Menu

Back to Top

Learn

  • Mon, 07-22-2019 - 10:36am — Anthony.Mantova

    From Deering: THE JOY OF BEING AN ABSOLUTE BEGINNER ON THE BANJO - by Jay Matheson

Articles

Learn

You Can Read this on the Deering Blog (-by Jay Matheson)

{{Enjoy the article, and remember you can buy premium banjos and banjo pickups from Mantova's Two Street Music!  Buy Now!}}

I couldn’t get my fingers to dial the last two digits of the phone number. Here I was in my 40s and yet it felt like I was back in 8th grade; calling to ask the girl in my homeroom to the dance. If I completed the number, I would soon be in contact with an honest to goodness banjo teacher. The phrase, “Someday I would like to play the banjo” would transform to “Today, I’m going to get serious about playing the banjo”.

All of the research that had brought me to this point transformed into waves of self doubt. 

“Scruggs style is like a language, it will take years to get fluent”

“Banjo is a great second instrument after you learn guitar”

“You really need to love bluegrass and be steeped in its history to play the banjo”

“You need to have fast fingers, great rhythm and a good ear to play”

“You need to start young because it takes a lot of work before it gets fun”

These thoughts gnawed at me. Who am I to think I can learn to play? How do I know I will stick with it? 

 

I took a breath and leaned back. I thought of my reasons. No, I hadn’t grown up in the bluegrass tradition, but even as a child, I had loved the sound of a banjo. Listening and re-listening to the banjo breaks on Steve Martin’s comedy (yes comedy) albums, trying to figure out what was on Roy Clarks’s finger tips as he flew across the strings on Hee Haw.  There was something that drew me to the sound and that something had grown even stronger into adulthood. Now I was at a stage of life where I wanted a new challenge and I realized I wasn’t getting any younger.

 

I punched in the last two digits in the phone number and started my banjo journey with a fantastic teacher. As I started my lessons and bought my first Goodtime banjo, my doubts began to fade. I discovered the joy in being an absolute beginner. Here are a few things that I wish I had known before I started.

 

It is easy to get overwhelmed with online instructional materials and performance videos. A great teacher can chart a path for you that is tailored to your abilities. A cheap banjo might seem like a deal but it can be set up in a way that is hard to play and makes your fingers hurt. If you don’t know better, you think that this must be the way it is for everyone and just grit your teeth. A teacher or experienced player can help you pick a banjo that is comfortable to play and easy on the ear. 

 

After reading the online forums, I thought that the first year of banjo meant “paying your dues” and I would be confined to hours and hours of learning rolls and, at year two, would magically be able to play Foggy Mountain Breakdown at speed. My teacher structured lessons that allowed me to learn a bit each week and build on the previous lesson. My biggest shock in learning the banjo is that it has been “frustration free”. I learned enough each week to practice and feel that I was making progress. It was slow at first but, definitely, not boring. As an adult learner, no one is standing over you and making you practice. It is not a chore, it is a welcome break from the rest of the day. Month after month, my banjo vocabulary improved, my timing locked in and the melodies began to appear.

 

“But” you say,” I have never played an instrument before!”. If that is the case, lucky you! You have no bad habits to break. You won’t be translating standard sheet music into tablature. Your fingers won’t be searching for that missing 6th string. You won’t be tempted to go back to an instrument you feel more comfortable playing. Most importantly, you won’t have a bunch of preconceived ideas regarding how you are “supposed” to learn. Instead you put yourself in the hands of a teacher or dedicate yourself to working through some of the excellent beginner material that is available.

 

I’m now five plus years into my banjo journey. Along the way, I have learned the vocabulary of Scruggs style and, as I have become more fluent, my learning speed has increased.  My musical tastes have broadened and, I as I listened to banjo heroes old and new, my appreciation has grown and my ear has improved. 

 

Those original phrases of doubt have instead become snapshots of my banjo journey. I now have context for those bits of advice and with each lesson and practice session, more windows into the banjo world are opened. Yet, a beginner’s mind is ready to receive and that attitude has been the most important tool in my toolbox.

