Classic-Banjo. ning. The Way Forward! Your Suggestions Please

Recently Carl, who was the original creator, asked me if I would be prepared to take over ownership of this Classic Banjo site. Carl has many work and family commitments and also a busy schedule of old stroke style banjo performances around the USA so felt that he could not devote sufficient time to managing the site. I agreed to take over and now want to build on the work done by Carl in promoting our “Classic” style of banjo playing.

 

The site has many features that set it aside from normal discussion groups and I feel that features should be retained, as they are the site’s strengths.  We need new visitors, particularly those new to Classic Style. The ability to upload video is extremely important, as are the discussions, pictures and events. I feel that other features are less important like the online chat.

 

 Others may have a different view, which is why I am asking for suggestions from members of things that they would like to see or not to see.

 

Unfortunately all this comes at a cost.  Currently the site is costing $49.95 per month to keep the current package active. I intend to stay with this package until I have investigated all options regarding downgrading to the lower cost package and using “embedded” video in place of direct uploads. From previous posts it appears that people would prefer the mid-range package, but I must be sure that it offers all that the site needs and that previously uploaded video can be played along with embedded video.

 

 

All the money donated last year has been used up as the Ning annual charge is $499.95, but monthly payments were $49.95 so the money was exhausted after 10 months.  I am currently paying for the coming year from my personal account, so I have set up a DONATE button for those who would like to make a contribution to keep our site alive. Any amount would be gratefully received and used to enhance everyone’s experience on here.  I have set the donation form to receive a maximum of $499.95. If I down grade to the $199.95 per year package and donations have exceeded this, I will use the surplus money to extend the period.

 

SO OVER TO YOU…   SUGGESTIONS & MONEY PLEASE !!

 

 

Ian,

thereallyniceman

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Classic banjo expects that every banjoist will do his (or her) duty! I have donated the equivalent of $20, as promised.

 

Congratulations on the promotion, Ian!

Have donated  $20   and if you do decide to go with the $500 I will donate more as last year.  Am I correct in thinking that if we pay the full amount at the beginning of the year it's $500 but if we pay monthly we pay nearly $100 more?

Thanks to those who have donated so quickly!!

 Sylvia, Yes you are correct!  Last year we donated $470 towards the $499.95 needed. Carl opted to pay monthly and the monthly payment is $49.95  so 12 months x $49.95 = $599 !!  That is why we are two month's payments short.  I am sticking at $49.95 per month for a month or so to give me time to work out the best way to proceed. It is all a little complicated at the moment. If I decide to reduce to the lower cost package the money donated will last for more months. I will let everyone who donated know exactly where the money goes..there are no secrets!

 

Also it looks like the Chipin Donate widget updates on a daily basis, so the donations  have appeared in my Paypal but not shown as a total on the Chipin widget.  So thank you again for those who have donated and I hope the widget updates soon.

Now, when it comes to suggestions (re: the way forward)... it's always been surprising how there are relatively few people who ever actually take up Classic banjo. After all, it's quite cheap (you don't really need a special banjo, most of the sheet music is public domain and easily found on the web) not very difficult, and the music is beautiful and varied (and, from what I've seen, non-initiates seem to enjoy it more than most other styles of banjo music). And yet, outside of our small bubble, hardly anyone even knows about Classic style (it doesn't even have its own sub-board on the Hangout!).

 

I think the problem is that many people are intimidated by the "classic" label, which they associate with concepts such as "technically demanding", "elitist", "snooty", "difficult", "boring", &c... (not that I agree with any of those labels... I love classical music myself and have studied classical instruments) and, therefore, feel intimidated and don't give classic banjo a chance. The lack of knowledge on the subject is also to blame; many people believe that Earl Scruggs "invented" picking the banjo with three fingers and that in the years Before Scruggs, people only played "clawhammer". There is also the stereotype of the "unhappy marriage" of the banjo with "classical" music, steeped in the idea that the banjo is an instrument which is "naturally" suited to playing "rural" music and was kidnapped into a parlour by figures such as the oft-misunderstood S. S. Stewart (often caricatured as a bigoted, stereotypical snob in modern banjo literature).

 

Therefore, my suggestion is that if we make some good PR moves, and create a very beginner-friendly atmosphere (with videos, tutorials, easy pieces to learn in notation and tablature...) we might see more banjo players giving the classic fingerstyle banjo more of a chance. Any thoughts?

