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How to learn an instrument from scratch?
Old 08-12-2008, 10:03 PM   #1
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How to learn an instrument from scratch?

I may have a LOT of time on my hands in the next 6 months and I have always wanted to learn an instrument. I know pretty much nothing about music, apart from enjoying listening to it. I would like to learn to play the banjo. What's the best way to do this? Pick up a banjo and messaround with it? Book? Try to find a teacher (not surehow likely, since home is NJ rather than Appalachia)? Something else?
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Old 08-12-2008, 10:07 PM   #2
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Nothing like keyboard for learning music, including its theory. That's what I would do. Other instruments could be learned and the theory and many of the skills would apply.

I'm guessing it would be hard to learn the instrument-specific techniques if you didn't know the music basics.
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Old 08-12-2008, 11:35 PM   #3
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Google Banjo Hangout - you'll find a very active worldwide forum of banjo players who can answer any question you have about banjos. It's almost as addictive as this forum. I love to hear a good banjo and I play a little banjo myself , though it's not my primary instrument.

Look for a music store in your area that sells banjos, videos and instruction books. They should be able to help you decide what style of banjo music you're looking for - do you want to play appalachian style clawhammer banjo, or bluegrass five string banjo, or the tenor banjo played in Irish pub music - perhaps some ragtime?

Check out the local music clubs - bluegrass clubs etc. They are very welcoming to adult learners - and their newsletters usually have a wealth of information about classes, jams, festivals etc. You are in for a lot of fun!
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Old 08-13-2008, 04:05 AM   #4
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Brew.

Consider buying a decent used instrument (middle of the road... not too cheap and not to expensive), take a few lessons, be patient, and keep at it.

Keep in mind, a cheap instrument will only frustrate you! Spend a few $ on a decent instrument and make sure it is setup properly.

Ditto on the comment on keyboard for learning theory. While the theory is the same for western music across instruments, building the skill to play the instrument effectively will take years. I would put the time in on the instrument I wanted to learn.

If the Banjer is your thing.... go for it.

Personally I like the steel string acoustic guitar. I also like a Fender Stratocaster with a nice tube amp.
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Old 08-13-2008, 05:44 AM   #5
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Music instrument stores often will recommend a teacher or instructor; some stores even have instructors on staff. Maybe I'm naive, but I can't imagine the banjo is so esoteric that a reputable music store cannot locate an instructor.

DH plays the piano for relaxation. We have an upright, and an electronic keyboard so DH can play along with a full orchestra.

I would love to learn the violin. For me, it is the most amazing instrument; and in the hands of a master, its sound is magnificent. Listen to Joshua Bell. Awesome.
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Old 08-13-2008, 09:00 AM   #6
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IMHO, you only need a basic understanding of music theory for banjo. The finger-picking style of banjo is the difficult thing to learn, and playing piano will not help in that regard. I'd recommend a teacher if you can find one, at least initially. Then supplement that with books, online lessons, watching other banjo players, etc.
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Old 08-13-2008, 09:07 AM   #7
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HFWR, isn't the banjo one of the more difficult instruments to learn? I seem to remember reading/hearing that somewhere.

Go for it Brewer, I wish I had some talent in that department. I'll bet you can find an instructor just about anywhere, and then you can do some "research" at a few music festivals further south.
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Old 08-13-2008, 09:13 AM   #8
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I can't play banjo, and I'm a lousy finger-picker on guitar, mostly because I'm too lazy to practice. But it's based on patterns; once you learn 2-3 different picking patterns, you just move them up and down the neck to change chords/keys. That's why, early on, a teacher would be most helpful. Then it's mostly a matter of how badly you want to learn; i.e. practice.
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Old 08-13-2008, 09:21 AM   #9
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DH learned to play guitar about 147 years ago with books by Mel Bay.
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Old 08-13-2008, 09:37 AM   #10
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Brewer:

You will make the most progress and be discouraged the least if you get lessons. Most music stores have a cadre of teachers they will recommend. You can even lease a banjo if you are not sure how long you are committed to learning the instrument.

I played brass instruments, and there's a set of learning books called Arban books that are the "bible" of learning an instrument. I am not sure if the same exists for banjo........

Sounds like a good challenge.........
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Old 08-13-2008, 09:37 AM   #11
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DH learned to play guitar about 147 years ago with books by Mel Bay.
Wow,you're married to the oldest guy in the world!!
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Old 08-13-2008, 10:12 AM   #12
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The title of this thread reminded me of the old quote:

Quote:
Madam, you have between your legs an instrument capable of giving pleasure to thousands -- and all you can do is scratch it.

- Sir Thomas Beecham, to a cellist
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Old 08-13-2008, 10:15 AM   #13
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In lieu of a teacher, you could watch Deliverance over and over...
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Old 08-13-2008, 10:53 AM   #14
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Get a teacher. If banjo is what you want to do, more power to you. The teacher will make your progress easier, and if you have a weekly lesson you'll be more motivated to pick it up more frequently.
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Old 08-13-2008, 10:54 AM   #15
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Nothing beats having a good teacher to give you guidance on how to play correctly and give you the fundamentals.

I've played in orchestras only to find that some people think they can play when they really can't. It takes a good teacher to direct you to practice correctly and learn how to read music.

It's not just about hitting the note. It's about being musical.

It doesn't matter which instrument you pick, as long as you enjoy playing it. I agree that the piano is a good starter since all the notes are right in front of you and it gives you immediate perfect intonation without worrying about vibrato, slides, shifts, etc. But, if you like the banjo, start with the banjo.
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Old 08-13-2008, 11:22 AM   #16
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How about a "Banjo For Dummies" book. I really couldn't believe they actually have one...but they do!
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Old 08-13-2008, 11:53 AM   #17
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Lots of good advice. Sounds like a used middle of the road instrument and a teacher are the way to go. Will probably pick up the dummies book as well. Thanks, guys.
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Old 08-13-2008, 12:04 PM   #18
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Lots of good advice. Sounds like a used middle of the road instrument and a teacher are the way to go. Will probably pick up the dummies book as well. Thanks, guys.
Be sure to learn "dueling banjoes", so you can entertain at parties.................
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Old 08-13-2008, 12:27 PM   #19
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Be sure to learn "dueling banjoes", so you can entertain at parties.................

Well, I already like bourbon. Now all I need are a pair of overalls and a jug. Getting back to my roots, I tell DW. I suspect she isn't buying it.
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Old 08-13-2008, 12:40 PM   #20
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If you are interested in learning 5 string Scruggs Style Banjo check out Music Moose . David Cavage gives banjo lessons for free via video. It's a great way to get started at learn at your own pace. I've been working through the banjo lessons and they are fantastic.
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