in the Park"
Fork River Regional Recreation Park. This event is hosted by
the Hickory Parks and Recreation Department
the help of Warren Yates of Leisure Unlimited, Inc.
lesson, there will be no hot runs to learn or tab to read.
It's time to look at what we can already do and evaluate if we
are using it to our maximum potential.
the Band and the Audience
you are in a band or attend some jam session from time to time,
see if the problems below sound familiar to you. Because
it is Bluegrass, everyone is ready and anxious to have a great time
playing, and they're hoping it will be the best session ever. Barely
getting tuned up first, if at all, someone kicks off a hard jamming song
(banjo for example). Being excited, it might be a little
louder than normal. The guitar has to pick harder right off
the bat and here comes the mandolin, small but powerful. The
bass falls in and rattles the floor. You take turns swapping
lead breaks and end the song feeling wiped out. The mandolin
missed a few licks, the banjo was loud, and the guitar was not
clean and mostly not heard except for the rhythm. No dynamics, no
flavor, not clean, and so on. These are experiences from
With Others There is an art to playing with other
musicians. Many times
we think of hard picking as picking harder. As we start to
play faster; we grip the neck harder. On a banjo, we
tend to hook our little finger on the bridge as if to dig in for a
running start. I see these actions as common mistakes.
Being guilty of this myself, it's a constant battle for me
to practice not doing so. I play with a band called Kudzu (a
name that will grow on you) and we fight this problem too from
time to time.
Quietly At the beginning of each practice, someone will
remind us all to pay attention to playing easy. We each play
at a "talking volume" and we can hear each other much better.
If you practice at a comfortable volume, you
will be able to play more accurately as well as faster. Too many
times playing faster
makes you want to grip harder which will actually slow you down . The
guitar player has the hardest time in my opinion. The
strings are hard to
push and the sound is facing away from the guitar player. If the
band is quieter, the guitar player can hear him or her self better
which will enable them to play
and Accents: Sounds, including music, can be barely
audible, or loud enough to hurt your ears, or anywhere in between.
When talking about the loudness of a sound, scientists and
engineers talk about amplitude. Musicians talk about dynamics.
Movies control the audience in part by use of these effects. Quiet,
easy music may compliment a romantic moment. Loud, active music
may add excitement to a grizzly
bear ready to attack. A band can control the audience
in the same way, but the band has to play at a lower volume before
they can add dynamics and accents. If you need to be heard,
let the sound system do the work. Pick easy but sound loud.
You Play a Band? As the instrument that you play has several
moving parts, so does a band. The difference is that the
band is an instrument that is played by more than one
person. It is also a common mistake to listen to your own
playing too much. If you catch yourself doing this, back off
and listen to the band as a whole. What part are you responsible
for? Is what you're playing complimentary to the rest of the
group? As the rest of the band plays, stop and
listen to the band's musical needs. Listen to the nature of the song and see what
direction it needs to go. Let it flow and go with the
flow. Let the song ask and you answer. If your song is
of an old rock and roll flavor, don't add distinct bluegrass
influences. Hear the unity. Timing comes
together as you can feel where it is. As your band can start
to master these ideas, you will be able to then play the audience
as an instrument and give them the time of their lives.
instrument has a location where when picked or bowed that all of the
tones are the best. Many times it is where it sounds best to
the listener rather than the player. I mentioned how banjo
players tend to hook their little finger on the bridge when
playing. If you do this you are not in the sweet spot where
to best tones are created. On a banjo the sweet spot is
somewhere between 2-1/2 and 3 inches above the bridge. The
sweet spot for vamping is at the bottom of the
The thicker and more spoon
shaped, the darker the tones.
Tip! The pros use the old National
finger picks. The metal is softer which cuts down on
the metal to metal noise. They are available again and
you can see them here.
Take a look at the "Practice
Warren Yates Method of Playing Bluegrass Banjo for Beginners
The new "Transcribe!" software
allows you to slow CDs down to a 1/2, even 1/4 speed, without
affecting the pitch. It will help you to understand what is
going on in the music. Download
a Free 30 Day Trial.
Here and learn more.