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Singing with just a banjo

Once Famous 25 Jul 04 - 05:25 PM
dick greenhaus 25 Jul 04 - 05:30 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 25 Jul 04 - 05:35 PM
Once Famous 25 Jul 04 - 05:42 PM
Midchuck 25 Jul 04 - 05:47 PM
Leadfingers 25 Jul 04 - 06:42 PM
Big Al Whittle 25 Jul 04 - 06:45 PM
Charley Noble 25 Jul 04 - 09:55 PM
Amos 25 Jul 04 - 10:37 PM
DonMeixner 25 Jul 04 - 10:49 PM
DonMeixner 25 Jul 04 - 10:49 PM
Bev and Jerry 26 Jul 04 - 12:15 AM
Alex.S 26 Jul 04 - 12:35 AM
GUEST,Jon 26 Jul 04 - 07:36 AM
kendall 26 Jul 04 - 07:40 AM
GUEST,Wesley S 26 Jul 04 - 07:53 AM
Cuilionn 26 Jul 04 - 09:24 AM
Jeremiah McCaw 26 Jul 04 - 10:03 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 26 Jul 04 - 12:45 PM
Peter T. 26 Jul 04 - 02:14 PM
DonMeixner 26 Jul 04 - 02:23 PM
GLoux 26 Jul 04 - 02:32 PM
Herga Kitty 26 Jul 04 - 02:46 PM
AllanW 26 Jul 04 - 02:57 PM
Ernest 26 Jul 04 - 04:04 PM
Uncle_DaveO 26 Jul 04 - 05:40 PM
Uke 26 Jul 04 - 06:21 PM
Once Famous 26 Jul 04 - 10:20 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 26 Jul 04 - 10:49 PM
The Fooles Troupe 26 Jul 04 - 10:50 PM
darkriver 27 Jul 04 - 02:08 AM
GUEST,Mappa Mundi 27 Jul 04 - 03:50 AM
Dave Bryant 27 Jul 04 - 04:19 AM
The Fooles Troupe 27 Jul 04 - 05:44 AM
kendall 27 Jul 04 - 07:21 AM
Steve-o 27 Jul 04 - 11:32 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 27 Jul 04 - 11:59 AM
Peter K (Fionn) 27 Jul 04 - 07:34 PM
Leadfingers 27 Jul 04 - 07:59 PM
Dave Bryant 28 Jul 04 - 04:13 AM
GUEST,lemming 18 Jun 05 - 07:09 PM
Frankham 18 Jun 05 - 07:34 PM
thespionage 18 Jun 05 - 10:36 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 19 Jun 05 - 05:18 AM
PatrickCostello 19 Jun 05 - 07:47 AM
GUEST 19 Jun 05 - 09:00 AM
JedMarum 19 Jun 05 - 09:37 AM
GUEST,JennyO 19 Jun 05 - 11:45 AM
Tradsinger 19 Jun 05 - 04:14 PM
Big Al Whittle 19 Jun 05 - 04:30 PM
Le Scaramouche 19 Jun 05 - 04:50 PM
JennyO 19 Jun 05 - 11:05 PM
Susanne (skw) 21 Jun 05 - 05:26 PM
fretless 21 Jun 05 - 05:51 PM
Leadfingers 21 Jun 05 - 07:14 PM
GUEST 22 Jun 05 - 07:04 PM
PatrickCostello 22 Jun 05 - 09:20 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 17 Oct 05 - 09:23 PM
The Fooles Troupe 18 Oct 05 - 05:32 AM
Mark Ross 18 Oct 05 - 01:40 PM
Coyote Breath 18 Oct 05 - 01:53 PM
DannyC 18 Oct 05 - 03:18 PM
Jon W. 18 Oct 05 - 04:37 PM
Jon W. 18 Oct 05 - 04:38 PM
JennyO 19 Oct 05 - 07:12 AM
Patrick-Costello 19 Oct 05 - 08:54 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 19 Oct 05 - 10:35 AM
GUEST 20 Oct 05 - 07:58 AM
DannyC 20 Oct 05 - 01:02 PM
Felipa 31 Jul 17 - 09:50 AM
Felipa 31 Jul 17 - 09:57 AM
gillymor 31 Jul 17 - 10:42 AM
gillymor 31 Jul 17 - 11:09 AM
Big Al Whittle 31 Jul 17 - 11:21 AM
Newport Boy 31 Jul 17 - 11:58 AM
The Sandman 31 Jul 17 - 12:35 PM
Acorn4 01 Aug 17 - 03:33 AM
banjoman 01 Aug 17 - 05:59 AM
The Sandman 01 Aug 17 - 06:38 AM
gillymor 01 Aug 17 - 08:32 AM
Felipa 01 Aug 17 - 03:01 PM
gillymor 02 Aug 17 - 07:31 AM
gillymor 02 Aug 17 - 08:12 AM
gillymor 02 Aug 17 - 09:25 AM
GUEST 02 Aug 17 - 10:58 AM
GUEST,Felipa 02 Aug 17 - 07:39 PM
GUEST,Ebor Fiddler 03 Aug 17 - 06:26 PM
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Subject: Singing with just a banjo
From: Once Famous
Date: 25 Jul 04 - 05:25 PM

Whenever I have performed as just a solo, I have always just used guitar. However, I am considering doing a few songs accompanied by banjo. Now I am comfortable playing banjo in a group setting with other instruments, but the banjo by itelf always seemed rather hollow behind a voice. But I think the variety of doing maybe one song per set might break up things and make it more interesting.

Any suggestions on what songs work best, with or without audience participation?


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 25 Jul 04 - 05:30 PM

Go listen to a Frank Proffitt recording. Or anything by Sheila Kay Adams or Helena Tripplett or Bascom Lamarr Lunceford.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 25 Jul 04 - 05:35 PM

Hey, Martin: Good for you. Banjo seems to have become a band instrument, despite all the great music produced in the south with just a banjo accompaniment. I've always done two or three banjo songs in an evening... some finger-piched, and some frailing. There's a whole wealth of Charlie Poole stuff that suits itself well to solo performing, and much of the old-time string band stuff can easily be simplified just for banjo. I've found that people really respond well to solo banjo with singing because it's something that they hear so rarely.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Once Famous
Date: 25 Jul 04 - 05:42 PM

That's kind of what I am after, Jerry and I not ashamed to use it as a novelty. However, the more I think about it, the more I would like to do some kind of a standard and draw in the club's audience. Goodnight Irene comes to mind as sort of a Pete Singer strummer. I'm really more of a bluegrasser with folk group background. I don't really frail that old-timey stuff. That song is just something that crossed my mind.

Any other thoughts to ponder are welcome.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Midchuck
Date: 25 Jul 04 - 05:47 PM

Well, at least it's better than playing the banjo and not singing. And your voice will sound better by comparison.

P.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Leadfingers
Date: 25 Jul 04 - 06:42 PM

MG I do a few Banjo accompanied songs - I do a bit of Blues as well as the odd bit of Music Hall as well as some contemporary songs from people like Jez Lowe and Keith Marsden (UK) and things like Roseville Fair . If you think about how you are working the accompaniment any thing can work . If you are only playing in one key ,there is a serious limiting factor so dont just stick to G - F and C work easily in open G tuning .


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 25 Jul 04 - 06:45 PM

Pete seegers instruction reord was brilliant.

he did a three four time thing called the burgundian carol. then he doubled it up to do the irish washerwoman.. like someone was saying those guys like Frank Profit knew a thing or two - some of them played fretless banjo and did clever sides because the frets didn't get in the way. Also they played without a resonator, so the volume wasn't too strident. Pete Seegers records have many examples of this.

Peggy Seeger used to accompany Ewan on the Banjo - I'm not sure but one song was the Ballad of John Axon.

Finally check out the first album by the Iam Campbell folk group. They had a lovely banjo player who died of cancer much much too young. His name was John Dunkerly and he and Ian used to do The Unquiet Grave - just Ian 's voice and John's banjo. It was so plaintive and pretty.

hope this is of some use


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Charley Noble
Date: 25 Jul 04 - 09:55 PM

Martin-

It's really a question of personal judgment with any one song. I play most Appalacian ballads on the 5-string banjo with a 3-finger style of double-thumbing if that makes any sense to you. I also tend to play out of C with the 2nd string tuned up half a note. If I'm trying for more of a guitar sound I use the same tuning and play out of the F position. And the same tuning can be used to play songs from the Gm position.

If you gave me a list of yur 10 favorite songs, I might be able to offer more specific advice, assuming I were familar with them.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Amos
Date: 25 Jul 04 - 10:37 PM

Frank Warner did plenty of recordings with just voice and banjo and they sounded terrific, IIRC...


A


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: DonMeixner
Date: 25 Jul 04 - 10:49 PM

I find when I use the banjo as a singular instrument I use it as spare and simple in arrangement as I can. And I think it works best that way for vocal stuff.

But! Check out Howie Bursen's Folk Legacy recording "Cider in the Kitche" for the other end of the stick.

Don


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: DonMeixner
Date: 25 Jul 04 - 10:49 PM

"Cider in the Kitchen"


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Bev and Jerry
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 12:15 AM

Debby McClatchy does entire concerts with only a banjo for accompaniment. She does everything from gospel to Charlie Poole to Irish to gold rush songs. Check her out.

Bev and Jerry


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Alex.S
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 12:35 AM

Most Ewan MacColl CDs (Scots Ballads is a good one)are just recordings of him singing with banjo accompaniment by his wife, Pegge Seeger, Pete's sister (haybe half sister?). They're all great, and I would highly recommend them for ideas on solo banjo accompaniment.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 07:36 AM

I think the tenor, the banjo I play, has a lot more problems with "lonliness" than the 5 string. The only song I have felt happy doing on it is Johnny Jump Up - I learned a version from a Christy Moore record where he was just accompanied by Barney McKenna.

To move onto 5 string. I can't think of a bluegrass example but it's not an area of music that attracts me much. Of other styles, although I have only heard her with Ellie Ellis on guitar and singing harmony, I think Sarah Grey would have sounded good just on her own with voice and banjo but that's taking us back to a frailing style.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: kendall
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 07:40 AM

Listen to Sara Grey (Folk Legacy) she plays banjo only and sings. Using the finger picking style, you may want to consider not using picks.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: GUEST,Wesley S
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 07:53 AM

MG - What are your thoughts on frailing ? Interested - or would you rather stick with the 3 fingered style ? I guess my own tastes on solo banjo songs runs toward medium tempo songs. If you play it too fast it sounds rushed.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Cuilionn
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 09:24 AM

Aye, Kendall's richt-- Sara Grey's a master o the voice/banjo combination, & wairth studyin. The twa albums Ah'd recommend are teh aforementionit Folk-Legacy album, (Folk-Legacy CD-38: Sara Grey with Ed Trickett: Folksongs & Ballads) and the newer recording on Living Tradition (Tradition Bearers Series LTCD1301: North American Songs & Ballads: Sara Grey).

See her in concert when & if ye hae a chaunce--she presents a thochtfu balance o tunes & sangs & her delivery is exquisite!

Have Fun/Gabh Spors!

--Cuilionn


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Jeremiah McCaw
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 10:03 AM

Solo banjo with voice? Sky's the limit. Songwriter/performer Alfie Smith does "Minnie the Moocher" that way (sorta clawhammer style), and does it brilliantly.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 12:45 PM

Probably the best folk style banjo player I've ever heard is Peggy Seeger. She did things backing Ewan MacColl that were pure taste, inventive and complex, as well as being surprising and emotional and inspiringly lovely to listen to. When the two were working together, the result was almost always more than 100% I've always thought.

And banjo-backed vocals were always included on my albums---ranging from Bascom Lunsford's "Mr Garfield" and "Sundown" and Vernon Dalhart's "The Hanging Of Charlie Birger" to Uncle Dave's "In And Around Nashville" and the Pacific Northwest classic "Portland County Jail".

