Saturday, January 14, 2006

Later today the other members of Ivory Bridge (see link at right) are coming to my little guitar shop to practice and jam. We are playing at the local Bluegrass music venue at the end of the month and we are whipping our hands into shape so we sound good when we play there. We are going to record the performances of both nights in hopes of gleaning some good cuts to use on a CD we want to put out. I often wonder at how I got to be a "banjoist in demand". There is no secret to how it is done. It is done by taking thousands of insignificant steps over several years and eventually one accumulates experience and skill. There was only one breakthrough event, the night I jammed with the Grateful Dead and learned improvisation. Or at least made a profound gain of skill in improvisation technique. I recount that story in one of the first entries of this blog and it may be of interest to some. Check the archives to the right.

A musician can only gauge their progress by looking back. I was never much for learning big blocks of music. I could only learn snippets and pieces, but eventually they add up and you can play. Earlier this year, I set about to learn a melodic piece named Jerusalem Ridge. It is a fiddle tune (written by and for the fiddle) and consequently has an intricate melody. The five string banjo can either roll through the chord changes, which means try and approximate the melody with arpeggios that sort of fit, or work out the melody note for note just as the fiddle plays it. This style of banjo is called "melodic style"(go figure). Some guys (and gals) can do this easily. I can not. It took daily practice for six weeks to memorize and gain facility with the melodic version of Jerusalem Ridge, and that was with the part already written out so all I had to do was memorize the piece and not find where the melody lays out on the fingerboard. I got it though, and when we play the piece it sounds pretty good. Still, I know and can play hundreds and hundreds of songs and tunes. How did I learn to do this with such a thick head? By playing some every day for years and years. That's why they say, "Keep on pickin'".


Post a Comment

<< Home