I'm talking to.

Time is your friend, or enemy.  There is only so much of the stuff and your banjo along with your aspirations require significant amounts of it.  But, there, standing in the midst of the garden of your wishifications is the 'Tree of the Fruit of Delicious Time Wasters".  And the most delicious and enticing of its fruit is the television; naps being a close second.

The television is an insidious thief.  It tempts you with contrast ratios, huge diagonal proportions and 250 channels of high definition, mind numbing, visual sensory overload.  And sitting on you sholder is a demon whispering in your ear 'you shall not surely hamper your dreams of banjo mastery' as you thumb the remote and rationalize the irretrievable loss of yet another hour of precious, limited time.  And now, as bad or worse than television, is the computer with its almost endless tendrills of time-sucking delicacies.

The television is not entirely to blame.  It is a co-conspirator in the crime.  It's partner is lack of determination.  Otherwise known as laziness.  In case no one has ever mentioned this, laziness and banjo mastery are two mutually exclusive things.  They can not both exist in the banjo master's universe. 

Yet the wasting of time (much less laziness) is seldom if ever recognized as the root cause of the aspirant's lack of results along the road to banjo mastery.  It is almost always stated as the need of another instructional book, the want of a teacher, the lacking of physical prowess or inheritance of musical talent; all the while nibbling from the Fruit of the Tree.

In the 'moving a mountain' metaphor the only thing required for ultimate results, other than a surprisingly small amount of faith, is a shovel and a few million cycles of back-breaking ditch-digging.  Notice that nowhere in the account is there mentioned television, or the computer.

With learning the banjo, if there could ever be claimed a 'cure-all' for what impedes one's progress it would be adaquate and diligent use of time, and the waste of it as it's reason.

Amongst the landscape of advise given to well-intentioned banjo students I fear the proper use of time is understated; grossly so.  Or maybe the admonition of it is simply assumed.  In any case, success with the banjo, as with any instrument, requires practice; lots and lots and lots of practice.  And practice requires time. And practice and time is the single most important ingredient in the recipe of success.

And, unfortunately, practice time, so often, is dutifully offered at the alter of the great TV god at the expense of the banjo and banjo dust. It seems, there's an old addage that applies here.....'you get what you pay for'.   It all comes down to what you really want.

The key to success, or guarantee of failure, is the use or waste of time.  It really is that simple.

Remember that the next time you choose an hour of reruns or 'WarCraft' over your banjo. 


1 comment on “Television....the great banjo killer”

JMalmsteen Says:
Saturday, November 26, 2011 @3:24:28 AM

Great point. I fully agree with you. I realized this when I was thirteen and had gotten my first tv in my room. I got rid if it (put it in the laundry room). At that point I started to spend any spare time practicing guitar, which meant hours a day since you have that luxury when you ate young.
We waste more time then we realize while at the same time complain about what is lacking- banjo ability etc.

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