Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Break Time

I've become a tenor banjo homebody.  I haven't been keeping up with the Irish and oldtime tunes played at local jams and sessions so I haven't been getting out to these events.  In fact I haven't been playing that type of music at all.  There's been zero overlap.  It's been such a relief to (temporarily?) let that go.

Instead, over the last several months I've solely been indulging in the music that gets me off the most, which consists of most of the tunes from The Etcetera String Band's out of print Bonne Humeur CD (nobody is familiar with these old obscure Caribbean melodies so they feel like my very own!), over a half-dozen Jerry Garcia ballads from the Grateful Dead songbook, and selected snippets from about 10 Phish songs, as well as a handful of additional Caribbean tunes from other sources, some Latin/Mexican songs, and a few Middle Eastern sounding pieces that use unusual scales.

Let's face it - I play tenor banjo which isn't exactly a common choice.  It would help things if I was passionate about playing tenor banjo in a traditional style or currently focused on learning Irish or perhaps Appalachian traditional music. If that were true then there would be some common ground because there are a lot of people tuned in to traditional music and that learning process.  But my tastes are flowing in a different direction and I'm not attempting to re-direct them or interfere with that course.  It's all part of the journey.

My favorite musicians are guitarists.  Electric guitarists. Jerry Garcia, Trey Anastasio, Mary Halvorson and Bill Frisell.  But, I don't play guitar. I play tenor banjo - an acoustic, four string instrument tuned in 5ths.  It doesn't make sense but it makes sense to me.  That combination of loving to play tenor banjo but also loving music that has no association with tenor banjo is so odd that it's not worth trying to relate to others by documenting this because there probably aren't any others in that same boat!

I don't play gigs or "perform".  (Is that why most people play music?).  Most importantly I'm just a mediocre (at best) hobbyist musician obsessed with playing music but at the same time with no real interest in entertaining anyone other than myself with this pursuit.  I'm also not an expert or an authority of any kind so I have no business trying to come up with this stuff.  I'm also tired of sharing these things.

As I sit around the house and play, to some degree I feel myself moving away from structure and tradition or any sense of right or wrong or having to sound a certain way or be at a certain speed or rhythm. And this perspective is so much fun I don't want to stop and have to go back into the real world where I perceive people to be critical and judgmental and full of opinions about what someone should or shouldn't do.  Admittedly, most of the "do this/not that" philosophy stems from a person's good intentions at preserving a type of music they hold dear.  An outlook that I don't share I guess.  So I'm going to stay here a while longer.

I only get an hour or two per day to play and I'm no longer letting unnecessary obligations seep into that time.  I'm going to practice what I want to play when I want to play it with a more laid back attitude about the whole process.  As long as it takes.

To sum up...the above are some reasons are why I'm not updating this blog at the moment.  However, not posting any sort of explanation has been nagging at me so I felt compelled to write this.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the additional post! I've kind of gone the same way, in a way, with my music. I started out playing traditional Irish music on whistle, then added tenor banjo, and melodeon. I really enjoyed that time period and learned a lot, especially about learning by ear. I transitioned from tenor banjo to tenor guitar and branched out into other types of music and then discovered that I really excelled at improvising on whistle and playing along with guitar players (blues and other types of music). So now, I'm a tenor guitar homebody but I do play at open mics on whistle and just improvise along with random guitar players if they're open to it. Good luck with your musical pursuits!

    -Brett
    Bloomington, Indiana

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