So, I’ve struggled with playing along with any music u til I finally realised (with help from a friend) you actually have to rite learn everything piece. If you can’t keep up cause you’re looking at the music then you are in trouble. So, I’m trying to learn what I can. I find the tef files hard as they sound funny, and I’m too slow fir backing tracks when I have to look at the music. Anyway, just my thoughts. It has helped. Now back to banjo practice!!
You can slow down backing tracks with Amazing Slow Downer
I use it daily and love it.
@michelle.cruse, If you already have something like the free VLC media player, that can slow down the backing tracks too. Just download the backing tracks and play them with VLC. Here’s a screen shot of the menu path on my PC:
I am currently using AudioStretch Lite to speed up / slow down backing tracks and songs in my music library.
Everyone is correct above; slow down the recording of the piece so that you can play along without any mistakes. YES, that slow!
The reason you want to take practice so slow is that you do not want to LEARN the mistakes. Practicing a tune too fast to play properly is just teaching your mind (and hands) how to play mistakes. Doing the same mistake over and over makes it much more difficult to learn how to play it right (as you need to UNLEARN the mistake first).
Everyone learns differently. When I teach, I make my students comfortable with the fingerboard as soon as possible so that they will not need to look at their hands while they play. This way they can look at chord charts and simple tab files without watching their hands. It takes practice to feel that comfortable with your finger placement on the fingerboard, but I think it is worth the time spent, especially for newer players. If you don’t have to look at your hands, you can watch the music, or lyrics, or your fellow musicians, or your beer, or the girl across the room… but I digress.
Finally, understand that your brain does not like to learn large amounts of information all at once. Be comfortable learning/memorizing just a few measures a day. Do this everyday and you will have a tune memorized by the time you learn the last few measures.
In college, when I had a particularly difficult piece to learn, I would learn/practice the last 2 measures first, then learn the previous 2 and play till the end and so on till I reached the beginning of the tune. When you finally get to the beginning, you have the whole thing memorized!
Hey Michelle! I can’t imagine trying to play any banjo piece up to speed by reading music or tab.
If you really don’t like the TEF files, try downloading and installing Audacity. Then you can download Ben’s jam tracks and slow them down.
They key to learning a song is to take it bite sized chunks. I typically learn about 2 measures and will use the TEF player to loop those 2 until I can play them without looking at the screen. Then I’ll loop the next measures, repeat, and then play the 2 together.
Hey Michelle. I’m pretty much still a beginner, so slowing down the backup tracks is really important as well. So I’ll throw in another vote for Amazing Slow Downer. I’ve got it on my iPhone and iPad. Slow down to as low as 25% speed, change keys, and store loops of difficult sections. And if I’m working off my phone, it automatically makes any loops I’ve saved available on the iPad.
And I agree with the doc’s and others’ advice. My wife and I used to coach swimming. We learned a saying that applies to learning music. “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” Take care and enjoy the journey.
Yes, the tef files DO sound funny as they are MIDI files. I actually kind of like that, becasue it makes it easier for me to focus on my playing.
It is very easy to slow down the tef files.
Now it’s easy to set the speed where you are comfortable. Don’t be afraid to start at 25% or slower if need be. Everybody says it and you will hear it a lot: Go slow to go fast!
Would you describe what a typical practice session looks like for you? For me this has been the hardest part of learning to play the banjo.
Sorry for the post. I meant for JKL to describe what perfect practice was for him.
Hey @boonem, by “perfect practice” I meant playing slow enough to be accurate. If we push the speed to a point that accuracy breaks down, then we will actually teach our muscles to repeat the mistakes. I am not an expert on setting practice routines, but what I’ve been trying is to learn songs using tab and amazing slow downer (ASD) with Ben’s backup tracks at a very slow speed (30%-40%). And I challenge myself to memorize the song eventually. That’s about half my practice. The other half is playing the songs I already know from memory at increasing speeds—sometimes with backup and sometimes not. If I start getting sloppy, I back off the speed. So basically I’m a slow, accurate picker that’s been at it approaching three years. My plan is to become faster over the next three years. Finally, I try to get together with a guitar playing friend every few weeks to just have fun attempting to play together. I’m very far from perfect, but I try not to reinforce mistakes by pushing too much.
I’ll toss another thought in there. At first, all I wanted to do was play a song. Now I can play two - Cripple Creek & Boil Dem Cabbage. There are a couple others that I can sorta play, but something interesting is happening along the way.
I’m losing interest in playing a song and gaining interest in practicing things I cannot do.
I listen to skilled banjo players, and they make these wonderful sounds in all kinds of different songs. I want to make those sounds, not necessarily play those songs.
I’m a beginner in my mid 60’s and right now I’m working on hammers & pull-offs. I keep playing Ben’s “Hop, Skip & Jump” song over & over again. It’s an exercise that sorta kinda sounds like a song.
When I play it slow & accurate, it doesn’t sound special. When I pick up the speed, it sounds better, but I make more mistakes. So now I’m playing it a 1,000 times, trying to get the slow & accurate to sound fast & special. I’m kinda sorta getting there.
I guess the biggest thing to overcome is frustration. It never makes practice easier, it never makes you sound better and it never makes you feel good about playing music. Shake off the frustration and enjoy doing what you can do!
I know…“Easier said than done.”
That brings us back to practice.
In my journey through the banjo checklist, I have progressed through the beginner checklist. I don’t consider myself an intermediate player. I say that to say that I have experienced all of the frustration that teaching yourself to do new things can bring to the surface. The best advice that I could give is to set the banjo down when you feel the frustration rising. Walk away from it for a few minutes and then come back to it with a better frame of mind.
Like has been said many times, enjoy the journey!