Andrew McLeod – Banjo Teacher

Banjo, Guitar
Clawhammer Style
Folk Music

banjo, philly, folk, music, lessons, clawhammerI graduated in Political Science from West Chester University in 2013 and began working on farms around Southern Lancaster county.  After getting more serious about playing music, I moved to Philadelphia to pursue the craft, and now I play clawhammer banjo and backup guitar at old-time music events around the Philadelphia area, and travel to music festivals for the same purpose.  I also compose finger style guitar and instrumental banjo music and play/perform around the city.  Over the past few years, I’ve immersed myself in the community around this music to try to get a full grasp of the style and mentality behind the playing, which I encourage all learners to try to do.  I take a traditional approach to learning the instrument, picking up tunes mostly from other musicians at informal jams, and also learning from source recordings.



When did you begin playing Banjo, and why?
I began playing banjo about three years ago when I was in the midst of learning country blues guitar in open tunings. A lot of the music I was listening to at the time had banjo accompaniment, and clawhammer always sounded the most ancient and interesting to me.

What other instruments do you play, and what is your experience with them?
I play acoustic and electric guitar, and a little bass guitar and drums.  I’ve been playing and composing finger style/American Primitive guitar for about 5 years, and playing old-time back up guitar for local string bands more recently.  I’ve played electric guitar with a number of projects over the last three years or so.  

What are your personal goals as a musician?
My personal goals as a musician are to continue improving as an old-time musician, and keep getting better at creating my own music, recording, touring, and playing with as many musicians in as many places as I can.  

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked?  Something you’ll remember forever?
Yes! When I was learning syncopated bass lines for fingerpicking on the guitar, I told the owner of my local guitar shop that I was trying to learn to play “like Mississippi John Hurt and John Fahey.”  He told me I had to lock my thumb into the bass line so automatically that I didn’t even have to think about it, so my mind could focus on the melody.  One day that clicked in and something in my mind just ‘got it!’

What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?
If you play a wrong note, you’re always a half-step away from a right note. 

What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?
My biggest musical challenge was transitioning from finger style guitar to old-time flat-picking guitar! Once your brain gets used to a certain style of playing, re-training your right hand to play in a new way is like learning a new language.  

Favorite thing about teaching?
My favorite thing is seeing musical concepts connect with emotional and relevant experiences in people lives, allowing them to express themselves more intuitively.  

What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?
I would say don’t think so much, relax and listen to as many different kinds of music as you can.  Listen to the players who inspire you with open ears and you’ll start to pick things up.  Figure out what you like and go at it with everything you’ve got!

Personal music projects: i.e. bands, groups, shows, recording, etc.