Posts tagged ‘banjos’

December 5, 2013

So Many Instruments

I have always been amazed by the amount of music out there (who hasn’t, I guess?) There is no way that I will ever hear it all, ever be able to find all the bands and artists that I enjoy, so I do the best that I can.  There are also so many instruments in the world, and I have a tendency to want to learn to play all of them, unrealistically.  The only instrument that I have actually kept up with is the guitar, even my bass playing which used to be my main instrument and which I loved has fallen by the wayside while I’m at college.

The banjo was my latest attempted conquest, my first in a while.

Instruments That I Have Tried to Learn (and pretty much haven’t)

-Harmonica

-Ukulele

-Piano

harmonica

I have some basic knowledge of these (I own a harmonica, a ukulele, and a keyboard- which kind of count, maybe)

All of these fell through because I didn’t practice, or I didn’t have time to.  I always want instant instrument gratification, and I need to realize that this is the farthest thing from reality.  I haven’t given up hope on all of them yet however.

I still want to learn:

-Sitar

Ravi Shankar

-Drums

-Fiddle

-Tuba (kind of)

 

Rick Danko with Fiddle

And, I mean, I’m pretty much open to other instruments as well.

The sitar is my dream, I’m pretty sure it takes like a lifetime to be really good- but who know… maybe someday!

While on this quest to learn banjo I realized that it will be difficult for me to ever learn any of these instruments without extensive practice.  I, of course practiced guitar and bass- but somehow it was different.  I move fast, I am always in a hurry, which sometimes makes it difficult for me to learn new things that take a long time to pick up on.

My mom has begun learning ukulele in my absence from home, and I can see so much how practicing every day has helped her improve tremendously.  Although she still feels as though she can’t play very well- I think she has a remarkable grasp on the instrument for only playing for about two months.

So- you’re like- this is NOT about banjos, where are the banjos?!

I’m kind of getting there, maybe.  Basically what I have realized through this blog, through this semester is that owning the instrument doesn’t mean you know how to play it.  Of course, I always knew this but it seems to have really hit me with this latest venture.  When I headed to college in the summer I was sure that I would come home for winter break pickin’ like a pro.  But, as break rapidly approaches I realize that this is not the case.

And that’s okay.

I’ve learned so much about the instrument, have a newfound appreciation for all of those that play it, and I haven’t given up hope that someday I will live up to my name of “Banjo Lil” and when people ask me to play them a song on the banjo I will quickly pull out my banjo and play a rollicking rendition of “This Land is Your Land” OF COURSE.

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November 20, 2013

Taj Mahal

I’ve been finding the banjo in places that I wouldn’t expect.

This weekend, I was listening to CDs in the car and I decided to listen to Taj Mahal. I’ve been a fan since I was young enough to know what a fan was, he’s always been a part of my family’s musical history.  My sister was named after a Taj Mahal song, so clearly he has been influential on my family. Somehow, I never connected Taj to banjo because I have tried to play some of his songs, but always on guitar or bass. 

While riding along I heard some serious banjo playing, and realized I had left a HUGE gap in my blogging about banjo players that influence me/ I find amazing.  Taj Mahal is a pretty cool artist.  He brings his music alive, and I always want to find out what is going to happen next in all his songs, that are usually stories.

Taj Mahal

A few of my favorites are Fishin’ Blues, Frankie and Albert, Cakewalk, and recently Shady Grove (with a whole lot of banjo!)  I had never heard Shady Grove before and I immediately appreciated the banjo as well as the lyrics (always a big thing for me) “Peaches in the summertime, apples in the fall”.  

Once again, I am day by day surprised by the amount of banjo music and banjo facts, and people that are intrigued by the banjo (I guess kind of in the same way that I am). It seems just as I start grasping for something to blog about someone wants to play my banjo, hear me play the banjo, I hear a song with some banjo playing, or I realize an artist I have been listening to for years plays the banjo- and I never really thought about it before.  It’s pretty cool that there is so much banjo out there, and that it can be used for such a variety of purposes from more traditional to the new music that is being written and performed now.

Taj Mahal

November 11, 2013

Banjo in the Station

Yesterday, my banjo took its first journey out of my dorm room for the entire semester, and landed at the radio station (after a quick pit stop at Starbucks).  One of my friends wanted to try his hand at banjo picking, and of course, as “Banjo Lil” I was happy to oblige.  I hadn’t really carried my banjo around very much but I felt a certain sense of accomplishment as I lugged it in its ill-fitting case across the campus and into the underground radio station that is practically by second home.  When we arrived there were two other conflicted music sources, of course, the person who was currently on the radio was playing, and someone was practicing guitar in an abandoned room upstairs.  This made for a difficult practice/ jam session (I had my guitar as well- I know, a real multi-instrumentalist!) but we managed, at least for a few minutes.  Watching someone else play was a cool experience, although I am still not very proficient at playing anything other than a few random chords, and some improvisational finger picking, I felt as though I was sharing something.  We played quietly in the station, and then moved into the hallway determined to overpower the people playing upstairs.  Of course, our two acoustic instruments were hardly a match for a loud electric guitar, but this also made a strong musical impression on me.  Needless to say, the banjo will be residing in the radio station for a while longer, perhaps spreading the influence to even more people that have always wanted the chance to try their hand at the banjo.

Susannah at the Station!

Susannah at the Station!

September 12, 2013

Me and the banjo

So, perhaps I should kind of introduce myself to start off. I’m Lilly- but for this blog, I’m “Lil.”  I love learning new instruments, and there are so many that I would love to learn.  My newest venture is the BANJO. These days, it seems like the banjo is everywhere, it seems to be having a resurgence of popularity and it seems that musicians are incorporating it into a lot of the music they play.  I started thinking about the banjo more & more when my dad started planning a banjo tour for the performing arts center that he works for.  Last fall, even though I was at college, the banjo consumed my mind & my family’s minds.  Then, I began to get more and more interested in the banjo when I started listening & learning about Bob Dylan. This might sound weird, considering that Dylan doesn’t use banjos in the majority (or all?) of his work, but listening to Bob led me to Pete Seeger.  Growing up in a VERY music oriented family means that I already knew who he was, but my interest began growing.  Over the summer I read a biography of Seeger called “How Can I Keep from Singing?”: The Ballad of Pete Seeger by David King Dunaway. I decided it was time to learn this instrument. So, with a stroke of luck I received one on “indefinite” loan, and I started in.

IMG_1292

Here she is… “Susannah.”

ANYWAY. In my blog I plan to outline my journey in learning the banjo, learning about those that play the banjo, and pretty much anything I absorb that catches my interest about the banjo.  So, let’s see how it goes!