Baby bounces gleefully to mom's banjo playing

A wonderful scene from life. (I wish I could play banjo.) Link (Thanks, D. Forster!)


  1. That’s cute. Not to rain on the parade too much, but–and I say this as a lover of babies, banjos, and a fellow banjo player–babies in bouncers will bounce to anything, including death metal, car alarms, and nothing.

  2. “The banjo is such a happy instrument–you can’t play a sad song on the banjo – it always comes out so cheerful.” -Steve Martin

  3. “The banjo is such a happy instrument–you can’t play a sad song on the banjo – it always comes out so cheerful.”

    I appreciate that sentiment. An exception to this rule is Dock Boggs, I’d day. But for every Boggs, there’s a Harry Reser.

  4. You play the Uke, right Mark? That has to have baby bounce potential.

    Maybe you can play for your chickens!

  5. See, babies are born knowing that it’s outrageously fun to dance. I think we should all have banjo music and daily dance sessions in every park all over the world. We’d all be much happier.

  6. #7

    Oops! The video is loading at about a frame a minute through my connection, and it was only half way through when I posted that, not realizing Uzi is named in the video.

    That was your exact joke. Doh! :)

  7. I am a paediatric nurse of over 20 years experience and I am seeing more and more problems brought about by parents keeping babies in bouncers. Please limit the amount of time that your baby spends in a bouncer, preferably to zero. Studies have shown that such devices retard infant abilities to train lower body function through crawling and similar activities. This leads to problems such as poor musculature in later life, hernias, bone marrow deficiencies and skeletal abnormalities. Enjoy the video by all means – let’s just hope they removed the baby from the device as soon as they stopped the filming of this.

  8. sounded like the wildwood flower. I’m a pickin’ and he’s a grinnin’ …. I mean bouncin’

  9. #17, before she could walk, my baby’s favorite activity was jumping up and down in her jolly jumper. Today, her favorite activity is dancing (even when I am not playing my banjo).

  10. Well that just made me laugh. What a nice moment! It reminds me of what Del McCoury said on Sirius radio: “Everybody likes bluegrass, even if they don’t know it yet.” :)

    Hey, good luck learning banjo, Mark. My dad played banjo for years, and even as a novice player, he could make it sound really good. I remember him playing “Cripple Creek” and “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” pretty well. Actually, maybe he wasn’t so novice…

    But anyway, good luck with it. It’s a fun instrument.

  11. @ 17: Thanks for your insight, exactly what I was thinking. And to be honest – I am shocked people who should know better and who are obviously caring about their child still use bouncers. Don’t you inform yourself a bit before you buy devices like these?

  12. Great to see a baby having fun, and someone who gets their kid into music early, but #17 is dead right on the bouncer – they play havoc with bone and muscle development, and slow down hand eye coordination, and start upright posture too early. Let them crawl and climb and use their hands, get into and out of trouble, grasp and play. Bouncers insulate them from actually using their limbs and learning.

  13. Reminds me of the time I was in Ireland, and decided to try my hand at an Irish Jig (too much to drink).

    Yep, that’s about what it looked like.

  14. Some people say that all banjo songs are the same, but it isn’t true! Each one has a different name.

  15. enough already, a little bouncer never hurt anyone!
    It’s not as if they leave the kid in there around the clock over a tub without diapers. Bouncers, cocaine, everything in moderation! Sheesh!

  16. Mark, playing the banjo is pretty easy. Here is a basic lesson for you or anybody else who wants to run around making the world a better place with a banjo.

    Frailing the five-string banjo:

    Frailing is a down-picking approach to playing the banjo. We are going to learn to play a simple rhythm pattern by striking down on the strings with our fingernail.

    The first step is getting in tune. When you are tuning your banjo you should know how the strings are numbered. The short string is the fifth string. When you are holding your banjo the fifth string will be on top and the first sting will be closest to the floor.

    Your banjo is tuned to an open G chord.

    * The fifth string is tuned to G.
    * The fourth string is tuned to D.
    * The third string is tuned to G.
    * The second string is tuned to B.
    * The first string is tuned to D.

    Be sure to have the string ringing when you crank on your tuning pegs. This helps you avoid tightening the string past its breaking point.

