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Jun 13, 2018 - 3:09:55 PM
136 posts since 3/29/2018

what would you do?..where would you go?...who would you seek to study under?....
Are there "Banjo-Schools"?....serious ones that take place over months or years?....intensive study retreats that arent just a convention/weekend study course thing? Do I need to offer to work some old guy's (or gal's) land for some intensive daily...multi hr lessons?...I exaggerate, but I am also kinda serious as to seriously intensive learning scenarios

Edited by - Astrobanjo on 06/13/2018 15:14:51

Jun 13, 2018 - 4:09:44 PM
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6239 posts since 4/7/2003

First , start playing and jamming with anyone and everyone....constantly.
Second, do what my friend Rion does..every great banjo picker he meets, he offers a hundred dollars for an hour lesson.
Third, get to as many festivals as possible.
Fourth, repeat steps one, two and three.

Jun 13, 2018 - 4:38:55 PM
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163 posts since 8/9/2004

Numero uno, listen to bluegrass music and banjo picking in particular as much as you can. Listen. Absorb the sound. So you can hear what good banjo playing sounds like.

There's tons of good instruction out there, but first I'd spend as much time as possible listening to what it's supposed to sound like. I'd start with Earl Scruggs and go from there.

Jun 13, 2018 - 4:48:56 PM
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9194 posts since 6/2/2008

What would I do?

I'd take in-person lessons from the best local player I could find who also teaches.  In particular, I'd choose a player/teacher who played the types of things I wanted to play.

If no one local fit the bill, I'd take lessons from any of the many teachers who teach nationwide by Skype.

After the teacher got me on my way, I'd think about switching to membership in one of the online schools such as Banjo Ben Clark, Tony Trischka (Artistworks), Bennett Sullivan or others. 

I'd buy instructional DVDs featuring some of the top name players I like the most, so that I could have the intros to their styles and approaches.

I'd go to at least one of the banjo or bluegrass camps. Yes, they're usually brief so the material comes at you quickly, but you can still learn things. If there's a week-long program you can afford to travel to, that can be worthwhile. You get the benefit of time to review and practice before the next day's lessons.  Here in the East, there's a program called Common Ground on the Hill (that hosts the DC Bluegrass Union camp) at which B.B. Bowness will be teaching both the beginning and advanced banjo classes (90 minutes a day each, M-F). July 1-6, Westminster, Maryland.  Augusta Heritage Bluegrass Week is August 5-10, with Tom Adams, Greg Liszt and Greg Cahill teaching beginning, intermediate and advanced banjo, respectively.

I agree with attending festivals.

Finally -- I'd listen to banjo music. One of the most frustrating things for me in the brief period that I taught back in the mid 70s was how few of my students actually listened to banjo and bluegrass. There's no way you can learn to play the instrument if you have no idea of how it's supposed to sound. 

Edited to add: I was offline composing while Laura was posting the exact same point about the importance of listening to banjo music!

Edited by - Old Hickory on 06/13/2018 16:50:56

Jun 13, 2018 - 7:56:21 PM



79 posts since 3/27/2013

I would totally go on the banjo cruise offered by Nick at banjo!!

Jun 13, 2018 - 9:28:04 PM



347 posts since 8/30/2012

Is a four year Bachelors degree intensive enough? I would think that's probably as high as you can go for formal bluegrass banjo education.

I didn't know about this when I was in college but if I would have, it would have strongly considered it. Heck I just learned about it recently and I still can't get it out of my head.

I wonder if BHO has any ETSU alumni.

Jun 14, 2018 - 6:40:08 AM
Players Union Member



700 posts since 3/22/2017

Weekly, private face to face lessons.

I don't think anything else compares as far as motivation and potentially covering many aspects: setup/gear, picking technique, tune choices, theory, practice recovering from mistakes in a duo setting.

Jun 14, 2018 - 6:49:33 AM
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286 posts since 6/24/2011

I would just plan to practice rolls with a metronome from the start.

