Write first, think later. For songwriting, as well as any other kind of creative writing, I’m a firm believer in this simple motto.
The banjo’s birthplace is Africa or colonial America, depending on where you draw the line between banjo and banjo-ish ancestor. But while we debate the banjo’s birth, we can at least agree on where it hit puberty. That happened in America in the 20th century.
This is probably why Autotune infuriates so many serious musicians: those variations in pitch aren’t mistakes in the performance; they are the performance. If you clean up those “errors” and quantize everything to the “correct” pitches, all you’re left with is dry, robotic music.
It’s not just the words you say that get a message across—it’s the way you say them. Similarly, in music there are many ways to “say” the same notes. Without following articulation markings, your playing could end up sounding like the equivalent of speaking in a monotone. Here’s an easy guide to help you become more “articulate” and bring more life into your playing by using accents, slurs, and staccatos.
The lap steel guitar has a unique sound, and is a lot of fun to play! Check out this video demo to hear it for yourself.
If you’re interested in playing bluegrass banjo, you’ve got to start with Scruggs style, or, three-finger style. In this video, John Boulding takes you through the basics, and introduces you to some of the fundamental rolls that every banjo player should know.