Just Plain Foolish

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

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Banjo progress

In the meantime, I've been working away at learning the banjo. Pretty much I've got the melody lines down for "Skip to My Lou" and "Polly Wolly Doodle" and am working on the chords for accompaniment. *sigh* "Skip to My Lou" is coming along, and would probably come along better if I could sing that song anywhere close to where my banjo is playing. "Polly Wolly Doodle" is kind of chugging along behind.

On the other hand, I've practiced so much that I've worn out my strings, so I learned how to replace them. Woot! It was oddly gratifying to see the wear spots, including a place where I'd basically worn through the winding wire on the low D string. I left the used strings with my instructor, who has been known to use old musical strings in craft projects and other reuses. And the next night realized I wanted the old strings because I spotted a repair project I could have used one in. So it goes.

This weekend, I'm taking the banjo with me when I visit my folks. The place we're staying is pretty isolated, so I can feel reasonably confident that I'm not disturbing anyone when I take the banjo out on the porch to practice those darn chords. And next week, it can come camping.

It's gotten to be a very relaxing thing I do - just pull out the banjo, feel the comfortable feel of the neck in my hand, the light weight resting on my lap, the brackets pressing into my arm, the strap keeping everything in place. Tune. Okay, now tune again. Run a couple scales up and down. Hmmm. Play with the chords a bit. Double check that tuning. (The tuning was better for a while, but new strings need constant tuning, as I am rapidly discovering.) Play with "Skip to My Lou"... Now, the chords. Okay, "Polly Wolly Doodle" melody. (I love doing the "Fare thee well, Fare thee well, Fare thee well, my fairy fay" bit*.) Play around a bit. Chords, right, I should be practicing chords. "Skip to My Lou" chords. Play around a bit... and so forth.

*And I just realized that that's a bit that freaked me out less than a month ago - convinced I wouldn't get the timing or the change to the A note easily. But I did. And now, it's my favorite part of the whole song. There's probably something really deep in that. And the whole "Polly wolly doodle all the day" bit is a lot easier than it looks, too.

Steve Martin is right. It is just about impossible to be totally depressed while playing the banjo. There's something cheering about that ringing sound, even if it does want tuning every 20 minutes.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

*BiG encouraging smile*

You have a banjo that stays in tune for 20 minutes?? Wow! It's a keeper then. I think Matt retunes after each song and sometimes in the middle of it. It's pretty funny.

Way to go Polly!

8/01/2007 7:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading about your banjo progress; keep it up!


8/02/2007 6:21 AM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

I suspect that the tuning thing is due not so much to the excellence of my banjo, though it is an excellent banjo*, so much as my insensitivity to subtleties in the sound. On the other hand, having observed the differences between my Goodtime and my instructor's WWII era banjo of similar type, I think the geared tuners are an advantage - they may not be as traditional or look as pretty, but they keep in tune a little more easily than the earlier friction pegs.

*Not a fancy banjo, by any stretch of the imagination, but a well-made one. My only complaint so far is that I did need to tighten the screw on the drone string's tuner. So I've added a tiny screwdriver (Just in case) to the case with the little needle nose pliers and the wire clippers that I'm storing with the extra strings.

8/02/2007 7:56 AM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

Oh, and welcome, Daniel! I see on your blog that you're also learning the banjo. When did you begin? I began in April of this year, after finding an instructor who seemed well suited to teaching me.

8/02/2007 8:01 AM  

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