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Jan 24, 2021 - 12:27:36 PM
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278 posts since 2/23/2019

Just curious what others' opinions are on deciding what to practice and how much to keep in a regular practice rotation. I have about 70-80 songs that I've learned and practiced regularly but have decided to stop practicing the songs that I don't like playing anymore. I've gotten down to about 40 songs with that rationale. A lot of the songs that I've dropped were basically songs that my instructor said I should learn e.g. Bluegrass standards, etc., and the songs I'm keeping were songs I requested or learned on my own. I figured if I ever need to play them again then I can just listen to my recordings of them and re-learn. I'm coming from the perspective of a hobbyist banjo player who doesn't play with others in a band or jam and probably will not for a long while.

I'm toying with the idea of just practicing my 10 or so favorite songs with the idea that they bring the most happiness to my life (but still learn new songs as they come). Thoughts on that would be appreciated as well.

Jan 24, 2021 - 1:33:48 PM
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Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

25515 posts since 8/3/2003

If you're not going to be playing in jams and/or in a band, then practice/play what you like.

I tend to play vocals and sing along with my banjo and my band in a box because that's what makes me happy and I'm no longer in a band or in a jam group.

I decided the other day to try to revisit all my instrumentals and was in for somewhat of a shock. I'd forgotten some of them completely and others I couldn't pick as fast as I once did. Not surprise on that part, but it was somewhat disheartening. So now I'm working on at least getting them back in memory, if not back in a fast tempo.

Just remember if you don't play songs for a while, you lose both memory and speed, so you might want to revisit some of those songs occasionally just so you can keep them fresh.

I still learn new songs if I hear something I like. If it works out and I like it, I keep it. Otherwise? I just discard it. No use working on something you don't like or won't ever use.

Just my 2 cents worth.

Jan 24, 2021 - 1:50:55 PM

3526 posts since 7/12/2006

it really depends on what techniques you know vs. what you dont know but want to know.

Jan 24, 2021 - 2:48:44 PM

2538 posts since 2/10/2013

The opposite thing happened to me. But I also started working new tunes and playing techniques into my repertoire practice. Earlier I noticed that regular tunes weren't be played as well when they weren't played on a regular basis. Some things have to practiced separately, but I am making an effort to reduce the amount of time I do this.

Jan 24, 2021 - 5:25:03 PM

278 posts since 2/23/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Texasbanjo

If you're not going to be playing in jams and/or in a band, then practice/play what you like.

I tend to play vocals and sing along with my banjo and my band in a box because that's what makes me happy and I'm no longer in a band or in a jam group.

I decided the other day to try to revisit all my instrumentals and was in for somewhat of a shock. I'd forgotten some of them completely and others I couldn't pick as fast as I once did. Not surprise on that part, but it was somewhat disheartening. So now I'm working on at least getting them back in memory, if not back in a fast tempo.

Just remember if you don't play songs for a while, you lose both memory and speed, so you might want to revisit some of those songs occasionally just so you can keep them fresh.

I still learn new songs if I hear something I like. If it works out and I like it, I keep it. Otherwise? I just discard it. No use working on something you don't like or won't ever use.

Just my 2 cents worth.


Great advice/recommendations, and I might give someone who sounds like they got years of experience a little more than 2 cents, lol. Good tips on what happens when not playing songs. I kind of feel like I'm saying good bye to certain songs in my rotation even though I don't really like playing them but I've been focusing more on classical and melodic pieces that I enjoy a lot more lately and really want to focus on that for awhile. Still keeping some bluegrass, but I feel like the majority of my bluegrass songs are best played in a jam environment. Oh and yes old time songs where I can sing along, getting into that a bit more, realizing that I need vocal tabs and not lead break tabs was a big ah ha moment recently, lol. 

Jan 24, 2021 - 8:51:42 PM

Bowser

USA

64 posts since 12/30/2020

Out of curiosity do you spend time making up your own songs?

Jan 25, 2021 - 2:37:39 AM
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66 posts since 5/21/2020

quote:
Originally posted by dan_the_man

Just curious what others' opinions are on deciding what to practice and how much to keep in a regular practice rotation. I have about 70-80 songs that I've learned and practiced regularly but have decided to stop practicing the songs that I don't like playing anymore. I've gotten down to about 40 songs with that rationale. A lot of the songs that I've dropped were basically songs that my instructor said I should learn e.g. Bluegrass standards, etc., and the songs I'm keeping were songs I requested or learned on my own. I figured if I ever need to play them again then I can just listen to my recordings of them and re-learn. I'm coming from the perspective of a hobbyist banjo player who doesn't play with others in a band or jam and probably will not for a long while.

