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I'm here if you need me...

Posted by Jim Pankey on Thursday, June 9, 2016

like this

I've been here since the beginning (even before there were forums). I've seen a lot of folks come and go.  I've seen too many great players finally give up on trying to help anyone.  I get it.  It's hard to shout through the noise.

I had a student recently ask me about a post he saw here and it reminded me of something.  It reminded me that I used to encourage my students to check out the Banjo Hangout.  Then I realized about 4 or 5 years ago I quit telling any of my students about it.  It got tiring to have to help my students discern the good advice from players from those that merely like to post to be an online expert about banjo.  I'm still not sure why anyone would do that, but I see it here all the time, and it goes completely unchecked and often supported by "management".

So these days I just don't mention it.  It's just easier that way.  When it does come up I always tell my students to proceed with the utmost caution, and to always check with me if they're not sure.  I'd rather not have to hear "Some dude on the Banjo Hangout said..." and then have to explain that not everyone on the Hangout actually plays the banjo.

I guess no one cares if I post or not; there are plenty of banjo experts to go around.  It is, however, sad to think of so many that have tried to make a difference here to only be verbally beaten down by members that felt like they needed to win an argument as opposed to learning from someone that might have a shred more experience than the rest of us.

Heck, it took the passing of one particular great to finally get the respect he deserved.  Prior to that it seemed like every time he was mentioned someone had to point out that "so and so was better" or "so and so did it first".  Sadly, even he wasn't accepted here when he did try to post for a bit.  He was a good friend - I regret not spending more time with him near the end.  Maybe it's just my own guilt talking, but he and I had talked about it long before his death.


Look, I was a beginner once.  I had other friends that were beginners.  We didn't presume we knew anything, but if one of us learned something we would share it with the others.  Here, though, it's as if no one wants to be the beginner - why is that?  Is there a stigma with being new at something?  I must have missed that memo.

Share stuff with others, but be upfront with your ability.  There's no reason to lie about it.  No one cares.  Seriously, most of the good people here don't care if you're a rank beginner or a seasoned professional.  They just want to talk about banjos.


Looks like I'm down to about a post a month in the forum.  That's obviously down a bit from the past.  I tried.  I gave it a good shot.  I genuinely hope I helped at least one or two of you. 

Feel free to shoot me messages.  I'm always glad to help if I can.  I'm here if you need me. Just don't expect much from me in the forums...


23 comments on “I'm here if you need me...”

Texasbanjo Says:
Friday, June 10, 2016 @4:45:24 AM

It's strange, but I haven't had your problems at all. I've been here probably since you have and I've given advice many times. Most of it has been met with thank you type answers. I seldom ever have had anyone suggest that I don't know what I'm talking about.

However, having said that, I, too, have seen misinformation here on the Hangout. I doubt there much anyone can do about that. If you get on the internet, you learn to take whatever you hear with a grain of salt, so to speak. Most beginners figure out pretty quickly whether the person answering their question(s) knows what they're talking about or not.

I've found, from being a moderator, that most of the ones who have quit the Hangout have done so because they got their feelings hurt because someone questioned what they said. If you're going to be on the internet and take part in discussions, you're going to have people who enjoy stirring the pot, so to speak, and love to get into arguments and when they find someone who will argue with them, that makes their day. I mean no disrespect here, but if you can't take the heat.....

Jim Pankey Says:
Friday, June 10, 2016 @6:24:02 AM

There should really never be an instance where a revered player should have to "take the heat" on a moderated forum.

And since I've flushed out this rabbit I'll go ahead and say that any of the known working and teaching players should be treated with at least a tiny bit of respect too. How bad would it be to bolster up those guys or gals out there in the trenches instead of letting them slug it out with people the would rather fight than pick?

Oh, but that would be unfair, many would protest. So and so's opinion is just as important as everyone else's. That's a good helping of hogwash... Got soap?

