Most banjo players will never reach the ability level of Earl Scruggs or Steve Martin, but I find that if I take the time to look there is something I can appreciate about most banjo players. I love it when a highly skilled player blows the audience away with hard driving bluegrass. I love it when a guy with a great sense of humor has them rolling in the aisle with a novelty song and a simple "strum with the thumb" accompaniment. I have a special fondness for older players who aren't quite what they used to be but will sit on a street corner or park bench and play for anybody who will stop and listen.
In my experience, the best way to gain real ground and to raise the bar for everyone is to do your level best to be the best banjo player you can be and to have a positive outlook toward other players. If somebody asks you for constructive criticism that’s one thing, but beyond that you stand the very real risk of hurting someone’s feelings.
I have not achieved the level of excellence of the players who have inspired me (Pete Seeger, Earl Scruggs, George Grove, and especially Steve Martin), but I like to believe that if I did I would be as respectful as they are. I’ve never heard any of them say a bad word about anyone, although I've heard each one of them speak highly of other banjo players.
Most of us will never reach the ability level of Earl Scruggs or Steve Martin, but it is well within the reach of all of us to conduct ourselves in way that preserves the respect of other banjo players, and I think that by doing so it can only improve the way banjo players are perceived by the rest of the world.9 comments
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Playing Since: 1975
Experience Level: Intermediate
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Gibson RB 100 (my first "real" banjo) Epiphone MB 250 (former "gig" banjo), plus a few I've built. The banjo pictured in my avatar is another one of my builds. I also play guitar (I have a Martin, a Taylor, a couple of Yamahas, and an Alvarez or two, and I love them all) and a little bit of mandolin.
Dave Parker, Daisy May Erlewine, The Kingston Trio, Phil Dirt and the Dozers, MIchelle Shocked, Hank Williams, The Weavers. Favorite banjo players include George Grove, Dave Guard, Pete Seeger, Grandpa Jones, and Steve Martin.
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Last Visit 2/18/2021
I love to play the banjo, but if I'm going to be honest I'm better at buidling banjos than playing them. Even in that realm I have a very specific set of skills which are tweaked toward building certain types of banjos. I do set up work and minor repairs for a local music shop, but I don't do major repair to vintage instruments, and I am getting pretty good at getting the best tone out of most banjos, even the cheapies.
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