I currently teach private lessons and workshops in the Nashville area. I also teach private lessons via Skype for students around the world.
Below are some topics that make up the framework of my “Advanced Banjo Curriculum”.
See the drop down menu from the “Lessons” button above for FREE VIDEO LESSONS.
If you are interested in studying privately with me or hosting a workshop, please contact: Kyle.Tuttle.Banjo@gmail.com
-My Free Video Lessons
These lessons are cumulative. Working through each of them will help you to understand each other one. For example, the Pentatonic Shapes lesson will give you scales and patterns that are very useful when playing in Open Bb or over a 2 – 5 – 1 in any Key. Knowing the order and relationships of Diatonic 7th Chords will also help in Open Bb AND 2 – 5 – 1’s in any key, especially up the neck.
Practicing is important, but more important is practicing effectively. Here’s a few tips for that:
- Practice every day. 20 minutes daily is FAR better than 2 hours every Saturday.
- Warm up with a metronome. Design a series of right hand exercises that fit your own needs (feel free to ask me for some ideas), and spend the first 20 minutes of your practice time without your left hand even on the neck. Timing is everything in 3 finger banjo playing.
- Keep your routine fresh. I set a 30 minute timer because there are several things I want to get to, but I’ll get so into the first thing and spend all my time there. The timer keeps me on my to-do list.
-Pick Noise and Positioning
I’ve spent A LOT of time focusing on right hand issues: pick noise, tone production, tension, and efficiency.
- I find that pick noise is minimized by having a set of picks with rounded edges that doesn’t feel harsh against whatever gauge string you usually use. Contacting the string near the edge of the finger pick (in my case, at least) reduces string and pick noise. It is hardest to control when really digging in to play bluegrass, and I find that the left hand can also be effective in stopping some string movement.
- As you experiment with tone colors, i.e. warm sounds near the neck and bright sounds near the bridge, you’ll discover different pick noise tendencies in different positions. I address each separately, and then just remember where they are and look out for them!
- It’s important to notice tension in both of your hands and arms, it’s common for a player to develop the habit of having a stiff neck or right arm while practicing, watch out! Focus on keeping your muscles loose, ESPECIALLY when playing fast.
- I try to use all 3 fingers as much as possible. “Single String” technique is often played with only thumb and index fingers. I’ll use my middle finger rather than bring my thumb or index to a lower or higher string.
The end goal of working on these concepts is to internalize them and then have them on “auto pilot”. When you are relaxed and tension free, and are comfortable with your right hand, both in your tone color options and ability to reduce pick noise and phrase efficiently, then you’re free to follow your ear and left hand around the instrument knowing that your right hand can back them up.
Ear Training is the most important thing in playing music. Especially with the concepts that I’m showing in my lesson videos on this site, it is absolutely imperative that your ear recognize the sounds of the Diatonic 7th Chords , and the sound of the voice leading and resolution of a 2 – 5 – 1. Recognizing the sound of different intervals is very important. Hearing, and I mean really hearing and analyzing the melody harmony relationships and chord and key relationships in everything from Fiddle Tunes to Jazz Standards to Bach will teach you what a book can not completely teach. I’m not saying the book’s not important, I know it is, but the ear is more so.
-Music, not just Banjo Music
My goal is to teach you how to play the banjo musically, and understand how the instrument works, musically. There are a few techniques that dominate the pedagogy of banjo these days. I am an advocate of learning these techniques (i.e. Scruggs Style, Single String or Reno Style, Melodic Style, etc.). The only problem with this is that the student can learn in such a way that the technique they choose can dictate what notes they end up playing. It’s important to avoid this trap. You can avoid it by having a trained ear, an understanding of some basic music theory, and a focused sense of rhythm OFF of your instrument. You should be able to name and sing any interval by hearing it, and be able to count/clap different subdivisions against a metronome. I have learned a lot by playing parts from other instruments on the banjo; especially classical music, Bach in particular. Learning songs from the Earl Scruggs book, of course, is also essential if you want to play bluegrass. What I’m saying is, a balanced diet is the way to being a great player, even if you only want to play bluegrass.