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There is much happening here in the office, even with delays due to my chronic pain.
First, my cover of No Expectations will be hitting streaming media services soon.
In other news, there are two sets of banjo instruction heading to the Internet soon.
Now, before we can even begin to discuss making music with the banjo, we need to take a realistic view of the medium.
Over the last forty years or so, the act of making music with the banjo morphed from something you just did into what I once described as an awful kind of rocket science.
The way I was taught, a jam session was largely improvisational. In almost every encounter with other musicians, we found ourselves forced to learn on the fly. One old picker might have thrown a Hank Williams tune at us, the next a rock ballad, the next something learned from a 78 RPM record, and so on.
At one point, it all seemed overwhelming. Tiny, my mentor, crossed his arms over the 1928 National guitar he purchased when it was new, lit a cheap cigar, and said, “It’s all music, kid.”
Snobs who couldn’t play their way out of a urine-soaked paper bag love to break music into genres. The real lulus even adhere to a dress code according to whatever scene they hope to attach themselves to.
In the narrow-vision cosplay version of music, the blues sounds different from Mozart, so they must be using different notes or some other mystical idiocy.
The truth is, there are only twelve notes. That’s it. Anarchy In The UK uses the same notes as Achy Breaky Heart, Y.M.C.A, Air on the G String, and every other bit of music you have ever heard.
The modern jam approach treats music as something memorized note-by-note. This stems largely from bluegrass becoming a scene based on replicating performances. The old-time scene did the same thing with groups imitating The New Lost City Ramblers.
I don’t know about you, but it seems dumb to dress up and play like another artist when I have the potential, even with my handicaps, to make music that expresses my feelings.
In this setting, everything is memorized. As a result, there is no flow. Everything sounds the same because the people holding the instruments have no perspective beyond memorizing and replicating something they do not understand.
In the upcoming workshop series, there will be no tab or notation provided because you can’t teach improvisation from a script.
What we will do is explore the craft with no preconceived boundaries. The banjo is just a kazoo with strings. You make the music.
To learn along with my Dear Old Dad and the Reverend Pillsbury, you will need the following things:
- A five-string banjo
- A chromatic tuner
- Music staff paper, pencil, and eraser
- Richter-tuned harmonicas in the keys of G and C with rack
- A glass pill-bottle style slide
- A couple of sets of extra strings
The workshops will be recorded as podcasts, with each episode available exclusively to patrons for two weeks before going public.
The video series will be done separately and differently. More details soon.
Experimenting with some public domain clips to make a music video for my cover of No Expectations.
The track has been sent out to all the streaming music services. It should, hopefully, be on your playlist soon.
My slide banjo cover of No Expectations is out. You can use this link to share the song, or visit your favorite streaming music service.
I broke my electric razor trying to shave a prickly sweet gum ball from Meatballs ample, and extremely hairy, backside.
Now that I have your attention, there is some news to share.
First, I am still battling some issues with the solid-body electric five-string banjo. We will work them out in time, but, until then, I’ll be working with the acoustic.
Yes. This is extremely frustrating. If my hands were in better shape, I could resolve some issues with the instrument myself. As it is, I’m just going to have to let dad beat the bushes to find a tech or a builder up to the task.
I possess almost superhuman persistence, but being patient is not exactly my thing. There is so much music in my head, and I can’t get the right electric five-string can-opener.
This also means my workflow may be slightly slower. Even with the slide, playing—even picking up—my acoustic hurts like hell.
It’s rough when your only escape from chronic pain is music, but it hurts to play. I need that electric before I go bonkers.
In other news, The Reverend Pillsbury is on Spotify and other streaming platforms! Be sure to follow, so you can keep up with the latest releases.
Even more exciting, dad and I are working on an audio (and possibly video) workshop series on my slide technique. Each workshop will be free for patrons and available as paid downloads. We will be going over the mechanical aspects of playing slide, various major/minor tunings, and walkthroughs of individual songs.
I should note, Gus Cannon played lap style with a metal bar on the strings, and Doc Walsh raised the action of his banjo with pennies under the bridge to play slide. My approach appears to be unique—even more so when you factor in that I am not limited by genre.
Look for more information in upcoming posts.
While you are waiting, spread the news about Spotify. It would mean a lot to me.
Now I am off to see if I can shave with a regular safety razor. I have a feeling I’m growing a beard.
Somebody tell Remington that their electric shavers can’t stand up to a Maine coon cat’s ass.
For patrons, some material that would not normally be released. https://www.patreon.com/posts/72542377
The title says it all. Go read it: How To Actually Learn To Play Frailing Banjo.
The mastered version of my take on Buddy Bolden Blues has been released to the various streaming music services.
If you like it, share the song with someone you love. If you don’t like it, share the song with someone you intensely dislike. Whatever you do, share it!