Learning the Banjo

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.

Comments:

Hey, I am not the only Fleckster on blogs.sun.com! I tried banjo about 10 years ago and just ran out of time. Not to mention I moved and seemed to have lost the (old) banjo in the process. If you don't have it, go grab the "Strength in Numbers" CD. Excellent. Back to acoustic I go ...

Posted by John Clingan on August 12, 2004 at 04:13 AM MDT #

Good to see other pickers at Sun. We have at least 2 in Atlanta, and 1 in Alabama that I'm aware of. I've been a Bass guitarist for many years. I began listening to Bela Fleck & The Flecktones just to hear Victor Wooten (Arguably the best bass player alive). It was a natural progression to pick up the Banjo after that.

Posted by Jeff Bounds on August 12, 2004 at 06:10 AM MDT #

Good to see some like minds. Victor W. is pretty amazing. Thanks for the CD tip, John. I've ben listening to Live Art. One of the tracks is a banjo solo that ranges from Bach to the Beverly Hillbillies theme. Wild.

Posted by greimer on August 12, 2004 at 09:07 AM MDT #

Just watch out... a lot of 5-string banjo players go on to pedal steel.... ;-)

Posted by John Dowdell on August 12, 2004 at 09:52 AM MDT #

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About

My name is Greg Reimer and I'm a web technologist for the Sun.COM web design team.

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