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Re: [nwbluegrass] Anchors away! (Not.)

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  • John Sigmon
    ... From: robhakanson@spiretech.com To: nwbluegrass@yahoogroups.com Sent: Tuesday, April 01, 2008 2:02 PM Subject: [nwbluegrass] Anchors away! (Not.) I ve read
    Message 1 of 3 , Apr 1, 2008
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      ----- Original Message -----
      From: robhakanson@...
      To: nwbluegrass@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Tuesday, April 01, 2008 2:02 PM
      Subject: [nwbluegrass] Anchors away! (Not.)


      I've read the recent banjo finger anchor/no anchor discussion with
      interest. I'm not a banjo player now, but it was my first instrument when
      I started in bluegrass 35 years ago. When playing, I never reached the
      level of say... Jim Hancock, but I wasn't too bad. Here are some
      semi-random thoughts:

      - Non-standard technique is a pet peeve of mine. There's always room for
      variation and individual differences, but on things like holding a violin
      bow and anchoring at least one of your ring and/or pinky fingers in order
      to play bluegrass banjo, there really is a "right" way to do it. In the
      case of a violin bow grip, we have 400 years of the vast majority of
      violin players holding the bow in the prescribed fashion. For bluegrass
      banjo, we have Scruggs and nearly all of the great players anchoring at
      least one finger.

      - Not anchoring might be possible, but why try? Some people can get away
      with unorthodox technique. In the world of golf, look at Arnold Palmer.
      A legend. Weird swing. Now look at 99% of PGA tour players. They look
      (or try to look) like Ben Hogan and Tiger Woods in their swing. Why?
      Because it works, and if they don't win, they don't make a living.

      - I would not advise you to let a 6 year-old experiment with different
      right hand approaches in learning the banjo. I have quite a bit of
      experience with 6 year-old musicians -- three full years, to be exact, the
      years between my three kid's 6th and 7th birthdays. If you can get a six
      year-old to play an instrument ANY ONE way consistently, you have
      accomplished a minor miracle.

      - Regarding second guessing the teacher, I agree that one should do so
      with great caution. I also observe that we don't know any specifics of
      the situation, other than that the teacher seems to recommend an
      unorthodox approach. Lots of people claim to be able to teach things that
      they don't really know about. I'm not saying that this is the case for
      this teacher, but we just don't know.

      - On the bridge height, I would urge you to have a very low bridge for a
      small child. As much as you can, make the banjo proportionally smaller to
      match the child's body. You might consider a very non-standard, very low
      bridge with smaller string spacing. If they made fractional banjos like
      they make fractional violins, I would use one if my small child were
      trying to learn banjo.

      - People have mentioned taping the ring and little fingers together to get
      them to anchor together. I remember reading in more than one place a
      recommendation to hold something between those to fingers to keep them
      busy, immobile, and working together. Maybe something like a small dowel,
      perhaps with indentations cut in the sides to fit the contour of the two
      fingers better.

      - Regarding Don Reno's unorthodox right hand style, I'm a great admirer of
      Don Reno. He was a prodigy and performing genius. Sounds like his right
      hand approach differed from Scruggs, who most definitely anchored fingers
      in a very stable way. If you want to know who your six year-old will want
      to sound like later if he stays with bluegrass banjo (and I hope that he
      does), here's a subtle clue:

      SCRUGGS-SCRUGGS-SCRUGGS-SCRUGGS!!!!!!!!! The absolute gold standard.

      Sorry for rambling!
      Rob Hakanson




      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • John Sigmon
      Well Rob, well said. I might add this regarding teachers. There are many good banjo players. But playing well and being able to communicate that are two
      Message 2 of 3 , Apr 1, 2008
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        Well Rob, well said. I might add this regarding teachers. There are many good banjo players. But playing well and being able to communicate that are two different things. Some of the best I have heard have trouble telling someone how to do a forward roll. I am not the best you have heard, but I, in the time I tried to teach, found it very hard to pass on those nuances of the 5-string banjo. What happens is that you end up with a frustrated student, who actually may have considerable talent, but who is actually being hampered by my inability to pass along the tricks of the trade. And as any banjo player knows, the basic rolls are simply the foundation upon which a multitude of things can be built, and are played spontaneously in a given song. When I am playing (not taking a lead) and I see a four count stretch coming I know what I can fit in there before I execute it. I know how to compensate if I stumble a little, and I also know when to put in the case because I am hopelessly outclassed. (grin). This isn't brag, it's just the way it happens. I don't know how to pass along the concept that banjo playing is often a series of mathematical calculations, bourne of experience and taste, that takes riff, lick or roll A, and finds it appropriate for 4 or 8 counts (b).

