Well, while we were out staying with my dad for my brother's wedding he said he had the banjo all tuned up and ready to go. Whew, was I excited! I went downstairs, took it out of the case and then cradled it in my lap. Holding onto the neck, and not knowing what the heck I was doing, I started plucking away making tuneless music. And I was sold. That sound was so beautiful. I knew it was what I wanted to learn.
Now, banjo music has usually annoyed me. Come to find out, it's the Bluegrass style that is notorious for the bright-sounding feverish plucking that rubs me the wrong way after 5 seconds. I had heard about the clawhammer technique which involves more strumming and it was what I was interested in. Luckily, there's an Appalachian string shop not too far from where I live (yippee!), so I headed out there solo since my husband was a sweetie and watched the kids.
I stepped into a cozy shop full to bursting with the rosy, gleaming woods of guitars, mandolins, ukuleles, fiddles, dulcimers, and banjos. It was a beautiful sight and I felt totally lost. I wandered for awhile soaking it in, and wishing I could just soak in the stringed instrument vibe. I stopped in the ukulele room, and was pleased to hear someone in the banjo corner pick one up and start strumming away. I was totally riveted. It sounded just like what I wanted to play! He stopped playing and I finally wandered over to the counter to ask one of the shop guys for a banjo mute (since they're kind of loud and I have kids and neighbors) and he offered to show me how it worked. I agreed and we went back to the banjos and he showed me how to slide the mute on and off the bridge. I asked if they offered lessons and he said they did. When I asked if they taught clawhammer, he said no, they only had instructors that taught Bluegrass. Bummer!
Then, out of the blue, a guy behind us said, "I teach clawhammer." The shop guy left, happy that I'd found someone into clawhammer too who could answer my questions. This guy was a student who taught clawhammer banjo on the side and even though I hadn't seen the mysterious banjo player's face from before, this guy must have been the one playing. He was really nice and was so willing to talk to me about the banjo and showed me the differences between the Bluegrass style verses the clawhammer style. He shared tips and played a little. The music was sweet, mellow, and melodic. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard and I was blown away. I had no idea the banjo could sound like that (aka not annoying)! Man, if I hadn't been sold before I was sold now. He gave me his contact info for lessons during the summer before he goes back to school.
It has been awhile since I've had such a freakish meeting with fate. Of all the days to wander into that shop. Ha! But, boy am I excited! I'm hoping to have a couple lessons to learn some solid technique and then be able to teach myself from there. I can almost feel the banjo cradled in my arm as I strum out an old mountain tune. :-) Good ol' Uncle Amos! (And thanks, Dad!)