Student Question What should I Practice?
...Since I’ve ordered a lot of your material in the past year, i.e, Banjo Encyclopedia, Backing Tracks, Play along CDs, Banjo Speed Book, Scruggs Style Book, etc., I need some advice on practicing. I’ve learned “Dixie Breakdown” cleanly at the slower speed. In addition, I’ve learned Lonesome Road Blues from the Scruggs CD at the slower speed. My question is: should I concentrate on “just” those until I get them at the “breakneck” speed you play them at? ( which is going to take a long time), or should I continue on with the other Scruggs songs and learn them at least at the slower speed? I’ve found that after I’ve learned the song at the slower speeds, I’m anxious to go onto another song. Is that the wrong approach?
Ross Nickerson Answer
....My general advice would be to spend significant time improving your mechanics and less time learning new songs. Your goal is to learn to play the banjo better and improve each session. Stay consistent with that simple concept and try to make decisions that are consistent with achieving your goal of improving your overall ability. Sometimes learning songs can be consistent with that, but that is only part of your practice time. Practice things that you can use in many songs.
The rhythm tracks that are on the How to Build Your Speed on the Banjo CD, the last three tracks. I would spend a lot of time with the slower speed on that, and if possible, the medium speed. Play simple! just rolls and chords, no tab. Try to stay with the chord changes without losing your rhythm or roll. Keep it simple, don't try to play the tab arrangement of Dixie Breakdown, or if you do maybe just one of the solos over and over. Your goal in working with the rhythm track is to feel what it feels like to be in the groove and plowing through a tune. When you feel that and achieve that sense of drive and rhythm, now, when you learn a song, you can plug that same feel and rhythm into the more complicated arrangements.
Hope that helps, if I could work with you one on one that would help me to give you even more specific advice.