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Thoughts on what a relative newbie should practice.

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Oct 21, 2019 - 9:04:35 AM

Big Ed

USA

9 posts since 4/12/2019

I'm a reasonably decent upright bassplayer, so I'm pretty familiar w/ a lot of the tunes I'm interested in, and several aspects of music theory and such. I've been trying to pick up banjo for a little over 1/2 year. I've pretty much been limited to Ken Perelman's book. Attended Midwest Banjo Camp over the summer.

So long, I've been working mostly on getting a good solid, faster bum-diddy, and being able to switch between 1-4-5 in G and double C tuning. So, with a capo I can do a decent (not great) job at a bunch of basic songs in C,D,G,A. And I've been working on learning the tabs in Ken's book with hammerons, pulloffs, slides...

I'm wondering where you would recommend I go from here? My thought is to stick w/ where I am, and add chord shapes to expand the tunes I play in those 4 keys. Make my slides, hammerons, pulloffs more and more solid. And add to my "repertoire" of tunes I can take breaks on.

I was playing w/ one of my favorite banjo players the other day, and he tossed something off like, "play in sawmill, and you don't even have to think about chords." Something like that makes my tiny bassist's brain explode! ;)

And where the notes fall on the neck on the various strings really isn't gelling for me. On the bass (as w/ guitar/mando/fiddle, etc), a major or minor scale pretty much follows the same progression no matter where you start it on which string. On banjo, I'll be trying to work out a melody, and as I try to figure out - say - a descending pattern, I'll move down to the next string and find I already played all the non-open notes on the string above. Just SO different from bass. Are there resources to "learn the neck"?

So whaddya think? Any on-line resources you would refer me to? Any ideas as to the "next important thing(s)"I should focus on?

My basic approach is to take things somewhat slowly. Decide the "next most important thing", and try to get reasonably proficient at that before moving to the next. With all the different tunings and styles out there, it is easy to kinda get staggered by all of the possibilities, and end up not progressing towards any of them.

FWIW, my tastes are pretty diverse in the oldtime/BG/folk/acoustic genres. I really love oldtime fiddle/banjo, and love pretty much anything Riannon Giddens has ever done. And I'm playing a Pisgah Possum, which I really like.

Oct 21, 2019 - 10:35:59 AM

2257 posts since 4/29/2012

Sounds like you are doing the right things. Banjos, like guitars but unlike violin family instruments don't have fixed intervals between each string, so you can't easily transpose by starting on a different string. I've only played banjo, guitar and uke so this doesn't seem strange to me. The guy who said "play in sawmill and you don't have to think about chords" is actually saying "My playing is limited because I don't think about chords". Ignore him. Knowing that you are playing a G chord so a B, D or G will not sound wrong - even if it's not actually right is a useful skill both to get you out of trouble and add to you playing. The answer also depends on what you want to do with the music. If your ambition is to play in old time sessions then concentrating on being able to play a wide repertoire of standards in a clean, but not necessarily fancy, way may be the way to go. Most of my playing nowadays is in 2 sessions. One is strictly old-time and my knowledge of tunes and tunings comes to the fore. The other is a generic folkie session (think bloody "Waggon Wheel") where knowing the chords and their various up the neck inversions stops things from becoming boring. In the folkie session I'm pretty much in open G or A and the chords are easy. In the old-time session I'm not primarily thinking chordally but knowing the chords really helps. I'd also recommend trying to figure some tunes without a tab book to help you - possibly even with just the melody or a fiddlers rendition to work from. This will help you figure out the uneven string transitions and what patterns you repeatedly find in a given tuning and key. I've never come across a clawhammer player who subjects themselves to scale exercises.

Oct 21, 2019 - 11:12 AM

Big Ed

USA

9 posts since 4/12/2019

Thanks. The guy I was referring to is really a good picker. I - and all of the best pickers I know - really enjoy picking w/ him. I used to play in a group w/ him, and when I wrote up setlists, I always needed to be aware of his need to tune - generally from G to double C. So I am likely misconstruing something he tossed out during an ongoing jam. But he IS very upfront about his limitations, such as not being able to read sheet music. Plays w/ a ton of emotion and dynamics (not to mention speed and VOLUME!), but largely by ear.

