To banjo, or not to banjo …

I want a banjo. I have wanted one for years. Decades, really. Ever since I first heard one as a child. I loved the fact that it sounded so bouncy and happy. It was as if Tigger had been distilled into musical form. And then when I saw one, looking like the mutant offspring of a guitar and a tambourine, I knew that I would play one someday.

My father put a rapid end to that line of thought. It was not that he was trying to be cruel; in fact, he was trying to spare me future problems. He thought that a banjo projected a certain image and that said image would make things more difficult for me.

Still, the banjo lurked in the back of my mind. It never completely went away. Images of Kermit the Frog playing “Rainbow Connection,” Steve Martin, Roy Clark, and others crept behind my eyes as I slept.  “… Millions of people happy …!”

As I grew older, I learned that not everyone shared my love of that instrument. Some found its “plinky” sound to be annoying. Many associate it with hicks and doubt its musical worth.

Early in my college career, a man named Béla Fleck came onto the scene. Jazz banjo?! Really? The scoffers had gotten to me. I did not give it a chance, despite my love of jazz and curiosity about the instrument.  In fact, my interest lay dormant until recently when a YouTube search led me to the wonderful world of blues banjo.

My eyes were opened.

Since then, I have listened to a lot of banjo music from a variety of genres: bluegrass, jazz, blues, African folk, and classical. I want to play.

I have started hearing compositions in my head; songs that I want to create for the banjo. I have found myself wanting to adapt my classical guitar fingerpicking technique to the five string banjo. I want to play a tango on the banjo. I want to play slide banjo. I want to take some of the ideas that I have learned from Rodrigo y Gabriela and try them on banjo; I especially think that some of Gabriela’s percussive techniques would be interesting on it.

And I want to play and sing “Rainbow Connection.”

I just received my tax refund. I could afford a cheap one, or even a moderately priced one. But a part of me says that I should really save my money. “Maybe next year,” says my practical bit. “If I can save money for a year, I’ll be in better shape financially and banjos are not going anywhere. It’s not like people are going to stop making them.”

But I really want one …

Posted from WordPress for Android


2 responses to “To banjo, or not to banjo …

  1. Patrick Costello

    Every single day I get calls or letters from my older banjo students bemoaning the fact that they didn’t take up the instrument years before.

    Life is short. Get a banjo.

    -Patrick Costello

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