On a new CD I've been working on will be "The Scottish Soldier", Hoagy Carmichael's "Lazy Bones" and an instumental version of Bob Wills' "San Antonio Rose"----all on banjo--and all sung except the last song mentioned.

Right now, banjo is the only instrument I can mess around with and get results good enough that our 3 year old granddaughter wants to sing along or dance along to. The open-G tuning is very forgiving ! ;-)

But be sure to check out Art Rosenbaum's banjo-vocal rendition of "Texas Rangers". Hearing it will open new doors.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Peter T.
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 02:14 PM

One thing that I was taught by Rick Fielding (and I am still pretty much a novice) was to lower the strings (to what I guess would be an open E tuning)if I was going to sing ballads or other similar songs with a banjo -- this cuts the brassiness, and makes it easier to sing with, I find. (Heather Fielding still sells Rick's banjo mutes, though I have been using a sock, mostly).


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: DonMeixner
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 02:23 PM

And stupidly I left out Art Thieme's banjo style. This is a favorite style of mine and I try nd approximate it on a few tunes that I do. On the rare occasion I do "Along side the Sante Fe Trail" I try and play like Art.

Don


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: GLoux
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 02:32 PM

Hey, don't forget Clarence "Tom" Ashley...some of his solo banjo/vocal songs are among my favorites...Coo Coo Bird, for example.

-Greg


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 02:46 PM

Sara Grey frails - in the folk quiz at Sidmouth one year, she was asked to speak for a minute without hesitation, repetition or deviation on the subject of plucking and assumed this referred to turkeys....

I think Sara, Debbie and Peggy all enhance their songs with banjo. I heard Kendall play the banjo when he visited UK in the spring and it sounded great!

Kitty


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: AllanW
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 02:57 PM

Me and Malc Ware, a Doncaster banjo player from the 80s, now sadly departed, used to play a whole load of Doc Watson songs on guitar and banjo, I'm sure the banjo would've sounded just as good without my endless thraping.

We used to do Red Rocking Chair, 15 Cents, Hand Me Down My Walking Cane, Little Birdie, Mole In The Ground (Jackson C Frank had a version called Kimbie) and Handsome Molly, to name but a few.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Ernest
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 04:04 PM

Derroll Adams did a lot of nice songs with 5-string banjo too, although most of the time with guitarists accompanying him...
Still grat music.
Ernest


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 05:40 PM

Although I sing most of my songs with guitar, I frail/clawhammer with a number of them. I don't try to play the song's tune behind the singing, but use the bump-titty rhythm as a background, playing a harmony to the msung tune, and then do a banjo break of the tune between.

I sing such songs as Beans Bacon and Gravy, Worried Man Blues, Oh Dr. Freud, The Frozen Logger, Acres of Clams, and Woodie Guthrie's Talking Dustbowl, with banjo.

I find it very difficult to try to play the tune while singing at the same time. YMMV.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Uke
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 06:21 PM

There's some great solo banjo backing on A.L. Lloyd's "English Drinking Songs" too - played by Alf Jeffreys I think. It's in the 'classic banjo' style, which is finger-picking, but less driving than bluegrass - kind of supple and pretty-sounding.

Worth checking out - though I don't know if there's any books around with the transcriptions or anything....

Mike


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Once Famous
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 10:20 PM

Thanks to all who have responded.

Frailing is just not my thing and neither is old timey. I am surprised no one has mentioned any Pete Seeger basic strum stuff, which can tend to have a fuller sound behind a voice and could lend to a more moderate speed song.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 10:49 PM

You might check out Art Thieme's work, Martin. I'm surprised that no one has mentioned him. His style is very much indebted to Pete Seeger and while Art doesn't generally encourage sing alongs, his style certainly suits it on some songs.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 10:50 PM

I've never heard just a banjo sing...


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: darkriver
Date: 27 Jul 04 - 02:08 AM

Martin,

I've heard John Hartford play solo banjo and sing the American Civil War-era chestnut 'Lorena.' His voice style was delicate, and the banjo playing ditto, and it was very melodic without being melodramatic. I think this one is on 'Songs of the Civil War,' so it shouldn't be too hard to find.

Obviously, this is not an example of audience participation.

Regards,

doug


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: GUEST,Mappa Mundi
Date: 27 Jul 04 - 03:50 AM

Gumtree canoe - and if you can learn the "soft shoe shuffle" you'll go down a storm! (John Hartford)

You may want to try Wabash cannonball, i like to put solos in between verses.

Oh yes - my favourite banjo/vocal is "Ruthie" (Wernick)

You can get away with DB's as well; picking the a, part at the bridge and the b, part at the base of the neck.

Good luck.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 27 Jul 04 - 04:19 AM

Why have all your friends deserted you ? - or do you mean that you won't be wearing any clothes ?


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 27 Jul 04 - 05:44 AM

But at least a banjo player can hold it to cover his instrument - whereas a piano accordion player can at least rest his instrument on it, as long as you don't squeeze too tight, or quickly!


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: kendall
Date: 27 Jul 04 - 07:21 AM

By all means listen to Art Thieme.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Steve-o
Date: 27 Jul 04 - 11:32 AM

"Candy Man", Rev. Gary Davis-style....Wonderful!


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 27 Jul 04 - 11:59 AM

Pete always said thhat his sister Peggy was a better banjo player than he was. What he did was pure taste too---but simpler than peggy who used his basic strum (plus frailing) to get a more musical and emotional effect into her music. That's just my opinion, but I feel strongly that it's accurate. The album Ewan and Isla Cameron swapped songs on, with Peggy on banjo, had one gem after another. Ewan's "American Stranger" on that LP with Ms Seeger's banjo is still one of my favorite arrangements of all time.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Peter K (Fionn)
Date: 27 Jul 04 - 07:34 PM

Just back from the Warwick (UK) festival, where Bob Conroy used banjo-accompaniment to great effect in a number of songs, in his sets with Mudcatter Liam's Brother (aka Dan Milner).


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Leadfingers
Date: 27 Jul 04 - 07:59 PM

The biggest problem with singing to banjo is Volume . If you strum a banjo too hard you can drown out your own voice completely .


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 28 Jul 04 - 04:13 AM

Which in some cases could be a good thing Terry   :-)


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: GUEST,lemming
Date: 18 Jun 05 - 07:09 PM

Why for spouteth thee in a strange tongue? Is it because yee have a degree in spouting bollox?


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Frankham
Date: 18 Jun 05 - 07:34 PM

Hi Martin,

I, like you, love the sound of a banjo accompaniment to the voice. One of my favorites is Buell Kazee, a traditional banjo player who had a lovely tenor voice.

A agree that the Pete Seeger approach is wonderful for the following reasons:

1. You can pick bass lines (not unlike guitar) or counter lines with the vocal.
2. Pete adapted his style of playing to fit a variety of song material.
2. Pete used frailing, up-picking, three-fingerand "whamming" styles in his accompaniments.

You might want to check out early recordings of Erik Darling who in my view was one of the masters of banjo accompaniment. His album, True Religion by Vanguard is a classic.

I really like George Grove of the present Kingston Trio, as well.
He has adapted a style of playing suitable for singing.

I think that many of the revivalist old-timey players tend to overshadow their vocals with too much banjo. He has a neat instruction DVD on Homespun Tapes

I believe that the 5-string banjo accompaniment is quite versatile and not just limited to Appalachia or bluegrass. I applaud your choice and am doing this myself. I have a Gibson RB175 seeger model in which I've dropped a Rich and Taylor tonering made by someone whose name begins with K. (Krushner?) I forget. I am trying different tailpieces so that I can get a nice ring.

Playing and singing songs with banjo accompaniment is a very satisfying thing to do. I tend to like a guitar backup because of the solidity of a bass line but again, you can approximate that in the seeger style.

I find that children really respond to the sound of a 5-string banjo accompaniment. It gets their toes a-tapping and puts them in a happy mood.

I can't be sad or mad when I'm playing the banjo.

A friend of mine says, "The banjo sounds like laughing."

Good choice.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: thespionage
Date: 18 Jun 05 - 10:36 PM

I completely agree Frank! (I smiled when I saw your name come up several times in Ed Cray's Ramblin' Man while reading it this week.)

Banjo with a banjo as sole accompaniment is great! I'd suggest many of Woody Guthrie's songs, as I noted in another thread.

Russ


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 19 Jun 05 - 05:18 AM

Hedy West! She was fabulous at backing herself either frailing or fingerpicking. BTW, I'm amazed that Hedy isn't one of the most famous and reverred of folksingers. Is it because she spent so much of her playing days outside of the States?


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: PatrickCostello
Date: 19 Jun 05 - 07:47 AM

Here's a really basic workshop on frailing & singing.

http://www.funkyseagull.com/frailing.mp3


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Jun 05 - 09:00 AM

I agree with Art Thieme that Peggy Seeger is a superb banjo player and accompanist. A few years ago I heard her accompany herself on a song called "The Rambling Gambler" and it was absolutely knockout! Unfortunately, the only recording I can find of her singing this song is an early one on which she uses the guitar. The last time I saw Peggy I requested this song but she didn't have the long-necked banjo with her.
Two more women singers who use a banjo are Shirley Collins and Alison McMorland. They each have very different styles (different again from Peggy's absolute mastery of the instrument) but I find them both to be very effective self-accompanists.
This is a very subjective view, from a non-instrumentalist, but the accompaniment of folk songs on the banjo summons up for me an older, deeper tradition and puts me in mind of those amazing singers from the Balkans and the Middle East who accompany themselves on a variety of stringed instruments.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: JedMarum
Date: 19 Jun 05 - 09:37 AM

I love to sing with solo banjo as accompaniment. It is very very different style accompaniment from guitar - much more sparse, or it can be - you play lots of single notes, even as slowly picked/plucked line and your accompaniment is complete ...


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: GUEST,JennyO
Date: 19 Jun 05 - 11:45 AM

I noticed Charley Noble posted earlier in this thread. To hear more of his banjo accompanied singing, this page on Charlie's website Songs of Charlie Ipcar has MP3s of a number of his songs - Try Limehouse Reach, All Coil Down, Dead Dog Cider and Pastures of Memories. Just listening to them brings back fond memories of a certain session in our living room under the model trains a couple of years ago.......

Jenny


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Tradsinger
Date: 19 Jun 05 - 04:14 PM

Tunesmith has said it. It was Hedi West that inspired me to get into frailing banjo. I do quite a few with the banjo only now, including 'Boots of Spanish Leather'. I like the sparse sound it gives - very atmospheric. Try Eric Bogle's "Now I'm Easy" with the banjo. That works. Any number of Appalachian ballads sound great on the banjo - House Carpenter, Wife of Usher's Well, Lady Margaret and Sweet William, Bangum, etc.

Gwilym


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 19 Jun 05 - 04:30 PM

Lovely thread. How nice Martin could be when he wasn't setting the world to rights. Probably could be said for all of us!


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Le Scaramouche
Date: 19 Jun 05 - 04:50 PM

House Carpenter to my mind is THE banjo song.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: JennyO
Date: 19 Jun 05 - 11:05 PM

Yes, weelittledrummer. That thought occurred to me too. What a shame!

Jenny


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Susanne (skw)
Date: 21 Jun 05 - 05:26 PM

Nobody has mentioned Iain MacKintosh, who used nothing but his 5-string long-neck banjo to accompany his songs (apart from the very occasional concertina). I've always liked his quiet and unobtrusive style.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: fretless
Date: 21 Jun 05 - 05:51 PM

Pete Seeger's early Folkways album Darlin' Corey, reissued on CD with his Goofin' Off Suite, has lots of fine banjo/singing numbers. Some of Tommy Thompson's cuts on the early Red Clay Ramblers's records, and at last one of Tom Paley's on the first New Lost City Rambler's album are also really impressive. Of course there's Frank Profitt's singling along with his fretless and, if you can get your voice up there and your fingers to move that quickly, Roscoe Holcomb's spectacular singing/playing, although RH's sound may be a bit difficult for an audience not attuned to an Appalachian sound. And agreeing with postings above, Debby McClatchy gets it just right and Hedy West's banjo ballads are staggeringly beautiful.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Leadfingers
Date: 21 Jun 05 - 07:14 PM

Reread this Thread - Further to my previous posts , IF you find that the banjo is a little obtrusive ,bite the bullet and buy a banjola - Five string neck on a mandola body ! MUCH more gentle than a straight banjo and great fun for quieter songs - BUT they dont work very well for frailing -(I dont frail , thats what Pete Coe tells me !)


