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Sep 23, 2019 - 12:00:01 PM
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6 posts since 9/23/2019

I've heard a lot of stories about people taking up the banjo later in life, but I haven't heard too much about how it turned out. Were you able to reach a level of playing that you were happy with?

I can play the guitar a little bit, but all my other training is in woodwind instruments, which I imagine won't help me at all.

I've always wanted to learn the banjo, but I'm just wondering if it will be worth the time and (especially) money.

Thank you!

Sep 23, 2019 - 12:13:43 PM
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131 posts since 11/8/2014

I am starting again at 72. Started the banjo at 67. Switched to fiddle. Loved the fiddle but have had 5 shoulder surgeries from causes unrelated to fiddling.
More shoulder surgeries have been suggested.
Don't buy a cheap banjo. Those will discourage you.
Made it a third of the way through the Perlman method book before.
Just started clawhammer lessons with Josh Turknett online.
I am going back to the start with clawhammer to get the basics down better before moving on.
Played saxophones for years. Play the piano; have a grand. Like playing portable instruments.

Playing the banjo is like sex, you don't have to be the best to have a good time.

Sep 23, 2019 - 12:25:34 PM
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14309 posts since 12/2/2005

Welcome aboard!

I've started students who were probably older than you, and have some currently who almost certainly are.

As I tell them: if your goal is to reach a level of proficiency at which Rounder signs you to a contract and you're invited to perform on the Grand Ole Opry, yeah - you're probably too old.

But if your goal is to set yourself a challenge that's fun, keeps you mentally sharp and physically dextrous and ultimately affords you the ability to play fun music with other people, give it a shot.

Not everyone succeeds. Not everyone has fun. But as long as the goals are realistic and you're having fun doing it, I'd encourage you to take a stab at it.

Oh, and as regards the bassoon? Absolutely it will help! You already know about melody, rhythm, chords and probably a reasonable amount about music theory. ALL very helpful!!!!

Two words of counsel: 1) buy a decent banjo. And 2, find a good teacher - either in person or online.

Edited by - eagleisland on 09/23/2019 12:27:20

Sep 23, 2019 - 12:37:47 PM

3671 posts since 10/13/2005

And type your question to "Q" to the left side of this page and you'll get a ton of answers. banjered

Sep 23, 2019 - 1:05:01 PM

2223 posts since 3/30/2008

Your time & investment will be rewarded many times over from the effort to include the banjo in your musical repertoire. You've gotten some good advice already in this post, ...get as good a banjo as you can. (You didn't mention what kind of music you'd like to play, but something to consider seriously is the physicality of the banjo). The banjo can be a rather heavy & large thing. ( As I approached your age I found myself gravitating to my lighter, open back & shorter scale instruments).

Sep 23, 2019 - 1:54:58 PM

6 posts since 9/23/2019

I spent $100 on a new banjo about 8 years ago and it was a terrible, terrible instrument. I think I got $70 for it at a pawn shop, which I certainly didn't argue with. That's what you get for not doing the research!

Sep 23, 2019 - 2:49:02 PM
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3 posts since 4/8/2015

Banjo is a great choice for seniors! It’s difficult not to smile when you’re pickin’ a banjo. I also played woodwinds when I was young, and started 3-finger bluegrass when I retired. The difficulty is my 72 year old fingers are no longer nimble enough for light-speed bluegrass, so I switched to clawhammer style which I now enjoy even more. You might consider an openback banjo, which is also less of a strain on your back and shoulders than a heavy bluegrass beast with resonator and tone ring. Have fun!

Sep 23, 2019 - 5:42:36 PM

844 posts since 8/7/2017

I started at about 64, followed Josh Turknett's Laws of Brainjo, mostly....and made progress much faster than I expected :-) Approaching 68, I'm Very pleased to be playing banjo (a lifelong goal, tried in my 20's and failed to have fun so quit....Really glad I tried again). Josh says the adult brain/student has some big advantages learning music over a kid, btw.

archived Laws of Brainjo:
banjohangout.org/archive/298553

Advantage of having an Adult Brain:
clawhammerbanjo.net/the-advant...isode-25/

Hope this helps (and welcome to BHO ).