For someone like me it takes only a few seconds to know if someone has a clue. I judge a banjo player by their playing, not by the words they type. So if someone suggests wearing paper bags on their feet while practicing, I'll click their profile and look for sound files or videos. If they can prove they can play then I'll certainly be investigating the merits of paper bags.

Texasbanjo Says:
Friday, June 10, 2016 @7:00:49 AM

I'll play devil's advocate here: why should someone be "revered"? If you can play the banjo well, kudos to you, but that doesn't mean you should be put up on a pedestal and bowed to. I have the utmost respect and admiration for some of the great pickers but still don't think of them as "gods" who know it all and should never be questioned about anything.

Now, I'm the first to admit that some of the responses on the forums are downright ugly and disrespectful sometimes, but again, this is the internet and everyone can be anonymous and therefore, some feel they can act out. I don't agree with it, but that's what happens. We try to keep the trouble makers out of here or at least keep them civil and that's about all we can do.

As far as "taking the heat", if they don't want to argue with someone who disagrees with them, just don't post, let it go and the trouble maker(s) will back off because there's no one willing to keep up the argument. Most members figure out fairly quickly who is legitimate and who is just full of air.

I could give you my thoughts on some of the pros who have left, but that wouldn't be respectful, so I'll not say anything at all.

Jim Pankey Says:
Friday, June 10, 2016 @7:16:58 AM

I'm not saying anyone should be revered. I am saying there are players that many of us revere. Those players should have our attention and respect whether we agree or not.

Finally, I placed this post in my blog... not on the forum. I did it for a reason. It's here if folks want to read it. It's here for the handful of folks that do seek me out for help. It's here for those that wondered why I gave up. far as "thoughts" on folks, I got plenty...

rinemb Says:
Friday, June 10, 2016 @7:46:17 AM

I am usually saddened every time I realize a "pro" picker has lost interest in participating on this site. When I was a newbie a marveled and enjoyed the participation by the good and great players. All of this helped me progress greatly. I admire those who play well and participate. I hope we don't lose that connection and mix. I don't agree with folks "trashing" other folks and their opinions, though I accept comments that might say I cavor this lick or method or player's music better, etc. Brad

pickn5 Says:
Friday, June 10, 2016 @10:54:09 AM

I always enjoy your posts. You and all the others that put forward good advice are appreciated.

Jody Hughes Says:
Friday, June 10, 2016 @11:20:59 AM

Most members figure out who is legitimate and who is full of air? I could not disagree more. Its easy for people that dont know the difference to look up to those that dont know the difference either.....

Jody Hughes Says:
Friday, June 10, 2016 @11:25:15 AM

Especially when its encouraged....and in fact rewarded

Jim Pankey Says:
Friday, June 10, 2016 @11:36:56 AM

It's not that I feel unappreciated or disrespected in any way. I just don't trust the process here these days. I just don't feel like it's working, and I've felt that way for a long time.

vfhamilton Says:
Friday, June 10, 2016 @12:51:49 PM

Well Wild Jimbo, (I guess that says how far back I go), l completely understand what you're saying. I completely stayed away for 5 or so years, only recently came back and don't really feel comfortable posting or commenting anymore. My daughter and grandson are just starting to learn to pick and I haven't yet pointed them to the hangout, not sure I'm going to. I don't feel like I'm good enough to teach them, so I'm letting Ross Nickerson handle that.
I've always enjoyed and appreciated your posts and advice. I just wish some of the other old hands were still on here.

banjoy Says:
Friday, June 10, 2016 @11:25:15 PM

I share the sentiments and understand where you're coming from. And I see this too. I don't have solutions for it though, it seems to be tolerated and encouraged. I guess it all comes down to how many screen views does it generate which must good for business. It's not a model I would use but here it is what it is.