The banjo picker I NOW play with rarely retunes, and instead, plays everything out of open-G. He just knows all the chord positions up the neck out of G. As w/ the other guy - he does whatever the hell he is doing very well, and is great fun to play w/.

I really like tunes in minor keys - mostly Am and Em it seems. At my stage of picking, I've got NO IDEA how to ply minor keys. Retune? Different chord shapes? I've got a chord sheet for open G which allows me to figure out chords other than the 1-4-5 for G or A. Need to track one down for double C.

So far I've been reasonably successful in just building up my speed and clarity, and my ability to shift between chords. So I'll stick w/ that. I enjoy playing simple backup to my wife's fiddle, and could probably not embarrass myself in some decent jams as the SECOND banjo! ;) As with most any instrument, there just seems to be so much out there to learn. Unless I focus, I could spin my wheels flitting from one thing to the next, without really advancing my overall playing. But then I think, am I neglecting to work on something other than this bum diddy...

Coming from my frame of reference as a bassist, the neck and chord positions really are foreign to me. (Tho I DO LOVE frets and capos!) :D

I do work up tunes on my own. My wife and I often play from sheet music which just has the chords marked, so I'll work up runs/transitions/breaks based on those chords.

Oct 21, 2019 - 11:41:38 AM
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m06

England

8022 posts since 10/5/2006

My advice for what a relative newbie should be doing is dead simple.

Listen constantly to the music you want to play. Specific technical or theoretical advice may help with specific aspects of playing a banjo. But the single most vital task is to absorb the sound, pulse and feel of the music until it is innate and naturally flows out of you.

I’ve gone back to being a relative newbie on another instrument and am doing exactly that. Constant listening. Absorbing. Unconsciously processing. Understanding. It has an unmistakable and powerful connecting effect on playing.

Edited by - m06 on 10/21/2019 11:45:07

Oct 21, 2019 - 7:35:40 PM
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86 posts since 1/2/2019

I really like Wayne Erbsen's book, Clawhammer for the Complete Ignoramus - great for the beginner. This is my favorite. His songs are simple and you can practice and once you get the basic rhythm and melody you can add your double thumbing and drop thumbing. From there, I also downloaded some of my favorite artists. I have lessons from Robert Hunter, Mary Z. Cox and Dwight Diller. I also find songs I really love, get the tab from here, and just work on it and memorize it.

You learn so much just by learning songs - start simple and you'll find yourself moving up and getting more complex. You'll see the same riffs used and you'll recognize them. I find I learn the most from learning tunes. Over time you see similar patterns, riffs, etc. I made a list of tunes I really liked and then set about learning and memorizing them - just 1 or 2 at a time. Right now I'm working on two tunes. Sometimes its a victory just to get two measures nailed. I still think its really important to get the basic "bum-dity" down. It gives that galloping sound you hear in so many songs.

Also, when I want to learn a tune, I immerse myself in it.  I listen to it as much as possible until the melody is something I don't have to think about - its just there.  I do most of my listening in the car to and from work.  It seeps in over time.

Edited by - nightingale on 10/21/2019 19:39:27

Oct 21, 2019 - 7:41:24 PM

2491 posts since 4/19/2008

Here's a post of mine from 4 years ago that should keep you busy!

banjohangout.org/archive/310544

Oct 21, 2019 - 9:59:51 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

22455 posts since 6/25/2005

You don’t, I assume, want to develop a multi-tune repertoire, none of which you can play up to a normal dance tempo. So, my suggestion—pick a couple of tunes you like, probably one in D and one in A—and practice them until you can play each cleanly, comfortably and up to tempo. Then you’ll have the skills, and especially the right hand, to build your tune list. Choose tunes that are not overly complex, nor too simple. I’ve come to this after the continued frustration of trying to play with folks who may know a bunch of tunes, but play them all at little better than half-speed.

