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Sep 22, 2015 - 7:56:02 PM

3 posts since 12/6/2011

Nov 26, 2015 - 8:32:56 AM

6 posts since 6/20/2014

Speed? This is not a new idea...it actually came from Tony T. IMHO, unless you are graced with perfect timing, get a metronome, drum machine, or similar). Play the song SLOWLY...like, painfully slowly. This not only will help with speed but also, after repetition, it will help memorization. Once you have the tune "nailed" at the slow, slow speed. Put the tab away. This will instantly show you how much you've really memorized.

Next step, turn the metronome up by maybe only one notch....hardly noticeable "right"? Wrong!!!!  I'd bet that you can get thru the tune without even noticing the difference in theme clicks on the machine. If all goes well, turn the machine up another click...and play the tune again.If you start dropping notes...means you don't really have the tune nailed down in memory. Go back and isolate the problem measures. Back to slow enough that you play the tune perfectly (or how you wish to hear the tune).

Back to the metronome...1 or maybe 2 clicks faster  from where you started. If you continue this drill, I can almost promise you that you can damn near double the speed...one or two clicks at a time. Obviously, an exercise in patience but, chances are, you won't tighten up, your timing will be better and, you'll get to where you want to be...speed-wise. In the process, if you're learring Scruggs stuff, you'll begin to recognize phrases or "licks" that repeat themselves quite often. This will of course, hasten the memorization process. Then for the speed, keep cranking the metronome up VERY SLOWLY, without any misses. If you make it thru all but one or two measures...go back, nail them down..."again play the whole thing thru at a speed at which you're comfortable.. Then just repeat and repeat the process and, you just might find that, when you get into a band situation, or jam...you'll be slowing down to play with your friends  because, you'll have attaiined a speed that your buddies CAN'T play the tune well. Seems tedious but, I guarantee, i

t works. Last...relax. You can lean into the banjo later...it will still be there. And of course, practice is obviously a must.

Hope it helps,

Jay


Y...

Feb 1, 2016 - 4:24:03 PM

Davyfly

USA

44 posts since 11/22/2015

Sorry to be so late to respond to this thread due to me just joining the forum.

this is a interesting thread and one that l would like to add my own personal experience.

I learned to play 5 string banjo back in the early 60 and  got real good, more or less l could play all the Scruggs material,later very much influenced by the likes of Carl Jackson and Alan Munde, along with many others who had recorded in the pre  60s to late 80s.. Most of which l figured out from the records, later when tabs became available to which l found very interesting in so far as how l had worked out notation and finger positions differed from that used by those who had played the original tracks, in many cases a much easier method.

And yes l spent 100s of hours to learn what l did. You can forget 20 mins a day.

My ability also allowed me to travel around the world and make a good amount of my income from playing music, not all Bluegrass related but more or less anything the banjo could be adapted too, indeed they were fun times.

I might add that at the time l was living in the UK and by comparison to the USA not so many banjo players or bluegrass bands that were local to my home and for that matter close enough to get with. Bear in mind  back in those times there was more or less only radio and records and some outdoor music events.

I also taught banjo lessons and will only add this to all that has been posted on this thread and it is this.

Many of my students came to me with the expectations of being able to play good banjo, in many cases not going to happen.

The first issue being that the instrument they had was more or less junk which was a serious handicap to start with, action way too high no decent notation and all the rest that goes with it. All l will add further on this is a good instrument is a absolute necessity, granted not all can afford a high end banjo but  a good one makes a big difference. 

Second, and its a fact of life that not all who aspire to become good musicians will, that just the way it is as it is for many other skills and professions.

Lastly l would ask my students how much time were they able to dedicate to the learning process, no need to tell any of you guys that with time on the strings its not going to happen.

In so far as many of the issues here posted for aside from the obvious, there are a number of other things that can make a difference assuming you have a good instrument that can be set up.

