Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Banjo versus TV: Week 58

A check-in on the Banjo versus TV project — J.R.'s ongoing plan to spend more time on his banjo than on TV. This post covers 4/5/2009 through 4/11/2009.
Banjo 358 hrs, TV 338 hours

This week's big banjo event was the jug band Seder, which you can read about here.

Things I learned at this week's banjo lesson:

  • Part of the reason my Oscar Schmidt OB-5 banjo goes out of tune so often between uses (aside from the fact that it's a banjo) is that it's got tuning pegs sticking out the sides and I carry it in a cloth gig bag. I'm considering investing (a little) in some improvements. Dave says, now that I've had my banjo tweaked by Tom Nechville, the only other thing he'd do is to replace the pegs.
  • I'm still working on Tony Trischka's Blackberry Blossom from Homespun's All Star Bluegrass Jam Along series.
    • For the B7 chords, Dave usually does a forward-reverse roll between frets 4 & 7:

      Trischka does this:

    • Dave's worried about me tackling a piece in the melodic style at this point in my development, but I've got his blessing to try it.
  • Regarding melodic style:
    • "My reservation with you working on this stuff is, you're not real accurate some times on what string you're hitting. You can't afford to miss notes in this [melodic] style the way you can in Scruggs. So be aware of that."
    • The left hand middle finger will live almost exclusively on the 2nd string
    • The 1st string will be fretted by the index finger or the ring finger as follows:
      • When on the same fret as the middle finger: Middle finger
      • When down the neck: Index finger
      • When up the neck: Ring finger
    • The definitive book on melodic banjo is Tony Trischka's 1976 Melodic Banjo. (Note to self: Order up a copy.) (Reply to self: Ordered it on 5/13/2009. Also, Tony Trischka Easy Banjo Solos.)
  • I've been trying not to capo in jams. Dave agrees with this approach and says that my chords have gotten better because of this.
  • Another thing that's helped my chords in jams considerably: Having learned to recognize several guitar chords by sight. Dave says I'm one of the few people to actually take this advice. (Recall that I'd taken some guitar lessons last year just so I could learn to follow the guitar at jams.)

Also in the last week:

  • As I was researching songs for the jug band Seder I ran across the music of Theresa Andersson's one-woman shows. What fun! Examples:

  • This week's episode of The Office (on Hulu here) counts as both banjo and TV because it features a banjo performance by Ed Helms. Comedy bluegrass goodness.
  • For some time I've been playing along with Sam Bush to Ol' Joe Clark (from his Glamour & Grits album). This is a Daryl Scott update to the classic Old Joe Clark. But this week I really listened to the lyrics for the first time. What a great song! Daryl Scott has taken a song that's often treated for laughs and made something dead serious out of it.

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