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Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Happy New Year, banjo nerds!

We’re back with a few quick topics as we kick off 2016 and another exciting year of the Glory-Beaming Banjo. Let’s get right to it.

Year in Review
The New Year marked my third year playing fiddle. I’m playing with a little more confidence, but realize I have a long way to go. I accomplished a number of goals in 2015. I got out more to play with others, which has helped improve my ear, rhythm and speed. I completed the Brad Leftwich “Learn to Play Old-Time Fiddle” videos, which gave me a good foundation to build on, with a strong focus on rhythmic bowing. I also exceeded my annual practice goal.

RELATED: A New Year. A New Goal

Ever since reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, I’ve tracked my practice time, working toward achieving 10,000 hours, the amount of time Gladwell theorizes makes one a master at any given skill. I know there is no real way to quantify the effort I put into playing music and the amount of time it will take me to “get good.” And if I really think about it, it’s almost depressing how long it will take me to reach 10,000 hours on either banjo or fiddle, as I just passed 1,000 hours on the banjo last year, my seventh playing.

RELATED: Fiddle Year One

However, racking up the hours on my simple spreadsheet keeps me motivated throughout the year. Last year I hoped to reach 180 hours playing fiddle, and I finished at 192. That gives me 482 lifetime and an estimated 60 years until I reach 10,000, so it’s best not to get caught up in the numbers.

Santa Delivers
This Christmas brought me some old-time joy. I received a new set of strings for my fiddle (Prim), a metronome (I gave my old one to my niece) and Bruce Molsky’s “Southern Old-Time Fiddle Tour” video from Homespun. I was playing on the same strings for more than two years, so it was definitely time to make a change. The metronome is my stand-in for a rhythm section. Finally, the Molsky video will further build my repertoire and playing skills.

New Setup
In addition to installing new strings, I took my fiddle to local violinmaker Peter Horn to have some work done. My bridge was starting to “potato chip” as one friend described how it has started to curl and collapse upon itself. I also needed a new sound post. I had my fiddle back the next day and for a second thought I’d gotten the wrong instrument. My fiddle sounds so much fuller now. It has reinvigorated my desire to play. I’m exceptionally happy with Horn’s work and the new strings.

Goals for 2016
This year’s fiddle goals are to improve my ability to learn tunes by ear, improve my rhythm and get more comfortable playing with others. As far as my banjo playing goes, I want to focus more on transferring the tunes I learn on fiddle to the five-string and just playing on more regular basis. 

Getting back to all those numbers, I’ve set a goal of 200 hours on the fiddle. It’s a pretty big jump from last year’s goal of 180, but considering it’s only another eight hours more than what I ended up with in 2015, it seems doable. My banjo numbers were bleak last year. I set a goal of 70 hours in 2015, but only managed 47. It light of that, I’m only shooting for 50 hours this year. I hope to come back next year and say I blew that goal out of the water.

I also hope to attend a few more jams, local festivals and other old-time gatherings in 2016. There’s a new festival in February, and one in the summer I’ve been meaning to attend the last couple years. I’d also like to return to Music in the Valley and Raccoon County. In addition to attending more of the monthly jams in the area, perhaps a few other opportunities to play will present themselves as the year goes on.

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