 

Now that you started, you have the rest of your life to play. Your biggest challenge will not be mastering  rolls or picking the perfect pull off. Instead, it will be resisting the urge to “rush it”. Incremental progress will lead to new plateaus. Take joy in “knowing nothing” and put the beginner’s mind to work for you.

  • Product Reviews
    (FROM DUNLOP) How much thought do you put into which strings you choose? Strings are like tires. The rubber meets the road, your fingers meet the strings. It's all about that first point of contact. Having the baddest ride on the planet counts for nothing if you don't have good tires....
  • Product Reviews
    In Humboldt County, you get your Walrus Audio from Mantova's Two Street Music
    Just in time for summer!  Get the best selling Walrus Audio pedals from Mantova's Two Street Music Buy the Slo Reverb here   [[{"fid":"1903","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","alignment":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Walrus Texture Reverb, the...From Walrus: The Slö Multi Texture Reverb allows players to create lush, modulated, sleepy and ambient soundscapes. Stocked with three different algorithms specifically designed to invoke textures for bringing dreams from your subconscious to reality. The toggle switch allows three different...
  • Store Stuff
    A Flame Maple Top 6 String Acoustic Electric Guitar
    From the Fender Blog, You Can Read Original Post Here (article written by Dan Macy) Fret buzz is a common problem with guitars. It’s caused when a string vibrates against a fret on the neck (instead of over it), making an annoying buzzing sound. Here are five reasons why your strings...Mantova's has trained Guitar Technicians on location ready to help.  They work every day of the week, so if you need to get serious about taking care of your guitar.  Stop and see Mantova's Two Street Music on 2nd and C Streets--Eureka
  • Product Reviews
    Go Wireless with the BOSS Katana-Air (From Boss Blog) If you’re a serious guitarist who likes to play with lots of effects, you know how inspiring it is to plug into your big pedal board and amp rig and let ‘er rip. But when you just want to practice at home, setting up and tearing down all...Roland and Boss products are available in Humboldt County at Mantova's Two Street Music, your Roland and Boss Dealer! 
  • TIPS ON LEARNING BANJO TUNES - BREAKING THEM INTO PARTS - Written by by Aaron De La Rosa (From the DEERING BLOG, you can read original content here) As a teacher, I sometimes come across frustrated students and get asked “How do I learn new banjo songs? While this sounds like a very...Mantova's Two Street Music is your source for all things Banjo, including Banjos, Books and fingerpicks
  • Store Stuff
    The topic of maintaining a pedalboard is typically not something you think about when getting your brand new rig dialed in.  Mantova's really likes this demo video on how to get the most out of your pedalboard. WARNING:  This video is best suited for DIY (Do It Yourself) types that...A wide variety of guitar pedals and maintenance products are available at Mantova's Two Street Music, your musical source in Humboldt County--CA
  • Product Reviews
    (You can read original post here) Tray Wellington runs through some of the right hand roll patterns that make up the foundation for playing the banjo in the style of Earl Scruggs. Something that made Earl's style so unique for the time was the amount of drive he got, and the way he achieved that...Mantova's Two Street Music is proud to be your source for all things Deering!  We typically carry Goodtime banjos and even some Artisan Goodtimes
  • You can see the company specs here You can BUY the PRS Silver Sky here “It’s been a dream of mine for years to design a guitar that includes some of my favorite vintage specifications but with a modern spirit and aesthetic. After two years of study and refinement, the Silver Sky is my vision...
  • Store Stuff
    PRS Guitars Opens New Dedicated Manufacturing Facility Overseas  (STEVENSVILLE, MD) July 25, 2019 – PRS Guitars is pleased to announce the opening of a new guitar manufacturing facility in Surabaya, Indonesia for their popular line of PRS SE Series instruments. The facility, which is...
  • You Can Read this on the Deering Blog (-by Jay Matheson) {{Enjoy the article, and remember you can buy premium banjos and banjo pickups from Mantova's Two Street Music!  Buy Now!}} I couldn’t get my fingers to dial the last two digits of the phone number. Here I was in my 40s...
  • Product Reviews
