Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Banjo progress

Learning the banjo comes with a lot of lessons that have absolutely nothing to do with where to put your left thumb to give the ring finger leverage on the strings, or how precisely to pick or strum with the right. Nor even how to grin properly while picking. One of the nifty neat-o things you learn is *who else* plays the banjo. Steve Martin plays the banjo - yes, the comedian. And he plays it well, too.

One of Steve Martin's sayings about the banjo is that it's impossible to be unhappy while the banjo is playing, which is one of the other things you learn. Joking aside, people like to listen to the banjo - it has that lovely light sparking sound. (Speaking of which, there's more music over at Quiet Paths. Woot!) Only a few months into my journey with the banjo, I've seen for myself that this is true. Despite my limited ability and songlist (Wild Thing, Skip to My Lou, and about half of Polly Wolly Doodle, at this point - and rapidly moving to all of Polly Wolly Doodle. Woot! Rise Up Singing, here I come!), my husband seems to like listening to me play the banjo.

When I went to my dad's welcome home party, someone found out I had a banjo, and I had to haul it out to play. Someone was actually tapping their foot and singing along as I played Skip to My Lou. I certainly didn't expect that anyone would want to do that when all I could play was 2 songs with any degree of comfort! That's another thing you learn: if someone finds out you have a banjo, they will frequently ask to hear you actually play. Even if you warn them that you don't play well, and are just learning. Let me tell you something: when I was learning to play the flute, mentioning this tended not to garner requests for performance. ("Oh, dear. Look at the time! So sorry - I need to... iron my socks... yeah, that's the ticket!" To be fair to the flute, though, when others would mention learning brass instruments, people would suddenly remember trips they needed to take to the next state.)

And another thing: progress may go in fits and starts, but the skills do transfer over, even if it doesn't immediately show. It took me *months* to learn Skip to My Lou. Polly Wolly Doodle, on the other hand, seems to be just flowing into my fingers after a short period of struggle. Wha? Where did that smooth transition come from? I know it wasn't there the last time I practiced, and now, I can hear a *song* when I play. It's going to be time for that songbook soon now, I think.

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4 Comments:

Blogger AnnieElf said...

What a memory this post conjured. I tried banjo years ago. My nemesis was "Foggy Mountain Breakdown". I broke down and sold the banjo (at a loss too). LOL

7/10/2007 9:27 AM  
Blogger Canine Diamond said...

Rent A Simple Twist of Fate. It's based on the novel Silas Marner and features Steve Allen playing banjo.

7/10/2007 9:40 AM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

annieelf, I'm not even *close* to Foggy Mountain Breakdown. My personal goals currently include Red River Valley, Oh, Susannah, and Kumbayah. I figure right now, I'm aiming for the proficiency level of a camp counsellor or the stereotypical nun with a guitar. In a year, we'll see...

Thanks, CD, I'll check it out. (Steve Martin, btw...)

7/10/2007 10:02 AM  
Blogger Canine Diamond said...

Pbbbt. I knew that. My typing hands are doing stuff when I'm not looking these days . . .

7/10/2007 11:58 AM  

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