I'm toying with the idea of just practicing my 10 or so favorite songs with the idea that they bring the most happiness to my life (but still learn new songs as they come). Thoughts on that would be appreciated as well.


Sounds like you have a plan. Over the years I've learned a lot of tunes which i rarely play now. However the playing skills I learned whilst learning these tunes I still use every day. I am constantly adding knowledge, building on the skills I know as I learn new tunes. I try to keep my favorite tunes in my head and practice them when the mood takes me.

If there is a skill that constantly needs polishing & practice then I would say the Pull Off is the one I would single out for the most attention. But practicing pull offs for 15 minutes each day like playing the same tune over and over can become a drag. So check out this little exercise that's fun to learn and I am pretty confident will encourage you to practice.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cA15RX6j1lY   

Edited by - FenderFred on 01/25/2021 02:39:58

Jan 25, 2021 - 2:53:20 AM

3895 posts since 12/6/2009

If you have learned to play 70 or 80 songs.....I'd say you could practice what ever you want to.....or give us a list of those songs and maybe we could suggest a few here and there you didnt learn and need to. lol

Jan 25, 2021 - 4:31:24 AM

278 posts since 2/23/2019

Bowser I make my own songs for my 2 yo but haven't put them to the banjo yet. Not sure I'd get much enjoyment from writing my own banjo songs honestly. I'm having too much fun learning songs I know or want to learn.

FenderFred - thanks for tip on PO exercises, that looks fun and will have to try

Jan 25, 2021 - 7:13:41 AM

1105 posts since 6/17/2003

i just play for my own enjoyment so no band deadlines to worry about. I try to play at least an hour a day. More on my off time (the weekends).

Jan 25, 2021 - 7:47:24 AM
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phb

Germany

2444 posts since 11/8/2010

When I started playing banjo, I "collected" songs or rather pre-arranged breaks to songs. I never got to 70 or 80 songs but at some point in time I concluded it would be easier to learn to improvise than to memorise more songs. I succeeded in forgetting all the songs I had memorised. Still working on the improvising part...

Edited by - phb on 01/25/2021 07:47:47

Jan 25, 2021 - 8:55:23 AM
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278 posts since 2/23/2019

quote:
Originally posted by phb

When I started playing banjo, I "collected" songs or rather pre-arranged breaks to songs. I never got to 70 or 80 songs but at some point in time I concluded it would be easier to learn to improvise than to memorise more songs. I succeeded in forgetting all the songs I had memorised. Still working on the improvising part...


Lol mission halfway accomplished! Yeah I think I'm done collecting songs and would rather exploit the songs I really like the most. 

Jan 25, 2021 - 10:11:19 AM
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2400 posts since 5/2/2012

Play whatever brings you joy. When I switched over to Scruggs style I learned a bunch of BG songs. I worked at and memorized something like 25-30 tunes, but I was having problems getting motivated to learn more. I like variey, so I also dabbled in backup, up the neck, and simple improvising. But it wasn't until I found Tony Ellis' tunes that I really found my niche. A lot of old time type tunes, some bluegrass. Very melody driven arrangements, and many are written to convey different moods. I also enjoy playing fiddle/melodic tunes, as I can hear the melody even when I play at my moderate pace. I recently got Eddie Collins' arrangements of fiddle tunes and I am having a blast playing those tunes. I play for my own enjoyment, and Tony's music fits the bill and keeps me motivated. At 74, I don't have a goal of memorizing a bunch of tunes. Rather, I have a substantial number of tunes that I play with tab in front of me that I have mostly memorized -- the tab serves as a backup, so to speak. I still rotate BG tunes, backup, up the neck, and simple improvisation into my practice once in awhile. But playing those Ellis (and fiddle) tunes is what gets me opening that banjo case (almost) daily.

Edited by - thisoldman on 01/25/2021 10:12:57

Jan 25, 2021 - 11:10:29 AM
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Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

25515 posts since 8/3/2003

Dan, I got the the place where playing just bluegrass didn't satisfy me. I checked out melodic playing, delved into old time rock n roll and pop songs, found I loved playing gospel songs, worked on a few classical pieces, liked old time country songs. I also found that I had a voice and that really changed my outlook. Not only could I play breaks to songs I loved, I could also sing lead and learned to sing harmony. Then I learned to play guitar and mandolin, bass and dobro and even picked up the autoharp. Seems like the more you learn, the more you want to learn, or that's the way it was for me.

As thisoldman said: whatever brings you joy, whatever gets you motivated to learn more, go for.

Jan 26, 2021 - 4:21:50 PM

278 posts since 2/23/2019

Thanks for recommendations. Yes I think the emphatic answer is “whatever I enjoy”. I think I’m going to continue to scale down and just get really good at playing the songs I really like for now.

