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clean up campaign

Posted by robin jones on Tuesday, October 28, 2008

This evening I was noodling and it began dawning on my just how sloppy my playing, and my right hand in particular, is these days. It's almost as if I've been covering up the imperfections with volume and speed. Maybe subconsciously I thought blazing over the "noise" was acceptable. And in truth it's not a bad strategy. It's not for me though.

In particular I was playing with some single string stuff at the upper limit of the fret board and began noticing my index finger striking the third after it had picked the second string. Then I did some Scrugg's stuff to confirm what I already knew. My playing has far too much extraneous stuff going on with it.

What happened, I believe, is that my ear progressed faster than my technique. That's not surprising because I listened and even played a lot of music in the years after I sat the banjo down. So instead of starting over at the snails pace that weeds out so many would-be-banjoist, I was able to sort of halfway start playing almost from the time I got my banjo.

That, however, has turned out to be a mistake. Speed may come. And the ear certainly does after enough tunes and licks are committed to memory. Technique, however, doesn't come on its own, at least not in my case. Now I'm faced with the prospect of undoing a couple of sloppy months of picking.

I'm tightening everything up. I've got new heads on the way from Elderly. I'm going to slowly tighten a new one and the tailpiece down after I get the banjo spruced up. Going to experiment with thinning of bridges. I've already lowered the action to a more banjoie and less guitarie level. I'm going to cut way back on my right hand attack. Short, snappy, and clean is the order of the next couple of months.

Check back with me early in '09. ;^/

5 comments on “clean up campaign”

PaulKirby Says:
Tuesday, October 28, 2008 @10:38:20 PM

Hey! Sounds great. Speed kills!  When I'm playing well these days, it seems to be about working slowly with the metronome for starters.  Then choosing one note in the phrase which is the most important one and then building the whole phrase to that high point and coming back from it.  (crescendo-decrescendo) I hadn't noticed that while I had eliminated a lot of the 'junk' by playing slowly, I had also lost the sustain and sense of line by not carrying through. I play this slow crescendo-decrescendo thing for a little while, and then the 'junk' really starts to disappear. I can't wait to go practice!

robin jones Says:
Wednesday, October 29, 2008 @5:42:36 AM

If I'm aware or even doing any of the things you just described, it's not consciously. I'll start trying to factor it into my practice time now though. I've definitely got to start considering the melody more in my Scruggs work.

Playing slow, clean, and in time is definitely the way to fly. Hopefully a couple of months of intense practice, with the metronome that's also on the way from Elderly, and I'll be ready move forward.

All this makes me realize how valuable a knowledgeable teacher could be. If I was in Memphis taking "live" lessons from Randal he'd have nipped the nonsense in the bud. Might have to shoot up there a couple times a year and let him have a look-see at what I'm doing just to cut this kind of crap short.

Thanks Paul.

PaulKirby Says:
Wednesday, October 29, 2008 @6:16:36 AM

That's one of the paradoxes about taking lessons: it takes time and money and energy and some humility, but a good teacher can save me so much time and effort.

Barbie_ Says:
Thursday, October 30, 2008 @1:11:12 PM

I don't have the luxury of having a teacher to listen objectively and tell me when my playing is sloppy.  But going back to one of your earlier blogs Robin, you mentioned recording and the benefits of seeing improvement.  I think it's useful to pick up on the things your ears don't hear when you're actually playing.  There have been times when I thought a song sounded pretty good until I recorded it.  Yikes!!!  :)

John Kuhn Says:
Monday, November 3, 2008 @8:26:35 PM

Yeah boys, sometimes a good honest critque is what we all need to access our weak spots.Hard to be objective with ourselves.Types of phrasing that flow smoother than others is something  we all share.And you can hear that in your playing Robin.Ill e mail ya with some observations Ive found in your attack, dynamics, note spacing, and some style comparisons...John

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