I don't think I'm mature enough to play the banjo


Just one more banjo post and I'll lay off the subject for a while. As I work through my book, I find it disturbing that so many banjo fingering techniques sound, to my ear, like the names of masturbation techniques. You start with the pinch, then develop the forward roll, the backward roll, the alternating thumb role, the slide, the hammer-on, and, finally, the pull-off. I'm not sure if this says more about the people who developed the bluegrass style of banjo playing or about me. Probably the latter, though.


Goddamnit, I just read this right before I'm supposed to call Office Depot and be very serious about a messed-up order. Now I'm going to be complaining that I didn't get my pull-off.

Now I don't think you're mature enough to read about the banjo.

I'm really not. The first thing I was going to say as a comment was, "Oh, the alternating thumb roll. I've used that one. It's pretty good!"

I could make reasonably mature comments about guitar instead, such as, "The slide, hammer-on, and pull-off are all used in guitar also, and when you mentioned being skeptical about the applications of the slide I just happened to have a song running through my head that made very good use of the slide not only for notes but even for whole chords." But that's kind of boring.

Yeah, after I made the post I listened to some songs and started noticing the slide in songs where I hadn't before. I think a big part of my cognitive problem is that I'm doing the slide slowly, and outside the context of a song. It's something that doesn't seem to sound good on its own, but works well at playing speed mixed into a song.

The general theme in Bluegrass Banjo seems to be "Play the melody, but throw in 3-4 extra 'fill' notes for every melody note played." This sounds silly when you play it at a slow practice speed, and you wonder why you're doing it. Then you listen to the exact same song played at "medium play speed," which is about 5 times faster than I can play at the moment, and suddenly it sounds like banjo music. So I've come to accept that most of the stuff I'm learning won't sound at all good until I develop a lot of finger speed.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on September 14, 2005 6:39 PM.

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