Just Bill Says:
Sunday, June 12, 2016 @9:13:38 AM

It is my impression those who post the most often giving advice on banjo playing are somehow deemed to be experts. Many don't look any further than, "'So-and-so' posts all the time on the 'Playing Advice' forums here, so (s)he MUST be an expert." I've been shocked to see so many self-proclaimed experts who have NEVER posted any of their playing here on the Hangout. I have also seen instances wherein these experts aggressively argue and sometimes belittle those who differ in opinion on playing technique/advice. Jim, as you know, you're not the first very talented instructor who is reluctant to post in the "Playing Advice" forums--you just don't need to find yourself being the target of an attack from a "brave key-board warrior" for offering an opinion. I don't have an answer, either, but I certainly understand the problem of dealing with internet forums. I am grateful for the Hangout's moderators, who do a good job of trying to keep forums civil. But, I'm sure it's a matter of, "How far should this thread continue before a moderator feels compelled to step in?"

teakinmn Says:
Wednesday, June 15, 2016 @12:42:52 PM

I'm hoping you don't bail completely, Jim. I enjoy clicking on your sound files (especially if you're playing your RK -- I have a 36 that I really like), and I always enjoyed your posts in the past. Some of the posts from others, that I read here (or posts anywhere online for that matter) make me immediately think, "I wonder if that poster would have the nerve to talk to someone like that in person?" I usually come to the conclusion that they would not. The internet is a great place to hide behind, and stick out the occasional broom handle to try and trip someone for no other reason than "ether-bullying" or juvenile amusement.

Jim Pankey Says:
Wednesday, June 15, 2016 @3:41:22 PM

I plan to hang around a while, but I'm certainly going to think long and hard before I even offer the slightest bit of advice. I'll still probably contribute in RK threads, even though by integrity has been called into question regarding my opinions on those topics.

I can only hope that things will get better, but as long as the site is run and moderated the way it is where anyone with an Internet connection can be an expert then I fear I will never have the energy to deal with fakes and hacks. (If you're a beginner or a non-player how can you ever tell the difference?)

robjams Says:
Thursday, June 16, 2016 @3:52:55 AM

I hope you continue to post. As a beginner, I'll tell you it didnt take long for me to figure out who to listen to, and who to take with a grain of salt. Using this forum, along with youtube, it's pretty simple. I'm sure there are others who've figured it out too, that just dont post. I only wish I lived a little closer to you so that i could maybe get in person lessons. I'm over in the big city of Rockmart.

dmiller Says:
Friday, July 22, 2016 @11:34:32 PM

Sherry - - with all due respect. Please shut up and take a back seat. OK?? I take offense every time you diss fiddlers, but I have never complained or said anything to you about it, even though its a burr under my saddle and rankles every time I read your posts about anything that's fiddle related.

You are (in my HUMBLE opinion) totally ignoring the fact that there are folks here who have transcended the "very good" category of picker who are being lambasted by absolute beginners who have an attitude, and think they know it all and aren't afraid to say so to the folks who REALLY do know it all. You need to get out your Funk and Wagnalls - - and look up the definitions of two words. One is Revere/ and the other is Respect. I hope you can read because the difference of definition between the two is like night and day. Given your comments" on this thread - - I'd say you fall way short f both of those words.

I read your initial post on this thread and I actually thought "W T F"!! I couldn't believe you were telling someone of THAT caliber to "get out of the kitchen if they couldn't stand the heat". I've heard you say some good things and some bad things as a moderator - - but after reading what you wrote to Jim Pankey, I would suggest that you turn in your moderator "robe". For you to say something like you did to someone as qualified as he is - - tells me that you are no longer qualified to moderate this site. Don't take it personal, but you just "ain't cutting the mustard"anymore.

From Greylock to Bean Blossom Says:
Saturday, July 23, 2016 @4:21:16 AM

Thank you Jim for bringing this up. I remember the thread when Pat Cloud was driven off here by some twerp over music theory!! I remember when Ronnie Stewart got into a very heated argument with someone that was an obvious outright jerk and how often does Ronnie post on here regarding playing advice. I spoke with a gentleman who I consider the finest player today and he said he does not come on because of "the silliness".

Yes Jim and Sherry. the experts/pros should be REVERED HERE for the unique and high level knowledge they have and for the fact they make all us of the 79,000 banjo pilgrims have a far richer and more productive experience here. Without some good guidance most of us would be lemmings going over a cliff. I remember before the hangout how tough it was for me to learn the truth about how to play. I followed many misguided paths on my way to self perpetuating frustration and failure.

Here are two, I hope productive suggestions:
1. For someone to list themselves as a professional they need to prove it thru some combination of showing band memberships, Playing ability (thru musical submission here to hangout), recordings thru records cds, dvds, television shows, employment and paying gigs. Does anyone remember Stringbreaker who was the biggest troll here for many years and claimed the expert/professional status. The experts/pros should be a bit protected by the moderators. They are contributors and not takers here.
2. We need a rule about CIVILITY here. I know Dave Magram was a polarizing figure here but he suggested some rule adoptions from the steel guitar players hangout that seemed to work. We have a rule against personal attacks but it needs to be expanded and enforced. There could be a warning system. first offense is private. 2nd offense is public so all can see the standard being set. thirds is being locked out for a while and 4th is permanent expulsion from the HBO.

We have lost way too many pros that want to help, are willing to take the time to help, and who have much to offer, for it to be healthy for the Banjo Hangout.

Again Jim, thanks for bringing this up and thanks for what you do.

skevincampbell Says:
Sunday, July 24, 2016 @9:58:00 AM

Jim, you're 1 of a handful of guys, that I check myhangout page for posts. You are a great player, of bluegrass, and old time, or clawhammer. You've always been civil, and go out of your way to help. Thanks for all your contributions.

skevincampbell Says:
Sunday, July 24, 2016 @10:06:10 AM

I'm not even any good, and I hardly post any more. I do like to read what Jim Pankey, Jody Hughes, Arthur Hatfield, John Boulding, and others have to say.

owlcreekdan Says:
Tuesday, July 26, 2016 @9:46:51 AM

I agree , it's just about the love of banjo's and playing. doesn't matter what level.

mattoxh Says:
Thursday, October 27, 2016 @3:51:44 AM

I agree no one really cares to much about anything, not just about Banjos. In regard to my passion, Banjos, everyone is looking for that one book, video, or gadget that will make them a player. There is so much out there but there is nothing that will make a beginner player an intermediate player or an intermediate player an expert. Believe me I have tried everything and there is only two things I have found that will work, a good instructor and practice. I have also found that playing with others helps in so many ways, if you can find those special people that will let you join in. Everyone has their own learning and some have natural musical ability. As long as you enjoy where you are all is good. I waited too late in life to begin playing, why did I wait until I was so old to start something I truly enjoy. I started at the ripe old age of 58 and now I am almost 62.

After reading your Blog it is obvious that you are one of the good guys that has so much to offer the Banjo Community, keep writing and I will keep reading and Pickin.

manomusic Says:
Sunday, April 8, 2018 @8:53:55 PM

I stopped reading posts here some years ago for this very reason. I am not and probably never will be a pro, just an un-gifted amateur who has to work hard at my playing.This site did help me in many ways , more so in pointing me towards expert teachers and makers, where once again I like to dabble as an amateur. Unfortunately, I started to feel the strain of ploughing through hard clay to find the fertile ground. I did and do enjoy your sound files and currently am having lessons from Jody Hughes whom I found through this site, so all is not complete doom and gloom. I'm hoping that people such as yourself do get more support from the site founder and mods so it continues in the original vein of great advice, help and friendship among us music lovers.

Richj Says:
Friday, November 9, 2018 @7:06:28 AM

Hi Folks,
Well, I am a total Newbie! And would first off like to thank Jim Pankey for his truly motivating lessons I 'bumped' into on this site. As a second point I find the message of Jim's point interesting and very sad. A forum for my sporting hobby (where I am a little more proficient) which has nothing to do with music, can be seen to have very similar problems. It is very tempting not to post and carry the 'risk' of poor comment and even ridicule. I wonder if this is a typical phenomena of established Web forums?

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