Enda Scahill Banjo Tutor Volume II

Enda Scahill Banjo Tutor Volume II

I just received a copy of Enda Scahill’s Volume II Banjo Tutor. Here is my review derived from the one I gave on Banjohangout. (As you can tell, I liked it.) :

It’s hard for me to say properly how much I like Enda Scahill’s Irish Banjo Tutor, Volume II. It is the first tutor to go beyond the basics of teaching tunes and a few ornaments and it does this very well.

This is the book that I wish I had written, except of course I am not Enda Scahill and could not have done such a comprehensive job of laying out in great detail how to play the Irish tenor banjo. He goes well beyond what every other Irish banjo tutor has done by exploring what it means to be a musician, how to develop Irish style banjo and most important, how to develop your individual style. He does this by taking two well known tunes as test beds for ideas and continues to explore them throughout the book.

As soon as you pick this book up you will realize that it is not a book that gives you instructions on how to play a tune and sound like Enda Scahill (although you could do a lot worse), instead it shows you how to develop tools and techniques through practice and how to put these tools together without being prescriptive. While doing so he tells you a lot about the way he plays but from the inside out. You don’t get a note for note recitation of his playing, instead you learn why he plays the way he does and how to adapt his ways to your style.

When you get this book, don’t make the mistake of ignoring the first chapter on Relaxation and Reducing Tension. These skills are the key to learning to play Irish banjo at a level beyond beginner. Learning to relax will make seemingly complex and impossible things happen a lot faster and a lot easier. Every elite performer has learned these skills at some time and it is best to start early in order to avoid learning bad habits and bad technique that you will have to unlearn later on. In fact, read the book from front to back in that order, there is a reason he wrote it this way. His practice tips are invaluable and you have to learn to practice well if you want to be successful.

There is a great temptation to go to the first tunes (which start on page 32) and learn them in a rote fashion without learning the first 31 pages. If you do that, you will sound like you learned them in a rote fashion - this means you will sound mechanical and have no feel for the music. It also means that you will develop a very heavy hand because you avoided learning to play lightly and in a relaxed fashion. John Lee Hooker once said about the blues, "Less is more." and the same thing applies here. A key concept in the book is to learn to play by barely playing the instrument physically. Not only will the music flow better if you are relaxed and have a light hand (both right and left, by the way) but you will find that these techniques will translate into your style. Instead of playing diddley all the time, you will start to play music and you will play music with your whole body and soul.

There is a reason why Enda puts relaxation methods first and practice tips second before introducing any music at all. If you really want to improve your banjo playing you have to learn these skills otherwise you will never improve beyond your talent level. Becoming a good musician requires learning proper technique and practice. But technique alone is not enough, you have to learn the music and without good relaxation skills you will handicap yourself to the point that you will never flow with the music.

Enda Scahill is a great musician, but first and foremost he is a teacher with a great understanding of the banjo, the music, and how students learn. His book is 80 pages long (plus two CDs) but it contains years of knowledge. By that I mean that his years of developing his skills are clearly the basis for this book, but also that you can mine the information in the book for years and learn something new each time you read it.

If you want to become a good Irish tenor banjo player, you have to get this book. If you want to be a great Irish tenor banjo player you need to get this book because it gives you the basis to become great. Read it thoroughly, then read it again. Every time you pick it up you will find new insights.


Mike Keyes

Re: Enda Scahill Banjo Tutor Volume II

Sold!

Re: Enda Scahill Banjo Tutor Volume II

I got my copy yesterday. Agree with Mike on every point. A lot of material to work through, but looks like it will be well worth the effort.

Posted by .

Re: Enda Scahill Banjo Tutor Volume II

So do I need volume I as well?

Re: Enda Scahill Banjo Tutor Volume II

I have my copy and it’s excellent…great stuff on "nyah"…

Re: Enda Scahill Banjo Tutor Volume II

Earl,

"So do I need volume I as well?"

I’d say yes to the inquiry about Vol. I as Vol II is an extension of the model that Scahill offers. Together the books give a comprehensive view on how to play the Irish tenor banjo and offers a great foundation for further development. If you forgo the basics you might not get the full benefit of the works.

Mike Keyes