Unboxing my new banjo!

It’s finally here everyone!!  I had things to get done before I could open it so I’ve brought you along for the ride.  Hope you enjoy!  The banjo is a Gold Tone CC-OT.

I got this banjo for several reasons.

  1. Weight – it weighs less than my WL-250
  2. Depth – the pot isn’t as deep and just for comfort
  3. I needed something that might not hurt as much if I play standing.  My WL is heavy and it hurts my neck and shoulders when I play with a strap on it.
  4. I also wanted something that was less expensive to be outside in the garden playing and toting around with me wherever I go.  Not that this is cheap by any means, but it does cost less than the WL.
  5. GT and everyone has had to change from rosewood fretboard material to blackwood.  I wanted something made with this material to give it a good review.
  6. Plus it’s never really a bad time to buy a banjo right?????

You can expect me to be playing this banjo in my videos and I’ll bet you can tell some unique differences in sound.

Be sure to like, comment, and subscribe!  BL YouTube

If you are interested in banjo lessons visit my website – Lessons

Without further ado, here it is up close!

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Psalm 119:105 – Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

-Mandy

 

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Get back on the horse…

And we’re off.  2018 is now upon us all.  So you haven’t played banjo in a long time.  That poor banjo is gathering dust in the closet, stuck on your wall, or heck you can’t really remember where it is exactly.

pull_hair_out Where did I put it?????

If you haven’t played in awhile why not make a fresh start in 2018?  Get back on that horse and let’s play.  I offer lessons in various ways.  I have a YouTube Channel that is full of great videos. I also offer a video lesson pack for sale and an ebook with audio exercises to get you going.  Get those HERE.

To get started again just grab that banjo and dust it off a bit.  Tune it up and watch this.

Take your time.  Take your time.  Take your time.  Yes, I’m asking you to just slow down and enjoy the process.  No matter why you put your banjo down in the first place, it doesn’t really matter.  But there is a reason you own a banjo.  Something made you want to learn to play it.  Maybe you played Scruggs style, maybe this maybe that.  If you haven’t tried this style (clawhammer, frailing, Old-Time), then you haven’t seen how happy this style can make you.  Give it a shot.

Hope to hear from you!  If you like what you see on my YouTube channel, make a comment to say hello.  Be sure to like my FB page too.

Mandy

 

Learn to play the banjo now.

Do you want to learn to play the banjo? Have you always wanted to learn to play an instrument but have always put it off or been afraid?  Do you love the sound of the banjo?  Would you love to sit around a campfire and play and sing?  If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, then I have something for you.

Here’s a sampling of what you can learn.  Mandy playin’ Cripple Creek

I have an eBook that I am exited about.  I wrote it and it takes you from the very beginning of learning the banjo.  From how to hold it, begin to play it, practice, and learn songs.  There are 5 songs in the book and 32 audio exercises.  I teach you how to read tablature (it’s really easy the way I teach it).  The eBook is loaded with pictures and closeups.  If you’ve been hesitant to learn before, here’s the best part.

I offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee.  With no questions or strings attached.  If you want your $$ back just ask and I will give it.  I’m happy to say in a couple years of selling this eBook I’ve never once had someone ask for their money back.  If you do though, it’s ok, LOL.

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Buy Now – Easy Clawhammer Banjo $14.99
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Purchase through PayPal and buy with confidence.  You do not need to have a PayPal account.  I will then send you your link to download your eBook within 24 hours of purchase.

Easy Clawhammer Banjo eBook

If you already know how to play but would like to support my efforts on my free YouTube channel you can donate below.  Thank you!
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Improvisation is important.

Ok so I know most of you are relatively new players and are saying WHAT???  You can’t expect us to improvise when we are just starting out – seriously Mandy!

Yes I can I say, and yes you can.  Improvisation can be done alone pretty easily in fact.  Simply find a recording that you can follow along with (my stuff or anyone else’s slow stuff) or even better – record yourself playing a tune you are familiar with slowly.  Then simply play it back to yourself over and over and over while holding your banjo.  Then pick a string and start trying to play some notes within those chords, start doing some regular chords and adding in embellishments (slides, hammers, pulls, or even the double pull off, drop thumb, double thumb etc).  Play around for a really long time (a whole practice session even with just one or two songs).

You will notice that the first few times you do this it will seem kind of difficult to do.  But as you do it more it will become easier.  You will start being able to hear little pauses or spots where you can add in notes or little additions.  I need to work up a vid on this but it’s kind of hard to do because I’ll just be working with one piece of music and I don’t want you to copy that.  Improvisation by definition is on-the-fly and I want to keep it that way.

Just start out with simple things that you are comfortable with – slides, hammers etc.  If you’ve been practicing some by ear – which you should be doing if you aren’t already -see my earlier post on playing by ear – then you should be able to also get onto one string and just play around with it some.  There are lots of complementary notes, bass runs, and things you can do to embellish a piece of music.

By practicing this you will find that things start opening up and becoming easier for you.  Relationships between notes and chords will start to happen within you and it’s all good.  If you keep doing this on a regular basis (weekly or monthly at least) you will find that you can start doing it more often and it will come to you easier.

So grab that banjo and start trying to improvise today y’all.  If you pay heed to anything I say – please do so here and with the by ear one.  These two things will help you more than anything else in my opinion.  Once you have the basics down, it’s time to expand your methods of learning and playing.

Mandy

Philippians 4:13

New International Version (NIV)

13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

 

The Rules Of Jamming, yes there really are some!

One of my goals when I started playing banjo was to play with others.  I think I can fairly say that most people would enjoy it and also have a similar goal.

This brings us to Jamming.  Yes I’ve talked about some of this before but it is worth delving into even more.  There are RULES to jamming.  Most are common sense and normally go unspoken, but being the loudmouth I am I’m going to discuss them. Why not go in a bit prepared and with some tools that will help you?  Mostly though don’t be afraid of jamming, it’s a wonderful way to learn.

