Here’s ten things you can do right now to become a better banjo player!
1. Listen Actively Actively listening to your favorite banjo music on CD or to other musicians at concerts and jam sessions makes you a better player. Before you even start to work on a new song, find a recorded version of it first and try to pick up the song by ear. As you listen to great playing, you’re internalizing what the banjo is supposed to sound like, the finer details of the style you’re learning, and how the instrument fits in a group setting.
Some things are worth a second look:
Bangers & Grass, from L to R: Tom Bekeny, Chad Manning, Bill Evans, Steve Pottier, Jim Nunally. Photo concept by Mike Armistead.
Bangers & Grass is Jim Nunally (guitar), Chad Manning (fiddle), Tom Bekeny (mandolin), Steve Pottier (bass) and yours truly on banjo. We perform monthly at the Kensington Circus Pub, 389 Colusa Avenue in Kensington, which happens to be a mile or less from where each band member lives. Check out Sam Whiting’s recent San Francisco Chronicle Datebook feature article on this series. Our next performances are Wednesday, July 25 and Thursday, August 23. Music from 8 to 10 p.m. but be advised – the room fills up fast. My advice is to arrive no later than 6:45 p.m. to reserve a table and enjoy dinner and their fine selection of beverages. See you there!
Many folks have requested that I make available this tribute to Earl Scruggs that I put together for an earlier newsletter, so here it is. Thanks for these requests!
Remembering Earl Scruggs
If you’re not a banjo player, it might be hard to understand just how important Earl Scruggs is to those of us who love and play this instrument. Earl created a musical vocabulary that is accessible to all but requires a lifetime of effort to truly master. And despite our best efforts, none of sound as good as Earl.
A 1950’s era Earl Scruggs promotional picture. Note the box covering the cam tuners on his peg head!
Hi again everybody! For you banjo players out there, here’s my arrangement of the jam favorite “St. Anne’s Reel,” for intermediate level students. This arrangement blends melodic and Scruggs styles, exploring positions in the key of D with the fifth string tuned to A. Once you get the hang of that 5 – 7 -9 stretch, it’ll be clear sailing! Enjoy!
Hi everyone! Welcome to the brand spanking new Bill Evans Banjo Blog. Thanks to Bev and Steve Tracey at SitesToGo for helping set up this page and for tips on getting started. I’ll be checking in as often as I can with notes from the road (including Russia this August), banjo playing tips and much more. I appreciate your comments about what you read and thanks for joining me on what I hope will be a fun journey. Continue reading
I’ve played “The Distance Between Two Points” a lot over the last five or six years: with the Bill Evans String Summit at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, with Megan Lynch on the 2009 CD let’s do something… and at almost every Banjo in America performance over the last decade. It’s also the first track on my new CD In Good Company. This song has come to mean a lot to me as times goes by and I reflect on my experiences as a musician and as a parent. Much of “Distance” was composed in collaboration with my daughter Corey, who was a middle schooler who was quickly becoming an accomplished drummer as well as a piano and guitar player.
Corey displays her knowledge of altered singer-songwriter chords, early 2003.
…and shredding on her brand new electric guitar, Christmas Day 2002.