    To tune your banjo without a tuner just follow these steps:

    1. Assume that your first string is at least close to being in tune.

    2. Play your second string at the third fret. Tune it up or down so that it matches the sound of the first string played open.

    3. Play your third string at the fourth fret. Tune it up or down so that it matches the sound of the second string played open.

    4. Play your fourth string at the fifth fret. Tune it up or down so that it matches the sound of the third string played open.

    5. The fifth string played open should sound the same as the first string played at the fifth fret.

    Once you are in tune sit down with your banjo in a straight-backed chair that doesn’t have any arms. (I know, the sofa or the recliner is much more comfortable but for now go along with me on this). Sit up straight and hold the banjo in your lap with the pot (or resonator) is flat against your belly.

    Bring your banjo neck up so that the fifth peg is up by your ear. If you were facing a clock you’d want the neck up by 10 or 11.

    Now it is time to learn the basic frailing strum.

    Hold up your picking hand and make a fist.

    Now stick out your index finger and thumb- just like when you were a kid playing cops and robbers you want that sort of ‘gun’ shape. Don’t clench your remaining three fingers to your palm but rather try to relax and keep everything kind of loosey-goosey. Tension just slows things down.

    The middle finger should be a hair extended.

    Look at your hand. You’ve got your thumb up, your index finger straight out, your middle finger loosely curled and the last two fingers lightly touching your palm.

    Now that you’ve got your hand into a rough frailing shape that that whole arraignment of fingers down to your banjo.

    Put your thumb on your banjo head so that you are just a little but shy of touching the rim with the tip of your thumb. The pad of your thumb should be against the fifth string.

    Now rest your middle fingernail on the first string.

    Take a look at your hand and where it’s at on the banjo. You’ll see that you can just raise it up a hair and drop that middle fingernail down to strike the first string. Do that.

    Don’t flail around or open and close your hand or flick your fingers. Just use your thumb as a sort of pivot point to rear back (you won’t have to go very far) and swing in down to strike the string with your nail. Let the string pop off of the fingernail.

    Once you get comfortable with the idea of just dropping your hand down to strike the first string try the same thing on your second, third and fourth. To hit those inside strings – well, look at your hand again. Your thumb is lying on the fifth string. If you close that webbing between your index finger and thumb you should see that you can swing you hand so that it’s over the string you want to hit.

    After the strike the next step is the strum.

    Hit a string. Any string.

    After you do that close the webbing between your thumb and index finger so that you hand comes back over the strings and your middle fingernail is over the third or fourth string.

    While all of this is happening your thumb is staying in place.

    Once you’ve reared back enough (and what that is is up to you but three strings is a safe bet) strike down across the strings with your middle fingernail.

    So it’s pick, rear back, strum.

    Do that a few times. Get used to it. Keep the thumb in place. As you pick and as you strum it’s a good idea to keep a sort of straight wrist. Your forearm is doing all of the work here using your thumb as a pivot point.

    After you extend your hand for the strum you’ll see that your thumb is putting pressure on the fifth string. Roll your thumb off of the fifth string, bring it up to your hand and then drop it back in place on the fifth string. It’s sort of a rolling motion.

    Once your thumb drops back (and you might get a nifty THUMP here and you might not- either way is cool) your hand swings your middle fingernail down (remember- there isn’t any finger motion here- it’s all in the forearm) on a a string (your choice) and the process starts over again.

    Pick- Strum- Thumb.

    Bump Dit- Ty.

    A quarter note and two eighth notes.

    That is the basic frailing strum – and the cool thing about it is that it is pretty much the only picking technique you need to learn on the five string banjo.

    A lot of the nitty gritty details of the stroke change from person to person. Our bodies all work in unique ways. I’ve got a buddy who adds this freaky little wrist flip after each downstroke. He can play very well so I figure there’s no real point in asking him about it. It works for him, what I do works for me.

    You can use the index fingernail, and a lot of folks find it easier in the beginning (shoot I’ve been playing long enough that I can get pretty much the same sound with my pinky) but from what I’ve seen you can get a cleaner, and in some cases faster, attack with your middle fingernail. Try it for a while.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that for the basic explanation of the frailing stroke I told you to keep your index finger straight out. I do this for the simple reason that it helps to keep that finger out of the way when you are just starting out. Once you get used to the motion your index finger will curl or straighten on it’s own (it really will) so don’t fret about it.