Edited by - BrooksMT on 09/23/2019 17:43:29

Sep 23, 2019 - 6:17:33 PM

1913 posts since 5/2/2012

I will turn 73 at the end of the month, started playing banjo 7 years ago. Have I reached the level of playing that I am happy with? Yes, I have come a long ways since I started. Do I have a ways to go? Yes, as there is always something new to learn. I have more than one banjo (gasp!!), and don't regret spending the money to get decent playing and sounding banjos. A good banjo that is set up right and sounds good will make your playing that much easier and enjoyable. In the past few years, after learning the basics of Scruggs, I have explored backup skills, melodic style, playing up the neck, and a bit of improvisation. I have read here on the HO it takes about 3 years to become a competent banjo player, followed by a lifetime of continued learning. So, yes, it is worth the time and money. The good thing about taking up the banjo late in life is more of your time is your own (if you are retired or semi-retired), hopefully you have a bit more disposable income (mortgage paid off maybe, maybe no car loans, kids on their own and independent). You can get a decent beginner banjo for $500 or so, and a banjo that could last you the rest of your life (if you so choose) for around $1000, less if you go used. Learning Scruggs style, for us mere mortals, takes a lot of patience and perseverance for the first six months or so, but if you stick with it, the rewards are there.   Let's say you find a decent banjo for $500 or so and play an hour a day.  At the end of the first year you have spent less than $1.50 an hour to have more fun than you ever imagined.  

Edited by - thisoldman on 09/23/2019 18:22:52

Sep 23, 2019 - 9:16:43 PM
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342 posts since 2/5/2014

Welcome! I always wanted to play banjo, and I treated myself to one for my birthday six years ago. Because I had a bit of cash from an inheritance, I got a very good used banjo. I play three finger Scruggs style but prefer slower paced music. I play classical music on my banjo, it makes me so very happy.
You will find that the folks here in BHO are welcoming and eager to give you tips along the way. Enjoy!

Sep 24, 2019 - 3:31:24 AM

102 posts since 7/5/2011

i just started at 52, well actually I started at 50 but got off course with no teacher. I am starting again, so far I have been using the Banjo Ben Clark lessons, they are easy to follow and a lot of fun, I also really like the brainjo material. I hope to find a teacher near me, but so far have had no luck. It is well worth the relatively small investment to get a good banjo for the start. I have a REALLY nice Gold Tone BG-250FW and really like it, but it weighs a LOT so I also picked up a used Gold Tone BC-350 which has an open back and still sounds great at a 1/4 of the weight. I say GO FOR IT!

Sep 26, 2019 - 6:08:29 AM
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6 posts since 9/23/2019

Thanks for the advice and encouragement! I picked up my banjo yesterday (a 40 year old Univox, it'll be fine for my needs) and spent about an hour with Jim Pankey's first lesson.

Sep 26, 2019 - 7:29:47 AM

15 posts since 9/6/2019

Jim's lessons are great. I've been using them myself and I also have my son going through them.

Sep 26, 2019 - 11:34:14 AM
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kjcole

USA

1173 posts since 4/21/2003

I disagree that your previous training on woodwinds won't help. It's been my anecdotal observation that adults who take up bluegrass with no prior musical training tend to have a difficult time with rhythm, especially feeling the downbeat in relation to when to start a vocal verse/chorus or instrumental break. Those with prior formal training (e.g., serious participation in high school band/chorus) tend to handle the rhythmic part of music better. And that's good, because not hitting the notes you want won't tank the jam or ensemble - breaking down rhythmically will. And they tend to have a better ear for finding melodies.

