It's J.R.'s one year banjoversary and he's writing a series of posts on where he's been and where he's going, banjo-wise.
Yes, after those first six months I just wasn't making the progress that I wanted to. I'd performed on stage and had a good time doing so, but I wasn't satisfied with my musical performance. I'd spent half a year on my banjo and had gone to lessons every week (mostly), but I could just barely manage a Seeger-style sing-along. (And I'd have needed the printed music and a lot of practice before I could play the song.)
Coincidentally – or perhaps because the universe just wanted me to learn to play the banjo better – this period of realization came upon me at the end of the year, just in time for a new year's resolution:
My new year's resolution for 2008 is to spend at least as much time playing my banjo as I spend watching TV.
- The redhead says my Scruggs-style playing is sounding "almost like music"
- I try to teach myself Foggy Mountain Breakdown when I'm really not ready for it. Mike sets me back on the path of good practice technique.
- I purchase what will become the best gadget in my toolkit: an Olympus WS-311M digital voice recorder. In the coming weeks I'll use it to record banjo classes, my lessons with Mike and my own progress.
- I join the Banjo Hangout Player's Union and really start to use the facilities of The Banjo Hangout. I begin to cross-post between my personal blog and my blog at The Banjo Hangout.
- I do a speech for our Toastmasters group about my Banjo versus TV project. This is important for a few reasons.
- I go to a jam with the Windy City Jammers. I have a good time and I resolve to go back frequently, despite the fact that I feel like my skill level isn't there yet. (I haven't gone back yet.)
- I attend an evening's performance at the 48th Annual Univerity of Chicago Folk Festival.
- A big break-through occurs and my practice starts to pay off when my basal ganglia (some call it "muscle memory") learns the forward roll. Mike says I sound good! We play a couple of songs together and he says, "I actually had fun playing with you." Woo-hoo!!
- I start to track the songs I want to learn to play on my banjo.
- I'm having a little trouble transitioning between different types of rolls in a song.
- I buy a cheap, spare banjo so I can have one at work, too.
- The redhead says, "Hey! You're sounding good. I was actually nodding my head to that one." I look forward to the day when people compliment me on my banjo playing without using the term "actually".
- I'm a little bored with the few songs in my books that are within my current skill range, so I order some "easy banjo solo" books.
- I attend Shorty's Strickly Bluegrass Festival and learn how to vamp during a jam.
- I return home from the festival to discover that my employees have transformed my office desk into a hillbilly shack. I love those people.
- I buy myself a copy of Tabledit software and learn how to use it as a practice aid (sort of).
- My first attempt at installing strings does not go well. (I would later learn that I should have used a string winder.)
- Tried some plastic finger picks and didn't like them.
- Tried some music theory and loved it.
- April Fools Day pranksters kidnapped my banjo.
- Learned to pinch.
- More pinching and hammering-on.
- Some work on my pinky; this time through the D chord.
- I learn a lot at my sister's jam party.
- Midwest Banjo Camp, and lots of it!
As you can see from this chart of my banjo hours over the year...
...I logged a lot more banjo time in the second six months than I did in the first. The Banjo versus TV project has been a success!
"So, J.R.," I hear you say, because I can hear things over the Internet. "That's what the last year has been like. But what's next?"
I'm so glad you asked. Stay tuned for the where-do-I-go-from-here portion of my first banjoversary celebration.