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Banjo and Religion

Posted by scawa on Thursday, May 31, 2007

I recently made the mistake of assulting the religion of banjo.  It seems that I posted to the Clawhammer forum that I was excited that Pat Costello was

  1. Well again, after a long illness.
  2. Was posting lessons again on YouTube and his own website.
What followed was a flamefest over style that I NEVER saw in over 40+ years of playing guitar.

Now, it's true that I've only been playing Clawhammer banjo a very short time and don't have the Chops that others who have been playing a long while do, but I do know something about music.

I have played and sung semi-professionally (gigs in bars all around the world) and for fun.  I play fingerstyle Folk Guitar, Delta Blues, Fingerstyle Jazz, Country AND Western (I'm learning some of the Texas Swing music) and am working on flatpicking Bluegrass and ol' time music.  I sing in all those styles.   For me guitar and banjo is a means to accompany my singing (although I consider my guitar playing to be better than my singing. ;) )

There were people that said Patrick was "clueless" and rigid (now that's the pot calling the kettle black), arrogant, rude and obnoxious (now there's the pot calling the kettle black, again).

Yeah, the PC in Pat Costello doesn't stand for Politically Correct, but I never expect a teacher to be Politically Correct, I expect them to be a teacher - which is what Patrick is.

But the rants and raves of those who seem more interested in keeping their santimonious "priesthood" is more hypocritical.

Music is music.  Pattrick doesn't profess to be an "ol'd time banjo" player.  He professes to be a BANJO PLAYER and a musician.

When I was younger, I had the wonderful opportunity to study Aikido.  Aikido was founded by a master named Ueshiba.  There are many that profess to have studied under Ueshiba and teach Aikido the way "the master" did. 

It's funny that their styles are all different.  They are different, because they studied under Ueshiba at different times in his life.  His art was constantly evolving... constantly growing.   However, when these students went off to form their own schools, they stopped growing.  Their technique may have gotten better with practice, but they never grew in the art.

This seems to be how it is in music.  There are lots of people who have better technique than I ever will, but I'm growing in my art by exploring new ideas... by learning how to flow with different styles of music (and martial arts).

Are you?

13 comments on “Banjo and Religion”

Paul Bock Says:
Thursday, May 31, 2007 @12:45:46 PM

     How interesting that the same single-mindedness that afflicts some three-finger players also afflicts the clawhammer crowd!   How many times have I heard Don Reno, or Ralph Stanley, or so many of the melodic players of the '60s and '70s, attacked because they "don't play just like Earl Scruggs" - and BTW, real professionals never say that, just the mouthy "look at me" wannabe crowd.  Generally this bunch refrains from attacking Bela Fleck because he's got world acclaim in several genres and more Grammys than a pocketful of the "top" dyed-in-the-wool Bluegrass players.  But Bela is really exceptional.

    Like you said, Stephen, it's about **MUSIC**, not about some certain style.  REAL musicians create, they are never clones, and they are constantly learning from any source that fulfills their creative needs.   

Yopparai Says:
Thursday, May 31, 2007 @3:24:43 PM

I feel your pain, man. I made the same mistake, though I have to say that this time it wasn't quite as nasty as my thread got. To his credit, Patrick's comments from page two on were down right civil. I was rather surprised that the thread got locked this morning. It seemed to me that things had settled down and we were headed for an actual discussion of the opposing philosophies and styles of teaching. I also noticed that Patrick's account was frozen, but none of the opposing combatants' were.

For many, the style of music seems more important than the music itself.  A walk through my music files demonstrates that my philosophy runs the other way.  Its never about banjo music. Its about music on my banjo. All that talk about it being 'my duty to point out the flaws of his blah blah blah...' If Patrick claimed to be the only path to old-timey round peak sand mountain goodness, I would understand people getting upset. But thats not what he is doing. He has never claimed to be teaching banjo/fiddle oldtime. I have yet to see a video or hear an audio lesson that he has produced where he didn't emphasize at least once that he is teaching people FOLK music, how to sing and accompany yourself reasonably using whatever instrument you have. There is nothing provocative or flawed about that.

In fairness, one should guard against swinging the other way as well. I agree that its the music and the joy of music that matters, but I have nothing but respect for someone that can play roundpeak well. More power to em. I would be just as wrong as they are if I insisted that their interest and concern for playing in that narrow style was foolish and a waste of time.

There is room in the world for Segovia and Van Halen and Lester Flatt.
There should be room at the BHO for 'traditionalist', folkies... (and me!)

I learned to play guitar watching Laura Weber on PBS. Patrick reminds me of her style a lot. I for one am glad that he is healthy and back in the saddle.

scawa Says:
Thursday, May 31, 2007 @5:52:57 PM

I couldn't agree with you more.  I have nothing but respect for those traditional musicians.  They have mastered a style and are really good at it.   Probably better than I will ever be.  And I enjoy listening to them.   And can I learn something from them and incorporate it in my style.... sure nuff.

Bible5 Says:
Thursday, May 31, 2007 @6:23:52 PM

"I second the emotion". I sincerely meant it when I said that the Pat Costello dvd helped me more then anything else. I also have been a musician for a while and it is thanx to Pat that I can get up in front of 100 people with my old Supertone and sing a few songs while playin along on the olde banjer

Treeman Says:
Friday, June 1, 2007 @9:11:45 PM

The banjo hangout "leaders" ran Patrick off this site even though he was very helpful to me and many others.  They also ran off Gary Blanchard, a moderator from this site as well.  I agree with what you say!!

