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May 14, 2021 - 4:15:25 AM

BanjoYeti

Scotland

6 posts since 5/13/2021

Hello :)

So I bought a banjo about two years ago and it collected dust. But I'm now in the mindset to give it another go.

I've watched through Jim Panky's beginner series and found a few songs to learn. I've been practicing daily and been working through you are my sunshine adding a measure a day. What I'm wondering is what kind of time frame should I be aiming for to learn a song?

I tried googling this but kept getting hit with "2000 hours to become proficient in banjo" but I want to know a rough guideline for each song.

I've given myself six weeks for the first one. Memorise the notes then spend the rest getting it up to a decent speed. Is six weeks too long?

Thank you in advance
Ross from Scotland :)

May 14, 2021 - 4:33:44 AM
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57413 posts since 12/14/2005

IF any of my opinions were humble, it would be my humble opinion that the first purpose of the banjo is to share joy.

The people on TV play it the HARD way, specifically to impress the audience.
But, when you're sitting around the campfire with friends and family, they don't give a flying Pooh if you can play like Earl Scruggs, Steve Martin, or Roy Clark.

All they care about is
"Do you know the three or four chords it takes, to play the ten thousand most common songs??"

Those chords, plus a very few basic right hand rolls, will convince NON-players that you are fun to have around.

Welcome to the HangOut, long may she hang!


May 14, 2021 - 4:34:39 AM
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BobbyE

USA

2846 posts since 11/29/2007

Leaning songs is good but you need to take an overall learning approach to the instrument if you want to develop as a better player. Try to find a system that will teach roll patterns, timing, technique, plus a simple song to keep you inspired. Just learning a list of songs is not going to take you where you want to be IMO. At some point you will want to tackle playing with others and that will add on the needed skills such as backup, playing in time with others, etc. Good luck and enjoy the instrument.

Bobby

May 14, 2021 - 4:42:15 AM
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Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

25937 posts since 8/3/2003

The best way to learn the banjo is with a real, live teacher, one-on-one. Someone who can show you what you need to do and critique your picking to alleviate any bad habits you might get. We have a teacher's list located on the left hand side of the page. Under Learn, click on Find a Teacher and use the advanced button to locate a teacher in your area.

If you can't afford/find a teacher in your area, a good beginner instruction book with CD/DVD might be the next best bet. Most will start you off with the basics and get you playing songs fairly quickly.

As far as playing up to speed, don't worry about speed right now, worry about timing, tone and technique. Speed will come as you get more experience and more practice. Trying for speed too soon will lead to sloppy picking.

Whatever you do, try to enjoy your banjo journey.

May 14, 2021 - 5:11:25 AM
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beegee

USA

22376 posts since 7/6/2005

How far is up? How long is a piece of string?
To try to assign a time period to learning is pointless and ultimately frustrating.
Take a tune you know and fit it to the banjo. Take joy in baby steps in learning.
If you approach learning banjo as a chore, I doubt you'll truly enjoy the experience. Each day should be a day of discovery, not a punching of a time-card.

I never teach "songs" or "tunes" without first teaching some basic concepts of chord structures, timing, tempo and basic musical terminology. I teach rolls and phrases and substitution.  After the student understands how music works, learning individual tunes is easier using transportable concepts.

Edited by - beegee on 05/14/2021 05:19:01

May 14, 2021 - 5:46:15 AM
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BanjoYeti

Scotland

6 posts since 5/13/2021

quote:
Originally posted by mike gregory

IF any of my opinions were humble, it would be my humble opinion that the first purpose of the banjo is to share joy.

The people on TV play it the HARD way, specifically to impress the audience.
But, when you're sitting around the campfire with friends and family, they don't give a flying Pooh if you can play like Earl Scruggs, Steve Martin, or Roy Clark.

All they care about is
"Do you know the three or four chords it takes, to play the ten thousand most common songs??"

Those chords, plus a very few basic right hand rolls, will convince NON-players that you are fun to have around.

Welcome to the HangOut, long may she hang!


Although I'm only picking my way slowly through little rolls and practicing my slides, hammer ons and pull offs. It does destress me after a long day at work :)

I remember the exact moment I wanted to play banjo. Obviously you grow up and you know what banjo is like with deliverence, Kermit, Steve Martin etc. I was in a pawn shop and seen one on display. Thought nothing of it and picked a string. 
 

That initial "peeeeooooww" made me so happy!

May 14, 2021 - 5:48:20 AM

BanjoYeti

Scotland

6 posts since 5/13/2021

quote:
Originally posted by BobbyE

Leaning songs is good but you need to take an overall learning approach to the instrument if you want to develop as a better player. Try to find a system that will teach roll patterns, timing, technique, plus a simple song to keep you inspired. Just learning a list of songs is not going to take you where you want to be IMO. At some point you will want to tackle playing with others and that will add on the needed skills such as backup, playing in time with others, etc. Good luck and enjoy the instrument.

Bobby


I see. Big picture material

 

Thanks :)

May 14, 2021 - 6:22:25 AM
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2499 posts since 5/2/2012

You asked about learning that first tune. I took up banjo after I retired. After a short trial with clawhammer, I switched to 2 finger thumb lead. It took me a month to learn and memorize that first tune, which was 8 measures long. I learned the first measure, then the second, then worked on playing those 2 together, added a third measure.... Once I had it memorized I worked on cleaning things up, and on tempo, timing and dynamics. Is 6 weeks too long? It takes....whatever time it takes. The good news, you will learn the second tune faster, the 3rd even faster.... After learning several tunes, I could learn a new one in as little as a week, sometimes only a few days if it was short and simple. Once you've learned that first tune, then maybe the second, it will motivate you to learn chord structure, etc. BTW, after I switched to Scruggs style, I realized I needed to learn some backup, about 6 months in. I don't think it is every too early to work on backup, especially if playing with others is in your future. And one more thing. I played that first song literally every day for year, while I was learning new tunes, then one day it sounded just exactly like it was supposed to. A month to learn, a year to perfect.

May 14, 2021 - 6:39:58 AM

BanjoYeti

Scotland

6 posts since 5/13/2021

quote:
Originally posted by thisoldman

You asked about learning that first tune. I took up banjo after I retired. After a short trial with clawhammer, I switched to 2 finger thumb lead. It took me a month to learn and memorize that first tune, which was 8 measures long. I learned the first measure, then the second, then worked on playing those 2 together, added a third measure.... Once I had it memorized I worked on cleaning things up, and on tempo, timing and dynamics. Is 6 weeks too long? It takes....whatever time it takes. The good news, you will learn the second tune faster, the 3rd even faster.... After learning several tunes, I could learn a new one in as little as a week, sometimes only a few days if it was short and simple. Once you've learned that first tune, then maybe the second, it will motivate you to learn chord structure, etc. BTW, after I switched to Scruggs style, I realized I needed to learn some backup, about 6 months in. I don't think it is every too early to work on backup, especially if playing with others is in your future. And one more thing. I played that first song literally every day for year, while I was learning new tunes, then one day it sounded just exactly like it was supposed to. A month to learn, a year to perfect.


You know I hadn't really thought about back up till today haha 

I will be sure to add that into my learning. A month to learn and a year to perfect sounds fair. 
 

I'm learning in a similar style to you adding measure by measure as I feel comfortable. Thanks for the reply :)

May 14, 2021 - 9:07:46 AM
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57413 posts since 12/14/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Texasbanjo

The best way to learn the banjo is with a real, live teacher, one-on-one. Someone who can show you what you need to do and critique your picking to alleviate any bad habits you might get. We have a teacher's list located on the left hand side of the page. Under Learn, click on Find a Teacher and use the advanced button to locate a teacher in your area.

If you can't afford/find a teacher in your area, a good beginner instruction book with CD/DVD might be the next best bet. Most will start you off with the basics and get you playing songs fairly quickly.

As far as playing up to speed, don't worry about speed right now, worry about timing, tone and technique. Speed will come as you get more experience and more practice. Trying for speed too soon will lead to sloppy picking.

Whatever you do, try to enjoy your banjo journey.


Where ARE you??

May 14, 2021 - 2:08 PM
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4482 posts since 6/30/2020

quote:
Originally posted by BanjoYeti

I've given myself six weeks for the first one. Memorise the notes then spend the rest getting it up to a decent speed. Is six weeks too long?