The two primary being the bridge height and the height of the arm rest, most banjoes have that more or less set at a adjustment very low or at a max above the head. which will have a relationship as to how your arm rests related to your hand and finger hold above the strings. I would notice that this would vary a great deal due to the hand size of the student, some had very short fingers others long. It was my practice to adjust the rest in such as was as l could see the student did not have difficulty in the relative angle of the wrist. In other words if it was too low it will cause the hand to raise from the angle of the wrist upward, not a good position. if too high the the angle may force the hand and fingers to a more downward direction. Personally l prefer a high level at the arm rest. This can also be achieved by having a wood shape produced to the same size of the arm rest and attached to it, to day double sided tape is ideal. I will argue that this is important as the wrong height can be the reason for muscle stress and fatigue and consequence of issues with right hand movement.

To some extent bridge height also can be a issue, generally most are 5/8th, l messed around with as low as 1/2 ins. Personally l always favored 4/8th. Bear in mind that bridge height is also related to height of the action which may also need to be adjusted. I preferred a low action but not one that was compromised by any buzz.

Now here is the deal for me. Back in the late 80s while performing on stage and l cannot remember what l was playing but l think it was Blue ridge Mt express my index finger locked up, curled back, l had to quit off stage as l could not get it to work. I assumed l had damaged a tendon or it had got stuck.  I can only recall that over the next few weeks it was a on and off situation. I went to see a hand surgeon who could find nothing wrong with my hand or ligaments related, a mystery to say the least.  If it had of been a trigger finger issue no big deal as that is a minor surgical procedure. The issue persisted that more or less forced me to quit playing, frustration to say the least.  The  Gibson went under the bed.

Some years later it happened that one of my customers, nothing to do with banjo by the way, told me he was a surgeon that specialized neurological issues. I told him about my issues of past years with my index finger and as l saw posted on this forum the issue was focal dystonia, which more or less is a malfunction between the brain sending the signals to the nerves that control movement, in my case my index finger.

For the past 25 years more or less my banjo had been laid to rest, until recently when l decided to make a decision either sell it as l had done for some of the Gibsons l had owned in the past. No lets just give it one more try all be it l am in my 66th year l still have real good dexterity in my hands due to my main profession. Boy was that a slow start, at least for the first month which was last November. Gradually things improved, memories of stuff l used to play came back as did both left and right hand mobility except for my right  index, which now posed a problem as l had to now learn to use my thumb and 2nd in ways l would not have normally done.

I can tell you that more or less you can do same with just these two fingers assuming you have the ability to use both fingers across more strings, as much as bringing the 2nd back to the 4th if needed and being able to use the thumb in faster progression from 5th to 2nd or in reverse.  Yes, you can still make fast 3 finger rolls.

The only thing l have to take into account is the relative position of my hand which l may have to move more to accommodate the movement of my two fingers to accommodate ease of playability. In other words my pinky is not in a fixed position, l was never able to use both 3/4th.

DW

 

 

 

 

I

Feb 1, 2016 - 7:42:53 PM

26 posts since 7/15/2010

Hi Davyfly:

​Thank you! You are describing exactly what has been happening to me for about the past four years. Back in the early 70s when I first started playing I had no issue like this at all, but it just came up suddenly in the last few years, same right index finger problem as you. It is discouraging to hear that it is something I may just have to adapt to, but at least I know I am not alone. I am even considering going exclusively to clawhammer.

Feb 1, 2016 - 9:35:58 PM

Davyfly

USA

44 posts since 11/22/2015

Jeff.

I can only answer you this way.
I did have years of pro playing before l got the issue. So at least l was not blind so to speak as being very familiar with the banjo or the many instrumentals or songs l played. For me it was total frustration and l guess at the time there seemed to be no medical knowledge of how to deal with it.

Ok, your issue, now l am not a quack, but l am well aware of the issues so let me ask you a few questions.
Is your issue one that relates to the fact that your finger will not move or if it does is it like it takes a while before it will, kind of like saying there is intermittent fault or is it a issue that you can feel some sort of tightness in your for arm muscles and very little movement in the finger as much as you try to make it flex.
Next, if you are able to move the index finger does it also cause the 2nd finger to move or when you have your pinky or 3/4th on the head does movement in the hand cause the fingers on the banjo head to move.

Next, if you place your hand flat on a table can you easily move both the 1st and 2nd equally without a problem.

