Working on My Brain’s Elasticity

“What you’ve done right, and what you’ve done wrong can come out in the music.” – Patrick Costello. Isn’t that a great quote? Anyway, this is me learning frailing … (more below).

I hauled out my banjo last night, and found a banjo lesson on YouTube made by a very nice banjo player named Patrick Costello. I love this style. When I first bought my banjo I started by learning bluegrass picking, and it just wasn’t fun. Weirdly. Bluegrass is fun to listen to, but I just didn’t enjoy playing it. Frailling is more fun. It has an old-time, O Brother sense to it. I could see coming upon some old guy with a beautiful voice playing this style down by a river in the middle of nowhere in the south, singing folk songs most people have forgotten.

Plus the beginner stuff is easier. (Although I am doing it totally wrong. Your thumb is supposed to rest on the 5th string until you pluck it.) I also love that you don’t need to wear picks to play this style. I hated the picks. It separated you from the instrument in a way that also contributed to making it less fun.

The banjo I have is not really right for it, although it will do. But it occurred to me that I might be able to modify it to make it work better. I could remove the resonater (on the back) and the armrest which gets in the way of the arm movement that goes with this style. I emailed the place I bought it from to see if this could be done.

I picked up my banjo again after checking out a hip hop class and then taking an African drumming class at a place called Djoniba yesterday. I saw a show about aging and brain elasticity on channel 13 the night before and was moved to learn something new. The key is finding something you actually love and therefore might continue.

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap