One of the best things you can do to help yourself learn the banjo is to teach someone else.
As soon as you can play the basic frailing strum start showing your friends how to do it. By studying a task in order to find a way to explain it to somebody you wind up with a deeper understanding of the subject.
The more you teach, the more you know.
That’s kind of cool when you think about it.
When you do start teaching, don’t try to over-explain things. It’s a mistake to give somebody all the answers. A good teacher isn’t concerned with the right answer. The real magic of teaching is getting a student to ask the right questions.
The only trick to improvising is to stop making a big deal about improvising.
In this book you have been presented with the basic skills and building blocks to make great music. Go use them.
Improvising isn’t a magic trick. Improvising is nothing more than a constant string of creative compromises. You start to play a song and you work with the notes, chords and rhythm as you go along.
That’s why they call it improvising.
When you start to play for and with people it helps to develop some stage presence. The easiest way to have stage presence is to be yourself.
Speak to your audience directly, honestly and from the heart. Be proud of yourself. Not prideful, proud. Stand up straight. You don’t have to dress up, but it helps to at least look like you care a little bit about the people looking at you.
Do your job and then get off the stage.
Moving On To The Next Level
I get asked all the time, “How do I take my playing to the next level?”
I hate to tell you this, but when you’re really ready you won’t have to ask anybody for directions.
I’m not just being smart here, it’s important that you understand this. Sometimes we worry so much about improving that we lock ourselves up and stop making any progress at all.
Today you play this way.
Tomorrow you may play another way.
The only important thing is that you are playing.
Give yourself time to grow, and be aware that if you look too far ahead you won’t see the wonderful things in front of you right now.
Dealing With The Fifth String
People think that the fifth string is a problem when it comes to playing in keys other than G or C, but that isn’t exactly true. All you have to do is tune or capo the fifth string to match the root, third or fifth note of your “I chord”.
I hardly ever use alternate tunings for the banjo. I really can’t stand playing with people who have to retune every time the music moves to another key.
If you want to use an alternate tuning that’s cool, just keep in mind that no matter what you tune the strings to the fretboard is still going to follow the chromatic scale. What that means is that everything we have covered here from scale patterns to movable chord forms can be applied to any tuning. The fingerings will change, but rules like the sequence of whole and half notes that build major or minor scales stay the same.
This isn’t just true on the banjo. It will work on any fretted instrument. Go work out a scale on a guitar or a mandolin. They are different instruments with different tunings, but they all work under the same system.
Learn one thing and you learn ten thousand things.
Learning Tunes In three Easy Steps
- Figure out the rhythm.
- Identify the key and chord progression.
- Start playing along.
That’s all there is to it. Any stylistic preferences you bring into the game will just gum up the works.