Thursday, August 30, 2007

Some Advice for Banjo Players

I've been corresponding with Stacey from Poplar Bluff for a little over a year. He is learning to play banjo all by himself, and hasn't found anyone to play music with or ask questions. He does quite a bit of researching on the internet, and he always comes up with some good questions. I decided that much of what he is asking is stuff that others ask as well, so I decided to blog my answer to his latest set of questions.

First of all, some background information. Stacey is not happy with how fast he is memorizing songs, but he is hesitant to go on to a new song before he has mastered a song. Here is what I answered:

The most important thing to remember about learning from notation or tab is that you really need to memorize it as you learn it. Don't put the notation in front of you and read it like music from top to bottom. Learn 8-16 notes, get them memorized fairly good, then add another 8-16 notes. Play all of that together, then add more. Do not fall into the trap of being perfect. It is impossible on banjo! Your rhythm is SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT than playing all the correct notes. (Correct notes ARE important, though.) Keep a consistant rhythm, go on when you miss notes, practice with the CDs so that you can keep going when you make a mistake. You need to be able to figure out where you should be if you get lost. That's why practicing with the CDs and DVDs is so important. They teach you to go on. The more perfectionistic you are, the harder this will be to do. You have the wrong goal in mind. Your goal needs to be to get to the end with good rhythm -- not to play everything perfectly. This is a common trap that banjo players fall into, so at least you're not alone.

Most people do work on more than one song at a time. Get one song down decently, then move on. The hardest or newest song will get most of your attention when you practice. The easier songs, and the ones that you already have down good, will get the least of your attention. When I say get a tune down "decently," I mean have it memorized even if you have to stop to do something or to remember something. When you can play it with good rhythm and can recover after a mistake, then you are doing really good.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great Advice Chris, When I attack a song I do it measure by measure,repeating over and over untill i have it cold,nice and slow but steady. Once moving on to another song ill warm up with what I know already. Run through those songs to get your fingers loose and then tackle the next challenge. Don't fret (ha I made a funny) about memorizing it all at once, just step by step. keep on pickin. Banjomanob250