Learning Frailing Banjo Week 20

Week 20 of learning to play frailing banjo, and also the art of standing on my head. Both are progressing, sometimes forwards, sometimes backwards. Both crafts share some of the same requirements, patience of course and practice. Sometimes brute force gets you through to the next level and there you can find the nuances. The temptation with headstands is to rush the whole thing and use force and inertia to get upside down, of course then inertia being inertia it doesn’t just stop, it goes all the way over. Last week though I found a sweet spot, usually I’m spending all my effort balancing by making slight adjustments to leg positions – legs are inevitably sticking out all over the place – but this time I got both legs over my centre of balance and everything suddenly went quiet. I was balanced, without effort and without moving.

Sometimes that happens with the banjo, I’m playing and messing up every F change, the 1st string is dulled when I hit it as my finger hasn’t fretted it quite right, and then sometimes everything just falls into place.

This week I’m practicing ‘Boil ‘em Cabbage Down’ messing around with some of the other melody notes, hitting the 1st and 2nd strings I found that I could hear the resonance of that 2nd string hanging in the air and sounding almost as if a flute was accompanying the tune. I’m using the first riff of ‘John Hardy’ to practice the C to F to C change and then messing around with one of mine, ‘Woman Without Dog’, that has the D7 F C G progression.

We’re living without broadband at the moment, halfway between here and there, making do with mobile data and uploading videos sporadically.

Learning Frailing Banjo Week 19

It’s week 19 and I’ve been practicing a new song ‘John Hardy’, one of the key priorities for me on the banjo is to learn the tunes and the words rather than having to depend on tabs and song sheets to remember them as I seem to have to do with the guitar. I have been practicing the first three lines of each verse (CC FC GG GG) and started by just playing the first string as the melody note for each chord. Once I had this cracked, as in I had learnt the order of the chords, I then looked again and practiced the melody strikes for each of those chords ie string 21 11 12 34 for each of those chords above. Looking at the tabs in Patrick Costello’s ‘The Outlaws and Sealawags Songbook’ there’s some funky hammer-ons and single note strikes at the end of each line to add in as well as soon as I am comfortable. That’s the great thing about learning these songs, they can be as simple or as complex as you like for your own stage of learning.

In this week’s video I also talk about making the melody notes sing and the twin trails of learning to play fast and also learning to play accurately as I fumble for the F chord.