Sunday, April 11, 2010

Banjo versus TV week 108: Alan Munde's up-the-neck solo technique

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 3/21/2010 through 3/27/2010.
Banjo 632 hrs, TV 632 hours

I've been listening to my recordings of the Midwest Banjo Camp sessions. When I do, I almost always catch something important that I missed the first time.

This week's find is Alan Munde's 2009 session, "Intro to Creating Bluegrass Solos". This session is a gentle introduction to the "Roll Logic" section of Munde's book, Getting Into Bluegrass Banjo.

Basically, Alan has his students find the melody on the second string and choose rolls that hit the right note at the right time. It's a simple and pretty way of putting together a break.

In his book, he expands on this idea by adding in the third and sometimes fourth strings and by adding in some up-the-neck chord forms.

I'm going to play around with this technique. I'm pretty good at finding a melody and I find this technique to be really attractice.

Other things I learned reviewing my recordings of Midwest Banjo Camp sessions:

  • From Alan Munde "How Rolls Work" session:
    • Alan describes one of the traps of learning a song from tablature: Only being able to play a lick or section if you start the song at the beginning. This limits your ability to reuse the section in other contexts. He suggests that you might try learning a piece from tablature from the back, forward. Begin with the last measure then back up and learn the measure or measures before that, and so on until you're at the beginning. Also, learn to start playing at any point in the song.
    • One of the students really likes Alan's DVD: The Bluegrass Banjo Workout. I've been looking for some workout ideas, so I ordered it.
    • I also ordered the Bluegrass Jam Session DVD. The redhead has been getting tired of hearing me play along with the Dr. Banjo jam DVDs and I think she'd like a little variety.
  • From Mike Sumner "Working on Basic Chords" session:
    • How high or low a banjo player wears his banjo has a lot to do with arm length. (Note that while I found this to be an insightful observation, the redhead said it's falls into the "no, duh" category. When I explained that I'd heard lots of banjo players argue about where to wear the banjo and that this is the first time that I'd heard arm length listed as a reason, she said I had just lowered her opinion of the intelligence of banjo players.)

Cross-posted at J.R.'s Banjo Hangout blog

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Banjo versus TV week 107: A burst of banjo is needed

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 3/14/2010 through 3/20/2010.
Banjo 626 hrs, TV 624 hours

Not a lot happened this week, banjo-wise or TV-wise. So maybe I should go meta and blog about an aspect of the Banjo versus TV project that you might have noticed.

The banjo has been losing ground to the TV. In fact, the TV has nearly caught up with the banjo. Take a look at the last six months.

Banjo 545 hrs, TV 480 hours Banjo 570 hrs, TV 500 hours Banjo 590 hrs, TV 534 hours Banjo 601 hrs, TV 584 hours Banjo 615 hrs, TV 605 hours Banjo 626 hrs, TV 624 hours

So what to do? The answer is, of course:


(And Shush! to any of you who might be thinking '...or less TV.' That's not the point.)

This has happened before. Take a look at a chart of cumulative banjo (blue) and TV (red) hours.

See how the lines come close to touching and then I have a burst of banjo time? That's what I need to do next.

Cross-posted at J.R.'s Banjo Hangout blog