Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Enda Scahill's Irish Banjo Tutors - Invaluable Instruction Books

Music instruction books for fiddle, guitar, mandolin, bass and ukulele may well outnumber those for Irish tenor banjo, but with the publication of his Irish Banjo Tutor Books I and II, Enda Scahill has provided us 4-string banjo flat-pickers with two instant classics that rank among the best manuals written for any stringed/folk instrument.
Enda Scahill at the 2012 Milwaukee Irish Fest
Scahill emphasizes the importance of basic technique, relaxation and reducing tension as the building blocks to advanced playing.  These are concepts that all musicians could benefit from learning (mandolin players especially should take note of these tutors).  Enda’s teaching methods and philosophy seem consistent with the latest research into “deep” practice and will help you learn how to learn.

There are loads of standout tunes in each book (even some old-time Appalachian ones!) and Scahill uses these tunes as the context to teach correct plucking, fingering, triplets, slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs, chords, variations and more.  Taught in this way, these methods become more than just drills.  Enda also selects a couple tunes in each tutor and keeps returning to them to demonstrate how each new skill or technique would apply.

Volume I of the Tutor does not include tab, just notation, but you can purchase a separate tab booklet as an addendum.  Volume II includes notation and tab for all of the tunes and exercises.  Each tutor comes with 2 CDs containing the audio for all of the exercises and tunes.  At first I thought the tunes in Volume I were way too slow, but I’ve learned that it’s best to play a tune VERY slowly and methodically to begin with - building speed only after you can play it perfectly.   

By working with Enda Scahill's Irish Banjo Tutors I feel like I am finally gaining greater ease, improved rhythm, and cleaner and more varied ornamentation.  Somehow, Scahill has taken the complexity out of triplets and I've even started to find myself throwing triplets or trebles into all sorts of tunes - at slower speeds of course!

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