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: GUEST
Date: 22 Jun 05 - 07:04 PM

Just to help any beginners out there interested in playing & singing:


Easy Bluegrass Banjo

In spite of whatever you may have been told to the contrary, bluegrass banjo isn't all that difficult. Like any folk instrumental style, making music at home or jumping into jam session really only requires an understanding of a handful of techniques and concepts that you can learn in an afternoon.

We're not going to look at playing lead breaks or fancy licks here. That stuff is a lot of fun, but in order for them to work you really have to be grounded in the basics. One of the reasons people give up on the banjo is they try to jump into the advanced material right away.

Look at it this way; Earl Scruggs didn't play Foggy Mountain Breakdown the first time he picked up his banjo. It took him years to get his skills to that point. It's going to be the same way for you.

Besides, what I'm going to share with you is a lot cooler than being able to play one song, we're going to walk away from this workshop able to play and sing thousands of songs.

Stop shaking your head. I'm not kidding here. In fact, rather than just telling you what we're going to be doing it would be much more interesting to just do it.

Come on, grab that banjo and let's start making music.

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:
Assume that your first string is at least close to being in tune.
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.
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.
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.
The fifth string played open should sound the same as the first string played at the fifth fret.

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. Posture is something you want to get right from the start because bad posture can make the right and left hand techniques we are going to be working on harder than they need to be.

Sit up straight.

I know, it's our natural inclination to slouch- it's more comfortable and it looks cooler- but until you can do this in your sleep you want to add a dash of ritual and discipline into your practice time.

So like I said, sit up straight.

Hold your banjo in your lap with the pot (or resonator) is flat against your belly. Not off to the side, not on your knee. I'd also suggest using a strap while you do this so your hands are not supporting the banjo.

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 let's talk about your picking hand for a second. First off, I really wouldn't suggest wearing picks right away. The last thing you need is volume right now and once you get a feel for the rhythm of the picking pattern it won't be a big deal to put on picks later on down the road - and trust me, it'll be a big advantage down the road to be able to work with and without picks because, in spite of what some folks may say, you are not always going to want to be loud.

Now with your forearm of your picking had resting lightly on the armrest - or, if you are like me and just hate armrests you can rest your forearm right on the edge of the tension hoop. I like working without an armrest because I can use the meat of my forearm on the banjo head to change the tone of the instrument while I'm playing. You can do this to get a softer sound or, if you mess around with it a bit, you can get a sort of wah-wah or rotating speaker effect . . .was I? Oh yeah, with your arm resting lightly on the rim or the armrest drop your hand down so that your thumb is on the fifth string, your index and middle fingers are on the first and second string and either your ring or little finger (or both) is/are resting on the head to steady your hand.

Notice I left the right, little or both option up to you - and also notice that I said to "support" your hand. You don't have to apply any pressure on your banjo head. Just keep things light and kind of loose.

Got that? Cool, we're almost ready to boogie, but first we have to talk a little bit about rhythm.

Rather than talk about rhythm, let's actually experience it together. What I want you to do is to tap your foot on the floor four times.

No, we're not doing an impression of an old Roy Rogers and Trigger routine. There is a method to my madness here so just trust me and tap your foot four times.

Tap . . . tap . . . tap . . .tap.

That was easy enough, right? Now we're going to do the same thing but count out loud each time we tap. Count, "one" as your foot hits the floor for the first time. Bring your foot back up and then tap again and count," two". Keep that going until you get to four.

One    two   three   four      
Tap    tap    tap    tap

Now keep repeating that a few times. Count on each tap and after four go back to "one". Try to keep the space between each tap the same.

What you are doing here is playing a quarter note rhythm in 4/4 time.

No, really. I'm not making this up, that's really what you are doing here.

In music everything from the notes you play to the rests where you don't play anything has a time value attached to it. That time value is defined as rhythm. Without rhythm the notes would have no context and everything would just come out like noise.

We break music up into measures with a specific number of beats. A beat is the term we use to describe the pulse of the music. The number of beats in a measure is dictated by the time signature.

The time signature tells us how many beats are played in a measure or group of measures. A time signature like 4/4 indicates that we will play four beats to a measure (4/) and that each beat will have the value of a quarter note (/4). If the time signature was 3/4 it would indicate three beats to a measure (3/) and that each beat will have the value of a quarter note (/4).

6/8 indicates that each measure will have six beats (6/) and that each beat will have the value of an eighth note (/8).

A whole note is a note that is counted for the whole value of the measure.
A half note has one half the time value of a whole note.
A quarter note has one half the time value of a half note.
An eighth note has one half the time value of a quarter note.

When you were tapping your foot and counting to four each tap was being given the value of a quarter note.

Nothing to it, right?

Now what I want you to do is repeat the tap & count exercise, but this time I want you to say "and" as your foot comes up after each tap. Count, "one" as your foot hits the floor for the first time. Bring your foot back up and say, "and". Tap again and count," two". Bring your foot back up and say, "and". Keep that going until you get to four.

One   and   two    and   three   and   four      
Tap         tap          tap          tap

Now keep repeating that a few times. Count on each tap and after four go back to "one". Try to keep the space between each tap the same.

What you have just done is tap out an eighth note rhythm in 4/4 time.

Compare the two different counts. In the first example we were counting four beats and in the second example we were counting eight beats. By adding the "and" between each tap we were changing the count to cut the quarter notes in half.

Spend a little bit of time tapping and counting the eighth note rhythm:

One   and   two    and   three   and   four      
Tap         tap          tap          tap

In bluegrass banjo the basic picking pattern is made up of eighth notes. That, "one and two and three and four and" count is going to be the core of almost everything you do down the road. I don't mean to imply that you will only be playing eighth notes. As you gain skill down the road you will be able to alter this rhythm using any convincible note value to phrase out melody lines, but for right now you'll be sticking to an eighth note roll.

What's a roll? A roll is just banjo slang for a repeating pattern of notes. The "sound" of bluegrass banjo is really created by playing a string of eighth notes - and as you get better you'll find all kinds of ways to play that string of eighth notes. Starting out with a repeating roll just makes things easier when you are starting out.

Rather than talk about it, let's play a roll.

Go back to where we were before we started talking about rhythm. You should be sitting with your arm resting lightly on the rim or the armrest drop your hand down so that your thumb is on the fifth string, your index and middle fingers are on the first and second string and either your ring or little finger (or both) is/are resting on the head to steady your hand.

The way we are going to be picking is really simple. Your thumb is going to pick 'down' towards the floor and your index & middle fingers will be picking 'up' towards your chin.

Relax; this is going to be easy.

Pick the third string with your thumb. Count "one".
Pick the second string with your index finger. Count "and".
Pick the fifth string with your thumb. Count "two"
Pick the first string with your index finger. Count "and"

"One and two and". We've just played half of a measure. I told you this was easy.

Run through that a few times and then add in the second half of the measure.
Pick the fourth string with your thumb. Count "three".
Pick the second string with your index finger. Count "and".
Pick the fifth string with your thumb. Count "four"
Pick the first string with your index finger. Count "and"

"One and two and three and four and"

That's a full measure.

Let's play this all together:

Pick the third string with your thumb. Count "one".
Pick the second string with your index finger. Count "and".
Pick the fifth string with your thumb. Count "two"
Pick the first string with your index finger. Count "and"
Pick the fourth string with your thumb. Count "three".
Pick the second string with your index finger. Count "and".
Pick the fifth string with your thumb. Count "four"
Pick the first string with your index finger. Count "and"

Play through this a few times at a nice easy pace. Be sure to count out loud and tap your foot while you pick so you can keep the rhythm smooth.

Mess around with that for a while and, when you're ready, we'll look at this roll in tablature.

What's tablature?

Tablature, "TAB" for short, is a teaching tool. If you look at the snippet of tab below you'll see the five strings of your banjo with the D or "first-string" on top and fifth or the short string on the bottom.

Numbers on a tab line tell you what string to hit and on which fret to- you guessed it- fret the string. "0" tells you to play a string open and "1" would mean to play a string at the first fret.

Sometimes below a tab you will see symbols to tell you which finger you should use to pick a string.

T = thumb
I = index
M = middle

That roll we just played would look like this in TAB:

------------0-----------0--
------0-----------0--------
---0-----------------------
---------------0-----------
---------0-----------0-----
   1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
   T I T M T I T M

By the way, this is the only TAB I'm going to use for this workshop.

This isn't the only roll. There are thousands of different rolls you can come up with. I just happen to like this one for a basic picking pattern.

Why do I like this roll?

Well, when you are playing in 4/4 time the emphasis is usually n the first and third beat. If you look at this roll you will notice that your thumb is alternating between the third and fourth string on the first and third beats. That makes it easier to keep a steady rhythm and put your emphasis in the right place without worrying too much about it.

The other cool thing going on is that alternating between the third and fourth strings gives a nifty alternating bass effect. When we start changing chords and singing in a little while that alternating bass effect is going to give the picking pattern a feeling of motion that sounds pretty cool.

Play this roll for a little while. Don't stare at your picking hand and don't get all tense and nervous about hitting the right string. Looking at your picking hand isn't going to help your accuracy - in fact it'll only throw off your rhythm because there will be a pause in your timing as your eyes send a signal to your brain to signal your fingers that your are on the right string. Being tense about screwing up and hitting the wrong string will only ensure that you do just that: screw up and hit a wrong string.

Relax. This is supposed to be fun. You're playing the banjo, an instrument somewhere on the wonderful scale between puppies in a basket next to a sleeping baby on Easter Morning and eating a chunky peanut butter sandwich on a spring day under a maple tree. Don't ruin the joy of making music by worrying and beating yourself up. If you hit a wrong string keep going. If your rhythm gets funky stop for a beat and start again on the next beat. The only things that really matters is that your rhythm is consistent and you are enjoying yourself.

Keep playing that roll for a while. Give yourself some time to get used to how this all feels. If you're wearing picks try the roll without them. If your not wearing picks try it with them on.

As you are playing this roll over and over again mess around with where your hand is positioned between the bridge and the neck of your banjo.

When we started I left the "where" of the hand position up to you. My reason for this is simply because there really is no "wrong" place for your picking hand.

Let's draw up a really simple diagram and say that the first "|" represents where the pot meets the fretboard, the "----" represents the strings and the last "|" represents the bridge:

    |---------------|


Got that? Now position your hand so that your supporting finger/fingers are close to the bridge and play your roll.

   |-------------x-|


You'll notice that the roll sounds kind of crisp.


Now position your hand closer to the neck and play the roll again.

   |-x-------------|


All of a sudden the sound isn't quite so bright. It's still loud, but it's not as crisp as it is closer to the bridge.

As you play your roll over and over again (after all, repetition is part of practice) move your hand between the bridge and the neck until you find a spot that sounds good and feels good to you.

Play the roll for a while longer and then we'll start working on chords.

Don't panic. The chords we're going to use here are really easy.

Your first step to making a chord is to position your fretting hand so that the pad of your thumb is on the centerline of the back of your banjo neck. Your thumb should be running straight across the back of your banjo neck not running parallel with it. Keep your arm relaxed. If your elbow is sticking out at a funny angle or if your wrist feels uncomfortable adjust your position until things feel right.

Lay your index finger across the fifth fret so that you are hitting all four strings.

