Posts tagged ‘Pete Seeger’

November 26, 2013

Banjo Thoughts

I’ve been immersed in the world of banjos for almost the past three months, and I’ve certainly learned a lot.  Although I will definitely be banjo blogging until December, I feel like I need to look back at my banjo experience so far to remember some of the reasons that I have been blogging and social networking for this one instrument.  Since I’ve started this blog I’ve been able to attend the NY Banjo Tour (and meet a lot of the current banjo talents of the day).  I’ve also been slowly learning some of the instrument that I have been talking about.  I started this blog hoping that it would encourage me not to give up on my goal to learn the instrument- and I’m not entirely sure that it worked as well as I hoped that it would.  Although I know a lot about banjos, and I pay more attention to anyone that plays the banjo- I am nowhere close to being a real banjo player.  I am still a novice.  Despite the fact that the name “Banjo Lil” has stuck with me, and I feel like on some level I am spreading the banjo to my friends, family, and maybe to some people that I’ve never even met- I think it is about time I really settled in and learned a few more songs.  A lot of the fun for me in learning a new instrument, is just playing around on it- figuring out a familiar tune or creating your own tune that has never been played before.

NY Banjo Tour

There is something special about being known for something- but it is something that I am not even close to being an expert on.  I came in at time that the banjo was chugging and almost rocketing to stardom- some kind of folk relic that has been reincarnated.  Once an instrument for playing the music of everyday people, to an integral part of the protest and folk revival of the 1940s/50s/60s (with Pete Seeger carrying it into popularity), and now it has become either a quirky thing to pick up (maybe that’s part of the reason why I decided that it would be my latest musical venture…), and also a part of the rollicking folk-rock of the present day (not particularly my favorite genre).  I sought to connect to this instrument and I think that for the most part I have, I feel as though the banjo is such a big part of my life- despite the fact that I play the guitar more often.

I think that my opportunity to actually learn how to play is over my winter break, when I might have more free time than I do now to learn new songs, and reinforce the few that I already know, and also to perhaps collaborate with musical members of my family.  Then, hopefully when I return to school I will be able to play along with my talented & musical school friends and- who knows- perhaps I’ll be in the next famous folk band.

October 23, 2013

Banjos Everywhere

Last night, I watched “No Direction Home” one of the documentaries about Bob Dylan (and one of my favorite movies).  Although the movie is (of course) mainly focused on Dylan- it covers his musical background and influencers very well.  You see everyone from Hank Williams to Odetta.  It was interesting for me to see (this is the first time I’ve watched it since plunging into the banjo world), how many artists use the banjo in their work at this time. Of course, there are the “singer-songwriters”, like Dylan himself, but the folk movement (of course) included a lot of banjo.  Everyone from the Jim Kweskin Jug Band to The Weavers (of course) had someone picking at the banjo.

I may digress here, for a moment.  “No Direction Home” is one of those movies that makes me both overwhelmed by all the music that is in the world, as well as so happy that I will never run out of new bands and new musicians to discover.  It is so interesting to see all of the bands and solo acts that influenced Dylan, as well and who were around in the same era as him.  Although their music is more or less all part of the folk revival, they are all such diverse musicians and that’s what makes the movie great (and it doesn’t hurt to see numerous pictures & clips of Bob himself).  Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger are of course a part of the documentary, and it is nice to see Pete holding onto his banjo throughout his entire interview, the banjo such a part of him that they can’t be separated.  Perhaps someday, I’ll be heading in that direction, but for now, I’m still in awe of all of the amazing musicians of yesteryear as well as today.

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan

September 20, 2013

This Land is Your Land

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I started learning a few basic songs on the banjo a week or after I got it.  I was learning from the Pete Seeger’s Book “How to Play the 5-String Banjo.” I was pretty excited to be learning from someone that I thought was a pretty amazing player (with an interesting life too!)  I had been to his 90th birthday concert when I was a freshman in high school, but had not fully appreciated the impact that he had made both politically and musically.

Skip to My Lou

Here he is playing Skip to My Lou.

The first song that I learned to play was “This Land is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie.  Woody Guthrie is another one of those musicians that I have a certain reverence for.  Although the song is pretty basic, I was pretty happy that I was able to play the recognizable tune, and it also gave me something to practice my picking on.  Playing “This Land is Your Land” also makes me slightly nostalgic, when I was younger my dad and I used to bike by the railroad tracks near my house, and I was always worried we would get caught and get in trouble, but my dad assured me that is someone asked us to leave, we would simply sing “This Land is Your Land” and all would be well.

When playing the banjo (the 5-string) you have to hit the fifth string at a certain point in your picking pattern.  I am still working on this, and can only hope that by the end of the semester I am able to play in a more cohesive way.

While I am trying to learn some more songs on the banjo (I pretty much have down “The Crawdad Song” as well as “Skip To My Lou,” it is almost time for the banjo tour again. You should check it out!

Banjo Tour

I wasn’t able to make it to a show last year, and I’m not sure if this week will work for me either, however, it is certain to be a good time.

I’m hoping that this week I will be able to advance my playing skills… I haven’t been able to practice a lot since I got back to school, but I think I should be able to find more time soon!

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.

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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!