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My first blog post

Posted by neilends on Monday, October 8, 2018

I thought I’d jot down some thoughts as I start this adventure, so I can look back on it one day. I’m 46 and a lawyer. I’m American but my family background is Asian, so I have zero friends or family who have any familiarity with the banjo. I just love the banjo. In the 7th or 8th grade, my music teacher played it for us one day and I was mesmerized. I just took three decades to follow up, that’s all. 

I’m not a huge bluegrass fan per se but I do enjoy it. It’s just never been my #1 genre. My musical tastes are pretty diverse and random. I’ve lived all over the world and speak a few languages, so that helps explain where I stand musically. French pop, rap, Indian fusion and Johnny Cash are good sample choices I’d make on any given day. What I do have in common with most banjo players though is that I really, really love music, and also really love the banjo sound. 

Since I’m not getting any younger, I decided on a whim to just plunge into the banjo world. I got myself a Deering Goodtime. I’ve settled on a five-string and will stick to the Scruggs three-finger style. I thought about hiring a teacher, but figured I’d give self-teaching with YouTube help a shot first. Thanks to Jim Pankey, I think I’m on my way. Today is the first day I got through Cripple Creek. It’s 75 times slower than every video I’ve seen on YouTube but hey, its a song. 

My first day of official pickin’ was September 28, 2018, so it took me three weeks to get to my first, slow, low quality, painful to the ears version of an actual song. But I’m really excited about trying to master it now, as best as I can. 

6 comments on “My first blog post”

Texasbanjo Says:
Tuesday, October 9, 2018 @4:40:58 AM

First, welcome to the Hangout. We're a friendly bunch and glad to help if you need it.

My suggestion: get a live teacher. You will learn quicker, easier, with fewer bad habits. A teacher can show you how to properly hold the banjo, wear the picks, pick the strings, fret the strings, things that you may end up doing wrong if you try to do it on your own.

Also, if you can't afford/find a teacher, a good beginner instruction book with CD or DVD would help immensely. There are many excellent ones out there. Check out both Jack Hatfield and Janet Davis. Jack's books highlight the melody note so you know where it is and then plays it slowly so you can pick along and at speed where you can hear what it sounds like and get familiar with the melody.

Whatever you decide to do, take it slow, don't worry about speed, worry about timing, technique and tone.

neilends Says:
Tuesday, October 9, 2018 @6:55:32 AM

Texasbanjo appreciate the advice. I did forget to mention that I’ve also purchased a book with online video help, which I’ve also relied on to get to this point. How many lessons do you figure would be a good goal if I were to hire a teacher? I really was going to start off immediately with one, but Pankey’s lessons were so much fun that I figured I’d be ok for the time being.

Texasbanjo Says:
Tuesday, October 9, 2018 @8:48:45 AM

It depends on how fast you learn, how easily you comprehend, your age and dexterity, how much you practice... in other words, that's a question no one can answer but you.

I took lessons for a year from an excellent banjo teacher and it helped my playing enormously. He taught me about chords, chord shapes, melodies and how to play by ear. Was well worth the money that I had to put out.

neilends Says:
Tuesday, October 9, 2018 @9:04:37 AM

Texasbanjo Thanks again. I do have a lot of unanswered questions so I think I’ll take your advice.

dbrooks Says:
Thursday, October 11, 2018 @5:29:25 AM

@neilends, welcome to the Hangout. I live on the clawhammer side myself and thought you might be leaning that way, based on your taste in music. But there's lots to enjoy with Scruggs style, and folks like Jim Pankey and Texasbanjo will help you get to where you want to be. I think you are correct to pay attention to the fun along your journey. That will fuel your practicing and desire to learn new tunes. Listen to lots of music and work with teachers and other resources that can help you learn the music you want to play.

neilends Says:
Thursday, October 11, 2018 @10:02:44 AM

dbrooks Thanks so much. You make a really good point and I've been mulling over this in my head. I'm curious about clawhammer, but I think I've concluded that I'm just plain curious about the Scruggs style so it feels like the right way to start. Since I've never played a "plucking" instrument before (just violin as a kid), the banjo is completely foreign territory to me. Once I become competent at Scruggs style, I'll see if I want to continue, or switching over.

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