What’s your favorite lesson on Ben’s site?
There are so many really good lessons on all aspects of playing. Rather than citing one or two, I want to share what I appreciate most about all of Ben’s lessons and teaching. It is clear that Ben puts much thought into his teaching. He has a great ability to teach techniques and build them into interesting songs. As the student practices the songs, they inherently support the proficient use of the new technique through repetition - which is a very effective way to teach. For those of us who remember the Karate Kid movie, Mr. Miyagi’s method of instruction to Daniel comes to mind - helping Daniel to learn basic Karate movements through chores - except that Ben’s songs are anything BUT a chore to play. They are well-crafted and enjoyable to practice. The gains in proficiency are rewarding on each song – let alone, building a library of songs. What Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier did for Keyboard instruction, Hop, Skip and Jump did for practicing pull-offs - or waypoints did for learning up-the-neck fretboard positioning – or playing melodic style in breaks illustrates their usefulness and application in breaks - building off the melody. This is why Ben is worthy of being called the “Bach of Banjo” - a title I attributed to him on the Forum several months ago.
What’s your instrument of choice and what was your inspiration to learn how to play?
Banjo is my instrument of choice. I have long enjoyed the sound of the instrument. I self-taught guitar many years ago and still had a Roland Jazz Chorus Amp that my 12-year-old son used in his rock band. The amp was overpowered for the sound system the band used at the music school. His teacher encouraged me to downsize - so I traded in my old amp in for a brand new smaller Fender amp. With the money left over, I wanted to get something acoustic. I thought the time had come… took a leap of faith and said, “Where’s the Banjos?”
Some Forum members are aware that I have had some considerable trials in my life in the last 2 years. Having the support of my family first and foremost – but also having the support of the Banjo Ben Forum Community – as well as playing – have been a blessing to me to get through those tough times. My banjo remains a friendly companion and distraction from my problems. People – and music – are therapeutic!
My Birthday just passed on July 20th - the very same week I got notified of the honor to be selected as the Gold Pick Member of the Week. Then, my wife and son offered me a generous Birthday present I’ll always remember - to order a MANDOLIN! I am in the process of ordering one with Jake - who has been awesome in his assistance. THANKS JAKE! I will order my new instrument, know that I’m in good hands with my purchase and support a bunch of people I believe in. What could be better than that?
Just about a month ago, Marty Stuart and the Superlatives came to a small town near us. The show was FANTASTIC! I was fortunate to meet and get a photo with Marty and his Mandolin solo that evening was truly inspiring! More than this, the man is a living legend and is still out there sharing his craft spanning so many genres of Traditional American musical roots all across this land… and long may he do so!
What’s your goal when playing?
For me, first and foremost is to play “clean” and get the notes under my fingers – so to speak – while also working on accenting the melody. Secondly, working up the speed.
As much fun as I have had learning Banjo, I am eager to start learning Mandolin and enjoy yet another branch of Ben’s insightful teaching.
Lastly, I want to share a thought on a new goal (well aside from learning to play more licks cleanly, waypoints and melodic techniques). At times, it can be challenging to simply enjoy playing for the sake of playing. I, like many students, always want to play better and improve steadily… to play that hard passage better today than I did yesterday… or make it through that song with fewer mistakes. I share the occasional frustrations when my practice doesn’t turn out as well as I had hoped.
However, the inspiration I find in the lessons AND the FORUM helps me remember to just LISTEN to the SOUND my instrument makes and take note of progress since starting. These thoughts always brings me back to practicing with a smile! This should be a joyful journey that we share, right? I have recently pledged to fight that feeling of stress or frustration and replace it with the simple pleasure of learning an instrument in my life. How fortunate we are! I hope my words help others to be mindful to do the same.
How long have you been playing?
Unlike many of the students here, I came to start learning Banjo much later in life (a slight regret as I am late to the party but at least I have arrived). I just turned 53 and have been playing Banjo for about 3 years. When my new Mandolin arrives from Ben’s Store, I will likely stroll down that path - making the most of my Life Membership (I already have lessons access anyway, right?) to follow Ben’s lead and enjoy his lessons in a completely different way. I cannot wait!
What’s your favorite hobby?
Besides picking Banjo and TRYING to play various instruments, I also enjoy listening to a wide range of music as often as I can. Music is the Soundtrack of my Life (that phrase is borrowed from a band of the same name – but describes me perfectly). My wife is Brazilian and this has literally opened up a whole new world of awesome music to me. I enjoy listening to many musical genres: Bluegrass (well, of course), Rock, Blues, Alternative, Indie, Americana, Classical, Jazz, and various styles from the rich Brazilian music scene. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, watching sports, movies and finally reading - when I can carve out a little time to do so.
How long have you been a Gold Pick member?
I joined as a Gold Pick member / Life member right at the same time about 2 years ago. One of the best investments I ever made was to get a Life Membership.
I was taking private instruction - which was quite helpful at the beginning; however, as I came across and investigated Ben’s site, I decided I wanted to become a life member. Well, I decided to stop instruction for several months to pay for the Life Membership - always intending to go back. As it turns out, I have long-since offset the cost but never found the need to return to lessons for now. This is not intended to speak poorly of my previous teacher in any way… so much as it is an endorsement to Ben’s fine instruction. I hold the ability to review lessons WHEN I want, as many times as I want. This alone has been such an advantage and a much more efficient use of my time. I often go back and look up details and “learn again” from previously viewed lessons… like Banjo Setup, Theory, certain songs or passages, or even reviewing a specific technique. It’s all here when I need it. I have been told that my playing has also steadily improved at an even faster rate.
What do you do for a living?
I manage a team of 5 Project Managers and hold the title of Manager of Project Engineering. Our small company specializes in making custom-built conveyor / Testing Equipment solutions across a range of different industries.