Sunday, November 30, 2008

Banjo Classes at Dusty Strings

I'm teaching beginning bluegrass banjo at Dusty Strings this winter.  The classes will meet every other Monday from 6:30-7:30pm.  The dates are January 12, 26 and February 9, 23.

I'm also teaching an intermediate bluegrass banjo class on the same dates with classes starting at 7:45 going to 8:45.  Each class is $80.

Feel free to cruise over to Dusty Strings website and check their list of classes as well as a description of my banjo classes.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Free Music Lesson #4 (Alternative Practice tools and methods)

A person eager to learn a musical instrument has more opportunity than ever. The digital revolution has created a wealth of resources to choose from. I'd like to use this blog to point out a few that folks might not have heard of and discuss ways to make the most of them.

  1. Instructional DVDs
Regardless of your instrument I bet there's a DVD out there that teaches it. The DVD's usually feature a famous artist teaching their instrument and particular style. These DVD's are cool in that you can see your favorite guitarist playing up close and slow talking about their style. But, they don't always make the best teachers. I own many of these and have found them very useful.

2. The Amazing Slow Downer
This is the best tool ever. This is a music media player that you plug files (songs) into and you can slow them down as slow as you want. You can change the key of the song and even loop sections you want to isolate. Want to learn your favorite players licks, just slow it down and pick the notes out one by one. You can download them for $50 bucks. The cost of a lesson.

3. You Tube
Seems like everybody is on youtube. I've seen all kinds of lessons on youtube. Some professional, some not. If you can find something you're looking for on youtube great. But, you don't get the teacher/student interaction where learning can take place. Its often someone demonstrating a lick or song with no instruction on how to practice or what is happening in the bigger picture. There's no feedback. Maybe you don't care. No biggie but it takes more than seeing it done on youtube to play well. Find a teacher.

4. Online lessons
My wife bought a few of these for bluegrass fiddle. You order a video of someone playing a song you want to learn. Its the same sort of thing as youtube but more specific. It was basically someone playing a slow version and then a fast version of a song or lick. Helpful. My wife learned some cool licks from the downloads. Again, though they don't tell you how to practice or what they heck is going on musically.

So, you've tried one of these things how do you use them. Try this...

  1. The Amazing Slow Downer I can't say enough good things about the Amazing Slow Downer. I've learned lots of complicated songs and licks from it. Perhaps its best function though is when you play along with it. I'll slow a song I'm working on down to 1/2 or 3/4 speed and play along with the recording. Really great practice. Its like playing with pro musicians and getting them to play at any speed you want.
  2. DVD's When using these things its easy to get overwhelmed with all the info. Learn one thing at a time. Get it into your fingers solid then move on to something else. That goes for all practice for that matter.
  3. Youtube Get very specific about what you are looking for. Some of the better videos I've seen were teachers who could talk about what they are doing. I wouldn't waste to much time if the video doesn't make sense to you. Again, there's no feedback or Q&A with youtube.
  4. Online lessons Don't buy a whole bunch at one time. Get one and learn the material well. Then get others.
  5. Practice slow.

Hope it helps.