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Chris Whitley

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Visible to: Public
Created 8/9/2014
Last Visit 4/3/2021

I came to banjo by way of shamisen, though I'm sorry I didn't pick a banjo up 30 years earlier. What a great instrument! I can't agree with Steve Martin's quote about banjo being a "happy" instrument. It certainly can be that, but it's much more. In fact, banjo can do melancholy, hopelessness and yearning as well as any instrument if not more so. That's the part that attracted me to it, the lone sadness aspect. It's such an underrated instrument, I think there is lots of room for people to play the banjo in ways never heard before. I have played guitar much of my life. I like what I play, but there are far more accomplished guitarists everywhere. So much has been done on the guitar, that there is little that is really new. I've been playing the banjo all of 4 weeks, and already have people calling me a banjo player. ("Hey! What about that guitar I've been playing for 3o years??") Of course, this is because I live in Japan, and most Japanese have no clue what a banjo should sound like. If I ever have to play in the street for money here, I'm going with the banjo. I've spend a quarter century now in Japan and China, mostly Japan. We got a shamisen last year. I played around with it and thought it was a bit banjo-like. It's also a bit limited, with 2 strings and a third string that serves as a drone. I looked around and got a dirty old Pirles banjo for about $50. Sounds good, and I'm loving it. I'll upgrade, but for now it suits me fine. Experimenting with Asian, Middle East, Indian and Celtic stuff just to see what it can do. Slowly moving into finger picking, but still having fun with a simple thumb pick to start. Best of all, my wife and kids haven't complained! This a great forum, I'm sure I'll be poking around a lot.

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