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Dec 2, 2022 - 10:52:53 AM
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24 posts since 12/27/2015

I hope this is the right forum.
I’ve been playing the 5 string for some time. I’m always learning new songs and working on/improving old ones. I looked at my rather large music stand yesterday and there must have been at least 10 different sheets of tab on it, some old some new.
I’m just curious how others of you out there practice. One song at a time? Several at a time? Old and new in one setting? Or something else?
Thanks

Dec 2, 2022 - 11:32:47 AM
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leehar

USA

193 posts since 2/18/2018

Please don’t take this as an insult but if you’ve been playing banjo “for some time” you probably should consider getting away from tablature. Train your ear to pick up on chord changes and look for parts of the song that sound similar to other songs you already know. Then you can piece together a solo or two that will be your own rendition of the new song. I think some people begin to believe that if they can’t get a tab for the song they can’t learn it. When you’ve put the song together yourself it will be easier to remember. When you’ve developed this technique it will also be easier to improvise on a song you’ve never played before which comes in real handy in a jam situation.

Dec 2, 2022 - 11:38:26 AM
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ChunoTheDog

Canada

2038 posts since 8/9/2019

I was going to post as well.... I never print out tabs nor keep them on the music stand.

Once I get a feel for a tune I toss out the tab.

Dec 2, 2022 - 12:22:18 PM
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Players Union Member

Foote

USA

635 posts since 3/25/2009

I've mostly used tabs to learn tunes, but get away from them as soon as I get the tune to memory. I'm a three finger Scruggs player. If it's a bluegrass break, I often approach it like the above members suggest. I try to figure it out by ear first and then refer to a tab if available for specific problem areas or licks I like. If its a fiddle tune or a Celtic one (my current obsession) I will learn the tab note for note as it usually is the melody. I might adapt or alter sections, but I will keep the tab for future reference in case I forget it. The goal on all of it is to get it in muscle memory so you can play it whenever without tab or much thought. I'm 75 and still learning. As to your question, I have one new one I'm working on while a list of the most recent to go back a review/refresh.

Dec 2, 2022 - 2:31:36 PM
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cevant

USA

349 posts since 2/5/2020

I keep playlists of all the tunes I know, or wanna know.... by key. So I have a key of A playlist with maybe 40 tunes all in A. I just let it play and play along with it. Next day switch to the D playlist, etc. Amazing Slow Downer is a good app too that lets you build playlists and then loop tunes, or parts of tunes that you want to work on.  I don't use tabs much anymore, and would much rather watch a video of someone else playing the tune. Seems like after a while you can kinda hear what's going on. 

Edited by - cevant on 12/02/2022 14:35:50

Dec 2, 2022 - 3:31:50 PM
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Players Union Member

Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

28235 posts since 8/3/2003

Any way that keeps you interested is what works for you.

When I practice, I start out with warmup exercises to get the old fingers moving. Then, if I have a new song to learn, I listen to the melody, figure out the key and chord sequence and then figure out a break. After that, I usually practice on some of the old songs that I know, working on any problem areas or changing them where they are easier to do.

I used to tell my students to break it down in to sections such as:
1. warm up with techniques, rolls, licks you need to work on
2. work on new song(s)
3. play through songs you know
4. Noodle, try to work out a tune or figure out a new lick or do whatever you want.

That might not work for everyone, but it worked pretty good for most of my students.

Dec 2, 2022 - 3:48:58 PM
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77162 posts since 5/9/2007

I found myself playing the same 10 tunes every time I sat down to practice.Nice tunes and kept me warmed up for playing in general,but it was becoming boring.
I took some time and wrote out a playlist of tunes as they occurred to me and after a few days of adding onto it had a good amount of choices.

The list can include favorites along with works in progress.
I can't think of all those things whenever I practice,but the list helps to match how I feel like playing at that moment.