    There’s also been a lot of debate about bending/not bending the thumb. The stroke described here works- the tip of the thumb playing the fifth technique works for others. Your best bet is to pick one now and stick to it. 99% of the problems most folks have with old time banjo is changing techniques and tunings over and over again.

    Pick one, do it until the action becomes almost unconscious and worry about the unimportant stuff when you can play the banjo.

    Once you can keep a steady rhythm, look around on the web for a chord chart and start practicing the basic strum while you change chords. Then start playing the basic frailing strum while you sing (any song will do) and change chords.


  17. #30 – Bingo. Thank you.

    #22 – Wow, “shocked”? “who should know better”, “inform yourself a bit”…
    I suppose you would be “shocked” after all those years you’ve known them… Oh, wait, you’re just talking out your arse (ask the ‘paediatric nurse’ to interpret).

  18. after watching the marines toss a puppy off a cliff in iraq this is a refreshing and welcomed video. Thanks boing boing!

  19. #28
    Try your “hand” at an Irish jig? Well, that’s where you went wrong: you’re supposed to use your feet.

  20. If I can lay this off on Samuel Johnson, maybe I won’t get disemvoweled. So when I say *bagpipes*, you think *banjo*, okay?

    On a visit to Scotland, Dr. Johnson complained to Samuel Pepys about the unearthly sound some bagpipers were making. Pepys pointed out that it was “very hard to play the bagpipes;” to which Johnson replied, “I wish it were impossible.”

  21. @ #33 – It doesn’t really matter if I know them or not – bouncers are bad and they simply should not be used. But this obviously doesn’t matter to you, after all it is great entertainment! And that is all that counts, right?

  22. Zeta, you are coming at this from the position of one who is concerned about a potential problem, which is a good thing.

    But the content of the post has the effect of temporarily relieving people of their various concerns about potential or ongoing problems, so your initial comment somewhat negated the moment of joy created.
    I think that’s why #33 got a bit hostile.

    I was never a bouncer, but I was a doorman, and I was bad.

  23. I hardly think one session of joyous bouncing is going to damage a child.

    Why must people see the negative in everything?

  24. @Talia

    It’s the internet. Neurotic people come here specifically to bitch and nag, because it’s the closest thing to empowerment they ever experience in their lives. It isn’t about a bouncy toy or anything; it’s about finding something wrong and complaining relentlessly about it in an effort to drain all the joy out of the moment. It’s what they do.

    Just ignore them. Or, if you can’t ignore them, remember the simple truth. They’re miserable people who will complain and argue over anything. Acknowledge that, and it becomes easier to disregard their kind and get back to enjoying yourself.

  25. Zeta,

    The snark in my reply was engendered by your high-handed absolutist approach to this scenario. You ascribe behavior and motivations of people you don’t know. I do. They are my family. You chastised the parenting skills of people you don’t know from Adam. That’s just rude.

    “Bouncers are bad and they simply should not be used” is *not* a fact. It is a gross simplification of a contemporary view re: the potential hazards and pitfalls of improper (perhaps ill-advised) use of jumpers. #17 got the point across and encouraged the parents to do research. Your “shock” in piling on did not materially contribute to the child’s safety.

    Your “great entertainment!” comment is just bizarre. My nephew is not being abused and if he were I certainly would not be entertained.

  26. #1 is right, babies will bounce to anything. Last baby I saw in person was bouncing along to Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana.

  27. I had no idea that so many BoingBoing readers had full-time, in-house childcare or were wealthy enough to stay home and watch their children 24 hours a day, 60 minutes an hour, 60 seconds a minute, without ever once looking away. Jolly Jump Up vs. electrical cord: you be the judge.

  28. Holy crap!

    I’m having a total time-warp/ deja-voodoo/ flashback moment here.

    Between the white walls and hardwood floors, that woven basket by the fireplace, that *exact* wicker rocking chair (with folded quilt), a happy kid in a bouncer (Uzi playing the part of me in this live-action feature), and topping it off with Mom-wearing-a-head-scarf playing-bluegrassish-tones on a lap-sized-stringed-instrument… this may as well be a pic come-to-life from 32 years ago outta my family album! [*must put full stop somewhere*]


    If I find out y’all are also in San Francisco, I’m gonna plotz.