Oct 22, 2019 - 5:24:28 AM

191 posts since 10/9/2017

quote:
Originally posted by mmuussiiccaall

Here's a post of mine from 4 years ago that should keep you busy!

banjohangout.org/archive/310544


@mmuussiiccaall I did a quick scan of that thread and there's a lot to chew on. Unfortunately, many of the links you posted at the music school website are dead. AFAICT, the music theory section has either been deleted or renamed in a way that I couldn't find.

I'm in a slightly different circumstance than the OP in that I started playing at a fairly advanced age with very little formal musical training. I'm finding playing by ear to be my biggest stumbling block. I can't reliably identify chord changes from the fiddle. How does interval training link to that skill?

Oct 22, 2019 - 5:37:15 AM

m06

England

8022 posts since 10/5/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Remsleep
quote:
Originally posted by mmuussiiccaall

Here's a post of mine from 4 years ago that should keep you busy!

banjohangout.org/archive/310544


@mmuussiiccaall I did a quick scan of that thread and there's a lot to chew on. Unfortunately, many of the links you posted at the music school website are dead. AFAICT, the music theory section has either been deleted or renamed in a way that I couldn't find.

I'm in a slightly different circumstance than the OP in that I started playing at a fairly advanced age with very little formal musical training. I'm finding playing by ear to be my biggest stumbling block. I can't reliably identify chord changes from the fiddle. How does interval training link to that skill?


The good news is that the ability to pick up tunes by ear in a session from the fiddle player can be nurtured and certainly helpful strategies and practice in developing that ability can be learned. You provide a fabulous example by referencing the fiddle. The fiddle is probably 95% + where my focus is when I'm picking up tunes on the fly. And yet, as I'm sure you are well aware, though fitting within a chord structure the fiddle is not primarily a chordal instrumentsmiley

Not to derail the OP's question, it would make an interesting topic for a separate thread.

Edited by - m06 on 10/22/2019 05:41:19

Oct 22, 2019 - 6:17:15 AM
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2491 posts since 4/19/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Remsleep
quote:
Originally posted by mmuussiiccaall

Here's a post of mine from 4 years ago that should keep you busy!

banjohangout.org/archive/310544


@mmuussiiccaall I did a quick scan of that thread and there's a lot to chew on. Unfortunately, many of the links you posted at the music school website are dead. AFAICT, the music theory section has either been deleted or renamed in a way that I couldn't find.

I'm in a slightly different circumstance than the OP in that I started playing at a fairly advanced age with very little formal musical training. I'm finding playing by ear to be my biggest stumbling block. I can't reliably identify chord changes from the fiddle. How does interval training link to that skill?


Here's another online INTERVAL TRAINER

and more about understanding intervals

https://www.banjohangout.org/archive/279248

Oct 22, 2019 - 11:21:45 AM
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867 posts since 8/7/2017

1. Read Josh Turknett's writings on "laws of brainjo" here on BHO. His contention, which I agree with, is that How you practice is more important that What you practice. I've followed his precepts, mostly, and my progress has been much faster than I expected. The laws start part way down the page:
banjohangout.org/archive/298553

2. Learning by ear: 1st importance - you must be able to hum/sing/whistle (your choice) the tune before trying to play it. It's easy for me to try to dive into playing the song before I have the melody rock solid in my head, but that never works as well as if I'd spent the time listening and humming before picking up the banjo. You don't have to learn all the intricacies of the melody, but you should get the basic tune down in your brain before picking up the instrument.

Best process for me: I first learn the melody to hum. Next, I work out a simplified version for banjo (this gets much easier as you get familiar with what frets&strings are needed to produce a desired note, the "ear-2-fingers" connection...maybe learning scales would help here, I've never tried it). Playing a simple version is very gratifying, and fortifies my confidence. Then, after I can play a simple version of the tune, I work on actually Hearing the fancy stuff and figuring out what the musician was doing - this takes years of experience to hear it all and understand what's going on, even for the professionals, so don't beat yourself up if you don't get it all right off the bat. I'll go back over a song I learned several years ago, and be amazed at how much more neat stuff I hear & can add :-)

It took me 2 weeks to learn-by-ear my first song ( play a simple version of Angeline the Baker). Now I can pickup and play a simple version of a tune in less than an hour, sometimes in a matter of minutes (which is very gratifying, though not always a done-deal :-) Learning by ear is, for me, much faster than learning by tab. And it's a useful skill for jams since there will likely be more songs played at a jam than you have memorized beforehand.

