My Banjo

I am learning how to play the banjo. My teacher is a wonderful man; patient, funny and supportive. Please send him ear plugs. Learning to play was not on my radar, but when I picked up Roger’s old banjo, I thought “why not?. Maybe it was a way for me to feel closer to him after he died. How on earth would I ever learn to play the banjo? My confidence level hovered around zero. I needed a teacher. I didn’t want to be a beginner, but I got humble real fast. My fingers were complete strangers to the chords. This finger here and next finger there… the result resembled a crab.When I strummed it was obvious that my fingers were not feeling the music. I kept showing up at my lesson time and begging to be let in.

Every great banjo player was at one time, a beginner, just like me. Bela Fleck was not born with a banjo in his hands and even Earl Scruggs had to learn to play banjo. That’s what we humans do; we learn and we practice! I have tried not to practice mistakes, so I play slow before I play fast. I place each finger carefully, press the strings down and strum. I do this over and over until my fingers remember where to go and my brain knows what sound I should hear. Then I do it faster and still correctly. I have practiced a lot of mistakes over my lifetime, and wondered why things just didn’t get better. I have practiced choosing men who were big mistakes, and self hate when these doomed relationships self-destructed. Practice can never make life perfect . After awhile even wrong notes and clumsy technique can sound O.K. When you hear the correct notes and timing you finally realize your version is a mistake and sounds awful. How did I learn to play life so wrong? No one gave me lessons to help me play well and beautifully. The lessons I was taught protected the status quo, and I never knew I had my own music inside me.

So now I can play a few songs on my banjo, my practice is about using the equipment and my new skills to finally make music. It feels amazing to play “Mary had a Little Lamb”. “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” is just around the curve (of planet Earth) but I will get there.  Bluegrass here I come. I don’t mind the slow going on my banjo skills, because I am very concerned about getting it right. I have found the right teacher. Thank you John! Roger is probably laughing at me. I know he is proud of me and so am I.

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