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Banjo versus TV: Week 33

Posted by jrjenks on Wednesday, September 3, 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. J.R.'s a few weeks behind, so he's furiously getting caught up in order to concentrate on the Four Corners Folk Festival.
Banjo 217 hrs, TV 189 hours

Things I took away from this week's banjo lesson:

  • We spoke quite a bit about using music to process grief, which is something that's been on my mind due to a recent death in my family.
  • Dave likes the sticker on my case, which I got from

    I have a bunch of them to share with people who get it. I'll bring one for Dave next time.
  • This kicked off a discussion of Earl Scruggs' involvement in the peace movement. Dave has the album of Earl Scruggs: The Bluegrass Legend: Family & Friends from but has never seen the video. (You all remember my discussion of that video from Week 16, right?)
  • Most of the time when Dave does the D chord at the second fret, rather than use the full 4-fingered D form...

    ...he'll leave the ring finger out of it and make a 3-fingered chord instead:
  • As we were playing and singing, I reached for a G chord...

    ...that I've been practicing a little, but which I'm not good at yet. And I and missed it. Dave said, "The thing is, when you're playing and singing with other people is not the time to experiment with other chords. It's the time to use what you know you can do; what you know you can get to."
  • Dave was pleased to see that I'd found a copy of the out-of-print lick book he'd mentioned, Bill Knopf's Hot Licks & Fiddle Tunes for the Bluegrass Banjo Player. We practiced the first lick of chapter 1 ("30 Ways to End a Solo Break"):

  • Dave showed me some variations on this lick, which lead to a discussion of how to learn what notes are played at what frets. Dave suggested that I write out a grid of the gGDBD neck, which was and exercise I'd already done on my own. (And by "on my own" I mean "following the same suggestion from James McKinney, who recommended this approach in a workshop at Midwest Banjo Camp.") I had a few "ah-hah!" moments when I did that exercise.
  • What Martin Mull said in Licks Off of Records is true:
    I see you getting all warm and runny
    From my guitar and the way my fingers burn.
    I hate to disillusion you honey,
    But it's just licks off of records that I'm learned.
  • We played along with Dolly Parton as she sang a 3/4 time Hazel Dickens song, Just a Few Old Memories, from her album The Grass is Blue (which I just found in a pawn shop the other day). It's got an easy-to-follow G-C-G-D-G progression with a chorus that goes G-C-G-C-D.


My homework from this week's lesson:

  • Practice some licks from Bill Knopf's book Hot Licks & Fiddle Tunes for the Bluegrass Banjo Player.
  • Play along with Dolly Parton's Just a Few Old Memories. Try a 3/4 version of the forward-backward roll. Also try the barred C at 5 and the barred D at 7. (Remember to use the index finger for the barre; I'll need to do that when we get to Foggy Mountain Breakdown.)
  • Continue working on Good Old Mountain Dew.


Also in the last week:

  • I discovered that searching for the term "banjo" at the Live Music Archive (part of the Internet Archive) yields all kinds of free banjo music.
  • I'd planned on bringing instruments and doing some jamming at BARcamp Chicago this week, but life intruded so I had to settle for sending the instruments. I understand the instruments had a good time without me.

  • I played my banjo for the neighbors who live across the street from the home I grew up in. They said my father would be proud, which is just about the best thing that anyone could say to me.


Cross-posted at J.R. Jenks' blog

1 comment on “Banjo versus TV: Week 33”

robin jones Says:
Wednesday, September 3, 2008 @2:52:09 PM

When I was first learning to play I wouldn't watch t.v. unless Alabama was playing football. Now the Internet, and the Hangout itself, are bigger stumbling blocks where my time is concerned.

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