Learning by tab is still useful, especially when I was a beginner and had no idea what the musician was doing. I've never learned banjo songs by regular musical score...one problem with them is that they don't tell you which string to play to produce the note on the score, so they don't necessarily speed the learning process, at least for me.

I use Audacity program (free, donation accepted) to slow down songs, and change keys to one's I prefer. This is a valuable tool that greatly speeded up my ability to learn songs by ear. There is a version for Windows, Apple, and other platforms.

audacityteam.org/

3. chords: the book I use for learning chord patterns in different tunings is Art Rosenbaum's "Old-Time Mountain Banjo" (5 pages in the appendix). It's out of print, but Amazon has some listed.

https://www.amazon.com/Old-Time-Mountain-Banjo-Rosenbaum/dp/0825601169

You can figure out chords yourself, of course. 1-3-5 make a major, 1-3b-5 make a minor. I'll do this when I'm too lazy to go get the book, or its a tuning not in Art's book :-) Patrick Costello's book "The How and the Tao of Old Time Banjo" also has useful information on chords, scales, and a ton of useful information.

https://www.frailingbanjo.com/the-how-and-the-tao-of-old-time-banjo/

Hope this helps, and hope it was not stuff you already knew, don't want to waste your time.

Edited by - BrooksMT on 10/22/2019 11:40:57

Oct 23, 2019 - 3:49:31 AM
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m06

England

8022 posts since 10/5/2006

quote:
Originally posted by BrooksMT



>2. Learning by ear: 1st importance - you must be able to hum/sing/whistle (your choice) the tune before trying to play it. It's easy for me to try to dive into playing the song before I have the melody rock solid in my head, but that never works as well as if I'd spent the time listening and humming before picking up the banjo. You don't have to learn all the intricacies of the melody, but you should get the basic tune down in your brain before picking up the instrument.<
 


We do need to make a fine (but relevant) distinction here between learning tunes by ear where there is no pressing time 'deadline' and picking tunes up by ear in a session setting...where there is most definitely a time 'deadline' if we want to play that tune with our fellow musicians there and then.

I'm not disagreeing in essence: I agree completely that being able to hum or whistle a tune is a huge help to learning to play it on an instrument. Both when learning it by ear and for those learning it from tab. 

My distinction relates to picking up tunes on the fly in a session. In that setting by definition we mostly aren't familiar with the tune beforehand and have the task of playing it almost immediately. 

I was playing in an OT session last night where I'd estimate that at least 25% of the tunes I caught on the fly from the fiddle. Wonderful fun! Some I had heard (and probably played 'on the fly') before at some point but don't myself play (and couldn't hum or whistle them beforehand), the rest were completely new to me. Trying to analyse whether what happens in those first AABB of the fiddle kicking off could be described as a very condensed version of being able to hum or whistle the tune...hmmm. For sure there is an intense focus on hearing and identifying the shape (pitch and rhythm) as the tune emerges. But often it's not even as if I always wait for the A and B parts to be played through once before beginning to play. So that kind've explodes the idea that I could in theory hum or whistle the whole tune before starting to play. Really it's more segmental than that. There are supporting strategies occurring but they're slightly different.

Hope you don't mind the 'hair-splitting', but I feel the need to make that context distinction in regard to playing by ear. Maybe what I'm referring to is better distinguished by sticking to calling it 'picking up tunes on the fly' as I usually do? That phrase does give a sense of the rapidity and urgency. smiley

Edited by - m06 on 10/23/2019 03:59:21

Oct 23, 2019 - 6:23:09 AM

191 posts since 10/9/2017

Mike,

That is exactly right. Brooks is very on point when he says you have know how to hum the tune to be able to play it by ear. I tried it with a song I know well but have never played, “Tom Dooley”, and lo and behold, I knocked out a simple arrangement in five minutes. It wasn’t Frank Profitt, but it was clearly the tune and I could have sung it to that arrangement without beclowning myself. But it’s an arrangement, which is separate from what you, I think rightly, label as “picking up tunes on the fly”.

