A Little-known Technique to Improve Your Playing Quality

I am not ashamed to admit that I love easy things. So if I find something that is not easy, the first thing I do is try to see if I can make it easier (but not if making it easier is too difficult, then it would not be overall easy anymore!)

Oftentimes, we are very goal-oriented with trying to learn something or improve on it. And that’s a good thing, certainly. But sometimes that can also mean that we get a bit rushed; moreso than what is good for us. Relax (or as they say in Singapore: ‘Relak, Lah!’). Your quality of playing starts to suffer when you get in a hurry with practice.

One thing I found that improves the quality of your playing and is REAL easy to boot is as follows. It seems sort of strange, but it really does help your quality of playing.

Lie down and take a nap (I told you it was easy!), and while you’re doing that, play the banjo. Not fast – here, you are concentrating on a very slow, steady rhythm in your picking hand. Don’t bother with your fretting hand, except to totally muffle the sound from the strings if you like. Only concentrate on making each picked note perfect at a pace that is decidedly slower than usual.

After awhile, you’ll get very comfortable with this pace and you’ll appreciate how it brings back a better perspective on clean playing. You may even nod off doing this; that’s fine, too!

I did this a lot when I was first learning, especially in the dorm at college. I did have a bit of respect for others’ need for silence after all, I guess.

Since this is such an easy task, do it for 30 minutes from time to time, and, if sloppy playing has you, it will cure what ails you.

About Pgibson

I'm from Huntsville, Alabama where I work as a Software Engineer and part-time banjo instructor. My wife Miiko and I worship at Rivertree Downtown. I've been playing various instruments since my teen years. I started mandolin and dulcimer at about age 17 and banjo at 20. I love just about all kinds of music. In terms of banjo styles, I play and teach Scruggs, melodic, clawhammer, and 2-finger styles. I'm also very keen on theology, being a Trail Care Partner with the Land Trust of North Alabama, photography, urban planning, architecture, astronomy, ATM (amateur telescope making), birding, martial arts, and about 30 other distracting hobbies to a (mercifully) lesser extent.
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