One of the challenges that comes with learning a musical instrument or style, particularly one that doesn’t already have a highly formalized built in pedagogical structure (like classical violin, for example), is in finding tunes and arrangements to play that are appropriate for you current level of technical ability.
Learning music is a cumulative process that occurs over an extended period of time. Someone who’s been playing for 3 months won’t have the same body of technical skills to draw from as someone who’s been playing 3 years. But both would still like to make really good music! And there’s no reason they shouldn’t.
(RELATED: Hundreds of tabs and video demonstrations tailored to all abilities can now be found inside the Ultimate Clawhammer Tune Library, one of many resources inside the Breakthrough Banjo course. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE).
But finding music that’s right for you, that you can make sound good with the skills you already possess, isn’t always easy. You may start out to learn a tune and ultimately find that it’s too far outside your comfort zone, or that it utilizes techniques or notation you’re not familiar with or haven’t seen before.
To help you in always choosing music that’s right for you now, I’ve created a level system that will accompany any of the arrangements that I release or tunes that I teach (I’ll also be retroactively labeling some of the materials I’ve already released). You’ll see this denoted at the top right hand side of the tab with “Brainjo Level x” on it.
But before I give you the description for each level, I’d like to insert a word of caution:
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that an arrangement that’s more complicated, or a higher level, is necessarily better. Having a lot of options or knowing a lot of techniques can be both a blessing and a curse, as it can be tempting to try to make things sound better just by making it fancier or more technically complex.
Remember this: a good melody played simply with good timing and technique will always sound far better than the most technically sophisticated arrangement played sloppily.
Some of the greatest players of all time used a very sparse style, which allowed them to infuse their music with heart and soul. So resist the urge to make your playing more complex just for the sake of it. In the end, it’s your ears that should be the judge. Play what sounds good to you. Nothing else.
And I’ve arranged these so that any level should sound great. I want the music you make to be rewarding regardless of where you’re at.
With that out of the way, here’s a breakdown of what the various levels mean:
- Brainjo Level 1 – tabs in level one only utilize techniques covered in the “Clawhammer in 8 Essential Steps Series“. Designed for folks getting started out in clawhammer banjo.
- Brainjo Level 2 – tabs in level two also only utilize techniques covered in 8 steps series, but have a higher degree of technical complexity.
- Brainjo Level 3 – tabs in level three utilize techniques covered in the 8 steps series, and may also use additional techniques like drop thumb, syncopated skips, and triplet hammer ons and pull offs, which are all covered as part of the Breakthrough Banjo course.
- Brainjo Level 4 – tabs in level four draw upon the same techniques as level 3, but will typically present more of a challenge.
- Brainjo Level 5 – tabs in level five will be rare, and will generally challenge the limits of any player’s technical skills. They’ll require the full arsenal of techniques, along with perhaps unusual time signatures or other musical oddities. Think of things like playing a Mozart concerto in clawhammer style, or other ill-advised notions.
To learn more about the Breakthrough Banjo course, where you’ll find hundreds of tabs (and video demonstrations) at all Brainjo levels, then click below: