When I arrive in Benson in early February 2021, a guitar player challenges me to play “Dueling Banjos” at the first jam session that I attend. For almost a year, I have been picking and grinning my way to being a better banjo player. But in all that time, I did not even attempt “Dueling Banjos.” I swear then and there, that when I return for Winter 2020-2021 I will be able to duel with the best of them.
I find Tunefox, an online banjo course that has a special emphasis on learning “Dueling Banjos.” In addition to practicing many other songs each and every day with them, I always save at least 15 minutes for “Dueling Banjos.” I build my skills for this song measure by measure and feel good about my progress.
But by the time I return to Benson, I still cannot play the song completely through without having a tangled finger meltdown somewhere along the way. While I know the techniques and licks of the song, I need to get my timing right and my nervous digits under control. That requires finding a patient guitar player who will repeatedly play the song while I work to overcome my musical shortcomings (let’s face it, I don’t have time to fix ALL of my shortcomings right now so I will stick to the musical ones on this particular song).
Can you play Dueling Banjos? Can you ...?
My original challenger does not return this year. The only guitar player here who will admit to knowing this song is Sundance. He regrets admitting to having that knowledge almost immediately. I resort to begging him to put aside his mandolin and break out his guitar to give me some “real person” practice. Of course, I continue to practice every day with the Tunefox video players once I can maintain their speed. But that is not as much fun or as challenging as playing this song with a live person.
This week, with only days before all the musicians scatter toward cooler weather for the summer, I implore Sundance to give me one more chance to get this right and record my efforts. Pete agrees to apply his formidable video skills to making us look good. After several takes, I get enough of the song right, that I feel OK sharing it with my friends.
At the end of our video you will see big grins on both my face and on Sundance’s face. Mine comes from delight at having mostly played my favorite song right. I am sure that Sundance is grinning because he is thinking “finally, I don’t have to play this song anymore – thank goodness!!”
Pete’s excellent video is below. I sure hope you enjoy watching it as much I enjoyed playing this song for you. Thanks Sundance and Pete for your patience with my “project.”