Thank you in advance
Ross from Scotland :)


Greetings Ross!
Sounds to me like you just want to have a bit of fun without to much messy commitment. 
Six weeks is not too long to spend learning a song, especially for a novice player. 
The key is to take it slowly and develop accuracy and then build up speed. As you start to build speed your best friend will be a metronome which can be purchased cheaply or you can use a phone app. 
In order to get good you have to play the material over and over until you develop muscle memory. 
Take the time to enjoy your musical journey so that you will be encouraged to continue learning songs and having fun. 
Jim Pankey is a great resource and you can also checkout Bill Nesbitt at http://littlerockbanjo.com/ for more free lessons and tabs. 
Good Luck

Edited by - Pick-A-Lick on 05/14/2021 14:11:07

May 14, 2021 - 4:31:46 PM

BanjoYeti

Scotland

6 posts since 5/13/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Pick-A-Lick
quote:
Originally posted by BanjoYeti

I've given myself six weeks for the first one. Memorise the notes then spend the rest getting it up to a decent speed. Is six weeks too long?

Thank you in advance
Ross from Scotland :)


Greetings Ross!
Sounds to me like you just want to have a bit of fun without to much messy commitment. 
Six weeks is not too long to spend learning a song, especially for a novice player. 
The key is to take it slowly and develop accuracy and then build up speed. As you start to build speed your best friend will be a metronome which can be purchased cheaply or you can use a phone app. 
In order to get good you have to play the material over and over until you develop muscle memory. 
Take the time to enjoy your musical journey so that you will be encouraged to continue learning songs and having fun. 
Jim Pankey is a great resource and you can also checkout Bill Nesbitt at http://littlerockbanjo.com/ for more free lessons and tabs. 
Good Luck


I'm learning Bill's you are my sunshine :D I like his style a bit more than Panky because he walks you through the tab. Panky is kind of against tab for beginners haha but still a great teacher. 
 

I know I'm only just starting but see that feeling of when you can do something from memory then you look back like....woah. Feels great. 
 

Bit of fun to learn the ropes then get into the serious stuff down the line. Like chess haha

May 15, 2021 - 3:20:38 AM
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Players Union Member

OM45GE

USA

107070 posts since 11/7/2007

You’ve been given a lot of good suggestions Ross.

I recommend that you stop worrying about how long learning a tune should take and concentrate on learning to play well. When you’re starting out, any tune will take longer to learn because you are learning technique as well as the music itself. As you gain playing skill things will come more quickly.

For what it’s worth, I’m a fairly accomplished player/performer on finger style guitar and banjo with over 50 years playing experience. I’m still learning new material and have arrangements that take me months to learn well enough to perform. I also work continually at refining my playing on music I’ve been playing for decades.

May 15, 2021 - 3:58:54 AM
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Ivor

England

63 posts since 11/18/2020
Online Now

Ross, I followed Jim Pankey’s YouTube series religiously and got three good tunes under my belt and practice an hour a day...I started trying to speed up way too quickly and was making mistakes, so slowed right down and went for accuracy.

Forty odd years ago I used to play pretty good Seeger style on a vintage Barnes & Mullins open back, but Bluegrass on a resonator banjo is entirely different.

Six months in and I’m seeing a real improvement, I think the key is patience and persistence!

May 15, 2021 - 4:53:17 AM

112 posts since 5/21/2020

quote:
Originally posted by BanjoYeti

Hello :)

So I bought a banjo about two years ago and it collected dust. But I'm now in the mindset to give it another go.

I've watched through Jim Panky's beginner series and found a few songs to learn. I've been practicing daily and been working through you are my sunshine adding a measure a day. What I'm wondering is what kind of time frame should I be aiming for to learn a song?

I tried googling this but kept getting hit with "2000 hours to become proficient in banjo" but I want to know a rough guideline for each song.

I've given myself six weeks for the first one. Memorise the notes then spend the rest getting it up to a decent speed. Is six weeks too long?

Thank you in advance
Ross from Scotland :)


Ross check this out https://banjobenclark.com

May 16, 2021 - 3:31:23 AM
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BanjoYeti

Scotland

6 posts since 5/13/2021

Thanks every one for the great advice :)

I'll get to pickin'

May 24, 2021 - 8:05:44 AM
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Bowser

USA

134 posts since 12/30/2020

Im a beginner, whos been playing for about five months now and I'll just give you my perspective or what i like to do.