Dec 2, 2022 - 6:14:45 PM
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2115 posts since 1/28/2013

For traditional Scruggs style Bluegrass you can get away with it, because most of the time all the songs have the same breaks, kick offs, tags, endings, chord shapes, and right hand techniques, etc. all you are doing is mixing them up for different songs. But with other styles like Celtic, Irish, Classical, Rock, Pop etc. most of the songs require different picking patterns, left hand fretting techniques, timing, melodic runs. One genre is not played the same as another. You need to do a lot more memorizing of the songs individually.

Dec 3, 2022 - 3:36:35 AM
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Bill H

USA

2064 posts since 11/7/2010

I play with two groups, both led by traditional New England dance fiddlers, so I am always working on two or three new tunes every week. Then I give some time to recent tunes as well as working on technique and some Scruggs tunes. The dance fiddlers play lots of jigs in 6/8, as well as waltzes in odd keys which I find hard, but also interesting. It forces one to learn the fretboard and to use all kinds of right-hand patterns, like single string and inside rolls.

I almost always use tab, but tab that I write myself. It forces me to work out chords all over the neck as well as mapping the right hand finger patterns. If I don't write out each tune, a year later I forget how they go. Playing by ear is great for learning some three chord fiddle tunes or country songs, but for playing tunes with lots of minor chords in keys like F or Bm, I am lost without writing out each measure.

Dec 3, 2022 - 5:16:40 AM
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24 posts since 12/27/2015

Thanks everyone for your responses.
I’m glad this didn’t turn into yet another discussion about whether we should or shouldn’t be using tab.
Texasbanjo, I liked your opening remark. “Any way that keeps you interested is what works for you.”

Dec 3, 2022 - 6:17:10 AM
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Greg Denton

Canada

98 posts since 10/5/2014

quote:
Originally posted by Texasbanjo

Any way that keeps you interested is what works for you.

When I practice, I start out with warmup exercises to get the old fingers moving. Then, if I have a new song to learn, I listen to the melody, figure out the key and chord sequence and then figure out a break. After that, I usually practice on some of the old songs that I know, working on any problem areas or changing them where they are easier to do.

I used to tell my students to break it down in to sections such as:
1. warm up with techniques, rolls, licks you need to work on
2. work on new song(s)
3. play through songs you know
4. Noodle, try to work out a tune or figure out a new lick or do whatever you want.

That might not work for everyone, but it worked pretty good for most of my students.


I share this approach. 1) Warm up with basic skills. 2) learn something new (songs/licks/etc - which usually involves trying to memorize from tabs or notation and not sight-read, or piece together by ear). 3) work on maintaining skills, licks, or some repertoire (trying to keep things in rotation). 4) Noodling, exploring, composing & creating, applying theory, just getting curious.

Dec 3, 2022 - 7:18:59 AM
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77162 posts since 5/9/2007

Concerning fiddle tunes I need to play them regularly to stay comfortable with them.That's one of the important things of keeping a list.So as not to lose track of some of them.
I stopped with 80 tunes on this list and play through it weekly,keeping track of where I left off and picking it up from there the next day.

Of course new ideas find their way into most practices.Bits and pieces of new tunes lead me off on other tangents.

Dec 3, 2022 - 8:49:24 AM
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3940 posts since 7/12/2006

If you are tring to build up a repertoire of songs the quickest way is to learn songs that use same or similar chord progressions. Youll be surprised to see how many songs sound completely different but have same chord changes

Dec 3, 2022 - 12:14:58 PM
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77162 posts since 5/9/2007

quote:
Originally posted by leehar

Please don’t take this as an insult but if you’ve been playing banjo “for some time” you probably should consider getting away from tablature. Train your ear to pick up on chord changes and look for parts of the song that sound similar to other songs you already know. Then you can piece together a solo or two that will be your own rendition of the new song. I think some people begin to believe that if they can’t get a tab for the song they can’t learn it. When you’ve put the song together yourself it will be easier to remember. When you’ve developed this technique it will also be easier to improvise on a song you’ve never played before which comes in real handy in a jam situation.


There are many reasons to use tab all your life.

If someone wants me to record Grey Eagle in a couple of days I would be poring over Butch Robins' version in conjunction with the tab.Saves a lot of time learning the 4 parts quickly.Tab also helped me straighten out the parts in Huckleberry Hornpipe.