The interesting thing about dystonia is it can be totally related to one single factor such as playing a instrument, and not all related to a banjo either as l know a concert pianist who also had to quit because of this issue.
I also know many of my shooting friends who have the same issues, it not a flinch, its a issue that causes the trigger finger to freeze, a flinch is another issue.
My understanding is these issues are often the result of the fact that the brain cells that allow for the action to take place are more or less burnt out due to the repetitive process they are subjected to such as playing a instrument to shooting 1000s of clay targets as a couple of examples.

Have you seen by chance a hand specialist, if you have what did he say. In other words are you sure it is not a issue related to tendons and ligaments.
A trigger finger for example can be the cause of your problems, l am not saying it is but either way l would check it out.

There is a possible solution that specialists l have talked with suggest that may solve the issue for a time and that is to have botox injections if you can afford it.
I have not done it but have, and still consider it, at least l would know one way or the other, but at around $300 bucks for a few months it may work, l am not sure about it but l guess will give it shot.

In your case believe me persevere with your thumb and 2nd finger you will eventually get the hang of it and be able to play fast if need be.
Many melodic tunes lend themselves to use only of these two fingers or you can work around what the tab says as there is more than one way to play the same notes all be it may be in a different octave. For example 4th 7 is same as 2nd 2 and so on.
More to the point many melodic tunes are closely related so far as the positions and notes used.

Davy






I ask this as there can be a number of issues related here

Feb 2, 2016 - 9:31:19 AM

Davyfly

USA

44 posts since 11/22/2015

Jeff.

I thought l would check a little further into noted musicians who have the problem. Wikipedia-- Focal dystonia. 

There are two noted banjo players.

Steve Dilling  founder of the IIIRD Tyme Out band

Tom Adams

Also interesting is some of those listed were over time able to resume playing.

 

Davy

Feb 2, 2016 - 11:14:41 AM

26 posts since 7/15/2010

Hi Davy:
I described my symptoms early on in this discussion. When I play, my right index finger tenses up and wants to curl into my palm. When this happens it is nearly impossible to relax it and get it back in position. If I drum my three picking fingers on a table I can do so without this tension, but as soon as I put them to the strings it happens. Oddly, it seems to occur mostly when the roll goes from thumb to index, not so much from middle finger to index. In most movements throughout an average day, I can move all fingers independently without any problems or issues. But I am a casino card dealer, and I find this tension in my card and check handling also. I can feel it even in my typing on the computer keyboard. The tension does not spill over and affect any of my other fingers.
I know this is not trigger finger, which is a locking of a joint in the finger that opens with a "pop" when it releases.
I tried for years to practice extremely slowly and concentrate on relaxation, but without any success. I have pretty much given up playing for the last couple of years. I found a work-around for a while by putting a wide rubber band that was snug on my finger around the middle joint that wants to bend most. This prevented my finger from curling and allowed it to stay in position with the strings. I was afraid to use this as a permanent solution because it might encourage the finger to continue to tense up, but I may look into this further if the problem is not curable.
I have never seen a specialist about this but have asked a few physical therapists if they knew of anything that caused this condition, which none of them have. Now that I have a name for this I can do a little more research to see what is known about it.
Thanks again!

Edited by - jeffreynolds on 02/02/2016 11:21:42

Feb 12, 2016 - 8:24:02 AM

513 posts since 5/31/2004

 I'm late to this thread, do not have time to read all the responses, but think about letting gravity hold the arm to the armrest, and other than that the ONLY muscle required is in the fingers. if you are holding your arm down on the banjo tension will manifest in the lower part of the arm and hand as well. One post i DID read was the fourth one in the thread, from John Kuhn. He says one should move primarily from the first knuckle. I'm not sure what he means by "first knuckle", the way I define it the there is only one "knuckle", the first joint nearest the hand. If that what he is referring to i totally disagree...90% of the motion should be from the first JOINT IMO...the next joint out from the knuckle. If you move from the knuckle you will have flyaway finger and terrible wasted motion, and less accuracy than if you move from a joint closer to the string contact point. I this is his definition of "first knuckle" then we are in agreement. The closer to the contact point of the string the more control... but few have any flexibility in the last joint (nearest the fingertip). The first joint just seems like the most natural motion IMO, and whatever movement seems the most natural should produce the least tension. This was probably all touched on in subsequent posts, but again, i do not have time to read the four years of posts in this thread. I address this in my new Mel Bay book "Exercises For Three-Finger Banjo". Almost every aspect of picking improves when you increase the economy of motion. Simple rule of thumb (pun intended): Use the least muscle and the least movement possible in ALL aspects of banjo playing. There are many exercises in my new book for this. http://www.hatfieldmusic.com


