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Oct 1, 2022 - 5:51:10 PM

andantino

Canada

65 posts since 12/13/2012

I am just curious how everyone deals with frustration when it comes to learning and playing banjo. I suppose it could apply to any instrument. I've been playing banjo for almost a year now, both clawhammer and some fingerstyle. I've played guitar for years. Lately it seems like I am getting frustrated while playing. I get frustrated with my mistakes, and I actually think the frustration causes me to make more mistakes. Just wondering if anyone has any advice to share on dealing with the more psychological aspects of playing.

Oct 1, 2022 - 6:14:44 PM
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2158 posts since 11/17/2018

Depends on the source of the frustration...

I usually put it aside for a while, and come back to it later.

Oct 1, 2022 - 9:26:23 PM
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6181 posts since 3/11/2006

I'd concentrate on one banjo style at a time. 
 

Don't play any faster than you can without making mistakes. Speed up gradually, but never faster than you can with no mistakes... otherwise you're just practicing mistakes. 
 

Oct 1, 2022 - 9:30:47 PM
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mbanza

USA

2532 posts since 9/16/2007
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Try the ten minute technique. Practice something for ten minutes, then practice something else for ten minutes. Six ten minute sessions will be more productive than a solid hour. If you start making frustrating mistakes, move on to something else: You can always return to it later.

Oct 1, 2022 - 10:17:42 PM
Players Union Member

TN Time

USA

409 posts since 12/6/2021

Like the late PBS TV artist said, "We don't make mistakes, we have happy accidents." In applying this philosophy to the banjo, when a mistake happens, just play through it
I will add a lick or two in the scheme of things and no one is the wiser. Sometimes, practicing a mistake might just be a good thing.
Robert

Oct 1, 2022 - 10:40:52 PM
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doryman

USA

1263 posts since 11/26/2012

After one year, you are now good enough to recognize your mistakes.

Oct 2, 2022 - 1:55:42 AM
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JSB88

UK

386 posts since 3/9/2017

What I do is forget the tune you are getting frustrated with and play something simpler that you enjoy. Go back to the more difficult one next day. If you really can't get something, leave it for a few weeks and just concentrate on practicing your general technique. Another approach, if it is one aspect (I have trouble with hammer on/pull offs with my little [pinky?] finger) is to just do that one thing, over and over, outside the rest if the tune, for as long as I can stand. That may sound contradictory but the first approach I use when the whole tune won't go fluently, or is too fiddly for my current proficiency.

Oct 2, 2022 - 2:12:47 AM
Players Union Member

pickn5

USA

1725 posts since 8/8/2012

When I've been practicing something for a time and it becomes frustrating, I move to something else. The next day, I go back to the thing that was frustrating me and it usually goes much smoother. Learning to play the banjo has taught me some patience, maybe not enough, but some.

Oct 2, 2022 - 3:02:05 AM

210 posts since 8/9/2022

We don’t become adept at anything without making errors in the process.

Maybe if you accept that and smile at the errors as inevitable your frustration will lessen?

An error is different to a ‘block’. If you’re finding that your progress is blocked by something specific that you don’t yet understand then it’s a good idea to have some outside help. Fresh eyes and experience.

Oct 2, 2022 - 3:24:15 AM
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Bill H

USA

2024 posts since 11/7/2010

I think everyone goes through a period like that. You reach a certain plateau that it seems like you can't get beyond. When I was first learning claw hammer, one of the things I did was to try to isolate the stumbling blocks and practice just that lick or phrase for part of my playing time. One of the first issues as I recall was to develop more clarity or accuracy so that I could hit the intended individual string rather than every stroke being a clumsy brush. Each practice session would begin by isolating a particular technique or lick and engaging in repetitive practice with a metronome.

The other thing I found helpful was to simplify the tune I might be working on. If there was a particular place in that tune that jammed me up. I would try to figure out a way around it. Playing a simple version of a tune accurately and in time is better than stumbling over a more embellished or melodic version.

Oct 2, 2022 - 6:14:12 AM

66 posts since 10/23/2021

Are you playing too fast maybe, or tunes that are technically a bit too difficult? I found when I was playing the piano it was usually a combination of those two things that made me make mistakes [and I eventually stopped playing completely].

And yeah, the frustration is really hard to deal with because you're thinking 'I should be able to play this' or 'I've played this before without making a mistake so why am I doing it now?'.

Even worse was making a different mistake in a different place every time you played through something. I also found repeating the same thing constantly made mistakes more likely as I'd mentally switched off from it.

