It should be pointed out that *practice* is a totally different realm than
*playing*. Remember that *practice* is thinking. *Playing* is not so much
thinking. I've heard it described as a kind of relaxed, detached
maintenence in which you are the listener as well as the player. The music
transcends your nagging self-awareness. Everything learned in practice has
to be under your fingers, COLD. Practicing with others develops the other
realm of *playing*. In *playing*, you make mistakes, but still know where
you are in real time to pick up from where you erred. You go on and allow
yourself mistakes. You make note of them and go back later to correct them
in solitary *practice*. It's a cyclical process. You begin to learn how to
It seems that practice is the awareness of your fingering, the chord you
are on, timing and any other elements which are necessary to prepare you
for *playing* with others. You then take those elements and try them with
others in a safe playing environment which is ideally non-intimidating and
therefore constructive. Workshops and slow jams are great for musical
Another thing that was hinted at in the discussion of practice was
*repetition*. Everything bows down to repetition. I usually use hash marks
on a page to keep track of a practice *goal* I've set for myself. Which,
by the way is the next important thing for me.
A *goal* is very important. A general goal is maybe a repertoire of songs
and specific goal is a phrase, lick, etc. Since you can only practice in a
single "day", a goal specific to what you want to accomplish and the
number of days in which you want to accomplish it is a good idea. If something
seems more formidable that you had expected, that is, will take longer to
master than you had originally thought, break it up into smaller goals
until you have a specific song, phrase, lick or whatever to accomplish in
a certain amount of time. Be reasonable. Don't bite off more than you can
If something is chronically bothersome, like a fingering that makes you
slow down when you feel it coming up in time, then consult your instructor
as to whether you are encumbering yourself on a certain passage or phrase.
Usually, the fingering is OK, but it may be how you THINK about the
sequence that solves problem. Sometimes the process of tying together the
various practice fragments, licks etc. is incomplete and all you need do
is think about the transition differently.
Love your banjo. Pick up your banjo every day, even if you have only five
minutes. Make a daily contact with your instrument. It wants to do great
things for you.
Get a musical instrument stand and have a *place* to practice.
Get a *calendar* and have a written goal of how many hours, what you want
to accomplish and your expected time for the overall area you want to
master for each week or month. Check off the days you practice and what
you did and how long you practiced.
*Tape record* your progress to offset discouragement. Know that that
sparkle of notes you desire will come if you want it bad enough.
These and other topics will be included in the revised "Key to
Five String Banjo" and the "30 Day Banjo Practice Diet" due out later this
year. I'm learning page layout as fast as I can.