I don't have a teacher, I am self taught.  I have zero natural musical ability.  I don't think the "leaders" understand that a lot of us don't live in the south where there are a lot of banjo teachers.  I don't have a lot of options as far a teachers go.  Patrick's books do a good job of teaching basic skills.  He was very helpful to me and answered many of my stupid questions.  They ran him off because he had the nerve to say that "there are people on this site who are after your money and they will lie to get it"

 

scawa Says:
Friday, June 1, 2007 @10:37:02 PM

If the flame fest that was created by my inocuous post is any indication,  I do understand the problem.  He isn't the most politically correct person in the world.   There are politic ways of saying things and there are Patrick's ways.

However, lots of people provoked him.  I emailed him afterwards and it seems that after my post he got a lot of flame at his personal email.

I live in the south, and there are lots of banjo teachers, but few clawhammer teachers in the area.  I have benifited from Pats books and DVDs (I bought them to support his efforts). 
His Taoist approach to playing appeals to me.  I was listening to one of his Daily Frail talks and in just one line, he summed up YEARS of study that had taken me a loonnnggg time to learn.   If I had the benifit of his thoughts from the start, I wouldn't have take that long.

I don't have a teacher either, and I don't know about natural talent, but I've always felt that I could teach myself anything.  So, to find someone like Patrick and his father is a blessing.

It's the BHO's loss.

Nancy Says:
Tuesday, June 26, 2007 @10:15:58 AM

You have a fine way with words. I just read one of your posts and thought it rather great.

  I ordered Pat's book, and it is most informative. I like Pat. He tells great stories too.

  Nancy

scawa Says:
Tuesday, June 26, 2007 @10:19:02 AM

I think he is one of the finest teachers out there.  His Daily Frail and Folk song of the day are great teaching tools, not just about the banjo, but about music in general AND about the history and culture of music.

The amazing thing is that he gives it away....

brokenstrings Says:
Tuesday, June 26, 2007 @4:44:29 PM

I'm not the one who locked Pat's account, but I understand that it was because Pat had been previously locked and had sneaked back on under a different name--NOT because of his behavior on that particular thread. (I like Patrick--he sent me his How and Tao just like that. But he does have a temper!)

Gary Blanchard left because he his musical interests had changed and he wasn't really into playing the banjo anymore.Nobody chased him off.

Banjoman Says:
Tuesday, June 26, 2007 @7:33:10 PM

This is an old story and the "old Timers" here know it. As Jessy just said, Pat was locked out for name calling and being abusive to the members. He asked to come back on and Eric allowed it, IF Pat stopped violating BHO rules.  Pat agreed and he was reinstated and it took only about 4 posts before he started doing it again. This he started posting nasty posts and then deleting them  (I guess he thought the Mods wouldn't see them that way.) and would leave the topics in a mess. He was again locked out. Over the course of years Pat has come back uninvited and reeked havoc and has done this about 6 times....He was not locked this time because of what he wrote, (He would have been because there was cause.) he was locked because he has been banded from BHO.

 

As for Gary, here,s a case where members assumes something and are 100% wrong. Gary left because of just what Jessy said.

chip arnold Says:
Wednesday, June 27, 2007 @10:25:27 PM

Just found this. Patrick is his own problem. His posts here and on banjoL from which he is also banned have been so inflamatory as to cause a fight every time he joined or began a thread. It really is that simple. In the particular thread you all are talking about here he was knocked around for some of his "method". There are teachers here who think some of what he teaches will hold a learning picker back in the end. But I don't think anyone really cares. The real problem is that for years Patrick has spoken in the most extremely abusive ways to people on the internet. Everyone is tired of him. Simple as that. And yes, that has brought some to demonstrate their own less desirable characteristics in the fray that always ensues. Still doesn't justify Patrick's tirades. (This opinion and $1.00 will get you a cup of coffee)

 

stanger Says:
Sunday, July 15, 2007 @3:00:57 AM

Pat is fine as long as he isn't contradicted, or thinks he is. He's very thin-skinned, and very sensitive to any perceived slights, even unintentional ones, or stuff that isn't directed at him. As long as everything is one-sided, all coming from him with nothing but postives coming back, he's fine. Unfortunately, when he thinks someone is 'after him', he will rant on forever if permitted. Hugh mentioned us old-timers, and he is spot-on with his assesment. Mr. Costello can be a huge disruptive force on any forum he's on, and no one ever knows what will set him off. I suspect he likes it that way, too.

scawa Says:
Sunday, July 15, 2007 @10:41:30 AM

I do have to agree.   He continuously posts comments against the BHO on his site and places them in his lessons, but when I posted a defense of those on the BHO as a comment (talking about the many people on BHO that like his instruction and support what he is trying to do), he removed it.

When he realized that I was still posting on the BHO (and after this Blog entry defending him), because I like many of the people on the BHO, he called me a traitor and told me to never contact him again.

I think he is an extremely talented person and teacher.  He makes the banjo accessible to many beginners... not some mysterious instrument that than ONLY be played by aficionados of the Old Time genre.  But contrary to his Taoist "preachings" he only want one side presented and rails against those that disagree with him.  Having grown up on the orient, I was studying and practicing Taoism before he was born, and I rather think he really doesn't understand it.

If he wants a discussion, he has my email and I will give him my phone number.   But I don't believe he wants a discussion of the facts.   I'll continue to look to him for banjo guidance and remain a friend, but friends should speak truth both positive and negative.

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