Posted by pcfive on Saturday, February 18, 2012
I am feeling very positive about my banjo progress lately. Other things are not going so great, which makes the banjo even more important. I always loved practicing, even back when it did not sound so good. Well in fact, it sounded pretty bad. But I knew it would keep getting better if I practice faithfully.
Last fall I got my RK 35, my first real bluegrass banjo. That made jamming more fun because now they can hear me across the room. I was already inspired, but the RK inspired me more. (I still practice mostly with my Goodtime though, because it does have a very nice sound.)
Then, a month or two or three ago (losing track of time these days), I realized the benefit of slow practice. And I have been using the backing tracks here in the music archive, and I think they are great, so glad someone was generous enough to post them.
I practice at least 2 hours every day, more on days off. And I have been doing that for quite a while, and it sure does make a difference. My focus, for at least the past 3 years, has been on timing and tone and rhythm. I'm always learning songs, but that is secondary, not the focus.
My timing, tone and rhythm still have a long way to go, but boy have they improved, especially very recently. I record myself about once a week to check progress, and the recordings today were not so bad at all.
Timing is getting more even and precise -- when I practice slow I really think about every little space between every little note. This causes them to even out, either when playing slow or fast.
Tone is really so much better also. I love the sound of banjo notes so much. To me, each note is like a hard little pebble. As opposed to fiddle notes which are like silk threads (why fiddle and banjo can sound so good together -- their sounds are opposite!)
I also think of Scruggs style banjo as sort of machine-like. In a good sense, I mean.
So, not happy with everything these days but I sure am happy with banjo practice and jamming.
Also, I sing a lot now. I found that people at the jam sessions can follow my songs better if they have vocals. For example, I learned the words to Fireball Mail. I start out by singing a verse, then play an instrumental, and then another verse, etc.
So, in general, having a great time with the banjo and making progress, and it is helping me stay positive and get through some non-ideal situations at work.
The banjo is by far the best instrument for helping us stay positive! And learning any instrument is wonderful because it gives you goals and a sense of progress. There is ALWAYS more to learn.
Oh, and I also started getting back to melodic style a little. I had put that on hold because I wanted to really once and for all learn the Scruggs style. Of course I can't say I have learned the Scruggs style.
But I love melodic style, and I like mixing the two styles (as in Alan Munde style). And I love fiddle tunes. My current favorite is Black Mountain Rag.
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'Stolen Banjo' 1 hr