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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1) I just looked up "cohort" in the dictionary. All my life I have misunderstood its meaning. Your meaning is correct. It is a group.

I can't imagine there being more than one "cohort" for this project. Did you envision several?  

2) you're welcome.

3) This site seems to be the primary internet and international focal point for classic banjo playing.

 Compared to the millions of people interested in genealogy and the thousands of people interested in playing other kinds of five-string banjo there are apparently only dozens of  people in the world playing and learning this kind of banjo music. 

If there were enough participants to form a study group (or cohort) wouldn't that be a large percent of the total of possible participants?    What would be the advantage of doing this project out of sight of those who visit this site and don't wish to participate?  What would be the disadvantage of having non-participants comment?  These are genuine questions, I am naive about all this and really don't know.  


Cynthia Richardson said:

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 thought we were talking about the C notation Weidt book that Joel Hooks generously shared with us here a few days ago. 

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)?  

Maybe it's time for a new thread on the subject of a Weidt study group as its own topic rather than as a subset of a thread about reading music.  I assume that the Weidt study group would be about playing the banjo rather than primary about reading musical notation. Yes?

I agree on all points--new thread, focus on playing rather than reading, and that it would work to simply collaborate with each other through an open thread. The only thing that I feel strongly about is that people who participate should commit to sharing progress recordings in some way because everyone can learn from them and that people who respond should be supportive, pointing out positives as well as offering suggestions. 

Jody Stecher said:

Maybe it's time for a new thread on the subject of a Weidt study group as its own topic rather than as a subset of a thread about reading music.  I assume that the Weidt study group would be about playing the banjo rather than primary about reading musical notation. Yes?

I think the first book is available in both A and C but the other books are in A notation.  However, there is a lot of  individual pieces in C notation on this site.  I think he had the knack of creating catchy melodies and so his music is a good choice for beginners. I would not describe myself as a beginner but I would like to become more proficient at reading music.  I did that thing that Joel advised against of transcribing music notation to tab rather than sight-reading from the score.  It's all the chords - I find it easier to read them in tab form.   

Another book I would recommend is the Herbert Ellis Thorough School for the 5string banjo.   

 

Yes the chords can be hard to read, especially in Cammeyer banjo solos. So the first time I see a new page of dots I stop when I come to a chord (unless it's first position C major or F or G). and I work out what is meant. Next time I read through the piece I'll remember what each ink splotch represents. Much easier than tabbed chords though is letter/nunber symbols such as Eb7 or Am  or C# dim  etc, which can be hand written.  Some banjo notation shows finger position, you know, as in Emil Grimshaw. 213, 211, etc).  It's helpful for fingering but it has the same disadvantage as tab: it does not inform the player of the harmonic intention of the composer, so a degree of musical meaning is lost to the student trying to learn a new piece. 

carrie horgan said:

I think the first book is available in both A and C but the other books are in A notation.  However, there is a lot of  individual pieces in C notation on this site.  I think he had the knack of creating catchy melodies and so his music is a good choice for beginners. I would not describe myself as a beginner but I would like to become more proficient at reading music.  I did that thing that Joel advised against of transcribing music notation to tab rather than sight-reading from the score.  It's all the chords - I find it easier to read them in tab form.   

Another book I would recommend is the Herbert Ellis Thorough School for the 5string banjo.   

 

Hi

Haven't been around for a while but spotted this discussion. Here is a decent copy of the Weidt Book 2 pieces in C

WeidtStudies%20%232%20C.pdf

Regards

Eric


Joel Hooks said:

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...

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