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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

BANJO…what am I thinking?

BANJO…what am I thinking?

So a couple of weeks ago I paid a visit to my old friend Frog who was recuperating from back surgery and driving his wife crazy.  I really went to give his wife a break as Frog was getting even crankier than me.   While I was visiting, Frog pulled out an old beat up banjo.   Frog played banjo once upon a time.  He was pretty good too, laying down some nice bluegrass licks until he cut off just a small bit of his banjo fingering fingertips with a table saw.  Frog was pretty good with a banjo, carpentry…not so much.

Anyway, Frog now is a piper.  He plays the bagpipes at various functions, mostly weddings and funerals and also gives lessons.  One of his students gave him the old beat up banjo.  Frog passed the old beat up banjo to me.  Now in addition to being a below average guitar player, I am trying to learn to play the banjo.

I thought playing banjo which only has five strings, and one is a drone thing and almost doesn’t even count would be easy to learn.  The guitar has six strings so the banjo should be much easier to play.


This instrument is evil.  Even when you play a chord or note properly, it has that weird banjo twang and it never sounds really right.  Then it is really more of a finger picking instrument than it is a strumming instrument so the right hand has to learn some weird picking patterns and you also have to learn when to use them.

To make matters worse, the old beat up banjo has horrible action.  To get the correct sound out of a given string you have to press with your finger tip like a mother gripper.  I guess I could buy a new banjo and see if a better instrument would be easier to learn to play, but I prefer to see if I can learn on this one before I Make a serious investment.  It is kind of a chicken egg thing.

I have little musical ability, but I do have lots of time, so perhaps I can become mediocre at multiple instruments.  The banjo does have some purpose.  If you ever have guests that just won’t leave, you can just pull out the old banjo and pluck them away.

Back when Frog had the fingers to play the banjo I used to joke that when you listened to banjo music you could actually feel your IQ dropping. 

That may being so, but still it am fun to try and be learning!


  1. Oh the humanity, Cranky with a banjo.

    (For the record, I too am mediocre on a number of musical instruments, perhaps I should take up banjo picking as well. Um, um, no. Bad idea.)

  2. "This machine kills fascists....."
    And don't you forget that.

  3. Banjos are notoriously finicky. I have heard that keeping them in tune requires extreme amounts of patience. Good luck with it! I have faith in you.

  4. Good for you for trying! Hubby's dad was a banjo player (not sure how good, but he made an effort. He had 2 banjos when he passed; so both sons got one. Hubby can sort of play it but not his instrument of choice. He passed that one on to a worship leader at church who was developing banjo skills. His brother kept the other one and is probably a better banjo player than hubby will ever be.



  5. Learning new things keeps your brain sharp. After this, you might try your hand at the ukulele. It only has 4 strings, i think.

  6. Hi Joeh,

    Here's a challenge. When you have improved, show us a video of your favourite tune.

    Looking forward to it already.




  7. I took 7 years of piano lessons as a kid and used to say the result was that I could play Sentimental Journey badly. Now I can't even find that on the keyboard.

  8. I think you should practice for a bit and then do a video of you playing the Banjo so we can all enjoy your rendition of lowering our IQ's.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

  9. I admire you for trying new things. I have no musical ability whatsoever, although I can play half of "Oh Susannah" on the harmonica.

  10. i love that you're willing to keep learning - and suffer for it. :)

  11. I remember you and Uncle Bill playing the banjo and guitar together back in the day. You play: bananananananana, nunununununu, dumdumdumdumdumdumdum and then together you two made bluegrass beauty.

  12. Love the idea of "plucking away" tiresome guests:)) Perfect solution. Sounds like a great project.

  13. Well...a little big-headed boy in Deliverance could do it. I would think you might be able to learn to pick.

  14. I have a couple blog friends who play - you make the third. I'll soon have a band. I like people who take on impossible challenges.

  15. I like the sound of a well played banjo. I can't play myself, not any instrument at all, but I do like to listen.
    Laughing at Pixel Peeper paddling faster :)


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