This is secret key you'd learn from any bluegrass "school".

The rest would come from immersion in the music scene.

I'd never put myself in debt to become a professional folk musician. That's crazzzy.

Edited by - Redmanc on 06/14/2018 06:53:36

Jun 14, 2018 - 7:18:29 AM

49168 posts since 12/14/2005

Do NOT be me!
Started out not knowing much, did not have the Internet as a resource, did not have Banjo Hangout as a resource, nobody in my town of 962 people and several cows knew 5-string banjo.
When I moved to the City and found a teacher, did not much practice between sessions.
Did not get a metronome until about 20 years into it, never found a metronome that went as fast or slow as I played.

Jun 15, 2018 - 9:26:45 AM
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1394 posts since 4/5/2006
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All of the above are excellent advice. Starting with "listen to bluegrass all the time" There is just no way anyone can play bluegrass banjo, or any other instrument, if they don't understand the idiom. Second, have that banjo in your hands as much as possible. The best instruction in the world is of little help if you cannot hit the right strings & fret the right notes. To iterarate, you have to hear it in your mind, in order to make it come out through your fingers!

There are two universities that I know of that offer music degrees specializing in Bluegrass. One is in Leveland Texas, the other is the East Tennessee University. From what I hear, you will also learn the ins & outs of the music industry as well. Both are very good & can boast alumni you've no doubt heard of.

Bellingham Wa is not exactly the center of the bluegrass Mecca, but check the Internet for bluegrass festivals featuring banjo camps as close as you can find to your area. Cannon Beach Or does three or four day workshops. Telluride Co would be another one to check out.

On a more practical vein, one on one, face to face, private lessons with someone who plays in a band & also (& this is important) is a good teacher, is hard to beat. The best way I know of to find someone like that is to get out & pick. Sooner or later, someone will surface, but you have to dig them out.      

Jun 15, 2018 - 10:06:52 AM
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9194 posts since 6/2/2008

Originally posted by monstertone

All of the above are excellent advice. Starting with "listen to bluegrass all the time" There is just no way anyone can play bluegrass banjo, or any other instrument, if they don't understand the idiom.       

Let me add to this: even if your eventual goal is to play banjo in a repertoire and in styles that are not strictly bluegrass, the starting point for listening and learning is still bluegrass. In interview after interview, players who have expanded banjo's horizons -- Bill Keith, Bela Fleck, Tony Trischka, Alison Brown, Noam Pikelny, Jens Kruger, others -- all say that Scruggs style was their foundation. All of these artists who play so much outside of bluegrass are also solid bluegrass banjo pickers.

Jun 16, 2018 - 6:48:39 AM
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3078 posts since 3/28/2008

You've left out some extremely important information: What kind of beginner are you? The kind with no musical experience of any kind whatsoever? Or the kind who has played a non-banjo instrument in the past? A stringed instrument? Guitar? Banjo, but not Scruggs style?

The learning process is different for all of them. A beginner with no prior musical experience at all must be taught to think musically, to understand the internal logic of music. Those who have already played another instrument can be expected to know at least some of that body of knowledge, but must learn how to negotiate a two-dimensional fingerboard. And so on down the line.

All must eventually learn the banjo fingerboard and especially the grammar of the right hand, but some can plunge into that right away because they already have the music and string basics. Others must first lay down the musical foundation.

Jun 16, 2018 - 8:12:14 PM
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136 posts since 2/19/2006

depending on my age at the time I would move to southwest Virginia, Northeast Tennessee or anywhere in Kentucky or North Carolina. Then I would quit my job and buy as many books, cd's and videos as I could get my hands on. Find a crappy part time job that allows you to constantly wear headphones and immerse yourself in whatever vein of banjo interests you.

Jun 17, 2018 - 10:48 PM
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Players Union Member



3060 posts since 4/1/2008

It's already been said, but I'll reiterate. Listen to the music. Ain't a teacher out there that can help you, if you don't already know what it's supposed to sound like.

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