Advice: Timing

Not so long ago I started thinking about the difference between my playing and that of the players I admired. How can they make the same set of notes that I’m playing sound so much better? I decided to record myself so I could listen to my playing objectively. I used Garageband on my Mac to lay down a basic backing track for “Whisky Before Breakfast”, and then recorded the banjo part. When I listened back I noticed my playing was not as even as I thought it was, and there were many tempo variations. I went on to record myself without backing, and the tempo issues were worse. I tended to rush the easy bits, then slow down when the rolls go challenging, and it was clear that I had to look at improving my timing. Sadly, unless timing comes instinctively to you, you’re gonna need to buckle down and do some real practice, and if you’re like me, a little impatient, and have never had a lesson in your life, you’re probably lacking fundamental skill.

Tab: Foggy Mountain Breakdown

About a year ago I started going to a local bluegrass meet, held monthly at the Red Lion pub, Wolvercote, near Oxford. The group comprises of some impressive fiddle, mandolin and banjo players, and they effortlessly play many bluegrass standards, including some cool instrumentals such as The Cherokee Shuffle and Angeline The Baker.

Keen to join in, I listened out for a tune I could quickly master, and one that would be played often. I was looking for something with a simple sequence, a really good hook, and it also needed to make me sound clever! Needless to say, I came across my first party piece quite quickly. It was on my second visit, the night was really cooking, they had a double bass player in and plenty of soloists, and as a rousing rendition of Blue Moon of Kentucky finished one of the better banjo players kicked off Foggy Mountain Breakdown. I was hooked.

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About Me

I have been playing guitar for over 20 years, at first playing in indie bands, followed by a long stint playing rockabilly on the streets of Oxford, a short excursion into dance music, followed by looking at early blues styles. Now after a few years of listening to Dylan, Guthrie, and early Americana I find myself in possession of a banjo, and I'm addicted! Currently I play Banjo and Guitar in an Oxford based group called Swindlestock, you can hear our music our myspace page.

Listen to my favorite Banjo songs on