Sep 27, 2019 - 4:09:44 PM

28 posts since 12/3/2017

I’m a beginner also. Started playing the banjo 2 years ago at 60. Picked up the Irish tin whistle at 59. I have had no musical experience of any kind prior to that. I am pleased with both instruments. Love playin banjo. I practice hard everyday & still only can play a few songs up to speed. But enjoy every practice. My wife & I have played in church and we were well received. I agree with the others
Banjo is a great senior instrument &.....
Be patient, slow it down, speed will come in time. Keeping the rhythm is imortant.

Sep 28, 2019 - 9:34:37 AM
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2025 posts since 4/5/2006

quote:
Originally posted by thisoldman

I will turn 73 at the end of the month, started playing banjo 7 years ago. Have I reached the level of playing that I am happy with? Yes, I have come a long ways since I started. Do I have a ways to go? Yes, as there is always something new to learn. I have more than one banjo (gasp!!), and don't regret spending the money to get decent playing and sounding banjos. A good banjo that is set up right and sounds good will make your playing that much easier and enjoyable. In the past few years, after learning the basics of Scruggs, I have explored backup skills, melodic style, playing up the neck, and a bit of improvisation. I have read here on the HO it takes about 3 years to become a competent banjo player, followed by a lifetime of continued learning. So, yes, it is worth the time and money. The good thing about taking up the banjo late in life is more of your time is your own (if you are retired or semi-retired), hopefully you have a bit more disposable income (mortgage paid off maybe, maybe no car loans, kids on their own and independent). You can get a decent beginner banjo for $500 or so, and a banjo that could last you the rest of your life (if you so choose) for around $1000, less if you go used. Learning Scruggs style, for us mere mortals, takes a lot of patience and perseverance for the first six months or so, but if you stick with it, the rewards are there.   Let's say you find a decent banjo for $500 or so and play an hour a day.  At the end of the first year you have spent less than $1.50 an hour to have more fun than you ever imagined.  

The old man pretty much nailed it. If I knew how to do multiple quotes, I would  also include Brooks Martin's previous re: the Laws of Brainjo & the Adult Brain.

I used to be envious of kid players. One day they are raw beginners & the next thing you know they are playing circles around you. Their minds are geared to learn, like an empty sponge they soak up everything. That's all they do, school, homework & play. No worries, Mom & Dad handle all the heavy stuff. Kid's just learn & play.  And when play means  play music, they pick it up quick!

Before retirement, we were the Mom's & Dad's juggling all the heavy stuff & struggling to find enough time between honey-do's to play banjo. Retirement opens a lot of doors. The internet being one that didn't even exsist when we were younger. Sure we may now have obstacles due to advancing age but, don't let that stop you. There are ways do negate some things, to some extent. Our biggest obstacle now is, how much time do we have left? My philosophy is don't fret about it. Full speed ahead, make the most of it & enjoy ever waking hour.  Will we ever be good enough? When I started down this road, the goal was to be able to play Cripple Creek, The Ballad of JC, & FMB. I found however, the goal post kept moving. No matter, It's been a fun ride. Not only that, there is now time to explore the intracies that were overlooked along the way.

Your time has come. Go for the gold. You've earned it.   

   

Edited by - monstertone on 09/28/2019 09:40:14

Oct 6, 2019 - 12:10:22 PM

Keith55

USA

5 posts since 8/25/2012

I consider myself a beginner even though I have owned a banjo for over 30 years. Unfortunately, it lived in the case almost all of that time. I did pick it up from time to time but never for an extended period. I'm now playing almost every day for two months and enjoying myself playing both clawhammer and two-finger picking styles. Having Banjohangout and Youtube makes learning much easier now than when I first bought my banjo in 1987.

I'm using Ken Perlman's Clawhammer Style Banjo and various materials I found on the web as my guides for learning. It is never to late to learn, as this 72 year old will attest.

Oct 6, 2019 - 12:36:16 PM

Owen

Canada

4103 posts since 6/5/2011

quote:
Originally posted by szbassoon

... Were you able to reach a level of playing that you were happy with?   