I never play something exactly as written in tabs.It becomes "mine" as I play it over and over again.

I've been reading tabs since the 70s and have no reason to stop.Great time-saver for upcoming projects concerning difficult tunes.

Dec 3, 2022 - 1:53:21 PM
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Players Union Member

TN Time

USA

452 posts since 12/6/2021

How do I practice? I'm closely approaching 72 years of age. When I "practice" I just sit down and start to play. No real rhyme or reason and no planned or structured practice. (I may be a better player if I did adhere to a more structured practice). I now only play at an open mic and at the occasional jam. I live between two mountains out in the wilderness so I usually sit on the porch and play to all the wild critters who live there. My playing has attracted wild turkeys, bobcats, deer, hummingbirds, and the occasional black bear. I have even had bees hover just a few inches in front of my face and would hover there until I stopped playing.

To learn a new song I don't use any tab. I just play what sounds right to me. I will occasionally watch a video maybe just to get an idea of something I may want to add, but that's it. I don't advise the OP to "practice" like me, but he asked how we practice and that's my version.
Robert

Dec 3, 2022 - 2:38:18 PM
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24 posts since 12/27/2015

Robert…
WOW!
That’s what I’m talking about.
You my friend are blessed.
Thanks for sharing.

Dec 3, 2022 - 3:12:27 PM
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378 posts since 11/10/2022

My grandad could whistle a tune and play it by ear on his Martin. I cannot and spent years learning how to read sheet music since the age of 8. I practiced and still practice soo much that I can read sheet music two measures ahead and generally play the song right by the 20th attempt WITH THE INSTRUMENTS IVE MASTERED. I just started banjo but can generally play quarter time first try. Hopefully in a year full time like my other instruments.

I didnt learn tabs until my 20s and only because downloadable modern music is always tabs. It took me years to use tabs as efficiently as classical notation.

I play many, many songs on stage where sheet music would get bottles thrown, but only after 100 or sometimes 200 hours of practice to committ to memory....I envy drummers

So my method is how most band teachers work...learn to read music and translate to your instrument in real time. Boring, millions do it, effective

It definitely helps having the tune on an mp3 to play along with too!

Dec 3, 2022 - 7:00:46 PM
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3022 posts since 4/5/2006

I have been at this for a very long time. Except for mastering speed reading sheet music, I've done everything the rest have, & maybe then some. I used to write out tablature, long hand, often writing in different licks or phrases, like regular music writes alternate endings, just for reference. You can go batty, beating your head against the wall , trying to figure this stuff out all by your lonesome.

If you find yourself becoming bored with whatever your practice routine involves, get out of the house & find someone to jam with!  If at first you don't succeed, keep trying!  Sometimes it takes a while to find the right match.  Could be you're looking in all the wrong places. Maybe because you don't know any better?   BTDT. Hint, Guitar Center is a good example of not the right place. surprise

On the other hand, Bluegrass festivals are packed with amateur musicians who know this type of music inside out.  And they've all walked in your shoes. They're the ones who'll help you most. Brush up on "jam session etiquette" & you'll soon be picking with the best of them. And learning tunes on the fly! It's really amazing how well monkey see, monkey do, works. laugh

If at all possible, stick around after the sun goes down. For some unknown reason, the jams seem to get better after dark. wink

Edited by - monstertone on 12/03/2022 19:18:52

Dec 4, 2022 - 5:39:20 AM
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77162 posts since 5/9/2007

Some think that one can either play by tab only or play by ear only.
I use both.I play by ear on any tune that happens whether I've ever heard it or not.When I played banjo to Vaughn Meader's piano bar for 10 years I often had to take breaks on tunes I'd never heard or played before.
When I want to figure out an exact melodic melody or tenor harmony I might look up a tab.Sometimes I find the tune on abcnotation to quickly unravel a hard to understand part.

Most of the time since 1960 I just play by ear because Dad had a great ear and I played with him all the time at home.He was exceptional.

