David posted in the rag thread I started, asking me how, as a beginner, I am learning to read music. And he also asked for some beginner songs. I'm starting a new thread to make sure others with more experience also see his questions.

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David, for me, the process of learning to read involves a couple of things. 

1) I know how to read music for piano and violin and I'm familiar with playing clawhammer banjo out of gDGBD tuning by ear. I'm aware that the top three strings form the chord and I know that the 5th fret on the first string is a G. SO, for example, it's easy for me to see an "A" on the sheet music and know that it's got to be two frets up on the G string. And because I know the 5th fret on the first string is a G, I also know, pretty easily, that the fret before is the F#. Etc. So, when I was first diving in, I was able to look and figure things out with some effort.

2) Then the magic starts to happen. After expending a bit of thinking energy to figure things out, it just automatically happens that I start to be able to look at a note or a chord shape written out and know where it is. And, for me, the way to make that more fluent, is to just sit with tutor books or other music and play through as much as I can. I love doing it and find it pretty relaxing. And, because the beginner tunes are built with a lot of the same pieces, the repetition helps a lot.

3) I find it harder to read the music that's built around the E chord, but eventually, I guess, both will become second nature?

As for beginner tunes, I have some favorites from the tutor books, but I'll have to go back and find them. I'll try to post a few ideas later this week. And if you have favorites, please share them, too.

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One can get bogged down by all the scary theory and letter descriptions of chords.  Usually the first advice given on online message boards are "get a book on theory and read it."  I say don't.

We are not playing piano.  We are not playing violin.  Our instrument has 90% of its music written in three keys.

First.  If you can already read tab and you know how to read a SAE ruler (inches), then you have the hard part out of the way.  A measure of music will always add up to the sum specified in the time signature (except in rare cases that do not occur in banjo music exempting "old time").

Pick a book.  Bradbury's Mel Bay book.  Grimshaw's book (this one moves fast), The White Smith EZ method, Agnew's... whatever.  These are all free on this site.  As long as it is in C notation you are good.

Read all of the introduction to notation that they all have in the beginning.  Read it again.  One more time.

Then start on the scale of C.  The better books will have proper fingering, follow it.  It will feel weird.  Do it anyway.  Play that scale while looking at the notes.  One note at a time.  Connect seeing the note on the line with sounding the note on the banjo.  Play the exercises.  Get to where when you see a dot in the key of C you know where to play it.

Say the names of the notes out loud while you play.  Write the letters over the notes on the scale.

Play the exercises.  Play them until you can read them.  Count out loud.  Give each note it's full time (remember a measure is broken up into fractions exactly like an inch). 

Play the "simple pieces" given in the book.

Get a copy of the "Banjo Player's Favorite" by Bickford (also on this site).  Play some of the short pieces in the key of C.  Depending on how old you are you might recognize most of them.  That makes it easer to learn the timing.  Count while you play them.  Tap your foot.

Don't go too fast.  You only need to learn this once.

I learned to read in A notation on my own.  As I moved in to later music and got in with the ABF I used Bradbury's Mel Bay book to learn to read in C.  If I can do it anyone can.

Use a metronome.  If it is mechanical then get one with a bell.

Learn banjo specific edits.  Positions and fingerings help with reading.  Grimshaw does an excellent job with this.

Here is a terrible copy of the Weidt book in C.  It is readable (and the only one I've been able to get). In my opinion it is one of the better instruction books.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1WDiOdijZaXgSgEwx0CcuvUWUzY6kGsbC/v...

Great tips. I did take piano lessons until I was about 11, so about 20 years ago, so I'm not completely unfamiliar with reading music, but I have relied on tablature for my banjo playing until now. I probably will continue to rely on it, but I'm determined to get comfortable with reading music as well, so tonight, I will consult some of these tutors, take notes, and get practising!

So it took me a very long time, but I did manage to figure out how to play the Elfin Waltz from Weidt's Elementary Studies for Banjo, book 1 available in the tutor books section. 

By taking a lot of notes and so on, I was able to "tab" it out in my own way... I found it helpful to be able to compare my notes to the official tablature afterwards (I did not consult the tab while figuring out the song). Although I made a few mistakes, it gave me enough confidence to try out some other songs. Yes!

Hi David,  my advice is to stop tabbing things.  Instead, spend that time on scales and exercises to read the notes directly off of the page.  It is a better use of time as you only have to learn to read once but you will always have to tab if you don't.