    Oh and: long before any incriminating studies, I reportedly spent countless joyful hours in one of those things. (I don’t quite recall now, perhaps a symptom?) Somehow I still managed to run jump and frolic, play kickball, huck a discus, go mountain biking, and backpacking, and climb Mt. Shasta. And I’m far from athletically exceptional. I was held back by asthma, but skeletomuscular development was a non-issue.

    Besides, being the living dynamic organism that we are, the body will adjust and adapt to environmental pressures throughout ones whole lifetime. So chillax already.

    [*raspberry in the general direction of the easily startled*]

  29. Mark, I was going to tell you how easy it is to play a banjo, and about Patrick Costello’s excellent videos on the subject — but I see Patrick himself @31 beat me to it.

    However he neglected to mention his blog — — where he puts up not only his own videos of banjo technique for beginners and advanced, but videos others have made showing off what they learned from Patrick. You can also get a bunch of archived banjo tutorial videos from YouTube by searching for “Dobro33H” (his YouTube account).

    And finally — that video was awesome. Babies and banjos. What could be better?

  30. A Boing Boing’er in the making ;-)

    I think I had a bouncer as a baby (Jackie Wilson’s ‘Reet Petite’ was my weapon of choice.)
    So did my sister.

    We can both walk/dance no problem.

    I can’t see a massive difference in physical fit from a ‘bouncer’ to a garden/park ‘swing’ – other than one going up/down and the other forward/backward. The seats for babies are pretty much the same and the generations either side of mine have no problems.

  31. OMG! this video is realy cool. Thanks for posting.
    :-) pling! toing ! ting! la la la

  32. I’d love to prevent such problems as poor musculature in later life, hernias, bone marrow deficiencies and skeletal abnormalities, but first… a little Foggy Mountain Breakdown.

  33. I know nobody cares, but I have to point out that her banjo is an open back Goodtime model by Deering.

    I have the same banjo – but with a resonator (big wooden plate behind the drum) and a steel tone ring (steel rim that the drum head stretches across rather than wood).. it’s called the Goodtime Special.

    The Goodtime is an excellent banjo for anyone wanting to learn. Very well made (in California) and sounds fantastic for the price (a few hundred bucks as opposed to a few thousand like the professional ones). The regular Goodtime with a resonator is probably the best place to start. The open back model is more limited in what it can do and the resonator can always be removed if you want to pursue the style of banjo music that favors it.

    Folk of the Wood and Janet Davis Music are two good online places to look at to get an idea of what is out there.

  34. Mark, You can play the banjo!

    Never to late begin. I love to pick up new instruments as much as possible. I wish I had a room with every instrument on the planet. And the time to explore more instruments increases one as an audio visionary. When touching different instruments, one may discover their totem instrument(s). Like a guitarist who never knew themselves to be more proficient on drums or piano. How would they know until they try?

    Have ever picked up a banjo? They practically play themselves. User friendly. If you play guitar, the banjo will come more easily.

    With respect and kindness.

  35. I had no idea that a banjo was tuned to a chord. That seems a little too easy. Are there little spikes that jab out of the fret board every now and then?

  36. Little spikes jab out of the fretboard?–actually literally YES!!

    5 string bluegrass banjos are tuned to an open chord (gDBGD, 5th to 1st) and often played out of open positions.

    99% of banjo players use a capo to play in other keys, using the same fingerings. The capo doesn’t affect the much-shorter fifth string, so another way of capoing it is used: tiny little hooks are set into the fret board behind the frets along the fifth string. To capo, the fifth string is is tucked underneath the hook by the desired fret, like a little finger fretting the string.

    And what do banjo luthiers use for these tiny little hooks?–HO gauge model train SPIKES.

    But you knew that, didn’t you, #59…ha

  37. Kaiser @57 — I use a Gold Tone CC-100 Cripple Creek model that I bought brand new for something like $300. It doesn’t have the fancy tone ring but it’s perfectly adequate for a picker on a budget, like me. Either banjo would be a good place to start. And yes, I have railroad spikes for a fifth string capo (but those were an after-market purchase).

  38. It’s amazing to see that babies are born with rhythm, and really move in time with music:

  39. If you can walk you can dance,
    if you can talk you can sing

    – African Proverb

    If you love dance, check out my photography at the

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