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Got Rhythm? If not, try "Strum Machine"!

Thursday, December 30, 2021

     Some of you might think it a bit unusual that someone who started on the 5-string banjo in 1956 (age 14) is (a) still alive; (b) still trying to play; and (c) unafraid to try new tools to help accomplish (b).  But - well, here I am!

     I recently ran across a "backup rhythm" program for the PC that is easy to use and sufficiently flexible that it covers pretty much all of my needs (well, maybe not Thelonious (sp?) Monk's "Blue Monk" played on the 5-string banjola, but whatever.....).  The program is called "Strum Machine" and I'm liking it a LOT!!!  I've been using it for less than a month to give me a "backup foundation" other than just a metronome for practicing some Irish-style songs ("Red-Haired Boy", "June Apple", and of course "Salt Creek") played in a combination traditional/melodic style.  These are songs that I pretty much mastered back in the early '70s but wanted to re-learn because I just love the "Irish string band" sound.  I use all three back-up instruments together in the app (guitar, bass, and mandolin "chop") and it is a great help with my timing - and, as the old saying goes, "Timing is Everything".

     Incidentally, you can watch the late Bill Keith playing a medley of "Red-Haired Boy" and "June Apple" back in 2006 at

     If you are just looking for "basic rhythm backup" that won't break the bank ($5 per month) check out "Strum Machine" at the following link.

     Happy Pickin'!  Oh, yeah, Happy 2022 New Year, too!

The Old Guy





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Playing Since: 1956
Experience Level: Purty Good

Paul Bock has made 2 recent additions to Banjo Hangout 

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Occupation: Retired Navy (E-9) and retired electrical engineer.

Gender: Male
Age: 80

My Instruments:
Circa 1982, hand-built (by me) "Snowflake Special" 5-string flathead Bluegrass resonator banjo w/2-piece flange; in 2008 I swapped out the tone ring for a JLS No. 12. Victor 5-string Banjola serial # 9.

Favorite Bands/Musicians:
Most everybody is a favorite now, especially Tom Adams & Craig Smith, but Don Reno, Allen Shelton & Earl Scruggs were my first favorites back in the early 1950s. Also have played a little bare-finger classic style on a nylon-string banjo.

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Profile Info:
Visible to: Public
Created 2/23/2005
Last Visit 1/19/2022

Born in Richmond, VA, and raised on a farm. Started teaching myself banjo in 1956. Competed in the North Carolina State Fair Folk Festival banjo contest and took 2nd place in 1962 and 1st place in 1963. Played with local groups between 1960 and the late 1980s but had to quit due to injuries to the fingers of my right hand and then breaking my left wrist in 2014. I've been working diligently to get back "playing form" since 2016 and I'm encouraged my progress so far, but it's a long road and slow going. I also dabble occasionally with classic finger-style using nylon strings. My instruments include a 5-string banjola by Victor (formerly EVD) Instruments which is a lot of fun for folk music, jazz, classical & Irish pieces. **************************************************************************** In the real world, I'm a retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer (E-9) and a retired electrical engineer with over 20 years experience in radio broadcasting, defense electronics and telecommunications. I have B.S. and M.S. degrees, am a Life Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and co-holder of a patent in electronic design. I also hold several commercial radio operator licenses (Radioelegraph, General Radiotelephone, and GMDSS Maintainer, all with the Ship Radar Endorsement. ***************************************************************************** My other hobbies include Amateur Radio (licensed as K4MSG since 1957 and have always been an avid radiotelegraph operator). I've also spent time dabbling in various digital modes including meteor scatter and Earth-Moon-Earth (aka "moonbounce") communications. I'm also a sporadic amateur astronomer. I love to read, especially history, and have dabbled in historical research on topics of interest including evolution of the 5-string banjo, development of certain types of telegraph keys, wireless telegraphy, the Revolutionary War involvement of my ancestors, etc. My wife & I enjoy travel, especially cruising on Princess Cruise Lines (19 cruises so far, including 7 transatlantic crossings).

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