I spend as much time learning a song as i see fit and then i move on to another song when the urge arises. I may or may not have finished memorizing the song before that. Some songs i seem to be able to memorize in a day or two. Some take a week or more. Some songs im able to play "reasonably well" pretty quickly and some I've been playing for months and am still not happy with it.

Each time i learn a new song i feel like im learning a new tool or technique, and everytime i go back to the song I was previously playing i seem to improve exponentially.

My gf insists on learning one song at a time and trying to get it perfect, before she moves on, doesn't matter how long it takes. I see her logic, but I sort of feel like its slowing her down from learning a lot of new stuff. You can only get so good at a song before you need to improve as an all around player before that song will improve to a high level.

Im a competive powerlifter. My sport is the bench, squat, deadlift. Obviously we train the main lifts which is the three i just mentioned. However, there are also accessory movements that we train to help make those three lifts stronger.

By learning multiple songs/material/licks etc or whatever you feel comfortable with it makes all the previous songs your working on stronger without necessarily even practicing them. At least thats how its working out for me these past 5-6 months. 

Edited by - Bowser on 05/24/2021 08:14:10

May 24, 2021 - 11:47:08 AM
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2484 posts since 4/5/2006

Think of music as a language, Bluegrass as a dialect. The banjo, fiddle, whatever, is your means of speaking that language. Quite possibly, a foreign language at that! 

Regardless of the instrument, learning to play music involves multiple other skills that must be performed simultaneously. One must have a basic understanding of intervals, scales, eye/hand coordination, timing, reading music/tab, not to mention memorization. None of which happens overnight. All of which most take for granted,,,,,until they pick up an instrument. Quite a daunting task, when you stop & think about.  So don't think about it too hard, or you'll end up getting frustrated & quit.

The old school way of teaching music was based on tone, timing, & technique. Songs were simply vehicles, examples to keep the student interested. As progress was made, new techniques, chords & scales, along with a sprinkling of music theory would be introduced via a new song. Baby steps, minimal physical challenges while avoiding information overload.

Now days everyone expects instant gratification. Before you know it, a list of must learn songs manifests.        ROAD BLOCK!         Forget it. Learn to play the simplest, easiest song first, without slowing down to look at either hand. Tone, timing, technique. Next song, new chord, new key, new technique. By the time you have half a dozen songs under your belt, you'll be able to go back & add what you've learned to spice up the first song a little bit.

Find a person to person old school teacher. Don't be too hard on yourself. Enjoy the journey.

   

May 24, 2021 - 1:34:32 PM
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4082 posts since 12/6/2009

Start by learning the simplest songs. The simple songs give incentive to keep going. If you start with complicated stuff you rarely take it very far as there is so much to learn with complicated stuff you lose sight of the fun and satisfaction the banjo provides and it becomes a chore.

Edited by - overhere on 05/24/2021 13:36:21

May 24, 2021 - 2:01:32 PM
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562 posts since 10/4/2018

Stick with the Jim Panky videos. Take your time and get every little bit out of them as possible before moving on. The way he teaches in that series is a great base to build on. If you go through them one by one and truly understand them before moving to the next one, you will develop great skills. The songs he picked to use, each give you a piece of a puzzle that will eventually allow you to play just about any bluegrass song that is in the Scruggs-style repertoire. I suggest you study the videos in order, whether you are interested in a particular song or not, they are designed to give you the necessary tools to pick bluegrass. As far as how long does it take, everyone is different. Stick with Jim Panky, you will learn a lot if you have the necessary discipline to learn on your own. If not, get a live teacher. Good luck.

Edited by - Good Buddy on 05/24/2021 14:03:49

May 24, 2021 - 2:30:17 PM

56 posts since 9/13/2018

A 'Real Live Teacher'.....
Wonderful!! (Seriously) but many of us simply cant afford such luxuries. I feel guilty every time I use free videos such as those of Jim Pankey... And I truly hope such contributors realise the value and joy of their contributions. ... I do try to say!! And again, thank you!!