Strum across all four strings with your picking hand. You want teach string to ring clearly.

Have you got it?

Congratulations. You've just made a C chord!

Now I want you to spend a little bit of time playing your roll out of the open G chord and then playing the roll while holding the C chord at the fifth fret. Your goal here should be to switch back and forth between a measure open G and a measure of barre-C without breaking the rhythm. It'll feel awkward at first, but if you

stick to it it'll smooth out. Now I want to your make another chord. This will be exactly like the C chord at the fifth fret, but this time you will be laying your finger across the seventh fret to make a D chord.

Now you know three chords.

Just like we did with the barre-C chord, spend some times rolling between G, C and D. Once you can play a measure of each chord consecutively without stopping the picking pattern it's time to learn your first song.

In the diagram below I have broken the old song "Skip To My Lou" into measures with a number for the chord you need to play over the lyrics and the count for each measure under the lyrics.

In the first line you play two open G rolls and sing, "Lost my partner, what'll I do?"

In the second line you barre across the seventh fret to make a D chord and sing, "Lost my partner, what'll I do?"

In the third line you play two open G rolls and sing, "Lost my partner, what'll I do?"

In the fourth and final line you play one measure barring across the seventh fret to make a D chord and sing, "skip to my lou my" followed by one measure of open G as your sing, "darling"

Go ahead and give it a shot. Don't be bashful about singing. Keep the rhythm smooth and be sure to tap your foot.

Let 'er rip!

0                |
Lost my partner | what'll I do?
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & | 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
7                |
Lost my partner | what'll I do?
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & | 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
0                |
Lost my partner | what'll I do?
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & | 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
7                | 0
Skip to my lou my | dar-   ling
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & | 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

Hey! You just played a song!

Play through that a few times and then we'll talk about why these barre chords work.

When you made a barre chord on the fifth fret you were making a C chord and at the seventh fret you were making a D chord. The way this works is actually pretty simple.

In Western music (and when I say "Western" I don't mean cowboy music. It refers to Western civilization there are twelve different notes. The twelve notes are named after the letters A through G with a note or half-step between each pair of letters except between B and C and E and F:

A | B C | D | E F | G |


Your half step is either a sharp (#) or a flat (b.)


The half step between A and B can be called either A# or Bb.


A# means that the A note is raised one half step higher. Bb is the B note lowered one half step. A# and Bb are the same note and the other half steps follow the same pattern.


So with all twelve notes laid out you have the chromatic scale:

A A#/Bb B C C#/Db D D#/Eb E F F#/Gb G G#/Ab
1   2   3 4   5   6   7   8 9 10   11 12


Once you understand the idea of half steps you can just write out your chromatic scale like this to save space and make it a tad clearer.


The " | " symbol will be used to represent a half step.

A | B C | D | E F | G |


The frets on your banjo are laid out on half steps. When we tune a guitar to open G the barre chords wind up following the steps of a chromatic scale.

Fret: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
      G | A | B C | D | E   F   |   G |


With your banjo tuned to open G a barre chord at the first fret has to be G#/Ab and a barre chord at the second fret has to be A. If you look at how this is laid out your barre chord at the fifth fret is C and at the seventh fret you get D. Since everything repeats itself after twelve frets you can get another G chord by barring across the twelfth fret.


Now rather than just using fret numbers, let's see what "Skip To My Lou" looks like with the chord names written in:

G                |
Lost my partner | what'll I do?
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & | 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
D                |
Lost my partner | what'll I do?
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & | 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
G                |
Lost my partner | what'll I do?
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & | 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
D                | G
Skip to my lou my | dar-   ling
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & | 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &


It's amazing how many chords you can make with one finger, but there are a lot of other ways to make chords. I'm going to go over a couple more songs with you using one-finger chords, but when you feel confident with that go ahead on your own and start looking for more chord forms on the Internet.


Okay, we know a two-chord song and that's cool - but now let's up the ante to three chords. I know, I know. You've got this wired now. No sweat, right?


In the next song, "Boil Them Cabbage Down" we are going to be playing barre chords just like we did with "Skip To My Lou", but now we are adding a C chord into the mix and there is one other little twist in the seventh measure.


In the seventh measure we are playing half a measure of G and half a measure of D. In order to do that we have to change the chord after "two and".


And easy way to remember when to change the chord is to make the change when your thumb plays the fourth string. I'll mark the change using the tab example of the roll:

   G          D
------------0-----------0--
---*--0-----------0--------
---0-----------*-----------
---------------0-----------
---------0-----------0-----
   1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
   T I T M T I T M


Ready? Let's go!

G                  C
Went up on the   | mountain just to
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & | 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
G                  D
give my horn a   | blow.       I
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & | 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
G                   C
Thought I heard my | true love say,
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &    | 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
G       D          G
Yonder comes my | beau.
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & | 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &


CHORUS:


Boil them cabbage down, down.
Turn them hoecakes down, down.
The only song that I can sing Is boil them cabbage down.


Possum in a 'simmon tree,
Raccoon on the ground.
Raccoon says, you son-of-a-gun,
Throw some 'simmons down.


Someone stole my old coon dog,
Wish they'd bring him back.
He chased the big hogs through the fence
And the little ones through the crack.


Met a possum in the road,
Blind as he could be.
Jumped the fence and
whipped my dog And bristled up at me.


Butterfly he has wings of gold,
Firefly wings of flame.
Bedbug got no wings at all
but he gets there just the same.


Now take a look through the songs written out below and find one or two that you like. Sing the lyrics and try to work out where the chord changes fit into the roll. Sometimes the chord changes will be played halfway through a measure so remember how we worked around that in "Boil Them Cabbage Down".


I know, I know. It seems kind of early to be setting you off on your own, but look at what you know at this point: You know a little bit about rhythm, you can play a roll, you can play a few chords, you can sing two songs and you even know a bit about the layout of the fretboard.


If that's all you ever learn you can still spend the rest of your life finding songs to sing and people to sing them with. Go do it. If you decide to learn some other rolls and licks that's great, but right now you can sit own with a guitar player and sing out on the front porch. For some folks that's enough. It's not up to me to tell you what to do next. Learn more chords, explore rhythms, go jam, mess around with ideas for playing melody from books or other free workshops on the web . . .


Just follow your heart.


All the best, Patrick Costello


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: PatrickCostello
Date: 22 Jun 05 - 09:20 PM

Since we;ve covered three-finger I guess it wouldn't hurt to cover frailing.


Basic Frailing

Tuning

The first step is getting in tune.

With few exceptions the exercises in this document are played out of G
tuning.

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:

*        Assume that your first string is at least close to being in tune.
*        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.
*        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.
*        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.
*        The fifth string played open should sound the same as the first string
played at the fifth fret.





Basic Frailing

If we were face to face I could show you how to get this down in less than
half and hour. But we're not- and while text is a poor substitute for an in-
person workshop this is the Internet and it's free.

Let's boogie.

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.

I said sit up straight.

I know, it's our natural inclination to slouch- it's more comfortable and it
looks cooler- but until you can do this in your sleep you want to add a dash
of ritual and discipline into your practice time.

So like I said, sit up straight.

Hold your banjo in your lap with the pot (or resonator) is flat against your
belly. Not off to the side, not on your knee. I'd also suggest using a strap
while you do this so your hands are not

supporting the banjo.

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.

With me so far?

For right now you left hand isn't going to have too much to do. Support your
banjo neck if you want, or feed yourself pizza while you practice your
frailing stroke with the left. Chords come later, and then your left hand is
going to hoping around all over the place. So for right now send that puppy
off to Club Med or something.

Let's put your right hand to work.

Stick your right arm our 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.

I know- it looks kind of goofy.

You should see yourself with that banjo.

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. (And this is where text kind of sucks for this- if
you were here you'd see a sort of greasy spot where my thumb has been hitting
over the years. And no, I'm not that much of a slob it happens to just about
everybody's banjo at some point)

Now rest your middle fingernail on the first string.

Allrighty. We're almost there.

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. Try it hard. Try it light. Try it in
between and try it just right.

(Sorry had a Suess moment there. Shouldn't happen anywhere . . .arrgh)

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.

We're not talking big motion here. It's just a hair this way and a hair that
way. Don't bee all stiff and rigid. Relax. Mess with it a while. You'll drive
everybody in the house nuts, but that's why you wanted to play the banjo,
right?

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.

In TAB it's like this:

D---0-0-----------0-0-----|-|
B-----0-------------0-----|-|
G-----0-------------0-----|-|
D-----0-------------0-----|-|
G-------0-------------0---|-|




Reading TAB

TAB is a teaching tool. If you look at the snippet of tab above you'll see
the five strings of your banjo with the D or "first-string" on top and fifth
or the short string on the bottom.

The numbers on the tab tell you what string to hit and on which fret to- you
guessed it- fret the string.

The lines going down through the TAB are used to mark out measures.

A measure is a term used to describe how the rhythm of a song is laid out.
The examples in this workshops are all in 4/4 time. 4/4 time is a rhythmic
pattern where you are playing four beats to a measure. Without going into a
lot of music theory (this is covered extensively in The how and the Tao of
Old Time banjo) you can think of 4/4 time as two bump dit-ty strums for each
measure.

The example above is the basic strum in open G so all you have is zeros
because there isn't any fretting going on. For the same measure in C you'd
get this:

D---2-2---2-2---|-|
B-----1-----1---|-|
G-----0-----0---|-|
D-----2-----2---|-|
G-------0-----0-|-|

Nothing to it, right?

(One thing about the TAB used for this document: I used CSS to set the tab in
a mono-spaced font. Without the CSS the CSS might be hard to read. You may
want to copy this document and view it in a simple word processing program
like Notepad with the font set to Courier- or download the plain text
version.)

I'm not a huge fan of TAB, but in a text setting it's the only option. I'll
stick a few tunes at the end of this, but PLEASE keep in mind that this is a
folk style and as such only really works when you play the song as YOU think
it should sound, not how it's written down!

Important:

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.




Chords

Let's get a couple of chords down so we can get you playing a couple of
tunes.

Creating a chord diagram is kind of tricky in plain text- so I just set up a
tab for the first five frets on your banjo neck The numbers on the staff show
you where to put your fingers to make the chord, and the recommended finger
to use.

You already know one chord- open G- so there is no need for a G chord
diagram.

C chord:
D-------|--3---|-------|------|-----|
B----1--|------|-------|------|-----|
G-------|------|-------|------|-----|
D-------|--2---|-------|------|-----|
g-----------------------------|-----|

F chord:
D-------|------|---3---|------|-----|
B----1--|------|-------|------|-----|
G-------|--2---|-------|------|-----|
D-------|------|---3---|------|-----|
g-----------------------------|-----|

D7 chord:
D-------|------|-------|------|-----|
B----1--|------|-------|------|-----|
G-------|--2---|-------|------|-----|
D-------|------|-------|------|-----|
g-----------------------------|-----|

When you are making your chords keep in mind that you don't have to press too
hard. A lighter touch will also help you in the speed department down the
road.

For hand position, draw an imaginary line down the back of your banjo neck
and keep the ball of your thumb right about there. You'll want to get a nice
arch to your fingers so that you don't hit two strings at the same time.

If your hand hurts stop. Walk away for an hour and come back.

There's a lot more to chording- but this isn't the time or place to cover
that.

Mess with your chords. Try to get them sounding nice and clean.




Playing A Tune

Now, let's play a tune.

"Boil Them Cabbage Down" is a neat old tune you can play using your C, F and
open G chords. The song follows your basic strum all the way through. It's a
LOT easier to "get" if you sing while you play.

