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My first 6 months on the banjo

Posted by jrjenks on Saturday, June 21, 2008

It's J.R.'s one year banjoversary and he's writing a series of posts on where he's been and where he's going, banjo-wise.

You can pretty much divide the past year into two parts: the first six months in which I didn't practice enough and the second six in which I did.

Here's a look at those first six months.

Month 1: Getting started
  • I get my banjo and start blogging about it.
  • I begin lessons with Mike at Flatts & Sharpe.
  • Mike shows me Seeger-style boom-titty-boom strumming.
  • I learn to read tablature.
  • I learn three chords (G, C and D7) and assume that I'll be rapidly learning many other chords. (Spoiler: I do not rapidly learn many other chords.)
  • I'm supposed to be doing some homework that Mike gave me, but instead I get distracted by plunking out bugle calls on my banjo.

Month 2: Trouble begins

Month 3: The left hand learns a little
  • I learn to slide.
  • I pick up a few songs (like Cripple Creek), all in Seeger style.

Month 4: Lack of practice makes imperfect

Month 5: Thinks perk up 'cause I have a goal
  • Flatts & Sharpe announces that it will be hosting a recital for its students, so the month is pretty much dominated by my preparation for that event. I decide to do "The Preamble" from School House Rock.
  • Mike helps me figure out the chords.
  • I try to learn a few new tricks for the piece (like Scruggs-style forward rolls), but I wind up abandoning them because I can't learn them well enough in time.

Month 6: Shoving myself onstage
  • I perform at the recital and I'm a hit. But, being honest with myself, I realize that I got through it on enthusiasm and a really good slide show.
  • Think I'm being too hard on myself? Check out the terrible hand positions from these photos of the recital:
    J.R.'s banjo debut J.R.'s banjo debut J.R.'s banjo debut
    See? I'm having fun, but my right hand is doing everything from the wrist (like Mike had warned me against in month 2) and I'm holding my left hand like a claw (ditto).
  • I get involved in the holidays and don't do much with the banjo for the rest of the month.

Sorry to end the post on such a downer, but that's really where I was after six months. Things will pick up in the next post, though, because I've created a trick that helped me stick with my practicing.

Cross-posted at J.R. Jenks' blog

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