Practice Session 148 on Thursday, January 5, 2017

Great session this evening after a crappy day (I locked my keys in the truck–don’t ask). Tonight’s session included my first attempt at playing against a backing track, and what a difference! It helped my timing dramatically and was a heck of a lot more fun than playing against the metronome (or against nothing at all). An argument can be made, I think, that the backing track–or for that matter, the metronome–is a crutch, but I’m not at the stage where I care very much. An argument can also be made that bluegrass does not include the drum as an instrument, but I don’t care very much about that either, to tell the truth. It’s so much more fun for me to play against even the primitive, generic backing tracks that I used tonight that I’m going to do it a lot more.

Segment A: I played rolls over chords and I found it a lot easier and more natural to do so with the backing track. It was much easier to conceive the exercise not as individual string-plucks or even individual single rolls, but instead as sets of rolls, and I’m sure that’s something to be encouraged.

Segment B: I was late moving the arrow over, as you’ll see, but I played the three Murphy songs at various speeds. I am not familiar at all with how the mp3 player I bought works, so I couldn’t really understand how to choose the backing track (and thus speed) that I wanted. But for this first time, I don’t really care. Whatever I was able to get it to play, I just used that. After, I tried the backing track on ‘Devil’s Dream,’ and what a difference! I’ll definitely use a backing track when I record this in VE form for Tony (Trischka and his School of Banjo, google ‘TTSB’ for more info), and I should be doing that anytime now.

Segment C: I spent the whole time on Murphy’s high break for FMB, which is settling down for me now and isn’t hard, but is such an important piece to be able to play well that it deserves a lot more time and effort.

Forty-five minutes and change and the session is over. I feel like I made some progress tonight, and the backing track is going to be a great thing to use over and over again. You may notice I have a lot fewer flyovers tonight–I made a new padded pick for the index finger, and it’s working a lot better than the old one did.

Below is the video from the whole session tonight. It’s going to be cold for the next several days, so it may be a while before Banjo the Dog and I can record in the rolling banjo practice studio, but I’ve got this wild idea that we might make a road trip to Texas after Saturday (I’m running a half marathon on Saturday), and that will be outside this winter storm that’s moving in. More to come–watch this space for developments!


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