beginning bluegrass banjo ........a few important words about
students: pay close attention....this is important!!
Play slowly and accurately as you learn. Do not try to play fast if you are not playing accurately. Speedy playing is absolutely not important at first, and may impede your real progress if your technique is sloppy. Speed playing will come naturally after working on accuracy.
Many teachers advise that their students use a metronome to help with timing. This is a good idea. You want your fingers (and the rest of your body for that matter) to learn how to play in correct time as if you had an "inner metronome". This can take time and lots of practice. It is a learned skill. Basically, with the metronome, you want to start with a slow tempo and gradually move into faster tempos. I recommend that you start out playing no faster than about 60 Beats Per Minute (one beat per second, with four beats to the measure). This may seem too slow at first glance, but realistically, it may take a few weeks of daily practice to play all the way through your first tune (Cripple Creek) at this tempo without stopping. Be patient with your progress, as it takes time for everyone at first. All teachers will tell you that students tend to want to play fast at first and end up playing sloppily as a result. The teacher would much rather hear you play the whole piece through slowly, cleanly and in perfect time at first, before increasing your speed. After some weeks of practice with the metronome, you will develop the discipline to keep good time on your own.
If you find yourself unable to play "in time", i.e. if your playing sounds disorganized and you are having trouble straightening it out, you will definitely need to have a profession banjo instructor help you with basic musical skills. I recommend that all students get a real teacher eventually anyway. The best advice is to read through instructional materials such as this on your own to familiarize yourself with the basic concepts and find a teacher as soon as possible so that you do not develop bad musical habits.
Here is an online free metronome: http://www.metronomeonline.com/ Check out what 60 beats per minute sounds like.
Youtube video: Learn to use a metronome to help improve your timing while playing banjo
a word about transitioning
between parts: One of the hard things to do when learning is to play through
the tune coherently while keeping in time from beginning to end. This includes
making smooth transitions, meaning that when you complete the A part of
the song and it is time to repeat the A part, you should be able to make a
smooth transition to begin the A part again while maintaining proper
rhythm. Or when transitioning from the end of the song back to the beginning,
such as when playing a song through twice in a row. This takes practice at
first, and a teacher can help you with this. Listen carefully for these smooth
transitions on the CD.
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