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Lately I've been really bummed that I don't have an instrument with me--my keyboard and ukulele are on the other side of the country for a few months, my guitar is halfway across the country, and I really like having something around to pick at. I've never been a very talented or focused musician but I do love just trying things out. It's prohibitively expensive to ship one of the instruments out here (especially for the few months) and I don't want to buy something that I already own, so I've actually been thinking of picking up a banjo.
I don't know anything about them, really. I know I like the sound and I know that, with stringed instruments in general, I'm unusually good at finger-picking and unusually bad at strumming, which seems like it would work well with a banjo. I don't know how hard they are, though. Is it something I could learn through just my own efforts and some internet videos and what-have-you, or is it hard enough that I shouldn't get into it unless I'm taking lessons and so on? Any advice or anecdotes would be helpful--again, I don't know too much about what I would be getting into, but it looks like a fun instrument and it's one that I don't have.
e: actually, lemme retool this. I'm also thinking of buying a mandolin, as it seems like it's a little more versatile while still letting me play around with folk and bluegrass. Does anyone have any experience with that? Is either better suited to a fairly amateur musician?