Learning the Banjo

Posted on: May 18th, 2005 5:15 PM GMT

By: Greg Reimer (Code Monkey Extraordinaire)

Topic: banjo, music, learning

I must admit, I'm a rock-n-roll guy. I play electric guitar, and my effects board is an electronic nightmare of bolts, wires, stompboxes and plywood. Playing the banjo has thus been like a journey through the back woods of Kentucky after growing up in the Bronx.

Fortunately, my infatuation with the musical stylings of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones has disrupted the musical impedance barrier. When you enter the world of Bela Fleck, you go in liking funk, or jazz, or reggae, but you (invariably) come out liking bluegrass.

Anyway, this stuff is hard. Well, actually it's easy to do basic fingerpicking patterns, even somewhat speedily if you have some guitar picking background, but if you spend more than five minutes listening to a random sampling of bluegrass, your hair stands on end. Somewhere once, deep in the midst of the eighties metal movement, the most fantastically over-the-top, technically complex, lightening fast guitar solo composition might have approached the level of what goes on all the time in the bluegrass world. That's enough to keep a wannabe banjo guitarist humble.

(originally posted 12 Aug 2004 at my work blog)

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