A New Year’s Resolution For All Banjo Players

by Barry Hunn

While we all make New Year’s resolutions that are relevant to our own lives, I would like to offer a suggestion for a New Year’s resolution relevant to all banjo players.

“To focus on enjoying every minute spent playing our banjos and not be distracted by a perceived lack of progress.”

A Common Concern For Banjo Players

I had the great privilege of traveling to several of our dealer’s stores and speaking directly with customers who had various thoughts, questions and concerns. A common theme with many of our customers was feeling like they’re not “getting anywhere”.

This one aspect of learning to play the banjo is one of the hardest for most of us to work past. Every great musician with whom I’ve ever spoken or ever read about has commented on this difficulty.

You’ve probably read my suggestion of practice slow and you learn fast. This is based on not just experience but on recommendations from folks in the medical profession when speaking of training our hands to manipulate a musical instrument in the manner which want to manipulate it. In other words, no one picks up an instrument and instantly plays like a master. Yeah, I’ve heard the stories about so-and-so who can pick up and play anything he wants or she wants. I have yet to see anyone on the planet pick up any instrument, having had no experience at all, and being able to play like a master.

This is good news however.

This means, we all face the same challenges when learning to play the banjo. We are not alone.

You Are Making Progress

Whether you are playing a four string tenor banjo, a five string banjo, a four string plectrum banjo or a six string banjo, every minute you spend joyfully tinkering and exploring, you are making progress.

Most often, because we are so “closely involved” we can’t discern our progress. There are a plethora of expressions out there like “a watched pot never boils”.  But the truth is, if you watch the pot long enough it will boil.

It’s a little like watching your hair grow. Eventually you need a haircut, but seeing the progress is not very fast.

Looking at it another way, think about how many times you pick up a nail clipper so that you can play your banjo more comfortably. How often does that happen? Did you see your fingernails grow? Not really, but after a while they were longer.

This is why we know that we are making progress every single time we pick up our banjo.

Not Just a Pep Talk

The truth of the matter is, you are always making progress. This is a fact. Because there’s only so much we can do to “progress a little faster” the main idea to take away from this today is that you are always making progress.This is why the focus here is on the New Year’s resolution.

“To focus on enjoying every minute spent playing our banjos and not be distracted by a perceived lack of progress.”

As you enjoy playing more and more, your progress will continue. You will get better. It is almost impossible to NOT improve. However, if your focus is on enjoying what you’re doing and enjoying every minute spent playing your banjo, then your focus is on the joy and not on “progress”.

Don’t get me wrong, we want to make progress, but part of this “trick” is to stay focused on how much you are enjoying what you’re doing and not necessarily how far you have come.

Let’s Commit to This in 2017

In our resolution, let’s add a couple more ideas as well. Let’s resolve to not look for any gimmicks that might promise to speed things up. Let’s resolve to just work at playing and love every minute of doing it.

Let’s also resolve to eliminate the “need for excuses”. Because we enjoy what we’re doing, we don’t need to apologize or make excuses to anyone.

“To focus on enjoying every minute spent playing our banjos and not be distracted by searching for gimmicks or excuses for a perceived lack of progress.”

Now that’s a commitment based on reality and sincere love of the banjo.

Happy New Year


Kristin Scott Benson chooses the Deering Golden Series banjos
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