Bluegrass Banjo Lessons - Houston, Texas
"HOWDY!" FROM HOUSTON, TEXAS
"Howdy!" I'm Anton (Tony) Ullrich, and I want to welcome you to 5stringBanjer.com, the home of BanjerTab instruction for Bluegrass style banjo. Please take time to browse through the website. I encourage you to email me with any and all questions you might have about learning to pick Bluegrass style banjo.
I have been picking my 5-string Banjer since 1958, and I have taught Bluegrass banjo here in Houston, Texas since 1972.
Recently, I did an online search and discovered some facts that you may already know. Over 57,900 websites refer to Bluegrass banjo. There are over 2,000 websites that use the non-word "Banjer", which I registered as my Service Mark in 1978. Over 17,000 websites include the name of Earl Scruggs, the father of bluegrass Banjo.
I assume that you are reading this because you are really interested in learning to play Bluegrass banjo, you are searching for a good learning method to help you accomplish this task, and somehow you found your way to 5stringBanjer.com.
If you are a total beginner, I think the above statistics are probably pretty overwhelming. Let's say that my website is the 15th site you have looked at, and right now you are sitting there, reading this and wondering, "What do I do?", "Can I learn from Anton?", "What about that other 'more famous' teacher?"
Let me give you some hope and encouragement. I believe in my heart that every teacher whose site you may see is an honest teacher. Everyone believes they are great teachers, and they also believe, like I do, that they have a teaching method that will work for you. About this time you're saying, "Well, thanks, Anton! You've really helped me narrow my choices."
This is probably a good place to ask you to take some time later and read the Testimonials page. These are the thoughts of some of my students and how they feel about BanjerTab. I am honored that these students want to communicate to folks like you the positive aspects of BanjerTab.
"BanjerTab" is the name of my learning system. I found this way of teaching in March of 1980. At that time, the technology that I used for copying and learning banjo songs from vinyl records was by 2-3 speed reel-to-reel tape decks. I would copy the record to the deck, and then slow the tape speed down. Today, there are digital units that do the same thing and do it better.
I had created and used another system before 1980. That system was good, but I knew that there had to be something better. I found that "better" in 1980.
Whether you are a total beginner or you already play at some level of expertise, you are here because you want to learn to play your banjo at an even higher level than you can now. Here's what you need to know.
"BanjerTab" is a numerical system that lays out the picking hand in a simple, easy-to-understand line across a page. All you have to do is be able to count to 5! BanjerTab makes heavy use of the metronome and teaches you to hear and pick your banjo in a way that I call "off-beat" or picking "ahead of the beat." You will understand what that means early on in BanjerTab.
YOU WILL PLAY WHAT YOU PRACTICE!
It's true! We are creatures of habit. There is a physical aspect of picking banjo that you may never have taken time to consider. Literally, you will play what you practice!
It's TECHNIQUE! The word literally means "the manner in which basic physical movements are used to accomplish a desired goal."
The violin was invented somewhere around 1564 (by Andrea Amati), so today a beginning violin student has about 450 years of developed violin "technique" already created, developed, and in use. Earl Scruggs, the father of Bluegrass style banjo, hit the stage of The Grand Old Opry as a new member of Bill Monroe's band in 1945. We banjo pickers have less than 60 years of developed Bluegrass Banjo technique.
YOU'LL NOTICE THAT WE'RE ALL ABOUT PLAYING "BACK-UP"
A "hot licks" banjo player, that's all I wanted to be. I don't know if the term "hot licks" had been coined then, but I do know, in fact and truth, that's all I wanted to do. That's all I could see. I wanted to be able to pick all those super-fast instrumental classics by Earl Scruggs, Don Reno, Allen Shelton, Billy Faier, Dick Weissman, Marshall Brickman, Eric Weissberg, Bill Keith, and the few others whom I had heard at that time.
I attained that goal, and when I got there I was left with this empty feeling because I noticed all those folks in jam sessions just having the most wonderful time, playing and singing vocal songs, and I couldn't participate because I knew no "back-up."
Because I had remained totally focused on learning how to be a "hot licks" picker, and had not taken time to learn any "back-up," there was a huge hole in my banjo soul. I could not participate in what I now know and see is the most important and most fulfilling part of picking Bluegrass banjo: picking with other folks, in jam sessions. You can do that only by learning to be a well-rounded banjo picker through learning to play good, clean, solid "Back-up."
Can I get an "Amen" here? Does this not just reach way down to the depths of your banjo being?
LET ME HELP YOU!
From whatever corner of this world you are reading this, I am here to help you by email and I am available to you to answer any and all questions you may have as you go through the lessons. I urge you to please take this offer seriously. I have enjoyed meeting folks from all over the world, and I will do my best to help you along in your quest to be the Bluegrass picker you want to be.
I will do my best to help any and all. That of course, is just ... "The Cowboy Way!"