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Posted by wrentree on Sunday, January 30, 2011

Howdy, I figured I  had better update my blog a little since the other one was a couple of years out of date. Since that time I have settled into the roll of permanent sound set-up guy with our band as well as a musician. I have played the guitar since I was about 17 or so. I picked up the banjo a little over 4 years ago and found the Hangout at the same time. And that was the same time I joined the band that I am with now. It is a volunteer band and we play in nursing homes, senior centers, and some churches. We play for free on some gigs and take donations on some others. We also play at the local fairs when we can on a pay for play basis.

Now on to the banjo. When I started I was a closet picker with only ambition and a little talent to work with. With the help of advice and tabs that I found on the Hangout, I slowly learned some of the licks that I had marveled at when I had gone to some bluegrass festivals when I was younger. I could never find anyone then who was willing to take someone to teach as they were learning themselves and I didn't have what it took to do it on my own. Patience!!!!!

After I started practicing, I tried to take the banjo to some of the gigs to play. Man what an eye opening and humbling  experience. The only thing that made me take it back time and again was the constructive comments by the band and the audiences that it wasn't that bad and it would come in time. So I began to play in the background vamping and noodling around on the fingerboard and soon I had an understanding of at least the down the neck notes. Slowly but surely over the last two years, I have gotten to the point of being able to follow most  of the songs that the band plays and take breaks on some of them. And I might add that when I play, I play up to speed.

We play Classic Country, Gospel, Bluegrass, with some contemperary thrown in. When I can't follow them, I just reach over and get the guitar. When it comes to my turn I play and sing on the guitar

I am turning 69 this year, so I was 65 when I starting. I feel that you are never too old to learn the banjo. There might be some disabilities though that would make it hard to do, like arthritis. 

I didn't expect to write a book when I started this blog, even though that is what it has become. Sorry about that. Feel free to comment. And I hope maybe this helps some other soul to be as determined to play as I was when I started and got a little time under my belt. One thing it did do was to keep my nose away from the T.V. over a lot of time. Thanks for reading.



3 comments on “Progression”

mattoxh Says:
Sunday, July 13, 2014 @6:07:18 AM

Read your Blog and feel a little better about my Banjo. I am 59 been banging on this Banjo for about 10 months. Tried lessons but my young instructor did not understand my goal, beside he picked with his fingers no picks, and had never heard Cripple Creek. I am on my own hoping to find an instructor at some point. I take my Banjo weekly to meet with some friends who tolerate me and my Banjo, they are all older than me and play, guitar, base and mandolin very well. We call our self the Nose Pickers. I am in hopes to play at church and senior centers one day. Have no intentions of ever getting paid I don't need a job. Thanks for your motivation.

wrentree Says:
Sunday, July 13, 2014 @11:40:07 AM

Howdy Heyward, I now have around 6 years of picking under my belt and a lot of time has passed, both since I joined Banjohangout and since this blog.
In the beginning, I was a lot more comfortable playing and singing with the guitar, and suffered a lot with stage fright over the banjo. Sometimes even now, I get a little antsy when I am picking with another banjo picker who has more picking experience, but not so much anymore. You'll find a capo being your best friend when you play in a group with all the chords that they will want to play in. Of course, then you will need to be able to tune the 5th up. I have spikes and love them. Unhook from one position and hook up another.

The best practice for me in the beginning was to get a pair of earphones and download the tabledit program. Then I downloaded all the tabs that I could find in that format. I still have a bunch, so if you need any particular one, let me know and I can send it to you.
I started on the Scruggs lick first. Then I started on Will the Circle Be Unbroken as my first song. I put on the earphones, slowed the tab program way down, and started to listen to the song while looking at the tab. It took awhile, but after I got the basics of the song down, then I started to speed it up. In one afternoon I increased my speed by at least 1/3. Now I play with a bunch of people who aren't used to giving out breaks on that song and I still don't get a chance to play it too much. Haha
But with that song, you'll get so much experience in notes, pull-offs, and syncopation. Then you add to that and pretty soon you can play without seeing too much of a song. Keep in touch! Let me know how you are doing.

mattoxh Says:
Monday, July 21, 2014 @3:07:27 PM

Thanks Harold, All of you comments are great. I download a lot, I am interested in downloading and slowing the piece down this would be great. I will look into perhaps you could give me a little more info on what I need to download a song and slow it down. I have never played a string instrument played the drums in another life, there keeping a beat is not a problem. I am a long way from playing by ear but picking out a melody is getting easier, the only problem is I end up picking the song like playing a guitar. I trying to work the rolls in and there in lies my problem. I will look up the Will the Circle be Unbroken and try your technique. I love the old time Blue Grass Gospel songs. Any advice you can through my way will be appreciated. Thanks again my friend. Heyward

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