Let's take a look at the TAB file:

Boil Them cabbage Down
D---2-2---2-2---|-3-3---3-3---|-2-2---2-2---|-0-0---0-0---|-|
B-----1-----1---|---1-----1---|---1-----1---|---0-----0---|-|
G-----0-----0---|---2-----2---|---0-----0---|---0-----0---|-|
D-----2-----2---|---3-----3---|---2-----2---|---0-----0---|-|
G-------0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-|

D---2-2---2-2---|-3-3---3-3---|-2-2---0-0---|---2-----2---|-|
B-----1-----1---|---1-----1---|---1-----0---|-1-1---1-1---|-|
G-----0-----0---|---2-----2---|---0-----0---|---0-----0---|-|
D-----2-----2---|---3-----3---|---2-----0---|---2-----2---|-|
G-------0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-|

The TAB is telling you to:

*        Play two bump dit-ty strums starting on the first string holding a C
Chord.
*        Play two bump dit-ty strums starting on the first string holding an F
Chord.
*        Play two bump dit-ty strums starting on the first string holding a C
Chord.
*        Play two bump dit-ty strums starting on the first string holding a G
Chord.
*        Play two bump dit-ty strums starting on the first string holding a C
Chord.
*        Play two bump dit-ty strums starting on the first string holding an F
Chord.
*        Play one bump dit-ty strum starting on the first string holding a C
Chord.
*        Play one bump dit-ty strum starting on the first string holding a G
Chord.
*        Play two bump dit-ty strums starting on the second string holding a C
Chord.


That's not too hard to do. Getting the rhythm smooth might be tricky at first
but there isn't all that much going on with this song. The tricky part comes
when you start to sing along.

Playing and singing is a great thing to do because it makes even the most
simple banjo tune sound pretty impressive. It can fell a little awkward at
first- but that has more to do with being embarrassed about singing in public
than anything going on with the banjo. My advice here is to just ask yourself
something like, "if I can't stand having people look at me, why the hell am I
playing the banjo?" and then throw back your head and sing your heart out.

In order to play and sing Boil Them Cabbage Down you will want to break the
lyrics up to fit the measures of the tune. That's pretty hard to lay out in
HTML without flooding the code with non-breaking-space symbols so we're going
to do this without using TAB.

I can hear you asking yourself, "Without the TAB? Surely, you must be
joking."

No I'm not, and don't call me Shirley.

Let's take a look at the lyrics for Boil Them Cabbage Down.

Went up on a mountain to give my horn a blow
Thought I hear my true love say, "Yonder comes my beau!"

Now let's break up the lyrics into measures.



Went up on a | mountain | to give my horn a | blow

Thought I heard my | true love say | yonder - comes my | beau!

So as you are playing your two bump dit-ty strums for the first measure you
sing, "Went up on a" and sing, "mountain" as you are going into the F chord.

Take another look at the tab and see if you can work out the rest of the tune
on your own.

Boil Them cabbage Down
D---2-2---2-2---|-3-3---3-3---|-2-2---2-2---|-0-0---0-0---|-|
B-----1-----1---|---1-----1---|---1-----1---|---0-----0---|-|
G-----0-----0---|---2-----2---|---0-----0---|---0-----0---|-|
D-----2-----2---|---3-----3---|---2-----2---|---0-----0---|-|
G-------0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-|

D---2-2---2-2---|-3-3---3-3---|-2-2---0-0---|---2-----2---|-|
B-----1-----1---|---1-----1---|---1-----0---|-1-1---1-1---|-|
G-----0-----0---|---2-----2---|---0-----0---|---0-----0---|-|
D-----2-----2---|---3-----3---|---2-----0---|---2-----2---|-|
G-------0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-|

Lyrics:

Went up on the mountain
Just to give my horn a blow.
Thought I heard my true love say,
Yonder comes my beau.

CHORUS:
Boil them cabbage down, down.
Turn them hoecakes down, down.
The only song that I can sing
Is boil them cabbage down.

Possum in a 'simmon tree,
Raccoon on the ground.
Raccoon says, you son-of-a-gun,
Throw some 'simmons down.

Someone stole my old coon dog,
Wish they'd bring him back.
He chased the big hogs through the fence
And the little ones through the crack.

Met a possum in the road,
Blind as he could be.
Jumped the fence and whipped my dog
And bristled up at me.

Butterfly he has wings of gold,
Firefly wings of flame.
Bedbug got no wings at all
but he gets there just the same.

After you have spent some time with Boil Them Cabbage Down you can give
Cripple Creek a shot.

CRIPPLE CREEK
D----5-5---5-0-|---2--0-0---|---0-------|-------0---|-|
B------0-------|-1------0---|-0-0-------|-------0---|-|
G------0-------|--------0---|---0---2-0-|-----0-0---|-|
D------0-------|--------0---|---0-------|-0-2---0---|-|
G--------0-----|----------0-|-----0-----|---------0-|-|

D----5-5---5-0-|---2--0-0---|---0-------|-------0---|-|
B------0-------|-1------0---|-0-0-------|-------0---|-|
G------0-------|--------0---|---0---2-0-|-----0-0---|-|
D------0-------|--------0---|---0-------|-0-2---0---|-|
G--------0-----|----------0-|-----0-----|---------0-|-|

(chorus)
D------0-------|---0---0-0---|---0-------|-------0---|-|
B----0-0-------|-0-0-----0---|-0-0-------|-------0---|-|
G------0---2-0-|---0-----0---|---0---2-0-|-----0-0---|-|
D------0-------|---0-----0---|---0-------|-0-2---0---|-|
G--------0-----|-----0-----0-|-----0-----|---------0-|-|

D------0-------|---0---0-0---|---0-------|-------0----|-|
B----0-0-------|-0-0-----0---|-0-0-------|-------0---*|-|
G------0---2-0-|---0-----0---|---0---2-0-|-----0-0---*|-|
D------0-------|---0-----0---|---0-------|-0-2---0----|-|
G--------0-----|-----0-----0-|-----0-----|---------0--|-|

Lyrics

I've got a gal at the head of the creek
Going to see her about the middle of the week

chorus going up cripple creek going in a run
Going up cripple creek to have some fun

Girls on cripple creek about half grown
Jump on a boy like a dog on a bone

That's enough to keep you busy for a little while. As you get more
comfortable with the bump dit-ty strum you can check out he other free
workshops on the Funkyseagull web site, or check out our videos, books and
ebooks.

Be patient. Don't rush things. Give yourself time to get used to the basic
skills and don't every be afraid to give your own ideas a shot. It's your
banjo and it's your music.

Patrick Costello



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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 17 Oct 05 - 09:23 PM

I just found this thread again. I'm amazed nobody had nothin' to say about the last 2 posts.

;-) That's a hell of a lot o' banjo stuff. Reminds me of what Frank Proffit reportedly said about Scruggs style...

Art


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 18 Oct 05 - 05:32 AM

... and currently the next thread on the list is

Lyr Req: Wee Bit Scant in Me Apron

:-)


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Mark Ross
Date: 18 Oct 05 - 01:40 PM

Check out Jody Stecher's playing and singing with banjo. His version of Utah Phillips' JOHN D.LEE on Jody & Kate Brislin's HEART SONGS is absolutely magnificent.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Coyote Breath
Date: 18 Oct 05 - 01:53 PM

The only time I don't sing with just a banjo is when I'm playing a banjo tune that has no words (that I am aware of). I never cared for Pete Seeger's banjo playing as much as his half-brother Mike's. Mike Seeger's Southern Banjo Sounds is an incredible collection of singing with banjo, singing with numerous and somewhat unusual banjos and performance of music not often heard. All banjo oriented of course. 26 songs played on 24 different banjos (or something like that).

Peggy Seeger is very good. But give a listen to Gail Fratar or if you're lucky enough to be near Augusta, Missouri or can acquire a cd produced by the Augusta Bottoms Consort, listen to the playing and singing of Gloria Bauermeister. I agree that Debbie McClatchy is more than worth listening to as well.

To be honest, it never occured to me that someone might wonder if playing a banjo and singing along with it was something do-able.

hmmm.

CB


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: DannyC
Date: 18 Oct 05 - 03:18 PM

Doc Watson's uplifting version of "Old Groundhog" comes to mind.

I ought to figure out how to travel the two States over and catch this Art Thieme fella's music. I'd likely enjoy hearing him.

As for me, solo plunking away behind my own or my friends' songs is a bit of an adventure... I try to limit my own efforts to indoors and away from a mic.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Jon W.
Date: 18 Oct 05 - 04:37 PM

just found this thread again. I'm amazed nobody had nothin' to say about the last 2 posts (Art T.)

Patick Costello was very generous to post that information, as well as the MP3 earlier (June 19 2005). It's a lot to absorb. I'm halfway decent at frailing out a melody, and I could probably even sing along to it, but I believe that a more harmonic accompaniment would sound a lot better and leave the melody for breaks. That way folks would think I really knew what I was doing. I'm going to try some of Patrick's ideas.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Jon W.
Date: 18 Oct 05 - 04:38 PM

Funny, I thought I'd terminated those Italics. Joe O?


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: JennyO
Date: 19 Oct 05 - 07:12 AM

You forgot the / when you were closing them.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Patrick-Costello
Date: 19 Oct 05 - 08:54 AM

It's cool to see this thread come back. In the hopes of keeping things moving here's some more stuff to work with. You might also want to check out our podcast frailing banjo lessons


The basic backup pattern I use the most when I'm frailing and singing is just a banjo version of the alternating bass run used by guitar players. It's the basic frailing strum played of the third and fourth strings:

D------0-----0---|---0-----0---|---0-----0---|---0-----0------|-|
B------0-----0---|---0-----0---|---0-----0---|---0-----0-----*|-|
G------0---0-0---|---0---0-0---|---0---0-0---|---0---0-0-----*|-|
D---0------------|-0-----------|-0-----------|-0--------------|-|
G--------0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-----0-----0----|-|

The tab above is showing the fourth and third string but you can mix
up the pattern anyway you want like starting off on the third string:

D------0-----0---|---0-----0---|
B------0-----0---|---0-----0---|
G---0--0-----0---|-0-0-----0---|
D----------0-----|-------0-----|
G--------0-----0-|-----0-----0-|


If you want to start using licks to emphasize phrases in songs or
tunes it's a good idea to get really used to playing a run like this
because it gives you something to play between the licks that wont
interfere with the singer or whoever is taking a break- and the back
and forth between the third and fourth strings has a nifty way of
creating the illusion of motion. The folks listening "feel" the song
moving- which is why this sort of thing has been used so effectively
in blues and country guitar.

Here is a simple version Banks of the Ohio using this pattern. It's
just the basic bump dit-ty strum but I've spaced out a couple of the
measure to fit the lyrics into the flow of the song.

          G                               D7
                                                            
D-------|----0-----0---|---0---------0---|---0-----0---|---0-----0---|
B-------|*---0-----0---|---0---------0---|---1-----1---|---1-----1---|
G-------|*-0-0-----0---|-0-0---------0---|-2-2-----2---|-2-2-----2---|
D-------|----0---0-0---|---0-------0-0---|---0---0-0---|---0---0-0---|
G-------|------0-----0-|-----0---------0-|-----0-----0-|-----0-----0-|
Darling say                  you'll be   mine                in our


   D7                         G
D-----0-----0---|---0----------0---|---0-----0---|---0--------0---|
B-----1-----1---|---1----------1---|---0-----0---|---0--------0---|
G---2-2-----2---|-2-2----------2---|-0-0-----0---|-0-0--------0---|
D-----0---0-0---|---0--------0-0---|---0---0-0---|---0------0-0---|
G-------0-----0-|-----0----------0-|-----0-----0-|-----0--------0-|
   home               we'll happy    be                  down be-

   G                         C
D-----0-----0---|---0-------------0---|---2-----2---|---2---------2---|
B-----0-----0---|---0-------------0---|---1-----1---|---1---------1---|
G---0-0-----0---|-0-0-------------0---|-0-0-----0---|-0-0---------0---|
D-----0---0-0---|---0-----------0-0---|---2---2-2---|---2-------2-2---|
G-------0-----0-|-----0-------------0-|-----0-----0-|-----0---------0-|
side             where the waters flow               down on the

G               D7             G

D-----0-----0---|---0-----0---|---0-----0---|---0-----0----|-|
B-----0-----0---|---1-----1---|---0-----0---|---0-----0---*|-|
G---0-0-----0---|-2-2-----2---|-0-0-----0---|-0-0-----0---*|-|
D-----0---0-0---|---0---0-0---|---0---0-0---|---0---0-0----|-|
G-------0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-----0-----0--|-|
banks          of the Ohi-   o               



It's a really good idea to get used to playing this pattern before you
start getting fancy with it. Pick up a good songbook and spend some
time just playing and singing folk songs. I think one of the main
reasons old time banjo is such a mess today is that everybody jumps
into fiddle tunes right away without giving themselves time to build
up the basic right and left hand skills.