I meet the "later in life" criteria, but precious little else.....   

Methinks it depends on each finding his/her own balance of 3 main factors [in no particular order]: a) the end goal, b) one's ability, and c) the work* that's put into it.

* =  "time" isn't the same as work... and not all work is equal.   I second Skip's recommendation about finding a good teacher.

Edited by - Owen on 10/06/2019 12:46:31

Oct 7, 2019 - 8:58:22 AM

Banjo Lefty

Canada

1655 posts since 6/19/2014

Your skill with woodwinds will translate easily. True, you have to learn fingering, chording, and various other techniques, but you already know how to read standard notation, I'm betting, so learning to read tab will be a snap. You have a good grasp of music theory, you already know your intervals; you can hear chord and key changes within a melody; you can play in rhythm; you've very likely played with others in a group or band; in short: you're starting miles ahead of the true beginner who picks up a banjo with absolutely no musical training and thinks he or she can play like Earl Scruggs overnight.

Oct 8, 2019 - 7:13:36 AM
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3256 posts since 3/28/2008

Yes, prior musical experience is a BIG plus. As I've said in other threads, my biggest job as a teacher is to teach students to think musically--and you already have much of that going on.

Good luck!

Edited by - Ira Gitlin on 10/08/2019 07:14:08

Oct 8, 2019 - 10:14:16 AM

Mooooo

USA

7128 posts since 8/20/2016

quote:
Originally posted by szbassoon

...I can play the guitar a little bit, but all my other training is in woodwind instruments, which I imagine won't help me at all.
I've always wanted to learn the banjo, but I'm just wondering if it will be worth the time and (especially) money.


Age is part of the question, but dedication to learning is common to all ages of people trying to learn the banjo. Your previous experience with woodwind instruments will help you to learn the banjo as much as it helped you with guitar. In general, studying the banjo is the kind of endeavor that you get out of it what you put into it. It is slow going at first, then, with diligence, you will amaze yourself. Good luck and have fun.

Oct 11, 2019 - 1:02:01 PM

934 posts since 8/29/2005

Started when I was 50 yrs old and am soon to be 65. Eventually ended up playing with a decent local BG band after about 5 yrs of playing 2-4 hrs a day. I heard Earl play Beverly Hillbillies on TV and thought that was the coolest thing ever. Lol. It took me a while to figure out my style of learning and what I could copy and learn from tabbed versions of a song. Had some lessons online from John Boulding. Made friends with guys who were on here (not anymore much) and listened. Its been a fun and rewarding experience.

Oct 11, 2019 - 2:48:39 PM
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Players Union Member

foamer

USA

3 posts since 9/13/2019

I am 63 and just starting on the banjo I have some guitar behind me I think it helps a little. I am have fun. keep going! it will come

Oct 12, 2019 - 4:55:51 AM

kc8tby

USA

94 posts since 8/12/2010

Like yourself, I too am just taking up learning banjo, and I am on the downhill side of 67! It's a challenge and I am learning how difficult a challenge it can be. LOL! I am learning to play in the claw hammer style and, although I am getting (somewhat?) better with the basic strum I am getting quite frustrated learning to fret even the basic chords with my left hand. Overall, however, I am enjoying the challenge and I am having a good time with it! Hey, keep with it and have as much fun as possible!

Oct 12, 2019 - 5:03:57 AM

38 posts since 9/1/2018

I am 61 and started in February. Was going good but getting a little disgusted that not better than I am.

Oct 12, 2019 - 5:25:46 AM

2350 posts since 10/9/2011

quote:
Originally posted by chas5131

I am starting again at 72. Started the banjo at 67. Switched to fiddle. Loved the fiddle but have had 5 shoulder surgeries from causes unrelated to fiddling.
 


Did you consider tenor banjo? It's a natural for a fiddle player since it's tuned and fingered the same. I use mine mainly for Irish music, but occasionally old time stuff.

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