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Posted by pcfive on Thursday, March 28, 2013

I guess I kicked a hornet's nest at the Scruggs forum, by claiming I can play fast. I expected comments to be skeptical, but I did not predict the level of rage and sarcasm that broke out.

I know I was an idiot for claiming anything without making a recording first to prove it. A whole week passed before I had any chance to record, and the sarcasm was really blasting by then. So I made recordings in a hurry and they didn't turn out well.

One kindly commenter even reported -- to anyone in the world who happens to read the Scruggs forum -- that he knows someone who knows someone who has heard me at a jam session. There were two occasions, according to him, when someone had to leave a jam because they didn't like my timing.

Well I was shocked and offended at the time. But now that I have given it more thought, that's really not so bad -- six years of jamming and there were only two occasions when someone left a jam because of me. A pretty good track record for a bluegrass banjo player.

But I don't even think it was true. Years ago, when my timing wasn't good, I played very quietly and was careful not to disrupt anyone.

Well anyway, I want to say a couple things about speed. I have worked very hard for about five years on improving timing, tone and accuracy. I spend a lot of time practicing at slow and medium speeds, only occasionally turning the dial up over 130 bpm.

But I happened to notice recently that if I'm in exactly the right state of mind, my right hand becomes very relaxed and is able to play extremely fast. So that inspired my ill-fated post. (The thread got locked or deleted or thrown on a bonfire -- whatever they do here with threads that have gone toxic.)

This skill is completely useless, since my left hand can't keep up with the right, and the notes are so fast it sounds like a blur.

As I always say, I am interested in tone, timing and accuracy. TONE, TIMING, and ACCURACY.

Since that firestorm, I have modified my practice routine, and I am determined not to lose focus again. I start at 100 bpm and stay below 130 for most of the first hour of practice. I had been playing the same 2 songs over and over, but now I vary it so I won't get bored (I think boredom is what motivated me a couple weeks ago to try playing fast).

Then, after practicing for an hour with the metronome, I spend some time recording myself. I want to make sure I keep the focus on tone and accuracy, and timing. I used to record myself once a week, but now I think that wasn't enough.

I had changed computers last year and didn't have time to get my recording software together. Now I finally have it all working for multi-track and I am starting to post again.

I have a lot of trouble recording, because when I get halfway through the song I start thinking "Oh boy, I hope I get all the way through this without screwing up." That thought alone causes me to screw up.

But I want to post, because I honestly believe I have improved a whole lot in the past year. I don't feel like a beginner anymore. I have worked very very hard and people no longer run screaming out of jam sessions when I start to play.

No -- just kidding -- I honestly have never seen that happen.




2 comments on “Onward”

Banjophobic Says:
Friday, March 29, 2013 @12:58:49 PM

I wasnt a part of the 'rage' or sarcasm group and that was uncalled for. But I was one who was really interested in making sure you were counting correctly and grouping your notes correctly. But you did come to realize what some of us were saying and that we were trying to be helpful and give advice intended to help you-not to insult you.
Part of the learning process is making mistakes and correcting them. As you said here, playing a reverse roll for 20 seconds is not like playing 'music' (songs, licks, backup etc) at that speed. Until both hands can operate at the same speed and with precision, then 'speed' is way overrated.
From what Ive heard in your general playing, you have made progress and it shows. Covering the "T.s" is where you should focus your attention now. Clean up and hone what you have built upon, is my best advice. Speed will come as a by product of time playing.
Anyway, Im saying all this to encourage you to practice the things that matter. Playing at 160-300 BPM is not important at ALL. Keep working at the important stuff! Also let really sarcastic things roll off your back or ugly comments. Try to focus on ones giving advice and who are trying to help.

pcfive Says:
Friday, March 29, 2013 @1:23:45 PM

Banjophobic, you were very helpful and I appreciate it. You were never angry or sarcastic -- some others were, but I now realize I should have just ignored them.

I completely agree with your advice. THANK YOU!!

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