So what is the skill stack that gets you to that point? I too was at a jam last night. It was more of a learning jam with an excellent local OT fiddler; it was my first time at that particular jam. He led a tune none of us had previously heard. Some of the folks picked it up in seconds. I’m trying to hear I-IV-V and not always getting it.. Even then, I’m really just doing a bum-ditty-drop thumb pattern in the chord shape while some of the other pickers are doing stuff down the neck. It got even worse when he played a tune that everyone else already knew; I was completely at sea (appropriately, the tune was “Sail Away Ladies”).

So what’s the track to get through this?

Oct 23, 2019 - 10:32:25 AM
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867 posts since 8/7/2017

I agree with Mike and Remsleep: I was talking about working out an arrangement at home, not picking up songs on the fly. Some different skills are needed for each.

I have found that, with my experience gained learning songs by ear at home, I've been able to match familiar phrases (ones I've played lots of times before) to pieces of songs I hear when learning a new one. This is sort of like learning on the fly, and came w/o specific practice, sort of a general "I guess I must have learned something useful" skill.

So, maybe one way to teach yourself to learn on the fly would be to just try that while listening to new songs at home. Namely, put the song on repeat, and just do your best to play along. Trying this at home would be psychologically easier for me than trying to do same thing at a live jam :-) I have not actually done this, so take my suggestions with a grain of salt. If it was too frustrating, I'd slow them down before trying it again (to 50-70% of original speed for a regular song, going as slow as 30% of original speed for a really tricky one).

I quit going to jams for several reasons, so have not needed, nor worked on, my on-the-fly skills. My suggestion is an extrapolation of what I do at home.

Hope this helps.

Oct 24, 2019 - 2:23:32 AM
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m06

England

8022 posts since 10/5/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Remsleep

Mike,

That is exactly right. Brooks is very on point when he says you have know how to hum the tune to be able to play it by ear. I tried it with a song I know well but have never played, “Tom Dooley”, and lo and behold, I knocked out a simple arrangement in five minutes. It wasn’t Frank Profitt, but it was clearly the tune and I could have sung it to that arrangement without beclowning myself. But it’s an arrangement, which is separate from what you, I think rightly, label as “picking up tunes on the fly”.

So what is the skill stack that gets you to that point? I too was at a jam last night. It was more of a learning jam with an excellent local OT fiddler; it was my first time at that particular jam. He led a tune none of us had previously heard. Some of the folks picked it up in seconds. I’m trying to hear I-IV-V and not always getting it.. Even then, I’m really just doing a bum-ditty-drop thumb pattern in the chord shape while some of the other pickers are doing stuff down the neck. It got even worse when he played a tune that everyone else already knew; I was completely at sea (appropriately, the tune was “Sail Away Ladies”).

So what’s the track to get through this?


Ok. I can share the processes and how they combine for me to pick up tunes on the fly from the fiddle in a session. It would be sensible for me to say from the outset that this is just my approach. Very likely there are musicians whose thinking and processes differ. But what I do works for me; and from experience I can vouch that it is a skill that can be successfully nurtured in others by those who can do it and are also adept at communication and teaching. I would be interested to read to what extent other musicians approach to picking up tunes on the fly matches or differs from mine.

You ask ‘what’s the track to get through this?’ Firstly, by being at the session you have placed yourself on the right track. Did I ‘practice’ picking up tunes on the fly from recordings at home? Uhhh, not deliberately for that purpose and not in the ‘deadline’ manner that occurs where there is a time imperative. But as all relevant factors no doubt have a bearing I should mention that I have spent (and still spend) a lot of time analysing and transcribing tunes from recordings. It would be odd if that activity didn’t somehow feed in and help me to more quickly identify details of tune shape in a live session.