Unfortunately I think it comes with the territory of learning anything, and mistakes are inevitable. Even the greatest players make mistakes! What matters is how you push through it. I think having realistic expectations play a big part though and being able to cut yourself some slack.

Oct 2, 2022 - 9:07:07 AM

2938 posts since 5/2/2012

Sometimes I have my "A" game on, sometimes "B" days. On those "B" days I go for something simpler, cut back on practice time, or sometimes I put the banjo aside for another day. I'm sure even the pros make mistakes, and play on like "I meant to do that".

Oct 2, 2022 - 10:13:55 AM
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35 posts since 12/9/2021

Slow down.
Concentrate on some basics..
Solid rhythm, pure notes good meter etc..

This will lead you to other areas.

Oct 2, 2022 - 2:03:05 PM
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Players Union Member

Helix

USA

16104 posts since 8/30/2006

Give us an example. Audio

Oct 3, 2022 - 6:55:53 PM
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andantino

Canada

65 posts since 12/13/2012

Thanks for the replies folks. Yeah, I think I need to slow down some aspects of my playing. Not necessarily the speed at which I play but the speed at which I attempt to learn things. The effort is there with me, but I have always been terrible at focusing on one thing at a time. I really have to work on my patience. I am pretty scatterbrained. I find a lot of the mistakes I am making are mental, too. I am not that old. I'm in my forties, but sometimes it seems like I am making mental errors I never would have in the past.

I am a bit shy right now to post a recording.

Oct 4, 2022 - 12:12:23 AM

1038 posts since 6/25/2006

Try not to get frustrated with 'mistakes', it's just part of learning. I can sound pretty terrible when I'm learning something but that is part of the process. There is a difference between practicing and performance. Performance might be being able to play a tune through cleanly (having a recording goal is good for motivation) or be able to play it in a jam or perform for someone-else (everything else is hidden from view!) The other thing to say is that if I was in a jam, I would play through mistakes but at home, I stop and work on them.

Oct 4, 2022 - 1:23:28 AM

210 posts since 8/9/2022

quote:
Originally posted by andantino


>I am pretty scatterbrained. I find a lot of the mistakes I am making are mental, too. I am not that old. I'm in my forties, but sometimes it seems like I am making mental errors I never would have in the past<
 


We're not fixed in our mental capacity; our brain is plastic and adaptable to new demands. Learning to play music means your brain is making new neural connections at a rate of knots. Literally reshaping your brain connectivity to give you the brain you require.

You're growing a banjo brain. Go with it!

Oct 4, 2022 - 7:09:54 AM

85 posts since 3/15/2020

It has been and still is a journey of highs and lows but i just keep trying to learn and ad licks and phrases and chord shapes and changes each week or month to my memory bank. It takes some only a year and some many years and i have accepted that. Worst thing to do is compare your level to somebody else that posted a video that this is their 19th day of playing clawhammer and they are smoking soldiers joy like a seasoned pro with hammers,slides,chord changes up to speed and no mistakes! Go your own speed and just do you and you will get there!

Oct 4, 2022 - 7:35:31 PM
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1319 posts since 8/7/2017

Two tips:
1. If you are having trouble with a particular bit of the song - Stop playing the song, and just play the hard bit. Play slow enough that you can play it *perfectly*. Play just the bit 3 perfect times, then Quit playing banjo...no cheating by playing another song before quitting. The Perfect and the Quit are key. You need to leave your brain alone to let it consolidate the perfectly played hard bit into your automatic memory. Much learning of the "move it into automatic mode" happens at night when you sleep. So practice right before bedtime can be especially productive. My experience - the next day, when I play the song, is that I breeze right thru the hard bit, and afterwards think "how did that happen?" ....well this has happened so many times over the past 7 years of learning banjo, there is no doubt what's happening - my brain learned it while I was not playing banjo. Our brains are capable of amazing skills, if you don't get in the way.

2. Read and study the "Laws of Brainjo" written by Josh Turknett, frequent contributor and teacher on BanjoHangOut. The Laws are info dense, I could only read 1 or two at a time to get max benefit from them. There are 30+ Laws, each of value. They form a shortcut to attaining mastery of banjo (or any instrument, I imagine).

clawhammerbanjo.net/the-immuta...practice/

Hope this helps.

Oct 5, 2022 - 8:41:54 PM
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Paul R

Canada

16251 posts since 1/28/2010

quote:
Originally posted by andantino

Thanks for the replies folks. Yeah, I think I need to slow down some aspects of my playing. Not necessarily the speed at which I play but the speed at which I attempt to learn things. The effort is there with me, but I have always been terrible at focusing on one thing at a time. I really have to work on my patience. I am pretty scatterbrained. I find a lot of the mistakes I am making are mental, too. I am not that old. I'm in my forties, but sometimes it seems like I am making mental errors I never would have in the past.

