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Old 07-08-09, 12:10 AM   #1
Collegiate89
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Learning Me An Instrument

Alright foo peoples, I think it's time I found myself another little interest on the side.
I want to learn the banjo, and I'm wondering if anybody has any insight into how difficult
it would be to learn for somebody who has no prior experience with string instruments.
I did play the french horn in school, but I wasn't amazing or anything. I'm liking the
clawhammer style btw.

Also if anybody has any stories about whatever they play or used to play, please share because
my question alone isn't going to float this boat.
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Old 07-08-09, 12:16 AM   #2
shouldberiding
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Chicks. Dig. Banjo. Players.

FACT.
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Old 07-08-09, 12:58 AM   #3
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y'all been watchin' too much De-liverance, ain'tcha?

can ya say "squeal like a pig?"
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Old 07-08-09, 07:22 AM   #4
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any music experience will help give you the sense of rhythm and finger motions. You might consider an acoustic guitar initially just to work on basic things like finger strength, fingering patterns, and picking the strings to see if you like it. I'm guessing an acoustic would be easier to sell if it wasn't working out (see post #2). Also, look into renting an instrument.

Getting started will probably be slow, stick with it. Find some easy banjo songs that you want to learn how to play, it will help motivate you as you progress and can play more of the song. I started on a rented acoustic and found it boring to go through lesson books. I tried an electric guitar after that and started learning the music i was into (metallica), much more enjoyable. For a complete beginner that may not be a good idea, but I already had 5 years experience with the viola at the time, so I knew about scales, reading music, and have a pretty good ear (relative pitch).
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Old 07-08-09, 07:59 AM   #5
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Try it!

I'd say get a cheap banjo to start but splurge on the best teacher you can find and go straight away, from day one. I don't play banjo but I am thinking right hand (unless you're a lefty, of course) is 99% of the deal - you want to get the clawhammer pattern down right so you don't develop bad habits that are hard to break later on down the road.

I think if you have a decent ear with your prior musical experience you'll have the fretting hand down with ease, once you build a minimal base of strength and develop some callouses. Good Luck!
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Old 07-08-09, 09:33 AM   #6
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I've got an ear for music, but not a talent for playing myself. I have looked in to it and wanted to dabble a few times.

I once researched banjo a little because I think they're hella awesome sounding too. I found that banjos are typically, as was told to me, a little harder than a guitar. So as black box said, you want to start with a simple acoustic guitar first. Then get a banjo and start with easy songs.

I've I ever get the urge again to try to learn an instrument (still haven't learned any)....I think I'll try to learn Native American flute.
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Old 07-08-09, 09:40 AM   #7
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the guitar has a totally different tuning and 6 strings. A 5-string banjo will likely have an open chord tuning - you move notes and shapes around the neck with open strings droning, which is not done nearly as much with a guitar in standard tuning. The necks are also very different; if anything a banjo neck should be much more manageable to the beginner.

There's no harm in trying guitar first but if you want to play the banjo I see no reason why you wouldn't want to dive right in.
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Old 07-08-09, 09:41 AM   #8
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the guitar has a totally different tuning and 6 strings. A 5-string banjo will likely have an open chord tuning - you move notes and shapes around the neck with open strings droning, which is not done nearly as much with a guitar in standard tuning. The necks are also very different; if anything a banjo neck should be much more manageable to the beginner.

There's no harm in trying guitar first but if you want to play the banjo I see no reason why you wouldn't want to dive right in.
I'm just saying what I heard. Don't shoot the messenger.
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Old 07-08-09, 09:42 AM   #9
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Steve Martin (yes, that one) is an amazing banjo player.

I keep trying to re-learn the accordion, but the one I have was my mother's and it's a "ladies'" accordion and my fingers are gigantic and I can't play the darn thing.
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Old 07-08-09, 09:47 AM   #10
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Steve Martin (yes, that one) is an amazing banjo player.
Bela Fleck FTW!!
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Old 07-08-09, 10:27 AM   #11
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the guitar has a totally different tuning and 6 strings.
Ahh, thats a good reason to start with the banjo then.
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Old 07-08-09, 10:44 AM   #12
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I'm just saying what I heard. Don't shoot the messenger.
squeal like a pig, boy!
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Old 07-08-09, 10:45 AM   #13
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Bela Fleck FTW!!
I immediately thought of him, esp. as a player who shows what you can do on any instrument if you can think outside the box.
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Old 07-08-09, 11:38 AM   #14
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Having played guitar for 30 years now, I am always impressed when someone picks up and learns how to play an instrument once they leave college/school and get a "real life". Where do you find the time?

If you want to learn banjo, get a banjo. For a kid I like the idea of starting with a guitar or maybe even piano to learn about music first. But as an adult just dive in to what you want. Having to switch from one instrument to another is sort of like speaking a foreign language. I can speak a little French but I always think in English then translate. I can also play a little mandolin and uke, but I think in guitar and then transpose.

Make sure you get a good enough instrument that it will stay in tune. For a beginner, staying in tune is more important than the body/depth/tone/timbre that comes out of the instrument. And anyone who has to listen to you learning to play will be thankful as well.
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Old 07-08-09, 05:41 PM   #15
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Years ago I used to play some bluegrass banjo. Several times I tried the clawhammer technique (often called "old timey" style) but I just never could get into it. From my experience, the secret to making good progress, not just with the banjo but with any instrument, is being infatuated with the type of music you're trying to play. Learning to play bluegrass banjo is pointless unless you're absolutely gaga over bluegrass banjo. You'll listen to bluegrass CDs constantly in the car, play it at all times at home, to the frustration of family members, and you'll find a way to go to an endless stream of bluegrass festivals where you can soak up the ambiance with other nut jobs.

Banjos are funny. Or more correctly, it's banjo players who are funny. Like cyclists, they come in varying degrees of snobbery, with those who insist that playing anything other than an old Gibson from the 30's is just irreverantly undermining the sound and genius of Earl Scruggs. Be prepared to shell out a mega fortune for something like this. Realistically, look into banjos in the $500 and up price range. The snobs will hate you but screw them. Bargain banjos can be handy to learn on. The sound will be inferior but you won't know it until you attend your first festival and you get to hear a better instrument. My first banjo cost me $75 and it worked until I was able to upgrade a bit. I've since moved on to fingerpicking acoustic guitar and have found that the grounding I had with the banjo has made picking a lot easier on the guitar. Plus the latter weighs a helluva lot less too, no small matter when you're dragging a 25 pound anchor around your neck for an entire Saturday afternoon.

Good luck, post some pictures when you get it, and ignore the Deliverance jokes. That stuff hardly ever happens.
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