The Daily Frail has gone back to its podcast roots for our Patreon Sponsors. We have made today’s episode public to give everybody a chance to hear what they have been missing!
I broke my frailing nail to the quick packing up to go home after Monday Music Night.
Part of being an old-time banjo player is being neurotic about your frailing nail.
I do not use my fingernails like flatpicks. I actually strike close to the middle of my fingernail. Even painfully short nails can produce good tone with practice. Long nails just make things a tad easier.
I do not recommend salon nails. I tried it and it was more uncomfortable than watching Basic Instinct with my parents. The plastic is so thick that it kills the tone of the strike.
The best solution I have found is a custom sterling silver frailing thimble by Ellington Silver Picks. The pick was hand made to fit the measurements of my finger and engraved with my initials.
The pick features a wide striking area with a downward curve to avoid getting snagged on the banjo strings. The interior of the band has a sandpaper texture to help keep the pick in place.
How does it sound? It’s not the same tone that I get with my unadorned fingernail. There is more volume and that seems to draw out the strong points of my banjo. It sure feels nice when the pick strikes the string.
The only downside to plying with a pick is that there is a chance you can catch the pick on the strings and send it flying through the air. It doesn’t happen often, but when it dies everybody knows it!
Do the picks need to be silver? Yes. I think they do. The picks have a lovely tone on steel string s without a lot of scratching, The material also forces me to be aware of where my picks are, so I am less likely to loose them or loan them out.
After using the pick yesterday to record The Daily Frail for my Patreon sponsors I was struck again by how good the frailing pick sounds. I think I will keep my nails short and my silver picks handy.
Ellington picks are no longer available, but I am sure there is a craftsman out there willing to make his or her own version of this amazing tool.
In addition to the frailing pick I was also given a silver fingerpick and bladeless thumb pick. The are awesome on my Dobro resophonic guitars!
A quick workshop on playing fraiing banjo and harmonica simultaneously.
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Doc Moonshine writes:
This is an interview I recorded, during the station that I broadcast with’s previous incarnation. during this conversation, Patrick and I discuss what lead us to music, Patrick’s philosophy on banjo playing and on making music in general, and what sets his teaching apart. like any good friends, there are methods Patrick and I agree on and methods we don’t. but that doesn’t stop us having a good laugh and hopefully teaching you a thing or too.
It’s been a long day for me. I woke up at 0-dark-thirty with a hideous migraine.
Thankfully, Dear Old Dad picked up more of my migraine medicine and Pooka has been glued to my side. Right about now I just feel like I have been run over by a truck hauling pig manure – and that’s a big improvement from this morning.
I do have one cool bit of news to share! YouTube sent me a notice that my beginner harmonica lesson has passed ten thousand views! Wow!
I guess I have to add harmonica to my upcoming slate of workshops!
Have a great weekend!
Patrick and Dear Old Dad discuss the future of old-time banjo, Patrick bashes himself on the head, free banjo lessons, Patrick’s book-in progress and a whole lot more.
Support our music workshops: https://www.patreon.com/Dobro33H
When I started out on the banjo people were quick to tell me the limits of frailing/clawhammer/old-time banjo. in a lot of ways it was similar to the list of things my doctor said I would never do when I was diagnosed with epilepsy.
I proved the doctor wrong just like I proved the old-timers wrong. You can do ANYTHING with the technique of frailing!
I can’t say much right now . . . but I have just experienced that next step. Something that will open a whole new world of music for frailing banjo players. All I can say is, “Wow!”
Expect updates sometime in 2019 and beyond!
I was chatting with somebody on Facebook the other day and I was told a story I hear all too often.
The story goes like this:
- Person buys a banjo.
- Person starts lessons.
- Teacher presents the craft by handing out tab sheets for fiddle tunes.
- Person finds Dear Old Dad and Patrick on YouTube.
- Person mentions Dear Old Dad and Patrick to the teacher.
- Teacher goes on a rant about the Costello family.
- Teacher goes back to handing out tab for fiddle tunes.
Teaching and handing out tab are two different things.
I started bluegrass lessons with my dad back in the 1970’s. In all our years making music, working as DJ’s, running a huge festival, managing a country music theater, Performing as The God Knows We Tried String Band, running a video music magazine, pioneering web-based education, pioneering open-source music instruction and launching a publishing company we have yet to meet one person who started out on the banjo wanting to play fiddle tunes.
We have been up and down the East Coast, out into the Midwest and through the Internet all over the world. We always hear the same things. People took up the banjo to make music on the front porch. To sing songs for their kids or grandchildren. To have fun.
Many people presenting themselves as teachers ignore what their students want and do a hard sell on a fictional version of traditional music that fits their skill set. Instead of introducing the student to the language of music, they take a shortcut. They hand over a tab sheet which leaves the student with no tools to build coordination, confidence or an understanding of the medium. Making music becomes memorizing the notes of fiddle tunes. Everything sounds the same!
The student is left feeling like a failure.
Banjo camps, banjo workshops at festivals and banjo lessons have fallen into this ugly routine of struggling to remember the tab sheet for a song that is not pleasing to the ear. If the student gets antsy the teacher will distract them with multiple obscure tunings or pointless technical exercises.
We have watched this long enough. It’s time to clear the deck and drive out the carpet baggers and joyless drones who are providing bad instruction.
We have already made enough information freely available for self-motivated beginners to teach themselves. Our books and video workshops are used by tens of thousands of students around the world. The missing element has been face to face instruction. Well, my father and I have decided to make ourselves ourselves available to students for personalized lessons via video chat.
Contact us at email@example.com to schedule a phone meeting with Dear Old Dad. He will assess where you are right now and schedule a first video lesson with one or both of us. After the initial lesson we will give you suggestions on what to practice. Once you have that material down cold, contact us to schedule a second lesson.
If you have read The How and the Tao of Old Time Banjo this setup should be familiar to you.
“Ok now, get lost. Go on and work on that. Don’t come back until you can do like we showed you.”
So right about now you are wondering what these lessons are going to cost.
I am happy to tell you that the answer is nothing.
There is no charge for this service!
Well, we have done this for free in the past and some people ended up behaving as if our time is not valuable. To avoid that we are asking for a few things if you come to us for instruction.
- Don’t waste our time.
- Don’t make excuses for not practicing.
- Stop paying for lessons based on memorizing fiddle tunes.
- Stop hanging around in banjo forums.
- Once you are playing, share as we shared with you.
If this is acceptable, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a phone meeting with Dear Old Dad to discuss the possibility of scheduling an initial lesson.
Be sure to include a phone number.
Packing my gear for Monday music night. Pooka doesn’t want me to leave without her.
In Episode Two of Riding The Reels Patrick and Dear Old Dad try to find something nice to say about the 1954 killer ant movie The Naked Jungle.
You can help this podcast raise some change by ordering The Naked Jungle on Amazon with this link: amzn.to/2SMd9g8