May 25, 2021 - 5:51:31 AM

cold hands luke

Scotland

22 posts since 4/20/2017

these 2000, 10000, hour practice stats are a sure way to put off a beginner

you can make serious progress an hour a day practice

highly recommend janet davis book for beginners/intermediate

you can't afford a teacher, as a beginner maybe get a couple lesson on setup & how to practice

May 25, 2021 - 7:15:18 AM
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fluxie

UK

14 posts since 11/7/2020

Hi.
I'm a newbie to the banjo, in fact, I'm a newbie to any instrument at the ripe old age of 70.
I started having face-to-face lessons fortnightly at the end of last year, but due to Covid messing things up, I've had 9 lessons to date.
My teacher Joe is fantastic, I consider myself very lucky in finding him.
I try to practice every day doing my homework. I'm doing ok with my rolls, hammer on's and pull-offs, replacing strings, tuning, etc.
I thought I'd crossed a bridge two weeks ago when he gave me "Oh Susanna" to learn....
This week, he "Blew me socks off" when he added the melody and chords... Now I feel that I'm getting somewhere.
I'm in no position to advise any of you guys and gals, and I have no idea how long it would take me to learn a tune, but I sure did need to have face-to-face teaching and I love every minute of it.
Fred.

May 25, 2021 - 5:27:33 PM

331 posts since 2/23/2019

quote:
Originally posted by BanjoYeti

Hello :)

So I bought a banjo about two years ago and it collected dust. But I'm now in the mindset to give it another go.

I've watched through Jim Panky's beginner series and found a few songs to learn. I've been practicing daily and been working through you are my sunshine adding a measure a day. What I'm wondering is what kind of time frame should I be aiming for to learn a song?

I tried googling this but kept getting hit with "2000 hours to become proficient in banjo" but I want to know a rough guideline for each song.

I've given myself six weeks for the first one. Memorise the notes then spend the rest getting it up to a decent speed. Is six weeks too long?

Thank you in advance
Ross from Scotland :)


If I can repeat, plagiarize, or otherwise be redundant in stating anything that anyone else has said without taking the time to read through everyone's replies, I'd recommend not worrying so much on how fast you are and instead worrying about how well you play each note and how well each note is played against a metronome.

If you can play a song with near flawless tone, timing, and clarity at 30 BPM then I'd say that's your best measure of how well you're playing something. Record your play through so that you can listen to it and benchmark it. Then maybe add 5 BPM's to it each day to get it up to a speed that sounds reasonably good, then record that version. Keep benchmarking it as you continue to learn new songs in a similar fashion: play perfectly dog-slow, record, increase speed and re-record, continue learning new songs. 

May 26, 2021 - 7:57:20 AM

112 posts since 5/21/2020

quote:
Originally posted by BanjoYeti

Hello :)

So I bought a banjo about two years ago and it collected dust. But I'm now in the mindset to give it another go.

I've watched through Jim Panky's beginner series and found a few songs to learn. I've been practicing daily and been working through you are my sunshine adding a measure a day. What I'm wondering is what kind of time frame should I be aiming for to learn a song?

I tried googling this but kept getting hit with "2000 hours to become proficient in banjo" but I want to know a rough guideline for each song.

I've given myself six weeks for the first one. Memorise the notes then spend the rest getting it up to a decent speed. Is six weeks too long?

Thank you in advance
Ross from Scotland :)


Hi Ross.

If your looking for banjo classes in Glasgow check this out.

http://gfw.scot/adult-banjo-5-string

Edited by - FenderFred on 05/26/2021 07:57:51

May 26, 2021 - 11:08:07 AM
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11722 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by BanjoYeti

...what kind of time frame should I be aiming for to learn a song?


I agree with everyone who has said there's no particular amount of time it should take to learn a song. I especially agree with JD Jones who equated music to language.

Think of a song as short story -- with a beginning, middle and end. And then think about how you probably learned language, both speaking and reading. Did you begin by learning to tell or read entire stories? Or did you learn words and phrases that you repeated over-and-over until you could form short sentences, assemble them into paragraphs and then maybe a complete story?

Banjo music is the same. The point of learning songs at the outset is not so much to build a list of songs (stories) you can play but to gain the banjo vocabulary of phrases that you can build into longer musical lines (sentences), verses (paragraphs) and whole songs. Every song is full of banjo vocabulary that can be applied to many other songs.

As far as backup and whether learning that had occurred to you, think of backup by its other name: accompaniment. Backup is what you play when you accompany yourself or someone else singing or accompany other players when they're taking their leads or solos. It's been said countless times, but is worth repeating: if you eventually play with others, you will spend far more time playing backup (accompaniment) than solos.

Good luck. Take your time, however long that is.

Edited by - Old Hickory on 05/26/2021 11:08:21

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