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Thumbs up/Thumbs Down #5 (Sept. 29, 2008)

Posted by sjyokel on Monday, September 29, 2008

Thumbs up: Basic banjo instruction.  Has there ever been a better time to learn to play the banjo?  The Internet has really changed the way people learn to play instruments.  When I first started playing music in the 70s, you took a chance on a method book at the local store or an instructor from the classifieds, and the rest you figured out on your own.  Now, you can now have almost instant access to all the learning materials and opportunities out there (books, DVDs, recordings, video clips, seminars, jams, instructors, camps, etc. etc. etc.) along with reviews and insights about their strengths and weaknesses from thousands of other banjo players.

Thumbs down: Banjo backup instruction.  Despite all the advantages new players have today, I haven't found a good introduction to backup playing yet.  It's easy enough to find books and videos that will show you some licks, but that can be like buying a car one part at a time.  On the other hand, one of the advantages of the old way, was that we made do with what we had--you learned a few things and then used your ingenuity to make them work together.  So in a way, the ability to learn more about backup than you can handle may take away from the ability to use any of it.  But I'm not fully convinced that that's the whole problem.  I think if there were a resource that approached banjo backup styles instead just licks, it might be easier to see how all the parts fit together.

2 comments on “Thumbs up/Thumbs Down #5 (Sept. 29, 2008)”

Texasbanjo Says:
Tuesday, September 30, 2008 @5:38:35 AM

Check out Janet Davis' Back Up Banjo book and CD.  It's great and will get you started on backup.

Start going to jams and learning to "hear" the chord changes, then you'll be able to do better backup.

Backup is one of the most difficult things to teach because it's so personal -- everyone has their own way of doing it, so.... get in there and figure out what is your way.

sjyokel Says:
Tuesday, September 30, 2008 @8:19:50 AM

The Janet Davis book is a good resource, but it has exactly the kind of problem I'm getting at.  It starts by giving you the parts and not a clear idea of what the finished product could be.

The kind of resource I'd like to see is something that looks at how an individual player puts together backup for a song and THEN breaks it down into parts.

What's missing is a resource that looks at styles of backup INSTEAD of just licks...something for an intermediate or advanced player who wants to do more than just follow the chord changes.

You COULD look at the Janet Davis book this way too.  She does include complete songs that show how the licks are used, but the book isn't really set up to be approached that way.  You have to start in the middle, listen to the song all the way through, and then work your way back to the licks you want to add to your personal style.

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