I am a bit shy right now to post a recording.


Just like my problem with painting - more focused on the finished product than with the process. You seem to have identified your problem. Focus on the learning, the process, not the outcome. That will come in time. Take the time.

Oct 6, 2022 - 2:23:43 PM
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1478 posts since 11/18/2003

quote:
Originally posted by BrooksMT

Two tips:
1. If you are having trouble with a particular bit of the song - Stop playing the song, and just play the hard bit. Play slow enough that you can play it *perfectly*. Play just the bit 3 perfect times, then Quit playing banjo...no cheating by playing another song before quitting. The Perfect and the Quit are key. You need to leave your brain alone to let it consolidate the perfectly played hard bit into your automatic memory. Much learning of the "move it into automatic mode" happens at night when you sleep. So practice right before bedtime can be especially productive. My experience - the next day, when I play the song, is that I breeze right thru the hard bit, and afterwards think "how did that happen?" ....well this has happened so many times over the past 7 years of learning banjo, there is no doubt what's happening - my brain learned it while I was not playing banjo. Our brains are capable of amazing skills, if you don't get in the way.

2. Read and study the "Laws of Brainjo" written by Josh Turknett, frequent contributor and teacher on BanjoHangOut. The Laws are info dense, I could only read 1 or two at a time to get max benefit from them. There are 30+ Laws, each of value. They form a shortcut to attaining mastery of banjo (or any instrument, I imagine).

clawhammerbanjo.net/the-immuta...practice/

Hope this helps.


Thanks Brooks, I really appreciate this. 

I did a Brainjo Bite episode specifically on the topic of frustration (a ubiquitous issue!), which may by helpful:

Oct 9, 2022 - 10:27:11 PM

648 posts since 2/5/2014

I was told when I first started hanging out here, not to learn Scruggs style and clawhammer at the same time, or your head will explode. I kid you not!
After playing three finger for 5 years, I picked up my guitar again and practiced it for 3 years. Only now have I begun to learn clawhammer, and this afternoon I really had a bit of fun with it.

Good luck!

Oct 11, 2022 - 4:59:09 AM

5991 posts since 12/20/2005

If you have come to this point, learning 2 styles simultaneously, which require totally opposite right hand technique, in the time frame of one year, that is remarkable.
I have noticed, frustration often precedes a breakthrough.

Oct 17, 2022 - 12:05:36 PM

andantino

Canada

65 posts since 12/13/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Leslie R

If you have come to this point, learning 2 styles simultaneously, which require totally opposite right hand technique, in the time frame of one year, that is remarkable.
I have noticed, frustration often precedes a breakthrough.


 

I owned a banjo for a year once before. This was about 10 years ago now, I think. I did learn some clawhammer then, and while 9 to 10 years is a long hiatus I was able to pick up the basic technique again more quickly than I did years ago. I also played guitar all my life and a lot of fingerstyle on acoustic. I wouldn't say playing fingerstyle guitar means you can play it on the banjo. It's so different. One major thing I notice about fingerstyle on a banjo is the pattern shifts  are so frequent that it sort of boggles the mind. That combined with the way music is arranged on the banjo just seems to confirm what someone else said before about "growing a banjo brain". There is definitely a banjo brain. And it's weird unconventional brain. But yeah I already have a general experience with using fingers on a fretted instrument. So while it's very different, it's not entirely foreign. I mean I think you definitely have an initial advantage over someone who has never played an instrument.

But in general, even with guitar, I have had some really bad habits. I have always pushed myself too fast. I am scatterbrained and it's almost painful for me to do one thing for any amount of time. So I tend to work on more songs than I should. I have been trying to slow myself down. But now I am finding that I am messing stuff up more than usual. Like it takes me longer to learn things, and I've started making more brainfart kind of mistakes. This is kind of adding to my frustration.

Edited by - andantino on 10/17/2022 12:08:31

Oct 22, 2022 - 1:42:36 PM
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384 posts since 8/11/2007

quote:
Originally posted by andantino

I am just curious how everyone deals with frustration when it comes to learning and playing banjo. I suppose it could apply to any instrument. I've been playing banjo for almost a year now, both clawhammer and some fingerstyle. I've played guitar for years. Lately it seems like I am getting frustrated while playing. I get frustrated with my mistakes, and I actually think the frustration causes me to make more mistakes. Just wondering if anyone has any advice to share on dealing with the more psychological aspects of playing.


Drugs and alcohol.

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