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Finding Focus Again...

Posted by Frailblazer on Tuesday, November 5, 2013

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In July of 2012 I purchased a wonderful Huber Roanoke banjo.  And, so began an intense exploration into using finger picks, bluegrass, melodic, Scruggs style, etc.  I liked being a beginner again and enjoyed the prospect of learning a new and exciting style of playing. I practiced like crazy, learned some great new tunes and started to gain a deep understanding of the neck in G tuning, a tuning I had rarely used before.  I diligently focused on minimizing pick noise and got pretty satisfying results. 

I reached out to Tony Trischka and asked him if he would be interested in doing an in-person lesson with me.  After exchanging a few emails we set a date.  The lesson lasted over 2 hours.  Tony is an amazing player and teacher.  He is a warm, down-to-earth person and I was honored to have had the privilege of spending some time with him in his home.  I even had the opportunity to play one of my original tunes for him and thankfully he liked it!  The night after the lesson I sent Tony a thank you email and his reply has had an unexpected affect on me. He encouraged me to "follow my own path". I didn't expect that and it started me thinking about my music, where I've come from and where I want to go.

After playing the Huber for a little over a year my ears had gotten used to the sound of steel strings and I like it very much.  I took my somewhat neglected Romero banjo out of its case, removed the Nylguts and re-strung it with steel strings.  I read some helpful threads here on hide head tensioning and got some great advice from John Balch, an expert in all things related to hide heads.  After a little bit of experimentation, I was able to get the Romero to sing!  What a wonderful and captivating sound.  I tuned it back to my old favorite tuning - Double C and started playing some of the tunes I have recorded and posted here on the Hangout.  But something was different, new, exciting.  The steel strings changed the dynamic of the instrument for sure but in addition I noticed that some of the things I discovered while learning to play the Huber had made their way into my musical DNA and were now part of my musical vocabulary.

So in closing, I've taken to heart Tony's advice and I'm back to focusing once again on developing my own style on this wonderful instrument by continuing with the approach I was doing before but with new elements added to the mix - weaving in aspects of old time clawhammer, old time fingerstyle, meldoic bluegrass, Baroque classical and even contemporary fingerstyle guitar with two hand tapping sprinkled in here and there.  I'm striving for a sound that presents the banjo as a full and complete solo instrument capable for conveying a wide range of emotions and a compositional approach that shows how limitless this instrument can be.  I'm enjoying the discovery process and finding my focus again!

I will be posting new tunes and perhaps some videos soon. 

- Ric



7 comments on “Finding Focus Again...”

Laurence Diehl Says:
Tuesday, November 5, 2013 @10:06:12 AM

That's great Ric, I always enjoy your posts - looking forward to more! I was just listening to your Arkansas Traveller the other day...we are, after all, the sum of our experiences and each new experience adds to the mosaic. If I had never played electric guitar I would be a completely different player to the one I am today. This is what makes us unique.
Laurence

twayneking Says:
Tuesday, November 5, 2013 @4:07:26 PM

We are each individuals, not as snowflakes, but more like crystals or diamond being grown and formed in the press of life. Look forward to more music to come.

rgoad Says:
Tuesday, November 5, 2013 @5:22:01 PM

What an interesting post. I really like it when people have the courage to be creative, especially when it is backed by the humility of a developed talent. I anxiously look forward to your music!

Bill Rogers Says:
Tuesday, November 5, 2013 @10:36:49 PM

Ric, with your musical ability and creativity, I can only look forward to hear what you come up with. I know it will be well worth your time--and our listening.

Frailblazer Says:
Wednesday, November 6, 2013 @12:03:46 PM

Thanks guys for your warm comments and interest in my music.

Paul Roberts Says:
Tuesday, February 11, 2014 @1:56:57 PM

Hi Ric. You always have a broadening approach to the banjo - exactly what we need to keep the art form rolling.

hamishpink Says:
Saturday, February 15, 2014 @2:09:02 PM

Hi Ric
Great attitude and playing. Your experiences and objectives match my own almost exactly. I've called my change a re-evaluation and I've never enjoyed playing as much as I do now.

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