Inspiring the Non-Player

by Carolina Bridges

What stops someone from playing banjo? Is it the belief that banjo “is too hard” to play?  Is it because “I can’t find a teacher”? Is it because “they don’t like the sound of banjo music”? Let’s take a good look at the non-player and see what it might take to inspire them to begin to play the banjo.

Banjo is too hard to play

While we know it is not easy to play “like Earl”  and really, who EVER played like Earl except EARL…, there are simple ways to make music on the banjo.

  • Because the 5-string banjo is tuned to an “open G” chord, that means you can strum on it with your dominant hand without fretting any strings with your other hand. You will be IMMEDIATELY successful! You will be strumming a “G” chord.
  • We have developed a method of playing we call the 2-finger Method. In this simple style of playing, you use just your index finger to strum the banjo and your thumb and index finger of the other hand to cover the four strings at the 5th and 7th frets to make a C and a D chord.  I have literally taught hundreds of folks to play banjos at festivals using this method of playing. Within 10 minutes we are singing and playing “You are My Sunshine.” It’s delightful to see the smiles on their faces when they learn that they CAN make music on a banjo

I can’t find a teacher

Yes, finding a banjo teacher is difficult. But, there are a large number of books, CDs, DVDs, and online teachers that can help you learn to play the banjo on your own. Here are just a few of those available through our online store.

  • “First Lessons Banjo” by Jack Hatfield is a great book/CD/DVD set that is published by Mel Bay Publications. The CD plays the song at two speeds; slow and moderate so that you can progress at your own speed of learning. With the three elements…book, CD, DVD…you have all three types of learning in one package.
  • “Clawhammer from Scratch” by Dan Levenson has the book and the CD included. Dan has extensive experience as a teacher and he includes many pictures in the text. This rhythmic style is easier to learn with his teaching materials.
  • “First Lessons Tenor” by Joe Carr is another one of those book/CD/DVD sets from Mel Bay Publications. Joe makes learning tenor banjo easy and fun.
  • Tony Trishcka’s online “School of Bluegrass” has been receiving wonderful reviews by the many Deering owners who use the online teacher method to learn banjo. Videos with Tony himself and other well-known artists who play are available at a very reasonable fee. You can even have them review a video of yourself playing for personal one-on-one evaluation.
  • Check with your local music store to see if they know of a local teacher who teaches banjo as well as guitar, etc. There are many teachers who include banjo in their repertoire but they are sometimes hard to find on your own.  Find a Deering dealer near you here.

I don’t like the sound of banjo music

There is no genre of music that cannot be played on a banjo. That means, unless you just don’t like music in general, that you can find banjo music to suit your tastes. Here is a quick sampling of the CDs we have available for you to listen to and be inspired by.

  • Appalachian Concerto by the Kruger Brothers. This is a dynamic musical journey detailing the life of the Kruger Brothers and their travel from Switzerland to North Carolina. If you like classically based melodies, this is the one you will want to inspire your love of banjo music.
  • Leaving Eden by the Carolina Chocolate Drops is their latest tribute to the historical banjo sound. With original material, the Chocolate Drops capture the feel of the Appalachian Mountain sound and the early years of Americana music.
  • Acoustic Vision by Mark Johnson and Emory Lester. If you love the unique sound of clawhammer and the period of the Civil War, you will love this CD.  Mark Johnson finds this period of our history intriguing and this CD that he and Emory recorded is imbued with the rich cultural heritage of that time period.  Mark has created a sound that is part bluegrass, part clawhammer …he calls it “Clawgrass”.  If you have recently heard any of Steve Martin’s tunes, he has patterned himself after Mark in his clawhammer style of play.
  • In the Groove by Terry Baucom is classic bluegrass at its finest. Terry Baucom is known as the “Duke of Drive” and once played with Doyle Lawson. This solo CD has a dozen bluegrass songs with the lively pace bluegrass lovers like.
  • Kingston Trio fans will love “On a Cold Winter’s Night.” This two CD set by the Kingston Trio is filled with classics like “Tijuana Jail,” “Reverend Mr. Black,” “MTA;” a total of 25 folk tunes from this iconic band.
  • Shine by Rik Barron was nominated for an award by the Canadian Music Assn. in the Children’s Music category. Rik’s voice is deep and melodic and you and your children will find all 10 tunes delightful.

I can’t find a banjo

It is true that not every music store carries banjo. But there are many ways to acquire a banjo.

  • There are many smaller stores who have Deering banjos in stock and you can find those listed on our website.
  • The internet is a valuable tool to find dealers who will sell you a Goodtime banjo to get you started on your road to musical fulfillment.
  • Check chat sites like the Banjo Hangout where folks who have used banjos are willing to sell them to happy new owners.
  • Ebay is a valuable resource as well. Be sure you get the details and look carefully to be sure you are getting one in good playing condition.
  • Craigslist is good place to look for just about anything, including banjos.

Banjo interest is at the highest we have seen in decades. We have covered only a few of the things that might stop the non-player from coming to banjo. I am sure there are others. Call us to see if you have some personal limits and we will do our best to get you started on banjo TODAY.

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