 

Edited by - jackhatfield on 02/12/2016 08:25:44

Feb 25, 2016 - 1:05:21 PM

22 posts since 2/25/2016

quote:
Originally posted by jeffreynolds
 

When I play, my right index finger tenses up and wants to curl into my palm. When this happens it is nearly impossible to relax it and get it back in position.


Wow, so interesting to read this my first time back to the hangout for 10-12 years at least. I developed focal dystonia but it took me about 10 years to figure out what it was. Jeffreynolds, go search musicians focal dystonia and you'll probably read your quote almost verbatim for the definition of focal dystonia. This was the most frustrating thing in the world and technically there's no "cure". I eventually sent my Earl Scruggs back to Gibson and had a left-handed neck installed. Picking left-handed was no problem to learn, but the middle finger of my right hand still was a problem, so it was under the bed for ages. Every so often I'd pick up my right-handed Ode that I learned on just to see if it went away. Never did, until recently I picked it up and noticed less stress in my hand, and the curling fingers was a little less. I have to start slow, but I can actually play a little. I'm not sure how it will go, but I'm thinking I'd like to put my old right-handed neck back on the Gibson and mess around with it but I'm not sure who I trust in my area. I'll probably post a separate thread to ask.

Paul

Feb 25, 2016 - 6:23:04 PM

Davyfly

USA

44 posts since 11/22/2015

Paul,

 

As my previous posts re FD.

I have spent the past 3 months after many years working on the problem which affected my right index finger,  and quit my pro career.

At first l could do nothing with that finger, tried all sorts of things to keep it from curling back, mainly band aids at the joint and above the finger, which really did not enable the finger to move that well. More or less l had figured out how to alternate with thumb and 2 nd finger but continually worked away with my index.Bear in mind l did have years of pro experience so nothing new so far as getting around in the neck, all be it figuring out alternative ways to play the licks.

To date, yes l can still play most tunes at speed, with Thumb and 2nd, actually you will be surprised how fast you can once you get used to the alternate fingering positions. both forward and reverse rolls. 

In the case of my index, l now have it to a point where it is more controllable in so far as l can keep it from curling back and am able to start to use it, to a point.

What is the issue is that the movement of the finger can cause the 2 nd finger to try to follow suit if that is the way to explain it, l also feel a degree of muscle tension in my forearm which is related to the movment to the index finger, Aleve has helped some here.

All in all l am happy with the progress so far if another 3 months enables more improvement its looking good.

Try doing this as l did which is just make normal forward and reverse rolls with in your case thumb and index than gradually start to introduce your 2nd finger, just preserver and keep working at it.  There is no guarantee but give it all you got  if you have time. I spend on average 2 hrs a day.

 

Best of luck, l know how frustrating this is for you.

 

Davy

Feb 25, 2016 - 7:36:36 PM

26 posts since 7/15/2010

Thanks again Paul and Davy, it is a big improvement just to have a name for this condition and to know others have managed to work through it.

Jeff

Feb 26, 2016 - 10:59:01 AM

22 posts since 2/25/2016

Jeff and Davey,

From the reading I've done over the years on FD, somehow the finger movements that are mapped to our brain get crossed up. Years of repetitive, precise movements over a long period seems to lead to this sometimes. Fingers curl because they don't know how to separate the movements. There is a doctor named Joaquin Farris that has helped a lot of people learn how to retrain the brain (neuroplasticity). He is in Toronto and I called them once but it was $1600.00 for a 4 day session. That plus all the other costs to get there made it not possible for me. What seems logical to me is what I've been working on; to start over very slowly making sure that after I've picked with the index finger for example, that I don't hit my middle until my index has fully relaxed, etc. If not they tend to work together making good picking impossible. Right now, if I do this for 5-10 minutes slowly, I can start to play a little bit. But it is very hard for me to just pick it up and start playing right off. I'm not sure how far I can get with this but at least I'm enjoying it a little again.    Paul

Feb 26, 2016 - 4:47:38 PM

Davyfly

USA

44 posts since 11/22/2015

Paul, more or less what you state here is the reason. I was able when l lived in UK visit with a neurologist who had vast experience with  FD, particularly related to musicians as by general standards there is no other profession that requires the fingers to make exact movement in coordination with signals from the brain at speed, even after the said piece being played more or less becomes a subconscious act. In so far as you do not have to think how to play it as you did when you learned it.

