Learning to Play the Banjo: 3 Practice Tips

Learning to play the banjo can be an overwhelming task. Practice is one of the major keys to success. But, how can we find more time to practice. Here are a couple of tips.

1.  Find Time To Practice:

When my mother retired she used to tell me she was busier than ever! As a lifelong volunteer, I remember being told that if you wanted to get a project done, look for a busy person. Both of these statements seem at odds with one another, right? But, what  do both of these statements have in common? The “busy” person has learned how to prioritize their time to get things done. They have looked at their “finite” time and carved out specific “moments” to help them complete their “to do” list.

The hardest part for all of us in this busy world is finding the time to practice. It’s not wanting, needing, or learning how to practice so much as it is carving out some time in our very busy lives to practice, right?

What do other people do to overcome this very common thread among those of us who want to learn to play the banjo? Because “practice”, my friends, really is one of the most important keys to learning to play the banjo. And you know what? It is fun!

How much time is needed? If you can only practice 5 minutes, then do so. If you can get in more time, say 15-20 minutes, then more is better. But remember, if you only practiced at 5 minute intervals, several times a day...you would be at 30 minutes in no time, right?

2.  Put the banjo somewhere convenient so you can reach for it more easily.

You might have to leave it on a stand near a comfortable chair in the living room. There are some folks who keep one by their desk in their office at work. I know of a busy truck driver who keeps it in the cab with him as he drives across country. You have to be able to pick up your banjo to practice! So if you can easily reach for it, then you are one step closer to your practice session. If you are walking through the living room on the way to the kitchen, take a 5 minute break and pick up your banjo. If you get a 15 minute break at work, pick up your banjo and walk outside and practice for 5 minutes (please wear a strap for safety!). If you are on a long distance trip and stop for a bathroom and beverage break, take out the banjo and include 5 minutes to play. Your brain will enjoy the break and your picking hand will get just that much MORE muscle memory. Get creative! Look at your day and see where you might be able to carve out just 5 minutes to play your banjo.

3.  Use a mute

Sounds counter productive, right? Nope. You can still hear your banjo and be close to your family, friends, neighbors, or people in the hotel room next to you. Mutes make banjos very “user friendly” in close quarters.  For the openback banjo player this can be something as simple as a towel sandwiched between your coordinator rod and the banjo head, a foam wedge can do the same thing, or you can buy a commercial mute (http://www.deeringbanjos.com/products/deering-banjo-mute)  if you have a resonator model to make life easier...and still get in that practice time. You can be with your family watching TV and still play the banjo. Think of how many commercials we are bombarded with when watching television? Now that is surely more than 5 minutes of practice time, right?


October 13, 2016 by Carolina Bridges

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