Learning Dueling Banjos Isn't Just For the Advanced Player

by Carolina Bridges

Learning to play Dueling BanjosLearning anything new can be a challenge. In the past I have approached most new songs with excitement and a good dose of trepidation! After all, my  banjos skills are modest and that is just being honest. Recently I was sent the music for “Dueling Banjos” that included both the musical notation and tablature for guitar and banjo. Having had requests from customers for this music, I knew it was a great offering for the “more experienced player.” But, what about the beginner...the player who knows where the strings are without looking and can manage a pull-off, slide, and hammer on? These few basic skills are covered in “First Lessons Banjo” by Jack Hatfield , a book I have recommended frequently to new players. Could I even begin to learn “Dueling Banjos” with this basic arsenal of banjo skills? Over this last holiday I gave it a try...

When I first opened the music, I said, “No way!” “That looks too complicated” “It has WAY too many notes!”

I have this phrase I use when some big and daunting project comes my way. “How do you eat an elephant? ONE BITE AT A TIME!”

I decided that this was the perfect tactic to apply to learning “Dueling Banjos.”

Once I finally figured out which tab line to read, I noticed that if I just took one measure at a time that the song had lots of fun to offer. Sometimes the strings were played open...very approachable. The fretted combinations were not four-finger spreads for the most part...a great sigh of relief on my part. Taken measure by measure the song was not as daunting a task.  Not only was this very true, I found each measure has some beautiful combinations of notes. It was like running through a field of flowers...finding each “musical” blossom in the song as I tip-toed through it measure by measure.

I went through all 10 pages finding not only challenge but success. What did I learn about my playing skills? That I could do more than I thought. That taking on a new piece of music is a joyful adventure. That I had a long way to go before I would EVER memorize this piece ...yes,there are a lot of notes! That playing the music had introduced me to some beautiful note combinations. That just “playing” it was great practice!  That I will miss out on a lot of great banjo music if I let the number of notes on a page “scare” me!

We are offering the music for “Dueling Banjos” on the site beginning today. I know the advanced and intermediate players will want to get it if they don’t already own it. I wrote this to ask those of you who, like me, are BEGINNERS to give it a try! Play slowly. Take “small bites” and savor the pleasure of a song that inspired many folks to take up playing the banjo. It still inspires! And most of all, everyone HAVE FUN playing the banjo.


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