Interview with Enda Scahill
3/28/2017 by Enda Scahill of We Banjo 3
We recently asked Irish banjo ace, Enda Scahill, about how he started playing music, early inspiration, and some advice about learning the banjo.
1. How were you first introduced to the music you now play and when did you first pick up a banjo?
I started playing music at age 6 in primary school, the same as most kids in Ireland do when they begin school. I began on the penny whistle and piano and when I was 8 years old our music teacher asked who wants to play the piano. I stuck up my hand straight away. Thank God she didn’t ask about bagpipes!
2. Did you have a banjo mentor? If so, who taught you what you know?
My first teacher was Bernie Geraghty. She is a multi instrumentalist and a prodigious music teacher from Co. Mayo. Our parents spent lots of time driving us around to different music lessons and workshops. A huge musical influence was banjo/fiddle player Gerry O’Connor, who most recently spent time on the road with Blues guitar legend Joe Bonamassa!
3. How many times a week did you practice?
I loved the banjo so I didn’t consider it practice. I played at least an hour every day from age 8 onwards. And when I got into playing sessions, it was many hours a day. I also played piano. I hated the piano because I was curtailed by too many rules. I had to practice the piano. It didn’t suit the banjo rebel in me!
4. If there were times during your learning process where you hit bumps, what would you do to better your techniques and skills?
I was lucky on the banjo – it all came to me quite easily. If there were tough tunes or passages in tunes that were challenging, I would break it down into small, manageable parts and practice the kinks out that way.
5. Throughout your career – from performing with The Chieftains to recording with Ricky Skaggs –what’s the most important thing you’ve learned through it all?
Humility. The 3 P’s.
Funnily enough a different Gerry O’Connor (Gerry fiddle as he’s known) taught me the two most valuable lessons. One was the 3 P’s – every gig should satisfy 2 of the 3 P’s – Profit, Profile, Pleasure. It’s completely failsafe. And the other lesson was: that at every gig, somewhere in the audience is someone who has saved up for a long time to afford the ticket to your concert – always play for this person. This concept will always keep you humble.
6. For those picking up the banjo and wanting to learn, what advice can you give?
It’s all about technique. Until it isn’t. Banjo can be a tough learning curve at first. It’s an unforgiving instrument that will torture you if your technique isn’t spot on. Once you get the correct foundation in place progress can be very swift and really enjoyable. I spent many years teaching and I saw the same problems with technique over and over, causing pain and frustration among players who weren’t schooled correctly from the beginning. That was really what spurred me on to write my first banjo tutorial book – a simple method for excellent banjo technique. Excellent technique leaves room for a player to begin to explore their own styles and musical taste.
Flute player Shannon Heaton helps Irish music students dig into and really know their tunes in our first guest blog.