Backwoods Banjo (338th new thing).

November 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

My friend Kallen took up the banjo about a year ago. She downloaded some iPhone apps and pretty much taught herself. I was thoroughly impressed. I tried learning guitar a couple times in my life, with a teacher, but I always eventually stopped practicing and let it fall by the wayside. Thus carving out the time to practice alone, when you could be doing any number of more instantly rewarding things is a job well done. And on Day Three Hundred Thirty-Eight Kallen taught me a little banjo.

We decided the evening could be a combined banjo lesson-doggie date. Kallen’s pooch, Boris, is a great foil to my pup Murphy. It’s weird how dogs play differently with other canines, and Boris and Murphy instantly turn into a happy growling Tasmanian Devil whirlwind of fur and face.  They twirl around the room in a blur of white and brown, bumping into tables and knees and walls, eventually breaking away for a game of tug-of-war or chase.

After the dogs had fallen into their whirlwind routine and Kallen and I had consumed a little wine and a lot of pizza (mushroom and roasted garlic, holla), we settled onto the couch as Kallen pulled out her iPhone and began to show me a few banjo learning apps.

I was amazed by what technology can teach you these days. Within the banjo playing application, the user can slow down or speed up the lines of sheet music to play along. I sat with the banjo tucked in my lap and strummed along with the fingering diagram. On the slowest speed, and I probably missed a few notes.

Next Kallen began to teach me to play the infamous theme from the 1972 film Deliverance, set and filmed in my home state of Georgia. Funnily enough, the first time I watched the film was in a remote cabin along the shores of Lake Rabun, near Clayton County where the movie was shot. Authenticity, right?

The Teacher

First Kallen strummed along…duh nah nah nah nah nah nah nah naaah… She played the opening notes a couple times and then passed the instrument along to me to give it a go. It took a few tries to find the proper fingering, but before long I was picking the notes in between mistakes, in a highly unintentional staccato fashion.

Once I had mastered the simple opening line, we moved on to the next row of musical notes which sound like the beginning of  “Yankee Doodle.” Duh duh duh duh duh duh duhn…I know, my words are amazingly clear in conveying the music.

Slow and Steady

All of this took enough time to where we decided it was time to let the (still) playing dogs outside. We took a couple glasses of my latest homebrew with us. And I managed to lock us out, pulling the door closed before Kallen made sure her key was on her person. Oops.

Thus the banjo lesson ended and the next lesson in climbing and trying to reach Chad, Kallen’s boyfriend, without our cell phones (safely tucked inside) began. Eventually we made it back inside as the man of the house returned from band practice. It was pretty late by this point, so I gathered Murphy and headed home. I hummed the first lines of music I had learned that evening for about a week afterwards. And probably will for the next week too.

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