Later today I’ll create a new topic on picking up tunes on the fly and hope mine and others contributions will help you.

Edited by - m06 on 10/24/2019 02:35:12

Oct 24, 2019 - 2:17:51 PM

Big Ed

USA

9 posts since 4/12/2019

Thanks all - plenty to chew on.

I do feel I have a pretty good ear from playing bass. Pretty well able to sense/hear where the tune is going. On my bass, I can figure out melodies (just can't often play them up to speed for breaks.)

So I can hear and pick out melodies on the banjo. The fingerings just don't make sense to me yet. At my stage, I'm still lacking in my ability to put in pulloffs, hammerons, slides - but that will come. And tabs help w/ that.

I think I DO need to adjust my listening such that I focus on the banjo. For so long I've focussed on the bass, that the chord changes just jump out at me. But when I hear/see a proficient banjo picker, it almost seems like magic, that they are making all of those notes come out with so little apparent effort/movement.

Well under my 10k hours - so I'll just keep at it... There's a local monthly slow jam, so I might start leaving the bass at home and heading over w/ my banjo. I remember each time I started playing more and more advanced jams. I haven't encountered anything quite like that to encourage me to practice and improve!

Oct 27, 2019 - 8:23:07 AM

Big Ed

USA

9 posts since 4/12/2019

Revelation - or confirmation...

At yesterday's jam, a fella brought his new purchase - a really sweet OME custom. At one point I gave it a try on a couple of G tunes - Catfish and I forget what else. They were kind to me and didn't play them QUITE up to speed, tho they WERE somewhat brisk. ;)

That is clearly what I need to do to bring my banjo playing up to speed. It was a bit of work just to play and switch the chords at some speed and at a constant tempo. Adding flourishes and fills, alternating strings, etc took me right to (and at times, over) my personal edge. Reminded me how much my bassplaying improved when I started picking w/ these folk regularly.

Only problem - in summers we play outside at a farmer's market, where there is plenty of room to bring multiple instruments. Yesterday was the final market. Next week, we move into tight "winter's quarters", in a coffee house. Also, the group REALLY appreciates having my bass, so I have to pick my spots where to try out banjo.

But come next spring, when we move back outside, I'll be hauling my bass AND banjo, and working on banjo (at least in the early hours before folk show up...)

Oct 27, 2019 - 1:06:44 PM
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3612 posts since 5/12/2010

You already play bass, so you should have good rhythm and that is the hard part. You just need to keep at it, and you will get there.

It is a fun journey.

Oct 27, 2019 - 4:57:56 PM

5 posts since 10/25/2019

Your first songs should be simple, common, and fun to play. I started with Cripple Creek. Sticking to major tonality helps, and trying to keep with one key allows for you to play multiple songs that are similar.

When I play Cripple Creek (G major), I think of songs that are very similar to it: Georgia Railroad and Shortening Bread. They employ (mostly) the same notes, chords, etc. It means that I don't have to tune between them, most people know them, and I can make them as easy or as complex as I want.

My other suggestion is that you utilize youtube if you don't have someone to help you along. Jamming is great, but listen to the songs and play along to them. Try to develop an ear for the fiddle and guitar and see if you can improvise or develop a part the works with the rest of the band. And never let yourself get frustrated! If you start to feel like the song is too tough, take a break and come back later.

Nov 14, 2019 - 6:38:03 AM

Big Ed

USA

9 posts since 4/12/2019

Well, I've hit upon an immediate plan of action for THIS newbie. It goes like this. Have your banjo-picker be unable to make it for your group's monthly gig at the old folks' home. Agree to put your bass aside and pick up banjo on a couple of fiddle tunes. Then PANIC! :D

Man, at first I thought I'd do a couple of G tunes, then retune, and do a couple of D tunes later on. Even had some breaks worked out for the G tunes (Shake Sugaree and Pig's Foot.) Then, at our last practice, I realized that however solid and fast they were in my living room, they were nowhere near up to speed. Of course, the speed really didn't matter because I crashed and burned any time I tried to do anything other than chord.

