Wastin’ Time

Every once in a while (I’d say, once a day for a few minutes) try pushing yourself with practice.

Don’t worry about playing sloppily, or too fast, or too crazy-sounding. Push some kind of an envelope in your banjo life!

Whether it’s trying to see just how fast you can play, or trying to create a new chord. Or seeing how fast you can make your brain come up with a totally new lick, or maybe even trying to improvise a melody on the fly. As you may suspect, the results will be disaster more often than not. Do it for a few minutes anyway; it won’t hurt you practice for a few minutes, but it may well assist you in opening a new door or two as you explore and become less timid with the fretboard.

It’s also a bit like what we call wasting time, but I’m thinking of a slightly different type of wasting time here. After many years of playing and practice, I’ve had many, many opportunities to find myself way off-base; down past left field, deep in the backwoods of seldom-heard licks and unusual techniques. Most are little-known for a good reason: they are lousy! Most every musician who has played for very long has a similar resume of time wasted.

Supposedly wasted, I should say.

Because there are a few worth revisiting! Those rare nuggets that you discover either by serendipity, or by rote, or by a well-placed mistake (students actually do this one very early on, and I always try to point that fact out to them: don’t throw that one away – It’s a keeper!). Sometimes, we arrive at a great new lick just by brute force, brought on by necessity.

As you can imagine, these forays into the unknown involve a lot of wasted time. Not much can be done about that, but I will offer one tip to maximize the whole process: get as much hands-on time as possible with your banjo when creating new licks to minimize time truly wasted. Thinking about the creation process is one thing, but actually doing it is what counts.

Just give it a try!

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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