Mike, I fully agree with the move to make the site more beginner friendly. Your thoughts were exactly what I had in mind, with video tutorials from "what is a banjo and its parts".....to  lessons on techniques and moving on to playing Classic style banjo tunes.

 

Watch this space :-)

Mike's suggestion ,   Beginner friendly...  etc  How about a" beginner page", with  advice on what tutor books to buy or download free, as well as the videos, tutorials ,easy pieces to learn in notation and tablature. We may then find that more beginners stay and contribute after joining, instead of vanishing into the great blue yonder where they are  never heard from again.

 

 

Also, Alan Middleton has written a new tutor (published by the new Clifford Essex company) and for 15 quid it's quite nice. It's a lot more than the Grimshaw tutor, as it includes pictures, explanations on correct stance, picking technique, banjo maintenance, several complete songs, a CD, and both notation and tablature staves, with complete fingerings, for all tunes and exercises. It's a little too basic for me but I mainly bought it to teach my girlfriend the banjo (I don't know all that much about teaching myself) and it really is the definitive fingerstyle banjo book for the 21st century. It also includes the complete score to Donkey Laugh and a section on effects, which is a nice plus :-)

Hi y'all! Yes, I just chipped in my $20. If we need more, I'm with Silvia...can do! Thank you, Ian, for taking on this task. A tip of the coffee cup to you, sir.

 

For the past several years, I have been playing Classic tunes for, essentially, the average American banjo player: Bluegrass or OT trained. Almost all of them love the tunes...but also, almost all think they are too complicated. Quite frankly, most banjo players never experience music that contains more than a basic tune and an "up the neck" part. OT players rarely even do that. Three part tunes are not esp. rare...but generically additional parts are simply a restatement of the 1st or 2nd in a different octave...or a wild, showy variation in the case of BG tunes.

 

Then, there is the 'improvisation' issue. Bluegrassers and OT players pride themselves on 'making up' their own versions of tunes, they do not like structure (beyond a chord progression and maybe a melody). A fully developed, structured piece of music is an anathema to them. I have had more nasty comments over my music stand than anything else. ;-)

 

These are just hurdles, of course. We need to find a set of basic, appealing tunes like "Sunflower Dance"; not complicated, accessable, pleasant, and FUN. I have had far, far more requests to teach SD than any other tune. Can we find more like it?

That's a great idea. A few easy tunes off the top of my head...

 

The Skeleton Dance -- this one's quite easy but very fun, might even be a good tune to learn for Hallowe'en

 

Banjoland -- a fun novelty solo, includes effects such as drum taps, doesn't venture above the 12th fret, mind the triplets though!

 

Spanish fandango (adapted to the banjo) is an old classic, very easy but very pleasing when played properly.

 

Louisa Schottische -- once played by the departed Banjo-playing Bard of Edinburgh, nice and easy.

 

And then there are many Grimshaw exercises from How to Excel on the Banjo which are simply excellent... I really like Number 9 (page 6) and no. 17 (page 8). People who are of a more melancholic disposition will enjoy the exercises in Cm (10 and 11, page 6)

 

I'm sure there are plenty more out there... fun and easy, though for now Sunflower Dance is our "Cripple Creek" :P

Hi Ian, z-b.org has paid for a month so lots of people on the stall please tomorrow - all the new CE solos, strings and CDs

Dave

I've just got hold of this book and would thoroughly recommend it to any beginner or early intermediate. I started on classic banjo about 18 months ago, went through a bit of a diversion into bluegrass, and am now firmly back into the classic banjo camp. This book is doing a great job in undoing some bad habits I got into!   

Mike Moss said:
Also, Alan Middleton has written a new tutor (published by the new Clifford Essex company) and for 15 quid it's quite nice. It's a lot more than the Grimshaw tutor, as it includes pictures, explanations on correct stance, picking technique, banjo maintenance, several complete songs, a CD, and both notation and tablature staves, with complete fingerings, for all tunes and exercises. It's a little too basic for me but I mainly bought it to teach my girlfriend the banjo (I don't know all that much about teaching myself) and it really is the definitive fingerstyle banjo book for the 21st century. It also includes the complete score to Donkey Laugh and a section on effects, which is a nice plus :-)
How about 'Banjo Oddity' - arguably (well at least to me!) somewhat simpler than 'Sunflower Dance' or 'Banjoland'?

Mike Moss said: 

I'm sure there are plenty more out there... fun and easy, though for now Sunflower Dance is our "Cripple Creek" :P

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