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Confused, But Encouraged ... Some Advice Needed

Posted by iSteve on Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hey all!

Tomorrow will be the third week since I my banjo arrived.  In some respects, I've come a long way in that very short amount of time.  I have a teacher.  We've met twice now and things are going well.  I'm still working on basic rolls and chords.  Last night, we started working on "Cripple Creek" and I learned to slide.  So, basically I'm encouraged at the progress that I've made thus far.

But I have to admit that I am still slightly confused - not so much about the "how," but about the "what."  I'm slowly getting the "how" of playing the banjo.  What I'm uncertain about is the "what" - what kind of music do I want to end up playing.  There it gets fuzzy.

I'm happy to learn three-finger, Scrugg's style.  We are using the Scrugg's book in my lessons.  I like bluegrass.  I grew up on it.  But if I am honest with myself, my goal is not to become a solely bluegrass banjo player.

I really like old-time music too.  I also especially like Pete Seeger and other folk musicians.  I can see myself using my banjo with a more melodic turn than a rhymic one.  I would like to lead sing alongs with others.

So what does this mean?  Do I continue learning bluegrass basics?  Should I consider clawhammer?  I notice that Pete uses a mix of styles in his playing - a little bit of Scruggs, quite a bit of clawhammer, among other things.

It just makes me wonder if I am on the right track or not.

Advice anyone? 



9 comments on “Confused, But Encouraged ... Some Advice Needed”

erikforgod Says:
Thursday, March 22, 2012 @12:13:58 PM

Steve I recommend you give other styles a shot also until you decide to play and feel what just comes naturally. Many times it comes from just plain old "trial and error" so dont feel try no to. I started banjo over 6 years ago playing bluegrass....but after a while I let it heart just wasnt in it, I made some progress and I worked at it but it just wasnt "right" Since I have started clawhammer...a whole other bag...I am progressing steadily, but most important it just "feels right" and I enjoy it more. I guess I just maybe had to find the right style over time. Hope this helps! Give yourself a just started...give a lil clawhammer a try one day, or other styles as well...eventually youll home in on exactly how you want to play your banjo.

Texasbanjo Says:
Thursday, March 22, 2012 @12:15:57 PM

Stick with bluegrass 3-finger right now. As you get more experienced, you can add melodic to your picking and when you get more comfortable with your banjo, you can sing along while picking.

I've found, as a teacher, that if a student tries to do too many different styles all at once, it usually becomes somewhat confusing to them. Of course, there are those people who can take it all in stride and learn 3-finger bluegrass, clawhammer and old time all at once.

erikforgod Says:
Thursday, March 22, 2012 @12:58:12 PM

I agree stick with the bluegrass for now until you are sure that you feel its not working out...I agree. You have to definately give yourself sometime....everything is in its time.

iSteve Says:
Thursday, March 22, 2012 @2:10:59 PM

This is good and sound advice. I really appreciate it.

Torben Pedersen Says:
Thursday, March 22, 2012 @2:30:28 PM

Hi. Its not easy to recommend you, what style to play. But I agree with Texasbanjo. To many things, at the same time its not good. I know it from myself. Years ago, when we were out playing live, i played a little guitar - banjo - mouth harpe - violin - keyboard....I found out..that`s were cracy. Everything was "half done". S? I dessided that the main instrument was guitar and nr. 2 was the 5 strings banjo. That was a good choise for me. In many years I didn`t know much about bluegrass. So I learned few chords on the banjo - played with a plecter, and played it like it was a guitar. - 5 years ago I began to learn the three finger picking...together with a freind. We meet one time every week. In 2007 and 2008 I were on workshop at Risoere Bluegrassfestival i Norway..that was a good thing, to have a good teacher...he learned me a lot about 3 finger picking. So that whats I`m doing on the banjo. - I not only playing bluegrass....but I love it..3 finger style - clawhammer..I like it all. But I also play many other styles - Irish - scottic - American folk music ( Peter - Paul and Mary - John Denver - Tom Paxton..and others) And ofcourse Danish folk music. My wife and I have composed and written a lot of songs. Many folk songs, you can use the banjo. - So before I write a hole advise must be...Consentrate you about the teachers learning time go, try something for fun....I mean.sometimes I just pick and hammer, without playing no tune. Just let i be fun...and suddenly I find a tune, and training my fingers. - But from the start...choise one style to play...Happy picking....

iSteve Says:
Thursday, March 22, 2012 @2:34:31 PM

Thank you so much, Torben. Your comments mean so much to me. It's a source of encouragement to know that I'm not alone on this quest. So glad to hear about your experiences. So I plan to stick with bluegrass for now and get it's basics down.

Banjov1 Says:
Friday, March 23, 2012 @9:39:44 AM

If one of your ultimate goals is to lead sing alongs with your banjo, I'd think you want to play in a style that would allow you to sing along comfortably.

Lots of folks have difficulty singing and playing 3 finger style. So as you start to get more comfortable playing your early 3 finger style tunes... I'd try to begin singing or even seeing if it's possible for you to sing and playing. If it's difficult... you might want to try something more in line with strumming or clawhammer. IMO those styles are easier to sing with (although my clawhammer skills are pretty weak... I can still sing and frail).

But at the same time, if singing and Scruggs style works for you... I'd try to stick with it

Banjo Rose Says:
Saturday, March 24, 2012 @1:13:02 AM

I have been playing for 1 1/2 years and progressing well and take weekly lessons. I am at the point where BG is fun but old folk and BG is not all that I enjoy listening to. Now that I understand music theory and my banjo (rolls, chords, and fret board) I printed chords and lyrics to Allman Bros Band "Seven Turns" and banjo'd it up. I hope to play at a jam tomorrow. This is a total experiment but, I hope to have fun playing it. It took me almost a year before I could coordinate singing and playing. Going to open jams is also helpful.

iSteve Says:
Saturday, March 24, 2012 @10:37:07 AM

That's great, Rose. Sounds like we are on the same page. Good luck at your jam.

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