His belief was that most of the FD issue is related due to the fact that it is the fast movement of the fingers that disrupts eventually the means by which the brain  (cortex) can deal with it as it is a two way issue. The first being that you know before you move the finger what  it needs to do which is one factor, secondly the brain has to send the signals for it to happen and that is where the issue is.  It is in most cases he told me not a issue with the finger as such rather the contraction of ligaments in the for arm that cause the end result.  It can result in either the initial movement required such as the finger is curled back and you find it difficult to cause it to move or it can be the fact that even if you can move it out ok, it will not allow you to pick the string back toward you.

Interesting is he told me he had never had a patient with FD problems in the thumb, in some cases more than one finger of the same hand, when you think about it so far as banjo playing the thumb

Which is why in some cases botox can help as this treatment will relax the tension in the arm, but that is a short term treatment that can have adverse effects , not to mention the cost. In some cases after years of rest partial even full use may be gained if you are lucky and your age is not a issue or other medical problems such as arthritis , which so far in my case is ok even at the age of 66.

There is another sport that l pursue that for some the issue of FD can be a problem and that is shotgun shooting, the shooter is unable to pull the trigger. the normal way to get around that one is to have a gun with a release trigger. Here the trigger is pulled back and the shot is made when the trigger is released. Again the problem is normally associated with shooters who for many years have shot 1000s of rounds particularly trap shooters. The problem is again related to a dysfunction in the brain sending signals to the trigger finger to pull back. In the case of release trigger use its not pulling back to make the shot which from what l understand results in a different mechanism so far as how the brain interprets what it needs  to do by way of sending the signal to release the finger, Unfortunately this will not work for us banjo players.

Good luck with your progress.

 

Davy

Mar 29, 2016 - 11:31:03 AM

26 posts since 7/15/2010

Hi Davy, Paul and anyone else who may be interested:
I am going to start a new discussion specifically on the topic of focal distonia to see if other members have experienced this and if anyone has found a successful treatment. Maybe through a collective discussion we can devise a viable solution to this condition.

Jeff

Apr 14, 2016 - 6:17:52 PM

Davyfly

USA

44 posts since 11/22/2015

Jeff,

Did you start a new thread on the subject matter, been a while since l have visited to forum.

What is important is that  those who are following this thread understand that FC is a very different issue to any other related to muscle stress. FC is a neurological issue.

Is it possible to retrain the brain, may be, l would have to see that to be convinced. In other words know a musician personally who had the problem and then see the results after treatment,  was he able to preform as good as he did before !!

I can only say from my own standpoint that l have learned how to now use my 2nd finger and thumb in ways l would not have done if l had full use of my index finger, granted you may have to play round certain licks and for that matter maybe play them in ways somewhat better than the standard accepted way, you will also find you will also create further innovative ways to play.

 

Davy

Apr 14, 2016 - 8:07:15 PM

JRay136

Canada

105 posts since 12/23/2015

Hey Colin,

I used to get really bad cramps in my hands playing guitar. There are quite a few things that helped me. I think sitting with your core engaged is probably the most important. With playing fast it's funny how most of us tense up which only makes it harder to move. A great thing a guitar teacher got me to do once was practice breathing evenly and normally while playing scales. So your focus is on breathing normally and that just relaxes you in general. My sight a bit far out by it really helped me out! 

Happy practicing! 

Apr 14, 2016 - 8:08:59 PM

26 posts since 7/15/2010

Hi Davy:
I started a discussion titled "Focal Dystonia: Involuntary Tensing or Curling of Fingers While Picking". There have been quite a few responses but so far no one is offering an exercise regiment or program that they have found to help with the condition. It is amazing to see that so many other people are affected with this. I did see a bunch of videos on youtube from musicians who have focal dystonia and some of them are claiming to be beating it. I think it is worth exploring, although I'm not ready to sign up for an expensive cure until I know it is effective.

