Old farts often try to give folks advice -- that's pretty much what this is all about. Don't make the same mistake that I made. If you're really interested in playing a particular instrument, D I V E INTO IT. Don't approach it in a half-assed manner. I'm talking here about clawhammer banjo playing, but this "essay" most certainly applies to ANY instrument. 40 years ago I decided that I really liked clawhammer banjo and set about to learn how to play it. I struggled for a few weeks with the basic "bum-di-di, bum-di-di rhythm and got it down pretty good. Next came a few tunes & I figured I had it licked. Ha! I have to say that my main instrument is the old-time fiddle. I spent tons and tons of time learning how to play it -- ran my old Wollensak reel-to-reel tape recorder at half-speed until it quite literally wore out. Fiddle is my first love. What I'm getting at is that although I really loved clawhammer banjo, I never gave learning how to play it the proper attention that it certainly deserved. Perhaps, more importantly, I never REALIZED that I'd not given it the attention it deserved. Now that I'm retired and nearing fossil age, the clawhammer banjo is speaking to me louder than ever. The "bug" really bit hard & I have devoted most of my spare musical time to it. It's ONLY NOW that I realize my mistake -- that is, the mistake of learning clawhammer just to the point of being able to play a few tunes and no further & THINKING that I was a clawhammer banjo player! I had a good deal of fun "plunking at" the banjo over the last four decades, but nowhere NEAR the fun that I've had this past year or so now that I finally took the instrument seriously. This poses somewhat of a dilema -- if asked how long I've played the banjo, even thought I've played AT IT for some 40 years (including some recordings & for the public quite often), I'm far more inclined to answer "about a year". In this year of infatuation with clawhammer banjo, I also realized that if I'd only pushed ahead JUST A LITTLE more decades ago, I'd have been a real banjo player all along! By "pushed ahead" I mean (for instance) if I'd have taken the two or three weeks needed to really learn double-thumbing well, just that single effort would have made all the difference in the world. It's OK to approach the learning of an instrument merely casually, but there's nothing like having an infatuation with it &, driven by this love, seeing the fascinating "momentum of learning" drive things on!
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