Don't use the translated Weidt.  I know it was made with good intentions but it is not helpful.  I posted a copy of Weidt in C notation-- use that instead.  The translated version in the "tutor" section ignores all that makes Weidt great, learning fingerings, positions, second banjo root chord accompaniment, timing and ragtime syncopation. All of that is gone and replaced with just the notes and tab.

Let's face it, people either use the tab or use the notes.  There is no reason for them both to be on the same page.

Start with page 1, read all the text and learn all the exercises. You will no longer need tab.

David--I'm thinking about working my way through the Weidt books and I'm wondering about creating a study group? Would you be interested? Anyone else be interested?

(I have spent the last year working through a professional genealogy book with a group of like-minded individuals and it has been a very enjoyable and rewarding experience.)

I've never been in a study group or anything, but i'd be willing to maybe give it a shot

I'm not a beginning banjo player but I might like to participate if you'd allow it.  I see this as a positive focal point. Anyone else?

david caron said:

I've never been in a study group or anything, but i'd be willing to maybe give it a shot

Hi Jody.

In the ProGen study group I've been a part of, the students do the work, tackling assignments, offering each other feedback, and chatting about experiences with the most recent assignment, but each cohort has a mentor who occasionally offers wisdom and advice. 

If you were up for joining a group and serving in that role, we might be well on our way to giving it a try.

We could try working through the first book, not only working on the music, but figuring out a collaborative study process that might work going forward.

I'm swamped right now -- in Salt Lake City for a genealogy conference -- but I'd be ready to get started in a few weeks. I am, by the way, practicing hard at our booth. Mostly clawhammer, but I spent a good bit of time on Kaloola today. :)

Cyndy

1) What is the difference, if any, between a student and a cohort?  

2) I'll give advice right now: ignore the  hand written markings in the copy that Joel posted. The ones I can understand  are neither correct translations of the conventional banjo symbols given in the notation nor viable alternatives nor sensible guesses about right hand fingering when none is given in the text.

3) my interest in being part of this project was based on the idea that the project would be via this website. I saw it as something to keep things lively around here. Does that accord with your vision?

Cynthia Richardson said:

Hi Jody.

In the ProGen study group I've been a part of, the students do the work, tackling assignments, offering each other feedback, and chatting about experiences with the most recent assignment, but each cohort has a mentor who occasionally offers wisdom and advice. 

If you were up for joining a group and serving in that role, we might be well on our way to giving it a try.

We could try working through the first book, not only working on the music, but figuring out a collaborative study process that might work going forward.

I'm swamped right now -- in Salt Lake City for a genealogy conference -- but I'd be ready to get started in a few weeks. I am, by the way, practicing hard at our booth. Mostly clawhammer, but I spent a good bit of time on Kaloola today. :)

Cyndy

1) I meant "cohort" as a group of students working together.

2) Thanks!

3) My vision is pretty simple. Take the book, divide it up into reasonable assignments, and create a schedule for ourselves.. I'm diligent, but I'm busy so I would like the pace to be quick enough to be satisfying but slow enough to feel relaxed.

Create a message thread at the beginning of each assignment so that the music can be discussed as needed/as desired. Each participant would post a best-effort recording or video of that assignment by a determined due date, mostly for accountability. (Perfection isn't the goal.) And, doing that would need to be a given. It wouldn't work if people didn't take it seriously enough to meet the deadlines.

In ProGen, fellow students then offer positive feedback and a suggestion or two for improvement without using the word "you" and, for genealogy, at least, it's been a really helpful thing. (It's surprising how much easier it is to hear something like "Try to sound the pull-off a little louder" than "You should really make that pull-off louder.)

The cycle would be repeated until the book had been completed.

I think the resulting thread might be useful to anyone who was beginning to work through the book at a later date.

But the challenge of making it an open thread on the site would be that people who weren't part of the group would have a chance to chime in. I can see where that might be helpful but there's really something unique about working together as a group--having a sense of belonging to a group of like-minded people who are working toward the same goal--that might be lost in that way.

So, that said, maybe it wouldn't be a good fit to do something like that here?

Still, definitely worth pondering!

I'm also interested - I love AJ Weidt - however, I think the books are in A notation rather than C (apart from the first one)?  

Yes, I noticed the A notation when I looked last night. I'm new to this so I  have a lot to learn. Was it published in A and C or did someone create a C version of the first book? I'm open to learning from both as it seems like they're both important?

carrie horgan said:

I'm also interested - I love AJ Weidt - however, I think the books are in A notation rather than C (apart from the first one)?  

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