Practicing the Banjo Being a
banjo player myself, it's not always easy to get in my practice time when
the rest of the family doesn't want to hear it. Banjos are loud and
many times too big to take out just anywhere. The idea of a scratch on my
banjo makes it more enticing to leave it in the case where it can be
protected. Cases are great but they will cause you to not
practice. Out of site, out on mind, and therefore, no practice.
I find that if I leave it out where I can see it, I will pick it up when
passing and then, I will play it all of the time. That goes for
all of the instruments.
Again, playing it all of the time does not make good family relations
in most cases. My computer is a great tool for my music, and it
greatly aids in my learning and teaching bluegrass music. On the
other hand, what does the family think?
One night I was into my banjo practicing very heavily. I was
playing hard and loud and it sounded good! I was on a roll and could
not stop. I was in a zone as they say in bluegrass. I had the
Transcribe program (more at the bottom of the page) looping a Lonesome
River Band banjo break. Looping is when the software repeats the
same section over and over without stopping. When looping, your
hands are free to play it again and again without pressing start or stop. I
was on a roll and had no thought of stopping. My wife came in the
room and held up her hand for me to stop and very slowly and calmly said,
"It is 1:00am and you have been playing that thing for three
hours. Put it up, cut it off, and I am going to bed, I can't take it
any more". I realized that a section looping sounds like a
stuck record and three hours might could drive someone insane at a high
volume. For my own safety, I put it safely in the case and laid down
quietly in bed. It was time for sleep and I figured that I was lucky
to be alive at this time. She turned on the TV just to have
something on to fall asleep by and she took a deep cleansing breath,
knowing it was over at last. Right then, the Beverly Hillbillies
came on and the first thing we heard was, EARL SCRUGGS PLAYING THE
Since then, I have found better ways to practice. The latest way
is with a little banjo that I have designed. It takes the basic
section that is needed and everything else is cut away. Playing a
banjo with a capo on the fifth fret is a C. That is where my banjo
neck starts. It is much more quiet, and small enough to play anywhere. Everyone has loved it so far, so I have started selling them.
Take a look and see
what you think.
Preventing Strings From Breaking
|In the lesson last month, we
talked about how to salvage some of those broken strings. Many
times the string just comes unraveled where it is twisted
together. That part is a hard knot to tie and make it
hold. Many instruments are designed to add friction to the
string to help it to hold. Anything that touches the string
between the loop and the bridge is added friction. That is a
good thing. For example, some mandolins have the smallest strings to
hook and bend before the string heads toward the bridge. Banjo
strings thread through holes on the tail piece. Many other instruments of
all kinds offer no help at all. Try this trick! If
you have a problem with strings coming unwound, put a spot of crazy
glue on the knot. It helps a lot!
I am just starting out in bluegrass, where should I start? All
bluegrass music came from the same basic beginning.
Over the years, musicians added different styles to the music, but the basic idea of what bluegrass is, and
the foundation in which
it was formed, is still the same today. Bluegrass is very much the
same from song to song, so it makes it easier to jump in at a jam session and
predict the chord changes that are coming up next. The new groups and
their new songs are great, but when you find yourself in a jam session, you
will likely find that not enough people know the new songs well enough to play
them. They all seem to pull out those old songs that came from the
beginning of bluegrass.
a beginner starts off learning the old music first, he or she will be very
much ahead of the game.
to look for: Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Mac Wiseman, JD
Crowe, Charlie Waller and The Country Gentlemen, The Osborne Brothers, Tony
Rice, and Ralph Stanley to name a few.
How to play, "Soldier's
in the Key of
"D" Part Two
This is the second
part of the song. The first part can be found in last
month's lesson. It is hard to
teach all of the song in just one lesson, so this is a continuation of last
month. Once you have learned this song, you will be very close to
being able to learn almost anything else. Listen to the example.