Apr 14, 2016 - 8:46:12 PM

Davyfly

USA

44 posts since 11/22/2015

Jeff,

Frankly the only answer l have at this time is this.

Take for example the first break  FMBdown.  There was a time l would use my index finger for the 2nd string hammer on with of course the following forward roll. As much as l tried to recover the ability to do that, no deal. So l alternated it with my thumb. I spent hrs trying to get the index to comply, maybe at moderate speed l could, once any degree of speed was increased then no way would the index comply. It became impossible to correct the finger to the string and or work in sequence with the thumb and 2nd, kind of like it chose to do its own thing.

I tried many other basic alternate rolls and or combinations of licks using the index, same issue. Indeed a very frustrating problem.

Personally l do not know the answer as believe me l have spent hrs trying to solve the issue and have to say more or less have given up.  Only answer l have is that you have to retrain your useful fingers in a different way. Or spend a great deal of time to see if there is any possible chance that your brain will allow you to overcome its issues.

I would say if you can you are very lucky indeed.

Bear in mind we are all different so odds are that the degree of loss may differ considerably, some may have more moderate issues while others very severe, to which some you may have seen via YTube. Not to mention it can be either left or right hand and or different fingers.

As yourself, yes if l new of a medical answer that shall we say could prove positive results l might have a interest to pursue it, but then l would also have to justify at what cost.

Would it in any way benefit the loss of what was at one time my professional career or just to satisfy my ability to be able to play without the problem, either way it would be good, right.

Davy

 

I know that Dave Hum was able to to do that to some degree but his issue was not FC.

Apr 15, 2016 - 6:22:05 AM

513 posts since 5/31/2004

Not to rain on anyone's parade, but I have a friend who is a mandolin player and also played some banjo. He developed focal dystonia which affected his playing. You would not believe the hours he spent doing exercises, trying to keep from losing his agility and independent use of adjacent fingers. He was an ER doctor on the night shift, so unlike most folks he had plenty of time to practice while waiting in the doctor's lounge for cases. If I had had to endure what he did just to maintain, forget improving, I would have given up playing altogether...which he DID on banjo. Of course not everybody experiences the same degree of discomfort and loss of agility...but look at Tom Adams, he was reduced to playing banjo with two fingers and focusing on guitar which he can flat pick with less discomfort and loss of flexibility. Very few people who have a life outside of banjo would have or take the time to invest that a pro like Tom did. Like I said, my friend is a medical doctor, so he had resources most do not, as well as access to all the latest research...and he three to four hours per day and the will and desire to work on exercises and practice...and focal dystonia basically won that battle. I have several exercises in  my new Mel Bay book Exercises for Three-Finger Banjo which address flexibility and independent use of adjacent fingers. I do not claim any of them to be solution for a serious case of focal dystonia.


 

Edited by - jackhatfield on 04/15/2016 06:28:11

Apr 16, 2016 - 5:51:20 AM

Davyfly

USA

44 posts since 11/22/2015

Thanks for the post, which more or less sums up my own experience and observations of the FD issue.

You have to figure a alternative means to play if that is possible.

Apr 16, 2016 - 8:56:45 AM

26 posts since 7/15/2010

If you do a search on Banjo Hangout for focal dystonia you will see quite a few discussions about it. It is turning out to be more common that I would have thought. I'm just trying to get as much information as possible to see what, if anything, has been effective for others.

Apr 28, 2016 - 1:31:38 PM

2717 posts since 4/5/2006

This thread is now 11 pages long & I don't have the time, patience, or memory to wade through all of that, quote some of the past threads, and there have been some excellent advise given here, so I'll just add a few of my own thoughts fwiw. Please forgive any repetiveness.  

The mind is a very powerful force. It drives everything else we do. Stop & think about that for a minute. The word "can't" is a defeatist word if ever there was one. Paul Hawthorne (Gestalt Banjo) was a good friend of mine. "Can't" was not a part of his vocabulary. Nuff said on that! 

