Hey, I’m still playing!

Hi everybody. Although I’ve been absent from this blog for approximately a zillion weeks, I have not been inactive on the banjo. At least not CONTINUALLY inactive. I find myself practicing and investigating and being fascinated … and then the problems of normal adult life intrude and I have to lay the banjo aside for a few weeks. I’ve had family members get sick. I’ve gotten sick myself. I’ve injured my fingers. I’ve gotten my work hours extended to take away my afternoon practice time. I’ve had to travel. And so on.

Nonetheless, the banjo is still a part of my life. On my practice spreadsheet — did I mention that I track my practice in a spreadsheet? — I have columns for the various things I am working on:

DATE Technique Method books Combo tunes Solo tunes My blog Misc. Mandolin

This makes it easy to see what I’ve been doing over time. And looking back, I can see that since my last blog posting things have gone like this:

  • JULY 2014 — I made a “Chord Diagrams” sheet for my own personal use, using a great chord-diagramming program called Neck Diagrams. Here’s a link to my beautiful chord-diagram sheet (in its last-ever version).
  • AUGUST 2014 — Realized that, however beautiful my chord diagrams were, my chord sheet was getting too hard to update. Switched to a text-only format (just the fret numbers), which worked well. I’ve kept updating it as I discover new chords. Click to see the latest version of my text-only chord sheet. Then went to the U.S. to visit my family and didn’t take my banjo with me.
  • SEPTEMBER 2014 — Had a stupid accident pulling up my socks (seriously!) and bent my left middle finger REALLY badly. I even ended up going the emergency room. Couldn’t play for over a month (and, in fact, the finger is still somewhat swollen now, six months after I hurt it).
  • OCTOBER 2014 — Started to play again, cautiously. Made a really good practice sheet for major scales, using Neck Diagrams. It’s different from the scale sheet I posted back in July, which was in standard staff notation. This one is simply a bunch of neck diagrams.
  • NOVEMBER 2014 — Decided on a list of seven Dixieland combo tunes to prepare (St. Louis Blues, St. James Infirmary, Tiger Rag, Just a Closer Walk, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Tenderly, When the Saints). Was hoping to start my little Dixieland band soon. Practiced about half the days of this month. Decided I wanted a mandolin (when I saw how cheap they could be), the idea being I could take it with me in my suitcase whenever I travel and thus have something to practice.
  • DECEMBER 2014 — Work intruded a lot, and also Christmas (which lasts a long time in Spain, all the way through Epiphany on January 6th). Asked my family for a mandolin for Christmas.
  • JANUARY 2015 — Received my mandolin on Epiphany (which is when most Spaniards give and get their Christmas presents) and started practicing it a little. Cut my left middle finger chopping up vegetables or something and couldn’t practice for a week. Went to my Dad’s funeral at the end of the month. (He had died back in June, but he was to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, for which there is a long waiting list.) Also visited my mother in Richmond, Virginia. Brought my mandolin along but didn’t practice it a single time.
  • FEBRUARY 2015 — Returned to Spain to a big backlog of classes (I teach music and English) and had no time to practice until the last week of the month.
  • MARCH 2015 — Was given a very time-consuming instensive English exam-prep class to teach in the afternoons (which I would prefer to dedicate to the banjo) and could scarcely practice at all. Decided to start another blog, Back 2 Seventeen, in which I decide to live my life as if I were 17 years old again. (I am really 58.) Finished the intensive class right at the end of the month.
  • APRIL 2015 — Started playing again on April 11th. Decided to ask Tim Allan, one of my favorite banjoists, for a lesson. If you don’t know about Tim, look at his YouTube channel. He is fabulous.

And today, I had that lesson! It’s getting kind of late, so I’ll describe it in a later post, maybe tomorrow or the day after. For now I’ll just mention that Tim is a really nice guy and a really fine teacher. I wrote up my notes after the 90-minute lesson; they covered two full pages in 11-point Calibri type….

I’ll stop for now, but rest assured that I am still at it, and still trying to apply what I know about the trumpet to what I am learning on the banjo….

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