TOTAL PRACTICE FOR 2022: 343 HOURS
So close. The goal was 365 hours of banjo practice for 2022. 343 hours isn’t bad right? Wrong. I’ll get there shortly.
The purpose was to level up my playing, share my journey and perhaps most useful to you, share any practical insights to practicing banjo on a daily basis.
Considering I shared my journey all of 3 times last year and all in the first quarter, I completely failed at sharing my journey. Having a full time job, a family, and the business of Banjo Mountain while trying to practice an hour of bajo a day is no excuse! Well it kinda is but I wanted to share the journey and did not.
I did learn a lot and will share that today. But before I do, a confession:
The 343 hours of practice this year was not all banjo practice. There was a thief stealing away hours. Slowly at first and then fiercely towards the end. The age old rival to the banjo is at fault. The guitar.
Banjo = 195 hours of practice in 2022
Guitar = 148 hours of practice in 2022
I couldn’t help it. I knew I didn’t have the bandwidth to practice both everyday., but I love playing guitar too! In 2020, during the COVID lockdown, I decided I was going to really learn guitar and I averaged an hour a day for the year. Having made so much progress and unlocked playing guitar at a deeper level, I’m hooked. Which brings me to my first lesson (which isn’t profound but perhaps, bears repeating for all of us):
A YES TO ONE THING IS A NO TO SOMETHING ELSE.
I have no idea who the first person in history was to say but it is quoted often these days. Perhaps it is profound given the overwhelming amount of entertainment and input in our lives. Our hours in the day are finite and once spent, cannot be regained.
If I was free to do whatever I wanted all day, every day, I would not only practice both banjo and guitar, I would also practice both clawhammer and bluegrass banjo as I love them both. Which is why I’m quitting my job and leaving my family. I kid.
You get the idea. My current life circumstances don’t allow me to practice both an hour a day. But I’m ok with that since I love them both. The next lesson I learned…
THERE ARE MORE AVAILABLE HOURS THAN WE THINK. HOW ARE YOU SPENDING THEM?
I happen to know a lot of Hungarians. There is an old Hungarian folk song about when the Russians invaded Hungary in the mid 1950s. The Communists told them (and I’m paraphrasing) “Don’t worry. You’ll get 8 hours of sleep, 8 hours of work and 8 hours of play.” While communism turned out to be a nightmare for Hungary (shocker) the idea that we have 8 hours (outside of sleep and work) everyday is something to be considered and looked at carefully. How are you spending those hours? Below is a video of me trying to play this song “8 Hours” outside of Pecs, Hungary on my travel banjo. Also, we may or may not be very drunk.
TO AVOID BOREDOM AND PAIN THAT COMES WITH LEARNING BANJO, HAVE MULTIPLE PRACTICE OPTIONS.
When I pick up the banjo I tend to want to play the songs I know. As soon as I begin to learn a new song, during part of that process I experience pain as I struggle. Once this goes on for too long I want to put down the banjo. That’s when I switch to other practice exercises. To name a few:
Playing backup, along with backing tracks on youtube.
Practicing solo-ing over backing tracks on youtube.
Drilling rolls or licks (or for clawhammer players, drop-thumb or advanced techniques).
Playing songs I know and can play well.
Playing along with rock songs.
I start with the difficult task (learning a new song or technique) and once I start to burn out I switch to either something mindless (if I’m tired) or something fun! Suddenly my banjo practice session goes from 15 min to an hour. Boredom and pain are two of the biggest roadblocks to learning something new, in my experience.
PLAN THE DAY BEFORE AND FIND A CONSISTENT WINDOW TO PRACTICE BANJO
This is true for exercise or any other habit you are trying to form. Find a window of time that is typcially easy for you to practice banjo. And regardless, look at your calendar the night before and decide when you will practice.
For me, early in the day is key. I typically practice around 7:30am, given my middle-age life. Once the day starts going it’s more and more difficult for me.
HAVE THE BANJO “ON HAND” AND EASY TO PICK UP.
The more roadblocks to picking up the banjo, the less likely it is you will practice. I have mine hung on the wall so I can pick it up and start playing immediately. In it’s case, in the closet will ensure you come up with a reason you can’t practice today.
I hope some of this is helpful to you. I have a new goal for 2023: 400 hours total between banjo and guitar. Let’s see if I can practice what I preach! Happy pickin’ and strummin’!
Feel free to comment in the comments section below!
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