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Banjo versus TV: Week 29

Posted by jrjenks on Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A weekly check-in on the Banjo versus TV project — J.R.'s resolution to spend more time in 2008 on his banjo than on TV.
Banjo 199 hrs, TV 167 hours

In preparation for my (upcoming) first lesson with Dave, I was supposed to pick a list of a half-dozen songs that I wanted to learn to play for jams. Here's what I've come up with:

  1. Keep on the Sunnyside
  2. Foggy Mountain Breakdown
  3. Mountain Dew
  4. One Drop of Water
  5. Pretty Polly
  6. Polka on the Banjo


Also in the last week:

  • Brain breakthrough: That C chord I've been playing is really the D chord form, with the index finger portion of the chord chopped off by the nut.
  • It was a travellin' week. Six flights: O'Hare, San Diego, Las Vegas, O'Hare again, Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth then back to O'Hare one last time. And I took my banjo with me.

    My observations on flying with a banjo:
    • Read The Definitive Guide to Flying With a Banjo at the Banjo Hangout.
    • Do everything you can to take your banjo on as a carry-on item, but put it in a hard case because you might be required to gate-check it.
    • Reserve a seat near the back of the plane, since that increases your odds of being on the first boarding group.
    • Carry printed copies of the TSA and airline guidelines.
      • Print up a copy of your airline's musical instrument policies (American Airlines's is here)
      • Print up the TSA's letter to the American Federation of Musicians regarding "revised policy and procedures regarding the screening and carriage of musical instruments through security checkpoints at our nation's airports and transport of musical instruments aboard aircraft."
      • Very important point: Do not pull out the TSA policies when speaking to the airline staff and do pull out the airline policies when speaking to the TSA staff. When I was challenged by an American Airline employee I made the mistake of citing the TSA document as proof that it was OK for me to carry my banjo onboard. Mis. Take. The airline employees don't like the TSA and they're only too eager to point out that the airplane staff gets the final word on what comes on board and what doesn't. So we wound up in a confrontational mode rather than a problem-solving mode, with her insisting that I had to gate-check the banjo and me insisting that I was allowed to bring it as a carry-on item. ("You can gate-check the guitar or you can not fly, what's your choice?") I was losing the argument badly, with her having applied a gate-check tag to my banjo and preparing to send it off to the hold, before I was finally able to negotiate a deal with her. (I gate-checked another bag, resulting in me having to pay $15 for the gate-check plus $12 to have the bag delivered to my office after the airline lost it.)
      • I'm just going to leave those letters in my case.
    • Have a banjo-related joke ready for the flight attendants. They'll be more helpful if you've broken the ice. (I use "What do you say to a banjo player in a suit? 'Will the defendant please rise.'")
  • Banjo-related things seem to happen to my office in my absence. Usually these are practical jokes or crimes of passion. This time, I found that various people had dropped off banjo resources while I was away. Some thank yous are in order.

    Thank You #1 goes to whomever left that Reader's Digest article about David Hochman's mid-life-mandolin-learning experience. I empathize with Hochman's desire to start the learning-through-jamming phase of his musical life. (The article is on pages 110-113 of the August 2008 print issue. I'd provide a link to an online article on, but it's not listed there. Come on, Reader's Digest. It's the Internet age.)

    I send Thank You #2 to Mr. and Mrs. Newlywed, who left me an LP of Banjo Spectacular! String Along with the Banjo Barons.

    Banjo Spectacular! String Along with the Banjo Barons ...and 26 other favorites

    Apparently they'd seen it at a library sale and thought I had to have it. And how right they were! Just check out the blurby goodness:

    If you're lucky enough to own a banjo, you can play along with the Barons.

    These unexpected gifts are exactly in sync with my recent less-book/more-jamming direction.

    But there was also a book waiting on my desk, delivered from Amazon. So Thank You #3 goes! for that copy of Tony Trischka's Complete 5 String Banjo Player book-and-CD-and-download set. Hey, my new teacher Dave said we might use it. And you can't expect a guy to quit his banjo-book-buying habits cold turkey, can you?


Cross-posted at J.R. Jenks' blog

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