Are We Having Fun (Still)?

From the least to the greatest, beginner to expert; if you are a banjo player, you’ll know what I mean when I say that we are all drawn to the mystique of the banjo. It’s that ‘Half-Barbaric Twang’ as Karen Linn calls it in her book by the same name.

That’s what first intrigued me as a pre-school boy. That banjo in my oldest brothers’ bedroom; bought with S&H greenstamps back in the 60s. I still remember it leaning against the wardrobe, in C tuning. What a curious and compelling sound!

If you’ve been playing for a long time, remember how much fun it was when you first got started? Like any endeavor that requires lots of time over the long run though, it is easy to get into a rut with how you interact with your music and your practice. How can you prevent that from happening?

Here’s one process that works for me. Our minds love it when we can relate something we see back to something that we perceive from the past. Whether that thing in the past actually happened doesn’t matter; as long as we have an image of it in our minds, then it works. I see that I relate the banjo,the mandolin and a lot of other things / concepts back to a romanticized picture of what life was like and should once again be. A more genteel, elegant existence, coupled with the legacy of the Old South (once again, whether true or not). To think in these terms is to get out of that rut; it replaces the usual with the unusual, to our long-term benefit.

I also like to envision what’s ahead; what possibilities can addressed, even though they may take a good deal of practice, time and effort. To keep those goals in sight is to also replace the usual with the unusual, once again to our long-term benefit.

Last and most importantly, for those of us who are banjo players, the banjo itself is the lowest common denominator; having fun with it should be also.

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About Phill Gibson

I'm from Huntsville, Alabama where I work as a Systems Engineer and part-time banjo and mandolin instructor. I've been playing various instruments since my teen years. I started mandolin at about age 17 and banjo at 20. I love just about all kinds of music. In terms of banjo styles, I play Scruggs and melodic and am working on becoming more advanced with single string. I'm also working on 4-finger banjo, which is way off the beaten path. I would like to see more jazz techniques integrated into bluegrass situations; counterpoint, especially. So long-term, that's what I'm doing. I'm also very keen on astronomy, ATM (amateur telescope making), birding, christian homeschooling, martial arts, organic gardening and about 30 other distracting hobbies to a (mercifully) lesser extent.
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