Say you’re a guy who has no musical talent. You like music, but can’t make it. You’re reading a biography by the comic genius and performer Steve Martin, and in it he describes his redemptive relationship with the banjo.
This instrument’s sound can be described in one word, “happy.” The thought hits: take banjo lessons. You might have no ability, but you can learn basics, and whatever you do will sound…”happy.”
Even a beginner-level tune like “Mary had a little lamb,” would still have that plucky twang, and you’re smiling just thinking about it.
So you take banjo lessons. Mary and her lamb never make an appearance. You start right off with “Dueling banjos” from the movie “Deliverance.” How cool! Then you find yourself picking away at “This Land is Your Land,” “Washington Square.” All kinds of fun stuff.
You found a great teacher, an elderly musical genius who made you into a banjo-pickin’ fool within months. You could wail on those strings, even doing slides and hammers. Soon you had a “repertoire,” although that fancy French word seems out of tune when talking about the banjo.
Then—and here’s the part of your banjo life that strikes a poor chord—your teacher went to that big Dixieland band in the sky. Weekly lessons stopped. Daily practice became unnecessary. You quit picking. The banjo’s in a dusty case in your closet. Music has left the building.
Maybe someday you’ll find another banjo teacher. Or maybe you’ll resume playing on your own without the need to prepare for a lesson. But, this is unlikely. And kinda unhappy.