This also has a neat way to expanding your repertoire without trying
to remember a whole lot of individual notes. If you can play even the
simplest backup technique and sing people will think you are the
greatest thing since frozen orange juice because our ears have a weird
way of "completing" what we hear. While you might just hear yourself
singing along with a bump dit-ty strum people listening will think you
are doing sixteen different things at once.


Once you are comfortable with the basic pattern throw in a hammer-on.
In this example we're playing the fourth string at the second fret.

Simple G run

   e+e e e q e e   e+e e e q e e    e+e e e q e e   e+e e e q e e      
D-------0-----0---|-----0-----0---|-----0-----0---|-----0-----0------|-|
B-------0-----0---|-----0-----0---|-----0-----0---|-----0-----0-----*|-|
G----h--0---0-0---|--h--0---0-0---|--h--0---0-0---|--h--0---0-0-----*|-|
D---0^2-----------|-0^2-----------|-0^2-----------|-0^2--------------|-|
G---------0-----0-|-------0-----0-|-------0-----0-|-------0-----0----|-|


e=eighth note q=quarter note +=any eighth note combination


Try this run out of a C chord:

Simple C run

   e+e e e q e e   e+e e e q e e   e+e e e q e e   e+e e e q e e      
D-------2-----2---|-----2-----2---|-----2-----2---|-----2-----2------|-|
B-------1-----1---|-----1-----1---|-----1-----1---|-----1-----1-----*|-|
G----h--0---0-0---|--h--0---0-0---|--h--0---0-0---|--h--0---0-0-----*|-|
D---0^2-----------|-0^2-----------|-0^2-----------|-0^2--------------|-|
G---------0-----0-|-------0-----0-|-------0-----0-|-------0-----0----|-|

Then mess with the idea. You might get something like:

    C
    q e e e+e e e   q e e q e e
D-----2-------2---|---2-----2----|
B-----1-------1---|---1-----1---*|
G---0-0---0^2-2---|-0-0-----0---*|
D-----------------|-------2-2----|
G-------0-------0-|-----0-----0--|

There are an almost infinite number of ways you can mix in some
pull-off's, hammer-on's, slides and bends into a simple backup
pattern.

What makes this so cool is that you don't really have to worry that
much about playing the specific melody of a song. If you can frail a
chord progression and keep the rhythm smooth while you sing a song
people will be impressed. If you add in some licks people will think
you're doing something amazing.

See, even if you can do a whole bunch of melodic stuff its really only
going to work in the context of a banjo break or solo. The trick to
backing up your voice or another instrument is to play simply so that
the banjo sound effects don't fight the voice or the instrument
playing lead.

When it comes to adding licks the big trick is to build up your
ability to match the phrasing of a lick to the phrasing of the melody
line. It's not just a matter of inserting "lick A" into "measure B."
You want to be able to add emphasis and emotion to the phrase without
changing the structure of the song. In order to do that you have to
think of licks as little more than ideas that you reshape to fit into
the song in question.


For example, a lick like this third string slide is pretty easy and it
can fit into a lot of situations:

Third String Slide (G chord)
    e+e e e q e e   e+e e e q e e
D-------0-----0---|-----0-----0----|
B----s--0-----0---|-----0-----0----|
G---2^4-0---0-0---|--h--0---0-0----|
D-------0-----0---|-0^2------------|
G---------0-----0-|-------0-----0--|

(Once you get comfortable with this lick try it on the fourth string)

It's cool- but sometimes you will need to change the emphasis of the
lick. This can be accomplished by sliding on the fourth string at the
second fret to the fourth fret- or even sliding the second string from
the first to the third fret. That's easy to do because the timing
isn't changing- but in some cases you might want the sound of the
original lick but the timing has to be changed:
                                                                  
Third String Bend (G chord)
q q q e e e+e e e q e e
D----0-------|-----0-----0-----|
B--b-----0---|-----0-----0-----|
G-2^---0-0---|-----0---0-0-----|
D------------|-0h2-------------|
G----------0-|-------0-----0---|

What we're doing here is pretty close to the first lick, but by
bending the string rather than playing a slide we can hold the note
for a quarter note value and completely change the phrasing of the
lick.

Other lick ideas can revolve around the idea of playing against open
strings.

"Phantom" Hammer-on (G chord)
    e+e e e q e e   e+e e e q e e
D----h--0-----0---|-----0-----0----|
B---0^--0-----0---|-----0-----0----|
G-----2-0---0-0---|--h--0---0-0----|
D-----------------|-0h2------------|
G---------0-----0-|-------0-----0--|

The trick here is to play the second string and while the string is
still ringing hammer on the third string at the second fret.

Here's another easy one:

G Tag (G chord)

D-5^0-0---2^0-0---|---------0----|
B-----0-------0---|-1^0^----0----|
G-----0-------0---|-----2-0-0----|
D-----------------|--------------|
G-------0-------0-|-----------0--|
                              
This is one of those really flexible licks. I do something different
with it every time I use it, but this will at least give you something
to work with. Try sliding into the first note.


C Chord Run (C chord)


D-----2-----2---|-----2-----2----|
B-----1-----1---|-----1-----1----|
G-----0---0-0---|-2^0-0-----0----|
D-2^3-----------|---------2-2----|
G-------0-----0-|-------0-----0--|

The only thing that might trip you up with this one is using your
pinky. We don't use our little fingers much and as a result they tend
to be kind of weak. Make this lick part of your daily practice routine
for a while and build up your hand strength a bit.

Licks are a lot of fun to mess around with- but you don't want to rely
on anybody else to come up with them for you. Part of finding your own
voice on the banjo is going to revolve around just messing chords and
playing with sounds.

A good way to get started on this is to take a basic song you already
know and start experimenting with ways to spice things up.

Let's take a look at Boil Them Cabbage Down in G and C with a basic
frailing stroke.

Boil Them cabbage Down in C:

D---2-2---2-2---|-3-3---3-3---|-2-2---2-2---|-0-0---0-0---|-|
B-----1-----1---|---1-----1---|---1-----1---|---0-----0---|-|
G-----0-----0---|---2-----2---|---0-----0---|---0-----0---|-|
D-----2-----2---|---3-----3---|---2-----2---|---0-----0---|-|
G-------0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-|
                                                            

D---2-2---2-2---|-3-3---3-3---|-2-2---0-0---|---2-----2---|-|
B-----1-----1---|---1-----1---|---1-----0---|-1-1---1-1---|-|
G-----0-----0---|---2-----2---|---0-----0---|---0-----0---|-|
D-----2-----2---|---3-----3---|---2-----0---|---2-----2---|-|
G-------0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-|
                                                            

Boil Them cabbage Down in G:


D-----0-----0---|---2-----2---|---0-----0---|---0-----0---|
B---0-0---0-0---|-1-1---1-1---|-0-0---0-0---|---1-----1---|
G-----0-----0---|---0-----0---|---0-----0---|-2-2---2-2---|
D-----0-----0---|---2-----2---|---0-----0---|---0-----0---|
G-------0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-----0-----0-|
                                                         

D-----0-----0---|---2-----2---|---0-----0---|---0-----0---|-|
B---0-0---0-0---|-1-1---1-1---|-0-0-----1---|-0-0---0-0---|-|
G-----0-----0---|---0-----0---|---0---2-2---|---0-----0---|-|
D-----0-----0---|---2-----2---|---0-----0---|---0-----0---|-|
G-------0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-|



There are a lot of things you can do to change the way the song is
presented without losing the songs identity.

For example, we could play Boil Them Cabbage Down in C, but instead of
just using the fist string for the "bump" we could try the second
string. We could even take things further and add in a hammer-on.

Here is the first few measures of Boil Them Cabbage Down in C trying
that idea:

Boil Them Cabbage Down In C

D-----2-------2---|---3-------3---|---2-------2---|-0-0-------0---|
B---1-1---0^1-1---|-1-1---0^1-1---|-1-1---0^1-1---|---0---1^0-0---|
G-----0-------0---|---2-------2---|---0-------0---|---0-------0---|
D-----2-------2---|---3-------3---|---2-------2---|---0-------0---|
G-------0-------0-|-----0-------0-|-----0-------0-|-----0-------0-|
                                                                  

If the second string works why not try the fourth string?

Boil Them Cabbage Down In C

D-----2-------2---|---3-------3---|---2-------2---|---0-------0---|
B-----1-------1---|---1-------1---|---1-------1---|---0-------0---|
G-----0-------0---|---2-------2---|---0-------0---|---0-------0---|
D---2-2---0^2-2---|-3-3---0h3-3---|-2-2---0^2-2---|-0-0---2^0-0---|
G-------0-------0-|-----0-------0-|-----0-------0-|-----0-------0-|
                                                                  


If just adding a hammer-on works, why not try adding a lick? The "FMB
Lick" might sound interesting.


Boil Them Cabbage Down in G with the "FMB Lick"

D-------0-------0---|---2-----2---|-----0-------0---|---4-----4---|
B---2h3-3---2h3-3---|-1-1-----1---|-2h3-3---2h3-3---|---3-----3---|
G-------0-------0---|---0---0-0---|-----0-------0---|-2-2-----2---|
D-------------------|---2-----2---|-----------------|---0---0-0---|
G---------0-------0-|-----0-----0-|-------0-------0-|-----0-----0-|
                                                                  
(Note that I'm using the D chord here instead of the D7. If the D
chord
gives you any trouble feel free to use the D7 instead)


Or we could try the third string slide.

Boil Them Cabbage Down in G with the third string slide

D-------0-------0---|---2-------2---|-----0-------0---|---4-----4---|
B-------0-------0---|-1-1-------1---|-----0-------0---|---3-----3---|
G---2^4-0---2^0-0---|---0---2^0-0---|-2^4-0---2^0-0---|-2-2-----2---|
D-------4-----------|---2-------2---|-----4-----------|---0---0-0---|
G---------0-------0-|-----0-------0-|-------0-------0-|-----0-----0-|
                                                                     

Or we could put the two licks together . . .

Boil Them Cabbage Down in G with two licks

D-------0-------0---|---2-------2---|-----0-------0---|---4-----4---|
B-------0-------0---|-1-1-------1---|-2h3-3---2h3-3---|---3-----3---|
G---2^4-0---2^0-0---|---0---2^0-0---|-----0-------0---|-2-2-----2---|
D-------4-----------|---2-------2---|-----------------|---0---0-0---|
G---------0-------0-|-----0-------0-|-------0-------0-|-----0-----0-|
                                                                     
The really amazing thing here is that in spite of everything we're
doing the song is still coming across as Boil Them Cabbage Down. In
other words, you can do an awful lot to a song without losing the
melody.

You also want to be aware that less usually is more. Don't start going
ape with this stuff. Use these ideas for seasonings rather than the
main course.

Spend some time playing some simple folk songs and start messing with
things to see how you can spice you your back up playing. It'll do
wonders for your lead playing later on.

