My attempt at playing one of Emile Grimshaw's exercises from "How to Excel on the Banjo"

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Comment by Joel Hooks on April 9, 2018 at 14:25

These exercises are graded, have you "mastered" the other 49?

I think that "How to Excel" is a great book for people who have been playing for a while and are at the intermediate approaching advanced level.  They are great for evening reading amusement.

In the grand scheme of playing banjo I think they are a waste of time. Work on solos instead, even just pieces of solos.

I watched your video and then went to the book and played the exercise.  The exercise is intended to work on tricky syncopation.  I played through it enough to get to speed on it.  By that time It was late and I did not get a chance to go back and watch your video again to compare.  I'll try to do that before the week is out. Perhaps Jody could take a look and comment on your timing.

Comment by david caron on April 9, 2018 at 14:34

I haven't mastered the other 49. I'm at work so I don't have the book with me, but I can play 1 through 20 or so with some ease (depends on the exercise).

I was inspired to skip ahead and try this one after watching Rob Mackillop play it in a video on YouTube. I just really like the sound of it. I have a bit of trouble with it though, but its a good mental work out.

Comment by Jody Stecher on April 9, 2018 at 15:24

Jody (at Joel's request) says :  this exercise is in 4/4 time. In the video some of the measures are played with 4 beats to the measure. These are correct. The ones that have 4.112804  beats or 3.999147665 beats per measure are wrong.

Some of the problem is in the thumb notes on the deep string. Another problem is at the end of measures or the end of phrases. They are being played as if they are an afterthought and not very important.  Same thing for the parts that are easy to play. The hard parts sound good.  You worked on them and it shows. The easy parts are not being played with the same quality of attention to sound, tone. timing, etc.

Comment by thereallyniceman on April 10, 2018 at 16:51

After listening to Joel and Jody, One suggestion from me:

Get a metronome and play along with it. Soon you will notice that the darned thing keeps going out of time !!!! They are hateful instruments, but when you can beat one, or at least keep in time with it you will really appreciate how useful they are!

You obviously have great dedication (dogged dedication is vital :-)  )  Keep at it, but don't do what we all do and try to play the really hard pieces at the beginning. Play the easier ones and get them as good as you can to make them look easy... then move on to the harder ones and make them look easy too!

Any help you need will always be offered on here, so keep posting!

Comment by Jody Stecher on April 10, 2018 at 20:00

To Ian's comment perhaps I should add that I was not displeased with the attempt and I did not feel critical. I simply responded to a request to report on what I noticed.  This classic banjo music is hard to play and few of us play it perfectly. Certainly not me.

Comment by Joel Hooks on April 11, 2018 at 13:04

I also want it to be known that my comments are constructive and not critical.  In other words, don't get discouraged and keep up the good work!

Comment by david caron on April 11, 2018 at 13:29

No offense taken. Thanks for the comments. Every little bit helps. I've always been surrounded by lots of music, so I have a pretty good natural sense of rhythm (although not on the dance floor) but when I think about it, the banjo is the first instrument that was not imposed on me (aka piano lessons at age 6), or taken up to try and hopelessly impress some girl or something (aka strumming chords on the guitar). In other words, I love to practise the banjo and if I'm not mistaken, it will soon be my 1 year banjo anniversary. I can count the days where I did not pick up the banjo for at least 5 minutes with my 10 fingers.

I know that the Grimshaw exercises have a specific purpose, but in my view, so far, they have helped me progress a lot, especially when it comes to simple things like getting to know the fingerboard and getting a feel for how note so and so is supposed to sound. 

I usually use them to warm up my fingers before moving on to practising other solos and also, because they are short and sound cool, it is a useful way to find encouragement. 

I've never actually used a metronome, well I found one online this morning, but it was kind of awkward, and I didn't really have time (had to go to work), but I plan to use one with more seriousness as of this week.  

My trick so far has been to find the piece that I'm working on Youtube and slow it down and try to play along very slowly until I feel confident enough to give it a try. 

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