        I know this all sounds very mysterious. You can tell when I don't quite "get it" by the look of panic on my face. (g). The upshot of the matter, and to return to the teaching matter, is that I don't any longer. It takes more talent to pass it along than I have. And my hat is sincerely off to those who can. It's late, I'm tired and Alex and Alena, my Shepherds have run out of patience with me. They want to pack it in. And they are getting less subtle about it (at the door sighing). (g) John Sigmon
        ----- Original Message -----
        From: robhakanson@...
        To: nwbluegrass@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Tuesday, April 01, 2008 2:02 PM
        Subject: [nwbluegrass] Anchors away! (Not.)


        I've read the recent banjo finger anchor/no anchor discussion with
        interest. I'm not a banjo player now, but it was my first instrument when
        I started in bluegrass 35 years ago. When playing, I never reached the
        level of say... Jim Hancock, but I wasn't too bad. Here are some
        semi-random thoughts:

        - Non-standard technique is a pet peeve of mine. There's always room for
        variation and individual differences, but on things like holding a violin
        bow and anchoring at least one of your ring and/or pinky fingers in order
        to play bluegrass banjo, there really is a "right" way to do it. In the
        case of a violin bow grip, we have 400 years of the vast majority of
        violin players holding the bow in the prescribed fashion. For bluegrass
        banjo, we have Scruggs and nearly all of the great players anchoring at
        least one finger.

        - Not anchoring might be possible, but why try? Some people can get away
        with unorthodox technique. In the world of golf, look at Arnold Palmer.
        A legend. Weird swing. Now look at 99% of PGA tour players. They look
        (or try to look) like Ben Hogan and Tiger Woods in their swing. Why?
        Because it works, and if they don't win, they don't make a living.

        - I would not advise you to let a 6 year-old experiment with different
        right hand approaches in learning the banjo. I have quite a bit of
        experience with 6 year-old musicians -- three full years, to be exact, the
        years between my three kid's 6th and 7th birthdays. If you can get a six
        year-old to play an instrument ANY ONE way consistently, you have
        accomplished a minor miracle.

        - Regarding second guessing the teacher, I agree that one should do so
        with great caution. I also observe that we don't know any specifics of
        the situation, other than that the teacher seems to recommend an
        unorthodox approach. Lots of people claim to be able to teach things that
        they don't really know about. I'm not saying that this is the case for
        this teacher, but we just don't know.

        - On the bridge height, I would urge you to have a very low bridge for a
        small child. As much as you can, make the banjo proportionally smaller to
        match the child's body. You might consider a very non-standard, very low
        bridge with smaller string spacing. If they made fractional banjos like
        they make fractional violins, I would use one if my small child were
        trying to learn banjo.

        - People have mentioned taping the ring and little fingers together to get
        them to anchor together. I remember reading in more than one place a
        recommendation to hold something between those to fingers to keep them
        busy, immobile, and working together. Maybe something like a small dowel,
        perhaps with indentations cut in the sides to fit the contour of the two
        fingers better.

        - Regarding Don Reno's unorthodox right hand style, I'm a great admirer of
        Don Reno. He was a prodigy and performing genius. Sounds like his right
        hand approach differed from Scruggs, who most definitely anchored fingers
        in a very stable way. If you want to know who your six year-old will want
        to sound like later if he stays with bluegrass banjo (and I hope that he
        does), here's a subtle clue:

        SCRUGGS-SCRUGGS-SCRUGGS-SCRUGGS!!!!!!!!! The absolute gold standard.

        Sorry for rambling!
        Rob Hakanson




        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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