So now I'm just going to play chords on 2 D tunes - Winder Slide and Duck River. Just playing chords at some consistent pace is challenge enough. So funny, compared to the confidence w/ which I can pick up bass on just about any song at any pace.

Eager for such a low key opportunity as our monthly gig to try it out in front of a very appreciative and forgiving audience. But MAN! - just another example of the vast chasm between playing by yourself at home, as opposed to playing with others, and yet again - playing out in public.

More than practicing any specific thing or way, forcing myself to step it up to the next levels is having a HUGE impact.

Nov 18, 2019 - 4:54:24 AM

Big Ed

USA

9 posts since 4/12/2019

Well, that was a good progression for me. Getting the heck out of my own living room and playing w/ and in front of other people.

It is hard to overstate the difference betw nailing something down in your living room, and playing it w/ others. By the time our old folks' gig came around, I had reduced it to simply chording behind my fiddle on 2 D tunes. And it went quite well! So, now that I know THAT is possible, ... :D

Nov 18, 2019 - 5:35:22 AM

Eric A

USA

87 posts since 10/15/2019

quote:
Originally posted by BrooksMT



Best process for me: I first learn the melody to hum. Next, I work out a simplified version for banjo (this gets much easier as you get familiar with what frets&strings are needed to produce a desired note, the "ear-2-fingers" connection...maybe learning scales would help here, I've never tried it). Playing a simple version is very gratifying, and fortifies my confidence. Then, after I can play a simple version of the tune, I work on actually Hearing the fancy stuff and figuring out what the musician was doing - this takes years of experience to hear it all and understand what's going on, even for the professionals, so don't beat yourself up if you don't get it all right off the bat. I'll go back over a song I learned several years ago, and be amazed at how much more neat stuff I hear & can add :-)

For me, this is the whole ballgame.  Listen to the tune repeatedly until you are humming it in your sleep.  Then I start putting simple "bum ditty" lyrics to it.  Little or no fancy stuff as of yet.  For me, "Handsome Molly" might go:

Bum ditty bum bum, bum ditty bum bum, bum ditty bum bum, bum ditty bum ditty, bum ditty bum bum, bum ditty bum bum, bum ditty bum bum, bum...

So now I'm singing that in my sleep.  Next, find all that on your banjo, get it up to speed, and then start tossing in the fancy stuff as your spirit moves you.

*in the early stages, I consider even a simple hammer-on to be "fancy stuff"

**With this process, I believe even the most complex tunes can be simplified down to a series of bum's and ditty's.

Edited by - Eric A on 11/18/2019 05:45:26

Nov 18, 2019 - 5:58:01 AM

Eric A

USA

87 posts since 10/15/2019

Too slow to edit, but basically the "fancy stuff" is what you use to turn "bum ditty's" into "bumpa ditty's" or "bumpa dumpa's". That's my own special term I just invented!  "Bumpa Dumpa!" 

I should write a book!

Also, with the fancy stuff, don't over do it.  Who are you trying to impress?  Sometimes less is more.

Edited by - Eric A on 11/18/2019 06:04:38

Nov 18, 2019 - 8:28:20 AM

Big Ed

USA

9 posts since 4/12/2019

So I first touched a banjo 9 months ago, and am at the point where I can accompany folk w/ simple bum-diddies in G/A, C/D, up to about 130.

If it took me 9 mos to get here, how long do you think it will take me before I can add melody/ornamentation? Comfortable with some at home, but when I try them with others or to speed, the wheels fall off.

Where do you think I'll be next summer? (Hoping to get a lot of practice in during this long, dark, cold Midwestern winter!)  

Not trying to impress anyone other than pleasing myself.  But, for example, I play a lot w/ my wife on fiddle.  If I'm only playing the chords and never taking a lead, that's putting a ton of pressure on her to carry the entire load.  Just want to take the occasional lead, and work on drop thumbing and striking different strings reliably.  Plus, my taking a break will allow her to work on HER backup skills.

Edited by - Big Ed on 11/18/2019 08:31:07

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