Jan 27, 2021 - 2:43:18 AM

phb

Germany

2444 posts since 11/8/2010

Do you play with backing tracks?

Jan 27, 2021 - 10:21:48 AM
Players Union Member

rvrose

USA

779 posts since 6/29/2007

I put priority on the songs that we do in gigs or jams that are also the hardest for me to play. That way I get lot's of the basics covered ie. slides,hammer-ons,pulloffs,chokes and chimes.

Rick

Jan 27, 2021 - 12:00:53 PM
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chief3

Canada

1116 posts since 10/26/2003

I remember reading an interview with Bela Fleck where he was asked the question, do you practice tunes/songs or technique and he answered always technique, which makes sense. Bluegrass banjo, especially Scruggs style, includes lots of improvisation where rolls are substituted, licks that imply the melody are are changed up, passing chords and substitute chords are inserted, etc. If you have the technique to pull it off, it makes improvisation a lot easier. Some songs/tunes are typically played a standard way but they don't have to be played that way because the melody is often implied and if you enjoy improvisation and the creativity it allows, then having the technique to pull it off means you can play many more songs/tunes without necessarily having to memorize them.

Jan 27, 2021 - 8:39:37 PM

5917 posts since 10/13/2007

i lIke playing backup with cds.
ken

Jan 29, 2021 - 7:18:28 AM
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2538 posts since 2/10/2013

I wouldn't look at options as "or" situations. I would try any darn thing that I enjoyed or would improve my playing. Your choice doesn't have to be exclusively tab or "ear", or the use of or avoiding learning music theory. Try everything. Don't look back years from now and think "I should have ....". You can learn by using tab. But after you learn a tune from tab, you play by "ear" and the version you play improves as you improve. As individuals playing skill improve and they learn, their ability to play by "ear" improves. Learning basic music theory, things like the chromatic scale/basic scale and chord theory, provide knowledge that will help a person play more effectively.

People say they don't know enough music theory to "hurt" their playing. I don't understand that statement. If a person is ignorant of certain knowledge, how can they know that having this knowledge would be a hinderance ?

Jan 29, 2021 - 4:14:01 PM

278 posts since 2/23/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Richard Hauser

I wouldn't look at options as "or" situations. I would try any darn thing that I enjoyed or would improve my playing. Your choice doesn't have to be exclusively tab or "ear", or the use of or avoiding learning music theory. Try everything. Don't look back years from now and think "I should have ....". You can learn by using tab. But after you learn a tune from tab, you play by "ear" and the version you play improves as you improve. As individuals playing skill improve and they learn, their ability to play by "ear" improves. Learning basic music theory, things like the chromatic scale/basic scale and chord theory, provide knowledge that will help a person play more effectively.

People say they don't know enough music theory to "hurt" their playing. I don't understand that statement. If a person is ignorant of certain knowledge, how can they know that having this knowledge would be a hinderance ?


Great points. I like to learn from tab still but will listen to a song first to make sure I know it and then record myself playing the first chance I get so that I can just listen to my song if I forget it down the road. I've also semi-successfully learned songs by ear by hunting for the notes and writing them down, though it takes substantially longer for me to learn using this method just because I have to slow every few seconds down in a song just to figure out what's being played. I've taught myself basic music theory, mainly using other people's knowledge and replies from this forum and then focused study through the interwebs as needed. I am really glad I've studied what I did as it applies to facets of my playing to one degree or another. 

Listening to my playing definitely does improve as I improve, like hearing a note or chord not being held for as long as it could be before moving on. I like to video record myself so that I can both listen and critique my fingering as well as see all my random facial ticks and try to get better at them, lol. 

I've been focusing on my classical pieces lately but still enjoy playing certain bluegrass and melodic tunes as well, such as Cluck Ole Hen, John Henry, Turkey in the Straw, Sweet Dixie, Clinch Mountain Backstep. It's hard to figure out what exactly in the bluegrass world I like playing and what I don't like. Often times I'll like one of Scruggs songs a lot but don't love playing it, like Fireball Mail or Pike Country Breakdown. Or maybe it's because bluegrass songs seem like they end before they get started whereas classical pieces can go on for several minutes. 

Jan 31, 2021 - 12:59:23 PM

12 posts since 10/1/2020

I never had to pay for lessons on guitar. A Bob Dylan song book and a desire to be like John Lennon I learned to read where to put my fingers. Bout 50 years later I find a long lost banjo and bring it to a banjo guy. Well this banjo guy is an absolute diamond in the rough. The whole community is. Twice a month I drive to his music store for lessons. I'll never play like Earl but I do want to look as smooth as Lester on stage.

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