[Dixielandjazz] Re:Hardest instrument to learn

Bigbuttbnd@aol.com Bigbuttbnd@aol.com
Wed, 19 Jun 2002 19:06:19 EDT

I don't know the hardest instrument to learn but I do know the easiest.... 
probably washboard! Huh!? Or banjo...

The banjo is not a particularly hard instrument to play... and can be played 
successfully on a variety of levels. Many successful "band" banjo players can 
simply play chord accompaniment and, when supported by a drummer and a piano 
player in a full band, can get by quite well. Since OKOM often tends to be 
more harmonically complex in the front line than in the rhythm section, a 
mediocre banjo player can play simple changes underneath the horn men and 
still fulfill much of the duties of a "band" banjoist.

Of course, some banjoists are called upon to play melody and jazz choruses 
and the required level of accomplishment on the instrument ramps up a bit. A 
way to make money outside of the band is for a banjo player to be able to 
play solo. I've worked an awful lot as a single banjo player strolling though 
a party or restaurant playing all of the parts myself and it requires much 
more ability (and showmanship).

In modern times, as a full 6 or 7 piece band becomes more rare with each 
passing day, the banjo player is often called upon to replace the piano 
player and the drummer, providing harmony and rhythm for the entire band. 
Neccesarily, when playing with a 3 or 4 piece band, the banjo player is also 
expected to play a chorus or two. This implies that the banjo player is also 
replacing in some way the clarinet or trombone in reduced bands (all the 
while STILL filling the gap for the missing drummer and piano player!)

My good friend, Bill Rutan, once impressed upon me that as bands shrink and 
the banjo player's responsibilities increase, the STYLE in which the banjo 
player PLAYS has to change... often having to be more complex (or "busier") 
to accomodate less players in the sound. 

Well, this started as a discussion on easier instruments to learn... but I 
think I've just talked myself into a raise! Banjo players unite! Dig that 
banjo out of the dumpster and stand up for your rights! Take your pick in 
your hand and tremolo your way to glo-ry! Thwacka! Thwacka! Thwacka!

Rocky Ball, Banjo
Fanny Moon's Big Butt Band
Atlanta, Georgia