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Torn between two banjo "worlds"

Posted by Enviroguy on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

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I Can't believe it's been 7 years since I did my last post!  I am still spending lots of time jamming with friends and at least an hour every day working on new tunes - although as a permanently challenged banjo non-expert, I find that working on tunes that I know well and working out new riffs for them is an equally rewording use of time. Overall, as an old guy, I would have thought my ability to learn had levelled off, and to some extent (speed?) it has, but I continue to learn new stuff and even new ways of learning itself.  For example, I've never been able to learn by watching a good picker's left hand - it all happens too fast and on video, usually from a crappy angle. But I'm now getting better at learning in that mode.

I say that I am torn between two banjo worlds, because since I got the beautiful Romero, and recently a 1970s Vega openback, I've been spending 80% of my time on Old Time music, getting reasonably good at clawhammer.  So 3 finger BG has taken a bit of a back seat with me, although I am still a big fan and jump at every opportunity to play with local musicians.

There are a lot of old time tunes that show up at jams here in Toronto.  But if you pull out something a bit obscure like Newcastle Texas or Dull Chisel, you'll get some strange reactions like people saying "Jam Killer!" or just getting up and going for a beer!

Anyways, I gotta say I love the old time tunes and a fiddle and clawhammer banjo go together like strawberries and whipped cream.  It's all about the melody in old time (to me, anyway) and there are some beautiful melodies; in bluegrass ya gotta come up with a break or three on that melody and perform it well.   I like that challenge and I like the freedom to pick in that context. Whereas, in old time jams, everybody plays all the time and plays the same A and B over and over.  I prefer sitting in on jams where even if it's an old time tune, everybody gets a kick at the can.

Well, kudos to the BHO and Banjo Newsletter contributors who continue to provide great insights into the music of both worlds.  Thanks for giving us continual learners lots of great stuff to work on and think about!



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