    (From Premier Guitar, you can read the original here) Oklahoma City, OK (July 15, 2019) -- After sending the world into a dreamy ambient bliss with the Slö Multi Texture Reverb, Walrus Audio is maxing out the gain dial with the new Kangra Filter Fuzz. The Kangra Filter Fuzz is a true bypass...
  • Store Stuff
    Mantova's is excited to stock American Stage Cables from D'addario out of New York!  The cables are high quality and have some innovative offerings that are sure to make the lives of Humboldt's musicians easier! Take a look!  A large segment of the American Stage Cable catalog is now...It's not just another cable, here's a look at how much abuse these bad boys can take!One of the gig-smart, audience-friendly devices, the "kill switch" makes it easy to setup and tear down without noisy popping sounds!  All these cable and adapter solutions--AND MORE--are available at Mantova's Two Street Music.  Locally available in Old Town, Eureka on 2nd and C streets.   Humboldt County's source for all things music retail!   
  • Store Stuff
    Gator Grip picks do well here in Humboldt, not only is the little smiling crocodile a fun picture, the specialized grip helps the player get the most from their instrument! Available in a variety of sizes at Mantova's Two Street Music in Old Town, Eureka.
  • Product Reviews
    Goodtime Series are available in Eureka, CA
    Mantova's Two Street Music proudly carries Deerings' Goodtime Banjo Series.  As Deering says: THE GOODTIME BANJOS ARE THE LOWEST PRICED AMERICAN MADE BANJOS.  THEY ARE SO ACCURATE, MANY PROFESSIONALS HAVE RECORDED WITH GOODTIME BANJOS. THE GOODTIME TWO BANJO IS ENHANCED FOR MORE...[[{"fid":"1886","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","alignment":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Banjo Specs for the Rim and Rod","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"Deering Banjo diagram for interested banjo players"},"type":"media","field_deltas":{"2":{"...[[{"fid":"1887","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","alignment":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"A look at the Deering Tuners and why they are a great starting point","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"The Deering Tuners are the perfect match for the player...The ratings are in and customers approve!  Read those ratings here...
  • Store Stuff
    Green Rhino
    Excited to now stock the Green Rhino from Way Huge! THE LONG STORY. The Green Rhino Overdrive Mark IV is smaller and more compact than its ancestors, but it has more force than ever behind its mighty charge. In addition to the Volume, Tone, and Drive controls of the original, this beastie has the MkII's 100Hz control and an all new 500Hz control...[[{"fid":"1884","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","alignment":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Green Rhino, by Way Huge -- Now available at Mantova's Two Street Music in Eureka, CA located at 2nd and C street! ","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"The Way...
  • At Mantova's Two Street Music we do get vintage gear occassionally.  It sells VERY quickly! Don't miss out on this Mosrite Resonator!   An American Icon, anything Mosrite is worth a look!  Even if playing Resonator isn't your thing, the coolness factor alone is a good...About this Guitar: Condition: Very good  Cosmetic Condition: Dings, scratches (pictured) Playability: Plays well  Fretboard: Very good  Frets: very good  Action: Pictured  Case: Included  Serial Number: DC0274 Will package accordingly BUY...
  • Read the Original Thread Here For the bluegrass banjoist—or even for the non-playing fan of bluegrass banjo—the pull-off is an essential piece of vocabulary. Hearing Crowe, Mills, Baucomb, or Scruggs himself flawlessly execute a rapid-fire succession of pull-offs with casual authority...One of the first questions to arise in any pull-off study is the arrangement of the fretting fingers. Do we plant with our index finger, and pull with our middle? Logically, this makes sense—basic fretting exercises often teach us to assign one finger per fret. However, to really get that ‘...While it is easier to commence a pull-off or push-off with a finger already on the second fret, real-life playing is more accurately mirrored by beginning with open strings. We don’t always have the privilege of a pre-fretted string to work with! For that reason, it is important to start each...
  • Take a moment and listen to a great cymbal! 
  • We carry the full line of EHX Synth Pedals.  Here's an entertaining look at how you can use them! You can buy your very own B-9 Organ pedal from us!  Or maybe you'd rather have a MicroSynth?  

Pages