    1. Unless this is your own jam, you must follow the flow of the jam you are attending.  – I don’t care how good of a musician you are (or think you are) if you are at someone else’s jam, then you better go with the flow.  I can’t understand how people have a problem with this one, but some actually come and try and take over a jam or tell folks how they need to do things.  This is a big fat NO NO folks and it should be obvious.  Not cool to act a fool.
    2. “Your first time at Fight Club you must fight”, LOL sorry.  What I meant to say was – Your first time at a jam you should be a listener and learner for the most part and less of a doer.  You are listening to how the flow of this jam session works.  You are learning the if, when, how to of the way it goes down.  Is it a bluegrass jam?  Lot’s of jams claim to be one thing but really end up being something else.  The name does not matter at all really.  Do they go around and let everyone pick a tune?  Do they take instrumental breaks during the tunes?  Are most chucking out chords while some, a few, or one person plays the lead?  Just listen and learn.  Take mental notes of how everything is done.  If this is a jam where they let you pick a tune then feel free to take the lead and play a tune, or if you are uncomfortable with that just say – skip me for now please or something to that affect. If people there SUCK and are snobs to you or are mean in any way, then this is not the jam for you.
    3. Quietly – and I stress QUIETLY use the clawhammer stroke to play chords along with what is being played.  Banjos are loud and really LOUD, so remember that others can hear what you are doing.  Take a look over at the guitar player for your chord queues.  It’s sometimes difficult to look at other banjo players for chord queues because they may not be playing chords, or they may only be playing partial chords.   It’s not that hard to recognize guitar chords though and unless they are barring stuff all over the neck you should be able to pick up on it.  If you are unable to do this, then I suggest you jot down the names of the songs being played and if capo’s are being used or if they call out a different key.  There is nothing wrong with being at a jam session and only joining in on some songs (the ones you already know).
    4. If you think you know a song but realize you don’t after the song starts, just quietly sit there and try and figure out what the chords being played are.  Again, there is nothing wrong with sitting there and watching and listening.  Trust me people at jams are used to this and as long as you aren’t playing the wrong thing loudly you will be fine.
    5. When it comes around to you (if you are at that sort of jam) don’t be afraid to take your turn and lead a simple version of Cripple Creek or whatever song you feel comfortable playing at home.  Then just take the song at your speed you normally play and they will all follow for a few rounds.  If you’ve been watching the other songs you would have seen that they usually have some sort of queue to let people know when the song will end.  Usually either raising a leg, or verbally saying something like “last time” is used.  As someone new to a jam if they ask you if you would like to lead a tune they know you will probably be slow and it will be OK I promise because they understand that everyone starts somewhere and all of them are there just to play with others also.  Again if you are not comfortable leading yet, just bow out politely.  Folks just want to feel you out and see that you are not going to be one of those “newbies” who comes in there banging loudly on their banjo drowning everyone out or worse, playing out of time, or playing the wrong chords.  Because if you are one of those – you will not be asked to come back or will be formally dis-invited to that jam.
    6. All jams are different – can’t stress this enough!  If one SUCKS because people are rude or you just don’t like it for some reason this doesn’t mean all jams are like this, it doesn’t mean that people always act like this to newbies at every jam, and it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you either!  Again, unless you are that person who I described above that nobody wants to play with because you are LOUD, out of time, or playing the wrong thing you will be fine.  You can find a jam that fits what your interests and goals are.  If you are unable to find one that you like follow #7.
    7. I’ve done this multiple times before for various reasons.  Start Your Own Jam.  As an example, I have a young daughter so my husband and I don’t like to stay out late especially on weeknights.  I also have other commitments etc, so obviously like a lot of folks my schedule does not allow me to go to some of the jams.  Put an ad in craigslist saying you would like to start a beginner jam session.  Pick a public place to meet and set the date.  Tell people what you are wanting to do.  For instance you could say – Beginner bluegrass old-time folk jam session at Smith Park – then say you play banjo and are interested in getting a few folks to meet you at the Park on Friday evenings at 6pm by the tennis courts (or wherever).  Tell them to bring some songs that they are wanting to play from any genre (or a specified genre if you want that).  You should have people respond to that and just go from there.  You could also make up a little flyer to leave in your local public library, coffee shop, music shop, etc.  I’ve started my own twice before because I couldn’t get to the regular OT or bluegrass jams in my area.  The first one I did had great results and we ended up with a core group and we did some gigs and turned into a little band for awhile. Then folks got busy and we actually moved back up here to NC.  But that one lasted a year and a half.  Now here I’ve done it again and have a jam every month or so with those folks, and I play with our little church group weekly.  There are a bunch of jams in my area now but I just can’t seem to make them fit my schedule.
    8. Find jams –  call music shops, visit coffee shops, libraries, and public places and scour their bulletin boards.  Also a great jam resource is any music festival or local event.  Last Oct. at the pumpkin chunking fest here they had live music, but I also spied a few folks playing off to the side on their own.  That’s how jams happen.  Just throw your banjo in your truck (around here we all drive trucks, no joke really) and wherever you go be ready to pull it out.  Oh yeah produce and farmer’s markets are also a great place to jam.  Just be ready!!  If there’s a tree stump or park bench somewhere in public and you start playing – they will come.  I was at a fest in Georgia (a small one) and I didn’t like the vibe of the one jam session there – there were some people who didn’t like my tattoo’s nor my husband’s and they were rude to me.  My husband was taking my daughter around to some of the booths and I noticed how some reacted to my wonderful husband and beautiful little girl.  I sat there and listened to a few snide remarks and then packed up and found a shady spot away from those people.  Next thing I know here comes a guitar and we started jamming out.  Within about 20 mins we had a fiddle and another guitar join in.  We had a crowd of people listening to us too (not that any of that matters) but my point is none of us liked the way that other jam was going down so we made our own.  That first jam had absolutely zero to do with the music and more to do with attitudes.  You will find that everywhere and in everything you do, just don’t let it get to you.  I had a bunch of fun that day playing with those folks.

