Saturday, March 9, 2013

I'm still at it!

Haven't made time to write in a while, but I am still practicing!

I loathe the D chord. I literally have to use my right hand to position my fingers in the correct position. Hitting the correct chords is the hardest for me. Surpringly (to me), the picking with my right hand and reading the music has been easier than I expected.

Friday, January 25, 2013

keep calm and banjo on.

Thomas is really getting into the banjo thing. When I'm practicing, he'll walk right up to the banjo and stare at my fingers picking from about an inch away. Then he'll reach up and try to pick along with me. I don't mind though, I love it in fact. This whole taking up the banjo isn't purely for selfish reasons; my kids are the main reason I'm doing it.

For the past year, I've been having some anxiety about something happening to my kids. I don't know what brought it on but I would find myself having daydreams of car crashes, kidnappers, illnesses and more recently, someone shooting up my children's school. I realize all parents fear these things. I'm not neurotic, I truly believe that. But every once in a great while some fear will creep in and take hold and I don't know how to deal. I've spent hours googling the statistics of fatal car crashes and where best to sit on a plane in order to avoid injury in the event the plane slides off the runway. And to be clear, I'm not concerned with myself, I am concerned that my kids will not be able to grow up and experience life. It is conceivable that this anxiety stems from an often stressful childhood of my own, but I don't want to focus on the past rather, I want to refocus my current negative energy into something positive.

And so that brings me to the banjo. It's an instrument I have always wanted to learn and I thought it would be a nice escape for my overactive imagination. It is something my kids can watch me play and hopefully pique their interest in learning an instrument as well. Like I said, Thomas thinks it's cool. Stella, on the other hand, doesn't pay it too much mind. She had a friend over last week and he asked Stella what I was playing. She answered, "She's just playing her banjo." Unimpressed.  Ha ha, typical Stella. Thomas's theme song in life is, Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better. Stella's...That Don't Impress Me Much.

Not to dog on Stella though, she really is the best. She does love to sing but her main life interests presently are animals, bugs, plants and home decor. No room for anything else. Thomas will try anything once. He likes to really watch how things work, then try to replicate them. No fear.

Anyway, I had my 3rd lesson last night. It's going really well. I've been working hard on my finger rolls (picking the strings in different patterns), and I can actually read the notes pretty well now. It's just a matter of hitting correct notes in the correct timing. I'll get there, I'm confident about it.

Friday, January 11, 2013

She'll be Coming Round the Mountain

Whew, what a week. Cheers to the weekend! We have a wedding to attend tomorrow night which I am excited about. I love wedding receptions, especially when there's an open bar and lots of dancing. No matter what, I always request that the DJ play , Pump Up the Jam. ALWAYS.

I also plan to get some banjo practice in this weekend. Last night was my first lesson and I'm feeling pretty positive about it. My teacher, whom I'll call, Mr. Banjo, is a little scattered but seems to be effective instructor. He explained the lesson thoroughly and patiently answered my many questions which is great because I can be an annoying student. I found myself talking through the simplest of information and asking lots of questions...over and over.

We spent the first half of the lesson just tuning my banjo and getting it into playing condition. I was pretty proud when I pulled it out of the case and he said, "Oooh, a Fender. Ahh, it's mahogany." My banjo makes me proud. I learned to read some basic notes and played through, She'll be Coming Round the Mountain, which is a very beginner song. My goal for my next week is to be able to play it quickly without mistakes. Practice makes perfect! (Hopefully.)

Side note: I wrote this entire post whilst watching Portlandia. I'll probably have to edit pretty heavily tomorrow.

Friday, January 4, 2013

behold: my new fender

So, the first step toward learning to play the banjo is to obtain an actual banjo. Behold:

I am so excited about this! I've been researching banjos obsessively. I knew I wanted a 5-string, as that is a true bluegrass banjo. Apparently a 6-string is basically a guitar with a banjo drum head and a 4-string is a tenor banjo. I also knew I wanted it to have a resonator as opposed to having an open back. A resonator covers the back of the drum head and helps to resonate the sound forward; allowing for a louder, richer sound.

I spent time researching brands, prices and customer reviews and came to the conclusion that I was going to have a hard time finding what I was looking for in my price range. I called around to all of the local music stores and surprisingly, banjos were out of stock everywhere. On a whim, I called Loftis Jewelry pawn shop and struck gold. A 5-string Fender banjo with resonator had just come in, hadn't even made it out onto the floor yet.

Now, for those of you who have had dealings with pawn shops will know what I mean when I say I stuck out like a sore thumb; as I have all of my teeth and my hair is washed regularly. Anyway, Dan (my new buddy at Loftis) had the Fender all shined up and waiting for my arrival. I fell in love instantly. I had to have it. I so wish someone could have seen me haggling with Dan and throwing around banjo terms like I knew what the hell I was talking about. He totally thought I was a legit banjo master, I just know it. In the end, I got my beautiful Fender, a tweed carrying case and a leather strap for a great price. I walked out of there with a banjo strapped to my back like a hillbilly badass.

First lesson is scheduled for next Thursday, January 10th. I am so excited!!!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

new year's resolution

This is not my first blog. I attempted one several years back and then abandoned it as I do with many projects. But now, I'm totally ready. You see, this is my New Year's resolution: Learn to play the Banjo and write a blog...AND I can't give up on either one. I'm serious. I don't want to just blog about my journey into the banjo-picking world, but also about everything and nothing at all. God, this seems so narcissistic; writing a blog about my life. I mean, how original. Yet, I have no apologies about it because this is something I want to do for myself. However, I do hope my friends will log-on occasionally and read my posts!
Ok, that's enough for now. On to blogging...