The Banjo Is My Enemy…

Here’s an insightful comment on practicing your instrument, which probably applies to lots of other things as well. Pete Wernick, who does banjo instructional materials for the indispensable Homespun Tapes, describes two modes of practicing:

  • The Banjo Is My Enemy: Seriously goal-oriented practice, mostly doing exercises slowly in rhythm, “based on the weak spots in your playing, repeated as slowly as necessary to play them perfectly, then faster as they lock in. That is a very efficient way to deal with sloppiness and bad habits in your playing, or to master any new technique.”
  • The Banjo Is My Friend: “Completely free-floating bonding with the instrument … Reward yourself by just enjoying the instrument and having a conversation with it.”

This is very wise. You need to practice the things you can’t do, or you’ll find yourself stuck in a rut. But you need to have fun with the instrument too, and not just as a antidote to the hard work. The “fun” playing is where you find your groove with your instrument, allow it to become a part of you, and get comfortable enough to really express yourself and take some chances.

And of course, it’s about the best summary of the love/hate relationship with your instrument I’ve ever heard.

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