A Banjo of Fresh Air

I bought a banjo!

I have a love for tinkering on new/different instruments. Something about learning new instruments is inspiring. You get a new sound to play with. The mistakes you make while finding your way can inspire new directions. I find myself more open to trying new things and venturing out of my musical comfort zone.

I’ve wanted to play the ding-diddle-ling-ding (that’s my banjo sound fx) for a long time. Today I thought it was time to get me one! I tried the extensive range at the Gladesville Guitar Factory. 12 years ago I did work experience with the lads there and was surprised they still remembered me.  Another GREAT music store of Sydney. Very passionate about what they do.

It’s always hard for me walking into a music store. I feel like I want to buy EVERYTHING. I could go nuts! Wow, I saw these weird BASS ukuleles called “U-Bass” – with polyurethane strings (they’re like… rubber bands) that stretch like crazy and bounce right back into position again. They sound like an upright bass, only a foot long!! So many toys to play with!!! I’ve just gotta keep my head straight, eyes on the target. BANJO. I’ll look into the ukes another day…

I’m all for trying and comparing a range of instruments before you settle on one. I’ve not been one to buy instruments online because I believe it’s about falling in love with the instrument. How can you hear what she sounds like or what is feels like online? How do you know if she fits comfortably in your hands? How do you know if you’ll like her voice? How do you know if she’s set up properly? Certainly after making a guitar, I can appreciate the craftsmanship and quality of instruments a lot more than before. I wanted to test a bunch of banjos to see if I fell in love. Every instrument is different. Some sing sweeter than others. (That’s not to say there aren’t bargains online…..)

There’s a lot of variety. I’m no banjo expert, but after wanting a banjo for some while and having a tinker on them over the years, I had an idea of what style I wanted. I didn’t want a 6-string banjo – although this would be the best option for the guitarist – you can already play guitar, there’s no need to learn different tunings, chords, or picking style, why not get a guitar/banjo…. for the banjo sound? But the 5-string introduces a whole new tuning and the half drone string to play with. I love the idea of a challenge, and the possibility of new sounds and directions. I also knew wanted a resonator back on the banjo. The open back banjos don’t produce as much sound as the resonator, although they are certainly much lighter and cheaper!

I fell in love with a Rover 5 String Resonator banjo. And I’m sold!

I’m re-energised. I’m reborn. The musical passion is re-lit inside my soul.

I don’t really know what I’m doing, ey, but there’s fun in that. I am inspired! My fingers find things my mind hasn’t known how to reach before. My soul knows when I’ve hit something that works (and something that doesn’t!) Gosh, music and instruments provide the most beautiful interface to communicate and express your soul to the physical world. It releases me.

In October I’m recording with Sean Carey in Sydney. I can’t WAIT! I plan on recording another studio/band album, in ways similar to Chest of Drawers. My last album Little Treasures was the most honest of recordings, just me and my instrument/voice. And I believe in the intimacy of that album. But I’m also aware of the beauty of layering music up. I remember layering up Freezing Time for a uni project. I loved playing all the different instruments on there – the bass, guitars, keys, vocals, etc – with Mr Dan Jones on the drums (thank you Dan!) (I wasn’t into the drums yet….). My next project is to create another studio album. I want to layer up 6 tracks from Little Treasures, giving voice for their “band version”, plus 6 or more new tunes that I’m yet to record. Getting a banjo is part of my desire to layer up.

So this evening I’ve been playing banjo to Chasing Stars, Big Bad World and a few others, to see what it sounds like as another texture to the song. There’s something SO GROUNDING about the banjo. It’s not a synthesiser, it’s not plastic, it’s not perfect, it’s just REAL. And I love the way it grounds my music, it gives it that earthy feel.

I’ve fall in love with sound again. I’ve been on tour for the last two months. Gig, gig, gigging, all the way from Melbs to Brissy and back. And I’ve loved it. But there’s no time for composing, or fiddling, or jamming, or experimenting. I really need the time and space to just sit and mellow in ideas, to muck around with different instruments. My tour ends this week, and perhaps I can spend the next few months exploring sound again, playing the bass, the drums, the guitar, keys, synths, percussion, banjo, harmonicas, tin whistle (hahahha) and whatever else I’ve got under the bed!

I’m re-energised with my new li’l banjo purchase. I’m inspired and I can’t wait to show you some banjo bits and bobs.

I’m in search of a banjo name. My banjo is a boy. The person to come up with the best name for my li’l banjo can have a free copy of my latest album!

Thanks for reading.

Get out there and make some new noises!



3 replies
  1. Phil says:

    Good to hear you’ve joined the club Jen 😀 You’ll have so much fun with the banjo! Make sure you take the time to learn both Clawhammer and 3-finger style. 3-finger is used more and sounds more technical, but Clawhammer is way more fun in my opinion.

  2. Geoff Eggins says:

    Great stuff!!! You’ll need to get a rocking chair now though.. The Kala U-Bass’s are so cool! Next time….

    Ohh yeah… I have always thought the name GAVIN would be good for a banjo. Don’t ask me why.

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