Dec 7, 2022 - 1:59:58 PM

3940 posts since 7/12/2006

Steve is that the same Vaughn Meader that did the First Family comedy album? He was so funny as JFK.
quote:
Originally posted by steve davis

 I played banjo to Vaughn Meader's piano bar for 10 years 

 


Edited by - stanleytone on 12/07/2022 14:00:30

Dec 7, 2022 - 4:21:04 PM

77162 posts since 5/9/2007

Yes,Gary.Vaughn was a Maine boy and wrote songs and played piano bar and guitar after the first First Family album.
He was always funny and a hoot to perform with,but never ever quoted that album or copied Kennedy's voice after the assassination.

Dec 8, 2022 - 2:07:52 PM
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115 posts since 3/14/2020

I have not been playing for that long. Two years. And for the first two years, I would learn a song, submit a video, (I use Artistworks), submit a couple more videos (because I never get it right the first time), then move on to the next song. Since I am new at this, by the time I got a song to the point it was half decent I would have been sick of it, and never- want to play it again. Now, I am also using Banjo Ben's site, and move between the two and learn a couple of songs at a time. I am also going back to some of the songs that I really enjoy, like Wayfaring Stranger and Banks of the Ohio and relearning them, which is much easier the second time around.
So, now a practice session will usually consist of practicing one of the songs that I am learning for the first time. I generally alternate days for the two songs that I am learning. I then spend some time on one of the songs that I am relearning.

Dec 8, 2022 - 2:43:45 PM
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24 posts since 12/27/2015

Thanks Peter!

Dec 11, 2022 - 7:19:45 PM
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3167 posts since 2/10/2013

Through trial and error, I divided my time into different sections.

1. I play tunes requiring non-standard tuning. That way I only have to retune several tunes.

2. I play melodic tunes. Playing the melodic tunes seems to keep my playing technique cleaner.

3. I practice minor pentatonic licks. I use them often when improvising.

4. I practice transitional licks. They can be useful when improvising.

5. I now play 1/3 of my playing repertoire. I will play along with recordings. The strengthens my memory of each tunes melody. I play capoed/uncapoed, new, and old tunes together. I play old tune "breaks" once or twice. New tunes are played more slowly and three to 5 times. I alternate between playing along with recordings, and playing along with the "Strum Machine". Playing along with the "Strum Machine" is like playing in a jam. Playing with recordings does not make me focus as hard on the music and does not emphasize my "flubs". I ionly use tabs for new tunes.

How a person divides the time they "give" each tunes will depend on how large their playing inventory of tunes is. A person has to determine where their playing is the weakest, and give that effort more time.

I recently decided that practicing new licks by themselves is not as effective as taking a tune that I play regularly, and substituting new licks and transitional licks in the tune. I find myself becoming more comfortable with these new licks faster, and find myself improvising with them more quickly. I only do this for a few tunes at a time. When I find myself mentally improvising with these new licks, I take some different licks and substitute them in different tunes. As a result, my inventory of licks increases, some new licks sound more appropriate, a the music has more variety. As I learn melodic tunes, I start substituting these licks in tunes. I try to avoid controversy and usually avoid using them in classic bluegrass tunes. I want to play music, not argue with traditionalists.

Dec 11, 2022 - 7:30:03 PM

60020 posts since 12/14/2005

I'm not really a Bluegrass player, so my method is very simple.

Look up the lyrics and chords.
Transpose it to either G or C.
Capo so it fits my vocal range.
Do some simple moves, basic rolls, slides, hammers, looking for the melody notes with the thumb and/or index finger.

I've been getting paid to do so, off and on, for about a half of a century.

I agree with whomever said (right here on the HangOut, years ago)
"If your music is your way of expressing yourself, it makes no sense to try to sound exactly like somebody else."

Dec 12, 2022 - 2:16:40 PM
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Owen

Canada

12324 posts since 6/5/2011

Mike: "I'm not really a Bluegrass player.... "

Say what??  Seems to me you've been keepin' pretty good company. In case you've forgotten, somewhere around 7:20 they even tell you what instrument(s) you play:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKqcro1NO1Y

Edited by - Owen on 12/12/2022 14:23:22

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