The 12 Days of Licksmas with Eli Gilbert & Friends

Attention banjo players and students! If you haven’t already discovered Eli Gilbert’s 12 Days of Licksmas videos, see that you do so post haste.

Eli is a young banjo player from Maine, just making it into the under 30 crowd, who has accomplished that most difficult of feats. He supports himself playing and teaching three finger banjo online. He’s a fine player himself, but with performance opportunities taken away this year, he has knuckled down and created a space for himself in the virtual world, providing lessons for others using Patreon.

As we have described before, Patreon is a site that allows artists and creators of every sort to easily monetize content online. Gilbert makes his banjo lesson videos, tablature, and demonstrations available to anyone willing to make recurring donations for as little as $1 per month. Of course, at that contribution level, you don’t get access to everything he posts, like those who contribute $25 each month. Those folks can utilize all the lessons and videos, and also participate in Eli’s lesson exchange program, where you can send him brief examples of your playing, and he will respond with a video offering critique, corrections, and answers to any questions you might pose.

All this for less than the cost of one private lesson each month.

But what about the 12 Days of Licksmas? As the name suggests, Eli has been offering a series of 12 videos this month, each with a new lick that is demonstrated on camera.

We’ll let him describe it.

“I started Licksmas last year with Marcel Ardans, who teaches bluegrass guitar on Youtube, as a way to cross promote to each others’ audiences. At the time I was just beginning to teach online, and I saw it as a unique way to put my name out there as an online educator. Now, one year later, I’m making my living primarily from teaching online via my Patreon page. I’m extraordinarily lucky that my living, and one of the things I’m most passionate about, hasn’t been affected substantially by the pandemic.

But that hasn’t been the case for most musicians, especially in our corner of the industry. Beyond that, the world of music education and performance continues to move into a digital space, requiring artists to master not only their craft, but also videography, audio recording, video editing, and perhaps the most difficult, building an online audience.

So this year, when I was thinking about the possibility of another iteration of Licksmas, I realized I could use it to introduce my audience to some young, extremely-talented, award-winning, banjo players that up until recently were often spending more time on stages than on YouTube. These are people that I went to school with, jam with at festivals, learn from, people that are a really important part of my banjo community.”

Gilbert has chosen his collaborators well. Helping out this year are BB Bowness, banjo player with Mile Twelve; Tabitha Benedict, from Cup O’Joe, Midnight Skyracer, and The Foreign Landers; Tray Wellington, ETSU student, formerly with Cane Mill Road; Tyler Steagall with The High Water Line; and banjo wunderkind Max Allard.

To help get the word out, all of them created a Facebook and YouTube video for each of the 12 days, demonstrating the licks and phrases, even though each banjoist only contributed two licks for Licksmas 2020. So when it was Eli’s lick, Max, Tabitha, BB, Tyler, and Tray also made a video, meaning six Facebook and YouTube videos for every lick.

It’s a great way to showcase these outstanding players, and learn a handful of new licks during the Christmas season. Given their age and the music education these pickers have received, the licks tend toward the modern sound, but most are demonstrated within a bluegrass context.

Here are a few as examples…

Plus one from our host…

Be sure to check out all of these fine young players online, and don’t miss the chance to pick up all the new phrases in The 12 Days of Licksmas.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.