Relaxation, meditation, zen, yoga, religion. Whatever works for you. Listen, I've known Ron Block since he played with Yankee Bluegrass. He has come a long way. He must be doing something right. If his advise offends the non believers out there, then look the other way.

Muscle tension: like a lot of others who learned Scruggs style by trying to do everything the way Earl did it, I used to sling by banjo over my right shoulder, like Earl did it.  Earl did that so he wouldn't have to remove his hat to put the strap over his head like guitar players do. When you wear your banjo as Earl did, you have to push the banjo with your fore arm to center it on your body.  This creates muscle tension. If your right hand ring & pinky fingers are held straight rather than slightly curved, muscle tension. Left hand closed, palm against the neck, muscle tension. Open hand position, thumb against back of the neck, allows more movement from a more relaxed position. Sit up straight, stand up straight. Don't be watching the fret board inlays when you play. That is one of the worst things you can do. Yeah, every body does it, but it induces a lot of muscle tension. Learn to watch the dots on the neck binding. That's what they are for.

You shouldn't have to pick hard 100% of the time! If you do, you cannot add emphasis  when you need to because you are already at max volume. There are no crash courses for bluegrass banjo. It takes time to absorb all of this stuff.    

May 2, 2016 - 2:41:02 AM

nisesabe

Spain

22 posts since 9/6/2015

Have a look to this link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/mundobanjo/?fref=ts (Mundo Banjo Facebook).

The first post is about tension when changing chords and it's in spanish, but if you open the post, there are very useful pictures about relaxing positions, posted by the maestro Angel Matesanz.

Another question is: when did you start to play the banjo? If you are a beginner (I think that beginner level, in bluegrass, can last a couple of years or more considering the playing speed), take it easy and enjoy your playing. Think about what you have achieved since the first time you picked a banjo. That's what I do when I'm down and desperate. :-)

May 2, 2016 - 11:57:11 AM
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2717 posts since 4/5/2006

I've had time to go back & read some of the previous pages, so I would like to address some issues common to beginning students. "Them that can do, them that can't teach" Crock of $hit! Teaching is a skill. Just because someone can do something well does not automatically qualify them as a teacher. Having said that, if I had a choice, I would lean towards the pro who plays & records with a band. It is absolutely essential to get beyond the tendency to freeze up when playing in front of your teacher/instructor/coach. Someone else coined the "coach" term as opposed to teacher, I've also heard "studied under" both of which I feel more appropriate. Your coach is there to help you develop technique as opposed to simply teaching you songs. Songs are just interesting paths to aid in the development of technique. Short lesson sessions avoid information overload. Practice (study) sessions are another matter. I used to hear students remark "I don't have time" You have to make time, whenever, wherever, you can. Preferably in an isolated atmosphere where your train of thought is undisturbed. You have to find your own "out behind the barn"

In order to play bluegrass music, you have to immerse yourself in the idiom. Those of us not borne into it as the first generation masters were, have to study the intricacies of the genre. Which notes get played louder than others? Where, in all that barrage of notes, is the melody? Phrasing, bluegrass time. These are things your coach can help you with, show you the way, point you in the right direction. The rest is up to you.

We all learn at different speeds, reach plateaus at different levels, get past them faster or slower. Life gets in the way. Deal with it the best you can. Persevere.

Edited by - monstertone on 05/02/2016 12:05:21

May 2, 2016 - 7:01:20 PM
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Davyfly

USA

44 posts since 11/22/2015

Monstertone,

 

I agree with most of what you say, that said.

There many things that even  a very proficient musician cannot convey to a student and largely that is how he or she as a individual expresses how they play a particular passage of music, in other words it is almost impossible to copycat another save for playing the same notes.

Back in the 60s l was learning piano, At the time l was having lessons from a retired concert pianist, one of the lessons was related to Beethovens Moonlight Sonata. Sadly my then teacher passed away. So l sort another he somewhat ridiculed what l had already learnt in so far as how certain passages should be expressed. Which l found interesting in so far as 10 pianists can play the same piece, but one will ultimately appeal more so to the judges. Which l also know to be true so far as us banjo players. Technique and style are very influential in so far as the appeal to other who are listening.  Not to mention the further interpretations and or introduction of melodic licks in that particular instrumental. There are a 100 different ways to play around Earls original version of FMB.

 

DW

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