When it comes to playing up the neck the only trick is that in order
to understand where to find stuff you need to understand the
relationship between chord forms and scales,

In this example we are playing around with the fact that your D chord
moved down to the ninth fret becomes a G chord and that you can blend
the "high" G with the "open" G:

D-------0---7^0-0---|-5-5-----5---|
B---7^8-8-------8---|---5---5-5---|
G-------0-------0---|---5-----5---|
D-------------------|-------------|
G---------0-------0-|-----0-----5-|
                                 
If you don't want to use the C at the fifth fret you can always jump
all
the way back up to your basic C chord. In the next example we are
playing the whole chord as a hammer-on to make it interesting, and to
give us a moment of breathing room to make that long run down the
fretboard:

D-------0---7^0-0---|-0^2-2---2p0-0---|
B---7^8-8-------8---|---1-1-------1---|
G-------0-------0---|---0-0-------0---|
D-------------------|--^2-2-------2---|
G---------0-------0-|-------0-------0-|


One thing I would suggest when it comes to picking up new ideas for
your backup playing is to listen to, and hang out with, as may guitar
players as you can find. Guitar players as diverse as Riley Pluckett
and Robert Johnson hade a lot of cool ideas that can be reshaped to
fit into the frailing banjo framework. Listen to Jhonny Cash and Hank
Williams. Lonnie Johnson and Mississippi John Hurt. Then listen to
some mandolin players like Bill Monroe. Good backup is everywhere
because it adds so much to the music without overwhelming anything.

And don't forget to sing. Banjo solos get boring.


Before I toddle off let's look at happens to Banks of the Ohio when
you stick in a few simple licks:

Banks of the Ohio in G


   G                                     D7
D-------|------0-------0---|---0---------|-----0-------0---|
B-------|*--s--0---0h--0---|---0---------|-----1-------1---|
G---0-2-|*-2^4-4-----2-0---|-0-0-------0-|-0h2-2-------2---|
D-------|------0-----------|---0---4p0---|-----0---0h4-0---|
G-------|--------0-------0-|-----0-------|-------0-------0-|
   
    D7                                    G
D-----0-------|-----0-----0---|---0---0---|---0-------0---|
B-----1-----0-|-0h1-1-----1---|---1-----1-|-0-0-------0---|
G---2-2---2---|-----2---2-2---|---2-------|---0-------0---|
D-----0-------|-----0-----0---|-0-0-------|---0---0h2-----|
G-------0-----|-------0-----0-|-----0-----|-----0-------0-|

   G                                     C
D-----0---0-2-|-0-0-------0---|---0-------|---2-----2---|
B-----0-------|---0---0h--0---|---0-----0-|-1-1-----1---|
G---0-0-------|---0-----2-0---|-0-0---2---|---0---0-0---|
D-----0-------|---0-------0---|---0-------|---2-----2---|
G-------0-----|-----0-------0-|-----0-----|-----0-----0-|


   C          G            D7          G
D-----2---0---|---0---------|---0-------|---0-------0---|
B-----1-----1-|-0-0-------0-|---1---0---|---0-------0---|
G-----0-------|---0---0h2---|-2-2-----2-|-0-0-------0---|
D---2-2-------|---0---------|---0-------|---0---0h2-----|
G-------0-----|-----0-------|-----0-----|-----0-------0-|

   G
D-----0--------|-|
B-----0-------*|-|
G---0-0---0-2-*|-|
D-----0--------|-|
G-------0------|-|



A few more things to mess around with with:

Half thumb:

      e+e e e e+e e e   e e+q q e e
D---------0-------0---|-0-------0---|
B---------1-------1---|---1^----1---|
G---------0---0^3-3---|-----3-0-0---|
D-----0^3-3-----------|-------------|
G-----------0-------0-|-----------0-|
                           
This one is laid out in a quasi-modal setting with your index finger
fretting the second string at the first fret. You can play it out of G
modal tuning just as easily, but I have yet to find a real reason to
retune for this sort of thing.

The "lick" is in the second measure. It starts out like a drop-thumb.
You play the first string with your middle fingernail and drop your
thumb down to play the second string- the change comes when you play a
phantom hammer-on on the third string at the third fret. As indicated
above the lick the phantom hammer-on is given a quarter note value.

This is most commonly used in modal-ish settings but once you
understand the idea behind the lick it's easy to drop into other
places.

This major key version of House Of The Rising Sun uses drop thumb,
double thumb and half thumb licks in 3/4 time. It's kind of freaky if
you are used to the arpeggio-based minor-key version the Animals
played in 4/4 time, but it's kind of banjo-bluesy in a cool sort of
way. It's also an easy way to mess around with licks in 3/4 time.

House Of The Rising Sun
3/4 Time Key of G
(I picked this one up from Paul Schoenwetter ages ago and I'm not sure
where he learned it)
      G                              C          C7
      e+e    q e e e e   q e e e+e   q e e e e   q e e e e
D----------|----0---0---|-0-0---2p0-|---2-------|---2---0---|
B---3:-0h--|*---0---0---|---0-------|-1-1---0---|---1-------|
G---4:---2-|*-0-0---0---|---0-------|---0-------|-3-3-------|
D----------|------------|-----------|-----------|-----------|
G----------|------0---0-|-----0-----|-----0---0-|-----0---0-|

    G            G7          G
    q e e e e   e+e e e e e   q e e e e   q e e e e
D---5-5---0---|-2^3-3---0---|-0-0---0---|-0-0---0---|
B-----0-------|-----0-----0-|---0---0---|---0---0---|
G-----0-------|-----0-------|---0---0---|---0---0---|
D-------------|-------------|-----------|-----------|
G-------0---0-|-------0-----|-----0---0-|-----0---0-|

    G            G7          C          C7
    q e e e e   e+e e e e e   q e e e e   q e e e e
D---5-5---0---|-2^3-3---0---|---2-------|---2-------|
B-----0-------|-----0-----0-|-1-1-------|---1---1---|
G-----0-------|-----0-------|---0---0---|-3-3-------|
D-------------|-------------|-----------|-----------|
G-------0---0-|-------0-----|-----0---0-|-----0---0-|

    G          D7          G
    q e e e e   q e e e+e   q e e e e   q e e e+e      
D-----0-------|---0-------|---0---0---|---0----------|-|
B-----0---0---|---1---0h--|---0---0---|---0---0h----*|-|
G---0-0-------|-2-2-----2-|-0-0---0---|-0-0-----2---*|-|
D-------------|-----------|-----------|--------------|-|
G-------0---0-|-----0-----|-----0---0-|-----0--------|-|



Back to 4/4 . . .


Tickle Lick:
                                 
    e+e e e e+e e e   e+e+q q e e
D---5^0-0---2^0-0---|--p------0---|
B-------0-------0---|-1^0^h---0---|
G-------0-------0---|-----2-0-0---|
D-------------------|-------------|
G---------0-------0-|-----------0-|

The lick is in the second measure. It's just pull-off mixed with a
phantom hammer-on.



More picking patterns:

These are a lot like the ones covered earlier. I just added some more to
get you all thinking about the possible variations you can squeeze out
of these ideas. You can use these in all sorts of ways. They work as
repeating patterns or as stand alone licks.

G patterns:
                                 
    e+e e e q e e   e+e e e q e e
D-------0-----0---|-----0-----0---|
B-------0-----0---|-----0-----0---|
G-------0---0-0---|-----0---0-0---|
D---0h2-----------|-0h2-----------|
G---------0-----0-|-------0-----0-|

                                 
    e+e e e q e e   e+e e e q e e
D-------0-----0---|-----0-----0---|
B-------0-----0---|-----0-----0---|
G-------0---0-0---|-0h--0-----0---|
D---0h2-----------|---2-----0-----|
G---------0-----0-|-------0-----0-|


                                    
    e+e e e q e e   e+e e e q e e
D--------0-----0---|-----0-----0---|
B----0h--0-----0---|-----0-----0---|
G------2-0---0-0---|-----0---0-0---|
D------------------|-0h2-----------|
G----------0-----0-|-------0-----0-|


                                    
    e+e e e e+e e e   e+e e e q e e
D-------0-------0---|-----0-----0---|
B---0h--0---0h--0---|-0h--0-----0---|
G-----2-0-----2-0---|---2-0---0-0---|
D-------------------|---------------|
G---------0-------0-|-------0-----0-|


                                    
    e+e e e e+e e e   q e e e+e e e
D--------0-------0---|---0-------0---|
B--------0-------0---|---0-------0---|
G--------0-------0---|-0-0-------0---|
D----2^5-----2p0-----|-------2p0-----|
G----------0-------0-|-----0-------0-|


    e+e e e q e e    e+e e e q e e
D----0h--0-----0---|------0-----0---|
B--------0-----0---|------0-----0---|
G------2-0---0-0---|------0---0-0---|
D------------------|--0h2-----------|
G----------0-----0-|--------0-----0-|



C Patterns:

                                 
    e+e e e q e e   e+e e e q e e
D-------2-----2---|-----2-----2---|
B-------1-----1---|-----1-----1---|
G-------0---0-0---|-----0---0-0---|
D---0h2-2-----2---|-0h2-2-----2---|
G---------0-----0-|-------0-----0-|

                                 
    e+e e e q e e   e+e e e q e e
D-------2-----2---|-----2-----2---|
B-------1-----1---|-----1-----1---|
G-------0---0-0---|-----0---0-0---|
D---2p0-2-----2---|-2p0-2-----2---|
G---------0-----0-|-------0-----0-|


    e+e e e e+e e e   e+e e e e+e e e
D-------2-------2---|-----2-------2---|
B-------1-------1---|-----1-------1---|
G---0h2-2---0h--0---|-0h2-2---0h--0---|
D-------------2-2---|-----------2-2---|
G---------0-------0-|-------0-------0-|


    e+e e e e+e e e   e+e e e e+e e e
D-------2-------2---|-----2-------2---|
B-------1-------1---|-----1-------1---|
G-------0---2p0-0---|-----0---2p0-0---|
D---0h2-2-------2---|-0h2-2-------2---|
G---------0-------0-|-------0-------0-|


    e+e e e e+e e e   e+e e e e+e e e
D-------2-------2---|-----2-------2---|
B---0h1-1-------1---|-0h1-1-------1---|
G-------0---2p0-0---|-----0---2p0-0---|
D-------2-------2---|-----2-------2---|
G---------0-------0-|-------0-------0-|

                                 
    e+e e e e+e e e   e e e e e e
D---2p0-0-------0---|---2-----2---|
B-------1---1p0-0---|-1-1---1-1---|
G-------0-------0---|---0-----0---|
D-------2-------2---|---2-----2---|
G---------0-------0-|-----0-----0-|


You're probably getting the idea now. Here's D7:

                                 
    e+e e e q e e   e+e e e q e e
D-------0-----0---|-----0-----0---|
B-------1-----1---|-----1-----1---|
G---0h2-2-----2---|-0h2-2-----2---|
D-----------0-----|---------0-----|
G---------0-----0-|-------0-----0-|


    e e e e+e e e   e e e q e e
D-----0-------0---|---0-----0---|
B-----1-------1---|---1-----1---|
G---2-2-------2---|-2-2-----2---|
D---------0h4-----|-------0-----|
G-------0-------0-|-----0-----0-|


    e+e e e e e e   e+e e e e e e
D-------0-----0---|-----0-----0---|
B---1p0-1-----1---|-1p0-1-----1---|
G-------2---2-2---|-----2---2-2---|
D-----------------|---------------|
G---------0-----0-|-------0-----0-|



And D:


                                 
    e+e e e q e e   e+e e e q e e
D-------0-----4---|-----0-----4---|
B-------3-----3---|-----3-----3---|
G-------2---2-2---|-----2---2-2---|
D---0h4-4-----0---|-0h4-4-----0---|
G---------0-----0-|-------0-----0-|


Here's another simple tune to mess around with. It's an old Charlie
Poole song. The first tab is just a basic bump dit-ty pattern and the
second tab used some simple licks to draw out the melody line.

