I must say, you folks have good taste.
What started with a field of roughly 50 tunes (from a year’s worth of the Tune of the Week series) has been narrowed down to one winner:
I really enjoy doing these contests, so let me first say a big thanks to everyone who listened, participated, and humored me by casting a vote.
It’s a good reminder that, even in the niche world of clawhammer banjo, we all have our own distinctive tastes, as every tune received a respectable share of votes.
And it’s also a good reminder that a great melody, played simply, always trumps a lesser one, played complicated.
It’s so easy to fall into the complexity trap. It seems almost a basic fact of human nature for us to be biased towards believing that the more complicated beats the simple. If something is harder to make, write, play, etc., then it must be better, right?!?!
Even if we can recite countless examples from our own lives where this isn’t true…
A simple burger and fries is often more satisfying than the finest gourmet meal, a 2-minute, 3-chord rock song more soul stirring than a 2 hour symphonic “masterpiece.” And so on.
It’s not the tunes with the most technically intricate arrangements, with the most drop thumbs per square foot, that resonate with the most people. Nope.
The ones that do are just really, really good melodies.
And the best part of this is that, even if you’re still fairly new to the world of banjo, with some basic techniques under your belt, you can make really, really great sounding music. Just choose a great melody and play it simply, cleanly, and with good timing.
One reason I include Brainjo level 2 arrangements of all the tune of the week tunes inside the Breakthrough Banjo course is to ensure that every member is always able to make great sounding music no matter where they’re at on the Timeline of Mastery.
But another reason I do it is to drive home this notion that things don’t have to be overly complicated to sound great. It’s very easy to make something sound by adding too much, but seldom do you make something worse by pruning things down to the essentials.
Case in point, here’s the Brainjo level 2 arrangement of Wandering Boy.
There are a few less technical flourishes than the original Tune of the Week rendition, but does it sound any less wonderful? I don’t think so. It’s just an outstanding tune.
So the take home message from this year’s Tune of the Week March Madness?
Avoid the complexity trap.
As you grow as a player and your technical capabilities expand, it becomes increasingly tempting to use everything you’ve got. You’ve worked hard for those chops, so you want to put them in action! At this point, knowing what NOT to play becomes as or more important to making good music as knowing what TO play.
gCGCD tuning, Brainjo level 2
Level 2 arrangements and video demos for the Tune (and Song!) of the Week tunes are now available as part of the Breakthrough Banjo course. Learn more about it here.