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One month in

Posted by neilends on Friday, October 26, 2018

My first ever banjo came in the mail on September 28, 2018, so I'm coming up on exactly one month. It feels like a lot more. My wife would probably say even longer than that. First she had to endure tortured, slow rolls that made no sense over and over again. Then, when a melody finally did start to come out, she's had to hear Cripple Creek about 4,000 times in a row. 

After 3 weeks and conquering (using that word very loosely) Cripple Creek, I signed up for lessons via Skype with a real teacher. He's in South Carolina. We've had one lesson and it was super. The ability to coordinate times for Skype works perfectly: I work full time, have 3 dogs, 1 teenage daughter, a wife, and an elderly mom in town. Being able to sit in my own home office during a free moment when no one else is even in the house is great. 

I feel good with where I'm at on Cripple Creek but it's still obvious how far I am from playing it competently. I also learned Banjo in the Holler which seems much easier. So far, I've practiced at least 1-2 hours per day. I didn't think this would happen but my violin-playing memories are coming back to me, in one form or another. When I abandoned the violin around age 16, I had reached a point of mastery such that I could rapid-fire through a complex Indian raaga without really thinking about it. This was after a few years of learning classical Western violin, followed by daily teaching 5 days a week by two Indian gurus during the one year my family lived in Jaipur, India.

The fact that I let the violin go upon returning back to the US was always a tragedy within my family. My little brother had learned an Indian percussion instrument--tabla--during that year in India. Unlike me, he kept going and added drums to his skillset, eventually joining a college rock band. To this day he's damn good on both the tabla and drums. Mom could play the Indian sitar (which looks shockingly similar to a banjo and its African ancestral instruments, not to open a new can of worms on that topic). Dad could play the Indian harmonium (and he also thought he could sing, which the rest of us are not really all on board with). So really, the banjo is my vessel back into the musical world that my family has always been grounded in. Dad's not around anymore but the rest of the family is pretty thrilled. (Except for the family that actually live in my house and have to hear this every day, of course.)



5 comments on “One month in”

mike gregory Says:
Friday, October 26, 2018 @2:45:00 PM

As long as you're having SOME fun with it, and you can sustain Hope for a Better Future, keep at it, and Best Wishes for a pleasant voyage of Discovery.

AndyW Says:
Saturday, October 27, 2018 @1:34:14 AM

Why not learn old time fiddle instead of banjo, which would utilise your violin skills and give you an easier start. You could then attack banjo later with a huge backlog of tunes 'in the back pocket'.

neilends Says:
Saturday, October 27, 2018 @6:54:39 AM

AndyW Pretty simple: I’m musically curious about the banjo and have been for decades. I’ve never played a plucked stringed instrument and didn’t even know if I could do it, so I wanted to know.

I might pick up the violin again after I’m satisfied with my banjo progress.

neilends Says:
Saturday, October 27, 2018 @6:59:49 AM

Appreciate the kind words mike gregory!

brewerpaul Says:
Thursday, November 15, 2018 @5:11:02 AM

Keep at it and keep having fun. Learning anything new is an adventure and with a musical instrument it's especially rewarding.
If you have any interest in Irish or old time music you might consider a tenor banjo which is tuned and fingered like the fiddle. Irish sessions are probably a lot more newbie tolerant than bluegrass where people take turns soloing on repetitions. Everyone at an Irish session plays the same tune,no solos,so even if you don't know a tune well, you can play quietly as you learn it, and blend in pretty well.

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