Gypsy Girl- basic
4/4 time key of G

    G                           D7                   G
D-----0-----0---|---0-----0---|---0-------------0---|---0-----0---|
B-----0-----0---|---0-----0---|---1-------------1---|---0-----0---|
G---0-0-----0---|-0-0-----0---|-2-2-------------2---|-0-0-----0---|
D-----0---0-0---|---0---0-0---|---0-----------0-0---|---0---0-0---|
G-------0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-----0-------------0-|-----0-----0-|
once I was a gypsy girl but now I'm a rich man's bride    with

   G                            D7                   G
D-----0-----0---|---0-----0---|---0-------------0---|---0-----0---|
B-----0-----0---|---0-----0---|---1-------------1---|---0-----0---|
G---0-0-----0---|-0-0-----0---|-2-2-------------2---|-0-0-----0---|
D-----0---0-0---|---0---0-0---|---0-----------0-0---|---0---0-0---|
G-------0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-----0-------------0-|-----0-----0-|
servants to    wait on me   while in my carriage ride   while   

    G                           C             G
    q e e e e e   q e e e e e   e e e e e e   q e e q e e
D-----0-----0---|---0-----0---|---2-----2---|-0-0-----0---|
B-----0-----0---|---0-----0---|---1-----1---|---0---0-0---|
G---0-0-----0---|-0-0-----0---|-0-0-----0---|---0-----0---|
D-----0---0-0---|---0---0-0---|---2---2-2---|---0-----0---|
G-------0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-----0-----0-|
in my carriage   ride while in my carriage ride with

   G                            D7                   G
D-----0-----0---|---0-----0---|---0-------------0---|---0-----0---|
B-----0-----0---|---0-----0---|---1-------------1---|---0-----0---|
G---0-0-----0---|-0-0-----0---|-2-2-------------2---|-0-0-----0---|
D-----0---0-0---|---0---0-0---|---0-----------0-0---|---0---0-0---|
G-------0-----0-|-----0-----0-|-----0-------------0-|-----0-----0-|
   servants to    wait on me   while in my carriage ride


Once I was a gypsy girl but now I'm a rich man's bride
With servants to wait on me while in my carriage ride
While in my carriage ride, while in my carriage ride
With servants to wait on me while in my carriage ride

As I went a strolling one day down London's streets
A handsome young squire was the first I chanced to meet
He kissed my pretty brown cheeks that no he loves so well
And said my little gypsy girl will you my fortune tell?
*Will you my fortune tell, will you my fortune tell?
He said my little gypsy girl will you my fortune tell?

Oh yes sir, kind sir, please hold to me your hand
You have many fine mansions in many foreign lands
And all those fine young ladies, you can cast them all aside
I am the gypsy girl who is to be your bride.
*Who is to be your bride, who is to be your bride
I am the gypsy girl who is to be your bride.

Once I was a gypsy girl but now I'm a rich man's bride
With servants to wait on me while in my carriage ride.
While in my carriage ride, while in my carriage ride
With servants to wait on me while in my carriage ride.



Gypsy Girl- simple melody
4/4 time key of G


    G                           D7                G
    q e e q e e   q e e q e e   q q q q   q e e q e e
D---0-0-----0---|-0-0-----0---|------------|---0-----0---|
B-----0---0-0---|---0---0-0---|-1----------|---0-----0---|
G-----0-----0---|---0-----0---|----2-----2-|-0-0-----0---|
D---------------|-------------|-------4----|-------0-----|
G-------0-----0-|-----0-----0-|------------|-----0-----0-|

    G                         D7            G
    q e e q e e   q e e q e e   q q q q   q e e q e e
D---0-0-----0---|-0-0-----0---|------------|---0-----0---|
B-----0---0-0---|---0---0-0---|-1----------|---0-----0---|
G-----0-----0---|---0-----0---|----2-----2-|-0-0-----0---|
D---------------|-------------|-------4----|-------0-----|
G-------0-----0-|-----0-----0-|------------|-----0-----0-|

    G                           C          G
    q e e q q   q e e e+e e e   q e e q q   q e e q e e
D-----0-----0-|-5-5---5p0-0---|-2-2---2---|-0-0-----0---|
B-----0---0---|---0-------0---|---1-------|---0---0-0---|
G---0-0-------|---0-------0---|---0-------|---0-----0---|
D-------------|---------------|-----------|-------------|
G-------0-----|-----0-------0-|-----0---0-|-----0-----0-|

    G                         D7          G
    q e e q e e   q e e q e e   q q q q   q e e q e e   
D---5-5---0-0---|-0-0-----0---|------------|---0-----0----|-|
B-----0-----0---|---0---0-0---|-1----------|---0-----0---*|-|
G-----0-----0---|---0-----0---|----2-----2-|-0-0-----0---*|-|
D---------------|-------------|-------4----|-------0------|-|
G-------0-----0-|-----0-----0-|------------|-----0-----0--|-|

-Patrick


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 19 Oct 05 - 10:35 AM

Danny,

I'd enjoy talking with you some time. But these days I'm not able to pick much any more. The effects of MS have made fine motor control a thing of the past. Such is life. Still a glorious panorama---with great music to find out about and listen to.

All the best,

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Oct 05 - 07:58 AM

refresh


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: DannyC
Date: 20 Oct 05 - 01:02 PM

Art Thieme,

I get up to Champaign-Urbana often enough. I will PM you when we're bound that way.

All the best,

Danny


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Subject: RE: 5 string banjo accompaniment
From: Felipa
Date: 31 Jul 17 - 09:50 AM

Charlie Noble writes (way) above "I play most Appalacian ballads on the 5-string banjo with a 3-finger style"

Most of the singers I would listen to sing and play banjo frail or play clawhammer style, but I am more comfortable picking than strumming. So although bluegrass isnt my forte, I am learning 3-finger style banjo. I think it would be useful for me to listen to (and if possible watch)singers accompanying themselves with the three finger style. Who would you suggest I listen to/watch?

Someone mentioned Hedy West uses both types of accompaniament. I learned a couple of songs off her recordings about a half century ago and I wasnt aware of what sort of banjo she played -- I dont have the lp now. There are recordings of Hedy West on youtube; can anyone suggest particular songs played in something like the style I'm learning? (I'm only starting to learn banjo.)


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Felipa
Date: 31 Jul 17 - 09:57 AM

I think the style Hedy West plays here Little Sadie
is called "Drop Thumb" technique (?)


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: gillymor
Date: 31 Jul 17 - 10:42 AM

I would call what Ms. West was doing there, in that excellent rendition of Little Sadie, clawhammer (some would call it frailing or a number of other things) but I didn't see her dropping her thumb to get notes other than on the 5th string. It looks like those fast runs were done with left hand hammer-ons and pull-offs which is similar to the way Doc Watson, and many others approached old time banjo playing. If that is the style you're interested in there is plenty of instructional material out there. David Holt's Clawhammer series with Homespun and Ken Perlman's Book and CD are worth checking out. Also, the Mike Seeger Southern Banjo styles mentioned above is an excellent overview and tutorial of various old time banjo styles and very entertaining as well. When I was starting out I got a lot of stuff from this site which is dedicated to 2 finger thumb lead and has a number of PDF's and Mp3's of old time tunes in various tunings. I don't play that style much (moved on to clawhammer with some drop-thumbing) but I still get tunes off there and jigger them around to what I do. You will also find a lot of info and tabs at Banjo Hangout and some very helpful banjo entusiasts there.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: gillymor
Date: 31 Jul 17 - 11:09 AM

Here is a brief tutorial on Little Sadie by Hilarie Burhans that should give you some idea of what drop thumb is. Note that at one point she comments that it's good to start working on drop thumb right away (assuming that's something you want to pursue). I think that's good advice because I had the bum ditty move so deeply ingrained it became difficult to break free and start incorporating drop thumb licks.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 31 Jul 17 - 11:21 AM

can i just say a word for the late John Dunkerley of the the Ian Campbell Group. I loved his accompaniments to Ian's singing particularly The unquiet Grave.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Newport Boy
Date: 31 Jul 17 - 11:58 AM

And I'll add another one. His understated banjo accompaniment to Lorna's singing of 'The Sun is Burning'.

Phil


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Jul 17 - 12:35 PM

in m humble opinion it is a good idea to learn drop thumbing, and frailing, AND FOUR FINGER PICKING right from outset.
by four finger picking i mean, an adaption of a guitar style, thunb covers 5 and 4 strings down, index covers 3 string, middle covers 2 string, ring covers 1 string, this gives a flowing mix of up and down picking, if you learn all three styles from outset, you will be comfortable, altering style during a song, if you want to


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Acorn4
Date: 01 Aug 17 - 03:33 AM

The difference between clawhammer and frailing always baffled me a bit.

Apparently clawhammer uses more single notes whereas frailing puts in more chords.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: banjoman
Date: 01 Aug 17 - 05:59 AM

I have played banjo now for over 60 years and still dont understand all these terms like clawhammer, drop thumb etc. I just play using as many fingers as necessary.
I frequently play to accompany songs such as Matty Groves, Pastures of plenty, as well as instrumentals (solo)to name but a few.I also feel that the banjo is a much maligned instrument which has such a wide range of sounds and styles.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Aug 17 - 06:38 AM

frailing uses[ genarally] a lot of hamering and pushing off and regular bump ditty, clawhammer uses very little bump ditty, but fills in harmony notes with drop thumbing or double thumbin.
imo frailing gives either a 2/4 sound or rhytmic 3/4, frailing by its nature of using hammer and push off to get two notes is more efeective close to the nut in first position.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: gillymor
Date: 01 Aug 17 - 08:32 AM

Here is Donald Zepp, former music shop owner, teacher and master banjoist on the terms "clawhammer" and "frailing":

"So what is the difference between "frailing" and "clawhammer?" Depending on your point of view, there either is none, or "clawhammer" describes a "double-thumb" technique while "frailing" precludes it unless otherwise noted. What is clear is that if one uses any of these terms in a restrictive sense, he should make that clear, for there are others who will interpret the term in its broadest sense."

Complete article here.

For my part, I think of any playing style where you form your hand in a claw and appear to be beating on your instrument with an invisible hammer to be "clawhammer". That should keep me out of trouble.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Felipa
Date: 01 Aug 17 - 03:01 PM

Sandman, yes I do sometimes use four fingers as in guitar playing. But with just five strings and using the thumb on the third string from the bottom as well as on the two strings above that, the middle and index finger are enough really. The greater use of the thumb also gives a different sort of sound. This style is used mainly for bluegrass, but I've always been more comfortable picking rather than strumming. And what little instruction I've had on banjo has been at bluegrass weekends.

So I'm still looking for suggestions of recordings I could listen to, and maybe watch, of people using the t3 finger style (thumb, index and middle string) to accompany old-timey songs, ballads, "folk songs" - accompaniament in those genres rather than instrumentals or bluegrass.

Re learning a few styles at once, there are so many picking patterns to practice just in the three-finger style, that doing much more than that at the beginning would be overload!


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: gillymor
Date: 02 Aug 17 - 07:31 AM

Jason Romero, maker of fine banjos, has a lovely 3 finger style in addition to other styles.

Wild Bill Jones

Dock Boggs had an interesting approach.

Country Blues


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: gillymor
Date: 02 Aug 17 - 08:12 AM

Uncle Dave Macon played in a number of styles including fingerstyle and left behind a massive amount of old time classics.

Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: gillymor
Date: 02 Aug 17 - 09:25 AM

John Hartford

Gum Tree Canoe


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Aug 17 - 10:58 AM

whadya mean, JUST a banjo!!!!


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Subject: RE: Singing with a banjo
From: GUEST,Felipa
Date: 02 Aug 17 - 07:39 PM

thanks for the links, Gillymor

anon guest, yes it is an odd thread title though appropriate to the first message. After all, lots of us also sing without any instrument let along with a single instrument accompaniment


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: GUEST,Ebor Fiddler
Date: 03 Aug 17 - 06:26 PM

How interesting that this thread is (3/8/17) right next to one on Hobart Smith,God bless him!


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