With these basic rules in mind, you should be well equipped to go to any jam session now.  Granted, I left out a number for don’t attend a jam that says ADVANCED or stuff like that.  That should be obvious to you.  Also I’ve found jams where there will be a phone number or email for a contact person.  Use this to your advantage.  Call them up or email them and tell them you are a beginner and would like to join in.  They should give you a rundown of what to expect at the jam.  Don’t let fear get to you.  I promise you CAN do this.  You SHOULD do this, and you may find that it is a great deal of fun.  Me personally, I like folk jams the best.  They seem to have the least amount of rules as far as what tunes should be played.  I like mixing it up and doing one song differently than another, so that sort of jam fits for me.  For you it will be different, and that’s a great thing.

Get out there and jam people, get some adventure in your banjo journey going.  This will also give you a huge boost and desire to learn more.  Heck of a lot of fun too!

Mandy

Instead of a verse this time I leave you with this.

“I will know my savior when I come to Him, by the mark where the nails have been” – Gillian Welch

Thank you Jesus for your sacrifice and love of us all.  I celebrate the joy I have found through you and hope to live a more purposeful life in your arms.

 

Playing with other instruments is important.

Here is a slow version of Go Tell Aunt Rhody on guitar so you can play along on your banjos. I believe it is very important to begin playing with other instruments as soon as possible.

Who really wants to sit around alone playing an instrument? Sure there are people who like doing that and there is nothing wrong with it, but you should know how and be able to play along with other instruments as well. I can’t think of anything much more fun than sitting around with my husband and some friends and playing music together. It’s good for the soul.

So go grab your banjos and play along with this. It’s a really simple song and my free website http://www.banjolemonade.com has both the chord version and melody note version of the song written down for you. Play around with it, try doing some improvisation using notes within your chords. Or you could just mess around going up and down one string.

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There is no excuse for not trying it. Doesn’t matter if you have no one around you that knows how to play an instrument. You can always find slow play along videos on youtube to mess around with.

If you do this on a regular basis your rate of learning will grow much faster than if you don’t play with other instruments. Take a song you like to play for instance. Old Joe Clark, Cripple Creek, anything really. Go to youtube, type it in and find a slow version of it to play along with.

You will never regret learning to play with other instruments and there are so many places you can go once you start. Jam sessions of any kind (you can just play along using the chords), community parks and events, church groups, etc. Just sitting down alone in a public place and playing you will find that people will come up to you and want to join in. You meet new people and will start to find out where and when jams are happening. So start now and you won’t regret it.

Mandy

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
New International Version (NIV)
9 Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

**I am an Amazon Affiliate. This means that my links take you to the Amazon website. If you purchase anything there Amazon will give me a small percentage of their profits off the item. You do not pay anymore than if you went straight to Amazon. But it’s a way to help support what I do at Banjo Lemonade. Thanks in advance.

The elusive clawhammer stroke and how to find it!

Here is a vid I did on this.

I’ve heard a lot of people have trouble with this and give up even before fully getting it. It’s not that hard if you just give it a chance. Yes, everything about it feels weird. All of it is downstrokes with the fingernail of your index or middle.

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Don’t let this funky stage win. If you just practice it and plow through it you will get it. Then over time it will feel more natural and you will find it’s 2nd nature to do.

There’s a bunch of vids on this out there and I welcome you to try all of them. I’m partial to mine of course, but it really doesn’t matter where you get it from as long as you get it.

This is the basis of everything and from here you can go far.

Taking your time with this is important. The 3 steps I describe need to be distinct. Do it over and over until it seeps in.

The fun is only just beginning!

Ephesians 4:32
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

**I am an Amazon Affiliate. This means that my links take you to the Amazon website. If you purchase anything there Amazon will give me a small percentage of their profits off the item. You do not pay anymore than if you went straight to Amazon. But it’s a way to help support what I do at Banjo Lemonade. Thanks in advance.