Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

238
Banjo Lovers Online


Want to hide these Google ads? Join the Players Union!
Aug 13, 2019 - 6:32:18 PM
589 posts since 2/19/2012

I'm a novice tenor banjo player (five years clawhammer with very little jamming, one year on the tenor). I've worked my way through most all of Enda Scahill's first tutor and joined a slow session group several times. I've been talking with folks at a local pub session about getting up to speed (in more ways than one) so as to join in. They are very accommodating, and actually have a tune list, which is extremely helpful. The only problem is, there are something like 70 tunes on it, and they play them all.

So what's a fellow to do? I can learn a few and try to get them up to tempo, ignoring the others, with the intent of hanging in there playing melody on those tunes. I can practice several of them at a time so I can struggle and maybe catch on a little as they're playing. Or I can practice some simple chords with the idea of strumming a little as they go along on the tunes I don't know. Some commentary on The Session website indicates that banjo rhythm strumming is a terrible idea, but that seems to come from a pretty serious bunch of Irish session players. Or, I can take another year to work on speed and repertoire, maybe even some lessons, and take this up again next summer.

Any suggestions?

Aug 13, 2019 - 6:36:04 PM

robobanjo

Canada

284 posts since 8/21/2009

How many of the 70 tunes do you know so far Parker?

Aug 13, 2019 - 6:39:59 PM

589 posts since 2/19/2012

Probably 10 or so, but not up to their speed yet.

Aug 13, 2019 - 6:41:12 PM

589 posts since 2/19/2012

Just to clarify, 10 or so without printed music or tab. A peek at the music helps get me started sometimes.

Aug 13, 2019 - 7:02:38 PM

robobanjo

Canada

284 posts since 8/21/2009

I'm not the best person to give advice on this sorta thing, as I know a little over 30 tunes, but I still don't get out to sessions. I have the same fear, that is holding me back. I've been a few times, but I must suck it up and get out there, cause I do know that one can only improve so much on ones own. The real playing and the real learning is with others. It is a communal form of music and an aural tradition (by ear). But I am in the same boat as you, in many respects. I wish you well, and that you not hesitate as I have ...

Aug 13, 2019 - 7:28:33 PM

589 posts since 2/19/2012

I'm going to give it a shot, but I don't know the path yet.

How did you approach learning 30 tunes? Do you sit with one or two exclusively until you really have them solid and up to speed, or do you have several at a time that you're playing to bring along together? Part of this is working out the best way to learn a number of tunes (enough to feel ready to join in) by some finite point in time. In other words, serial or parallel processing?

Aug 13, 2019 - 7:28:40 PM

DSmoke

USA

741 posts since 11/30/2015

Forget about strumming, there will likely be a guitarist there and let them do the strumming. Or, take a mandolin and strum that. If you are strumming you aren't learning what you need to learn as a melody player. I would say go to the session, and keep going to the session especially if you have had chats with them. It's the best and fastest way to get up to speed. Even if you aren't playing every tune you are (hopefully) making friends. Those are the people who will help you improve. Maybe you can start a set at a tempo you are comfortable with. When I started going to sessions I didn't play very much, it was a lot of trying, failing, and then just listening. Don't give up, the people at the session were once just like you.

I am in the video below. This was just recently at a session, the first time there, where a videographer showed up for a promotional video. I'm not the best player, but I keep trying. What's important is that I am proud that I am able to play with all my new session friends who were nice enough to put up with me while I was trying to get up to speed.

So hang in there, just keep practicing, and make some new friends. After all, some of the best people on earth are folk musicians.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QO0C2SQ-UZE&t=79s

Aug 13, 2019 - 7:33:21 PM

589 posts since 2/19/2012

That was great! You were even a featured player! I heard your banjo before the camera got around to you.

Now I'm hungry.

Aug 13, 2019 - 7:37:16 PM

DSmoke

USA

741 posts since 11/30/2015

quote:
Originally posted by Parker135

I'm going to give it a shot, but I don't know the path yet.

How did you approach learning 30 tunes? Do you sit with one or two exclusively until you really have them solid and up to speed, or do you have several at a time that you're playing to bring along together? Part of this is working out the best way to learn a number of tunes (enough to feel ready to join in) by some finite point in time. In other words, serial or parallel processing?

I recorded and/or wrote down every set they played.  I could then tell what tunes and sets were most often played and worked on learning and improving those.  If they allow you to record then you have something to play along to.  I also spent a lot of time, and still do, playing along to the Comhaltas tunes through the slow downer at a tempo that is comfortable for me.  It's also worth noting that with an increased tempo AND nerves at a session it is very difficult to actually play as well as you can.  It's just part of the process and there is no avoiding the entry process to the craic.

Best of luck, I'm only a message away and full of encouragement and support.

Aug 13, 2019 - 7:39:58 PM

589 posts since 2/19/2012

Thanks, Dan.

Aug 14, 2019 - 5:16:45 AM
likes this

2363 posts since 10/9/2011

I agree that going to sessions is the best way to improve.
Make note of the tunes at the session that you like best, and work on those. More will come with time.
When I hear a tune that I sort of know I play along as best I can, but muffle the strings with the heel of my right hand and bend down so only (hopefully) I can hear my playing. After 3 or 4 times through the tune, I usually have quite a bit more of it down.

Aug 14, 2019 - 7:42:05 AM

1355 posts since 2/10/2013

I read musical notation and started out learning the tunes in Cooper's "The Complete Irish Fiddler". Most of the tunes are not that long and melodies are not hard to learn. I thought I had learned to play tunes up-to-speed. But when I went to jam, everything was played fast and non-stop. The musicians, some professionals, said very little. I went to a slow jam, and everything was played very slowly. I guess my playing was "half fast". Not fast enough for real jams and too fast for slow jams.

Aug 14, 2019 - 8:41:34 AM

589 posts since 2/19/2012

I actually have lots of resources for tunes, including the Cooper book. I also got back into reading musical notation with the tenor and mandolin with their fixed tunings. Actually, I may not be reading notes, but I know what string and fret to associate with each printed note and find it easier than tab.

I guess I just need to keep at it and work my way into the sessions as my skills (hopefully) develop.

Aug 14, 2019 - 9:31:53 AM

3722 posts since 10/13/2005

I'd listen to the 70, pick out the 10 you like best, practice on one until you park it in your head, move on to the next one, keep reviewing what you know, keep practicing, and at least go to the session to listen. Soon as you have 10 tunes up to speed, take your banjo to the session. And did I say keep listening? banjered

Aug 14, 2019 - 10:08:54 AM
likes this

621 posts since 6/25/2006

I would try and build connections at the slow jam - if you can find a group of 'improvers' to play with you could focus on a smaller list of shared tunes and build from there. That's bound to be more enjoyable than trying to keep up with people who have a huge repertoire.

Aug 14, 2019 - 7:38:10 PM

589 posts since 2/19/2012

quote:
Originally posted by hobogal

I would try and build connections at the slow jam - if you can find a group of 'improvers' to play with you could focus on a smaller list of shared tunes and build from there. That's bound to be more enjoyable than trying to keep up with people who have a huge repertoire.


I like your idea.  A local group is starting up this fall, and perhaps something like this will work out. 

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.265625