A few weeks ago, I commented that I was going to learn the banjo, which included a picture of the banjo that I was gifted. We all know someone that says they are going to undertake a goal, spend money towards that end and then, how can I put this delicately…they get distracted. A simple example is how gym membership increases in January, the gym is crowded in January and maybe mid-February; yesterday afternoon when we went – it was empty. I have the banjo, purchased two books and found some YouTube videos to help me – yes, I have opened and used the books; yes, I have used the video training. Most importantly, to learn an instrument, one needs to practice. While I have not practiced every day, I am able to practice at least 4–5 times a week for at least 15 minutes. The result? I am starting to develop calluses on my fingertips!
You might ask – does already being able to read music and the ability to play various instruments help? The answer is yes and no. Knowing how to strum guitar helps…only a little, since I am learning the 3-finger picking method. While a string instrument like the guitar, the tuning of the 5-string banjo is different and the method of playing is completely new to me. As with anything that is new in our lives, we tend to find the similarities to the things that we know to make what lies before us easier. There are many times where I hear, “That is going to be a problem,” or, “That cannot be done because we could not do that the last time.” As Henry Ford was famously quoted, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.” If one changes their mindset in a small way, to look at things differently, the “problem” becomes merely a “challenge.” Hurdles placed before us = opportunity to learn something new.
My opportunities, in this case, are multiple. I am enjoying listening to the great Earl Scruggs, who redefined the banjo with his three-finger picking style. I am listening to some Béla Fleck, who pushes the boundaries of banjo usage into other genres outside Bluegrass. I am learning to play a fun instrument, and trying to figure out what songs to play with the band where I can introduce the banjo. For now, I am learning some basic chords (G is the easiest), and some rolls (right hand picking patterns). I have to admit, having played guitar beforehand, it is a bit confusing, but like all challenges/ opportunities, it takes some time, practice and a desire to learn.
Here is a clip of me playing Cripple Creek, a simple beginner banjo standard: