Don’t Wait Too Long

by Barry Hunn

A friend of mine of 30 years called me a few days ago and told me he had finally ordered himself a beautiful custom Hartford banjo. Our conversation brought to mind a reality of life that struck me. It was thought provoking to realize how much of our lives are spent wishing and waiting.

My friend has always been a great singer and banjo player.  Like many of us, he got married, had a beautiful family, and like all good husbands, his family always came first financially as well as emotionally.

But he had lived with the same poor quality banjo for the last 30 years which needed constant tinkering to get a reasonably good tone.  Fortunately, this fellow understands the mechanics of banjos and kept his banjo tuned up well.

But, he always ran up against the same tone limitations inherent in his banjo.   Due to his work and family responsibilities,  he put his own needs aside. Now that his children are grown, he is able to “treat” himself to a gorgeous new custom Deering banjo.

Make no mistake, my friend did everything right.  He had his priorities exactly as they should have been. But it made me wonder, what if he had saved his money just a little longer when he was younger, put a higher priority on a great banjo and bought his lifetime banjo before he started his family?  In addition, how could I inspire younger players to set goals to practice or what could I say to encourage them to be financially disciplined enough to buy a superb instrument at a young age?

I will be 60 years old next year.  My friend is a little older than I am, and he had lived with this hard to play and uninspiring banjo for more than 30 years. Yet, he probably performs more than 100 shows annually.    

I guess if I could send one message to everyone who has ever considered learning to play the banjo or who plays now and has thought about getting a better banjo it would be this…

Don’t wait too long.

My best friend in high school, who was the founder the first band I played in, died at the age of 16 from leukemia.  I am so grateful for every school and church gig we did back then.  We just jumped in and played and didn’t think about “how good we were” or “whether we deserved to play on stage”.  We didn’t wait to “be good enough” to play or second guess anything about our music.  We just made music. 

After he passed, I bought my first good banjo in high school.  I worked as a custodian in a machine shop after school sweeping up metal shavings, cleaning the bathrooms, etc.  With my $1.15 per hour pay, working two to three hours after school, I bought a Vega resonator banjo.  ($1.15 an hour to buy a $650 banjo….it didn’t happen overnight, but it was sooooo worth it.)

I never regretted buying that banjo and I’m glad I didn’t wait too long to buy it.  Playing that banjo kept me inspired for more than 20 years.  I couldn’t wait to come home and “play my banjo.”   

Many of us can’t afford to buy a collection of expensive banjos but all of us enjoy playing more on a good banjo and most of us can, at some time in our lives, afford a nice banjo. With all of the twists and turns in life, give yourself a gift that you can keep all of your life and will never fail to enhance the joy in your life.   

If you have a beginner banjo and you feel confident that you will be playing throughout your life, don’t wait too long to step up to a good banjo.  There is no replacement for time lost. Money can be earned and saved, but time cannot.   

Music is such a rewarding and invigorating experience.   If you love playing the banjo, you will continue to enjoy playing the banjo and frankly, you won’t care or likely even remember how much you paid for your fine banjo once you own it.

I completely understand the need to create a budget and follow that budget.  I also understand that drive and inspiration are not reliant on any instrument.  But isn’t it better to enjoy what you do as much as possible?

A beautiful banjo is really a relatively inexpensive life long source of inspiration. There is a tremendous sense of wonder, creative freedom, joy and life affirming power that comes from playing a great banjo. 

So, if you enjoy the banjo and making music, don’t wait too long.  The time lost is a much greater cost.     

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