This Banjo Retreat was different because it was very focused on each student. We ended up with three students and three instructors. This clinic was two days long but was almost entirely one on one instruction. We had myself and Curtis Jones with special guest Dave Peterson. I’m not aware of any other situation where students can spend one on one for two full days with their choice of three different instructors. The results were almost beyond belief.

If anyone is interested in attending one of these high intensity retreats please contact us.

Just over a week ago I attended a Geoff Hohwald “Two Day Banjo Immersion Camp” in Dahlonega, Georgia. I waited a week before writing this review because I wanted to internalize the experience. Sometimes we can come off an event like that elated, to later find that the act of being immersed in something causes a false euphoria. That was NOT the case here. After a week of reflection, I realize the experience is impacting my playing in the short term, and has made me even more determined to improve my playing in the long term.

Some specifics around the class: Geoff and Curtis Jones were our primary teachers. They spent two days with three students. In addition, David Peterson joined us for several hours one day, and then came back for an evening concert.

So, with this level of musicianship providing instruction, and an incredible student to teacher ratio, what did I learn?

Please don’t misunderstand – I took away a number of backup and break techniques to work on, some simple, some not. Some will take weeks to master, others months. But that wasn’t the best part of the class. The best part was being able to work with three teachers who understand the importance of timing, could actually play in perfect time, and with whom I could actually have the experience of playing in time. I go to jams, and I also play in a fledgling band, but typically the timing is all over the place. With Curtis, David and Geoff I was able to play better because I had a solid foundation to play over.

We started out the first day discussing and working on starting a song by counting off. Then we talked about metronome training. Curtis is a big believer in metronome training, but not just playing along with a metronome. He encouraged us to train with a metronome without an instrument to allow us to internalize the beat first before trying to play with it. He was able to tap his foot at 120 bpm without a metronome starting first. He knew where 120 was without it. I’ll be working on the exercise he gave us so I can internalize where the beat is.

Over the course of the two days we discussed a number of items that were techniques, but everything came back to timing – even the techniques. We were focused on moving our playing from “quantity” to “quality.” We can know a lot of songs, a lot of breaks, a lot of licks, and play them fast, but if the quality isn’t there, it’s a train wreck. Timing is the foundation, the railroad tracks we need to stay on – technique is the train. Because of my experience, I’ll be working on both. But my primary focus will be timing.

Whatever your skill level, if you’re interested in moving your playing forward, consider attending one of Geoff’s camps. I know you won’t be disappointed.

John E.

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