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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Ralph Stanley style Banjo pickin!


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Froglips - Posted - 04/07/2008:  01:53:14


I just purchased a 3 CD Stanley Bros. box set, and after listening to every single tune on these CD's over the weekend, I have come to the conlcusion that he has his own style of pickin the Banjo within the Scruggs style.

I do not know enough about this genre of music to know any better, but I can already tell that while I like Ralph's singing, I can only take his Banjo playing in small doses. This is due to that tag lick he just has to throw into every song he plays for some reason.

Please do not get me wrong here, Folks! That tag lick of his is actually really cool sounding and all. It is just way over used, and over done.

Other than that, Ralph, can sure pick that Banjo pretty freakin fast!

Frog...

It's not how you pick your nose... It's where you put the Booger!

phischer - Posted - 04/07/2008:  03:26:40


Old Ralph has always been my favorite. I think it is the tone and attack that comes out of his right hand. While not as refined as some he is his own thing. Sometimes I wonder if his playing is really Scruggs. For the simple reason that guys like Snuffy Smith were picking 3 finger before Earl. But regardless it is a 3 finger style.

But I guess each to their own. I like everything about the Stanley Brothers. That is the high lonesome sound for sure. No one else sounds like that.

Fischer

pastorharry - Posted - 04/07/2008:  03:46:38


I love the syncopation of his rolls. His version of "Little Maggie" is the best. Also the bluegrass Gospel Harmonies of the Stanleys and the CMB's are wonderful.Besides all that he does some mean frailing on that archtop. God bless Dr. Ralph!!!

Isaiah 38:20

flake - Posted - 04/07/2008:  08:14:57


Froggy-----Dr. Ralph's style----and this is a bit of over-simplification----tends to be heavy on the index finger for emphasis of notes, whereas Earl usually emphasized notes mostly with his thumb. With Ralph, it's usually "get real close to the bridge, let fly with a forward roll and hang on!"


mike

Some people are like Slinkys. They're not really good for anything, but bring a smile to your face when pushed down the stairs.

Deaf David - Posted - 04/07/2008:  10:01:29


I just acquired Steve Sparkman's tribute CD to the Ralph Stanley style of banjo. It's all instrumental and is a wonderful place to get a feel for the style. Ralph's band accompany's Sparkman, and Ralph plays back up banjo on a couple of the cuts.

The Starday recordings--Stanley Brothers instrumentals--is one of my alltime favorite banjo CDs. I REALLY like Earl's playing, but in a way Ralph Stanley's early banjo picking just feels more authentic to me. Ralph is most famous today for his unique singing, but I think he was a much better picker than he is a singer.


________________________________________________
Don't nobody like my pickin' but me; and that's good enough.
________________________________________________

Bruce Weeks - Posted - 04/07/2008:  15:17:16


Ralph's older stuff had just as much drive as Earl or anyone else in their time. Stanley style rocks!!!!!!!!!! Listen to the old Columbia and Mercury recording with Carter, Ralph was a much better picker in his prime. Bruce

www.bruceweeks.org How many cajuns does it take to make a good gumbo? Two one to stir the gumbo and the other to play the squeezebox. www.bruceweeksfamilyband.com

Henway - Posted - 04/07/2008:  15:59:52


Here's one of my favorite Joe Pesci , 'er , I mean Ralph Stanley clips .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJqULQpGTQ0

Bill Rogers - Posted - 04/07/2008:  17:02:11


Ralph's first recordings were in two-finger style. He then moved to three-finger, but was never a Scruggs imitator. His playing has always retained, IMO, a more traditional-sounding edge than Earl's. It's a great style for fitting in with the vocals. Fits better with his singing, I think, than Earl's playing would.

Bill

jbjo - Posted - 04/07/2008:  17:43:13


quote:
Originally posted by flake

With Ralph, it's usually "get real close to the bridge, let fly with a forward roll and hang on!"


mike

Some people are like Slinkys. They're not really good for anything, but bring a smile to your face when pushed down the stairs.



That's just about right!!!!!

James
Gibson Archtop
"Wipe 'Yo Feets"

wjtank - Posted - 04/07/2008:  19:52:17


"Midnight Ramble" has always been one of my favorite Ralph tunes. It has some great licks and I like the feel of it.

Bill T.

OutlawSteph - Posted - 04/07/2008:  20:51:43


Don't forget about George Shuffler on guitar either. He played bass too. George was a flatpicking pioneer and he was just plain cool.

blamethebanjo - Posted - 04/07/2008:  22:52:10


Ralph Stanley does rely heavily on the forward roll and has his own way of playing for sure.I like the fact that he doesn't try to imitate Earl. Listen to Ralph and Don Reno and you get an idea that there is more than one way to play I think, as if you all didn't already know that I love Earl but like to hear others express their style too. Little Maggie is a dang great song the way Ralph plays it.

Banjo Mountain - Posted - 04/07/2008:  22:59:35


Note: I am a split-Scruggs-Stanley banjo minded person. People like me are really rare(it seems). You don't seem to find many banjo players who like both equally, but I will say I am a huge fan of Ralph's banjo pickin' style.

Ralph's style is very hard-driving, mainly due to the use of his amazing '27 Gibson archtop. You almost could say it's not Scruggs style, because it is almost a style of its own. The only thing it shares with Scruggs style is the common hammer-ons, pull-off, etc but with different emphasis. Also, Ralph has always had a great ability to play clawhammer, even though he seemed to never display it until the recent years.

Clinch Mountain Backstep is one of my most favorite songs, I play it about every time I take my banjo out.

Rich Weill - Posted - 04/08/2008:  10:43:38


quote:
Originally posted by flake

With Ralph, it's usually "get real close to the bridge, let fly with a forward roll and hang on!"


For my taste, it's a bit too "close to the bridge." Too harsh.

silvioferretti - Posted - 04/08/2008:  16:36:05


Well, matter of fact it's no closer to the bridge than most other pickers, including Earl. Ralph's touch is so snappy that one is led to think that he's picking right on the bridge, but in fact he's not. Ralph clearly demonstrated this when he played a flathead and made it sound like an archtop. Course in these cases he did play a lot closer to the bridge... And if you listen to certain recordings (I'm thinking of the Skaggs & Whitley album that they did when they were Clinch Mt. Boys) you can hear that Ralph's tone is rich, almost full and round to be coming from an archtop, meaning he varied his touch to adapt it to the different situation.

I think I heard Steve Sparkman say this during a workshop he did at Bean Blossom, a few years ago. It's mostly in other factors than just picking close to the bridge. BTW, J.D. was also one who could have so snappy a touch as to make his banjo sound almost as sharp as an archtop. Those 1st and 2nd generation Bluegrass pickers just needed that ability to help the banjo cut through a 4 or 5 piece on a single mic.

Silvio Ferretti http://www.scorpionmusic.com

Check out a new Scorpion banjo at http://www.elderly.com/new_instrume...s/SCORP7.htm

stanleytone - Posted - 04/15/2008:  12:34:38


[quote]Originally posted by phischer

Old Ralph has always been my favorite. I think it is the tone and attack that comes out of his right hand. While not as refined as some he is his own thing. Sometimes I wonder if his playing is really Scruggs. For the simple reason that guys like Snuffy Smith were picking 3 finger before Earl. But regardless it is a 3 finger style.

But I guess each to their own. I like everything about the Stanley Brothers. That is the high lonesome sound for sure. No one else sounds like that.

Fischer


i have always thought that Earl picks with finesse,and Ralph picks with soul.
-gary

Yung-Picka - Posted - 04/15/2008:  13:03:02


There's 3 finger style, not Scruggs style really ;). But there is a Scruggs and Stanley. You normally won't hear Stanley play a standard Scruggs lick on an album, or vice versa. But they do. I play Stanley style only, and alot of jams don't play Stanley stuff around here, mostly Scruggs. I play them, but I still hear them Stanley overtones in it. Give Scruggs Stanley's 27' archtop and have him play close to bridge, you'd still know it was Scruggs.

jbjo - Posted - 04/15/2008:  13:51:41


quote:
Originally posted by Yung-Picka

There's 3 finger style, not Scruggs style really ;). But there is a Scruggs and Stanley. You normally won't hear Stanley play a standard Scruggs lick on an album, or vice versa. But they do. I play Stanley style only, and alot of jams don't play Stanley stuff around here, mostly Scruggs. I play them, but I still hear them Stanley overtones in it. Give Scruggs Stanley's 27' archtop and have him play close to bridge, you'd still know it was Scruggs.





couldn't agree more!!

James
Gibson Archtop
"Wipe 'Yo Feets"

banjotroy23 - Posted - 04/15/2008:  14:52:18


Nice thread! Its been a while since I checked things out. As far as Im concerned, Ralphs "style" can be best understood if you are from this part of the Country (SW Virginia) where Ralph is from. You can go up on the hill where his festival is and listen to his banjo ring and it just "fits" with the surroundings. His syle is just as pure as these mountains where we are from, nothing like Ralphs pickin.!!!

Troy A

farley - Posted - 04/15/2008:  15:56:45


Nothing like Ralph's pickin', huh??? Does the term fingernails on chalk board sound familiar? I keep hearing you fellas talking about Stanley Style, shouldn't that be the Stanley Lack Of Style???



NOTICE

I am just kidding, Farley

jmetz - Posted - 04/15/2008:  16:54:30


Hi Folks,

Earl was my teacher, Ralph is my guide.

I am an Earl disciple, but I find Ralph's approach to playing more natural. If I'm given the nod on a song I do not know very well, I do what Ralph does, stay in the first five fretts, forward roll and reach for the melody note with my index finger. I may not be fancy, but sounds good and drives.

For what it's worth.

Take care,
Jim




phischer - Posted - 04/15/2008:  18:52:04


I was checking out a little of Sparkman's playing on Youtube. There is one where he sounds like he is hammering nails. If anyone can play like Ralph it would be that guy. Each time I hear that tone I want to play like that. Whether one considers Ralph's style fancy or not, it is not lacking in anything. I like the focus in it. I guess I like all kinds of playing but something has to be said for the raw tone that came out of his banjo.

Fischer

dmiller - Posted - 04/15/2008:  19:11:50


Ralph had a different style of picking than Earl did.
I love both styles.
Both = Bluegrass Banjo.

Banjocoltrane - Posted - 04/15/2008:  20:11:48


quote:
Originally posted by Henway

Here's one of my favorite Joe Pesci , 'er , I mean Ralph Stanley clips .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJqULQpGTQ0





Someone should tune the B string on that banjar!....its out...lol

Seriously, Ralph was one of the first banjoists i remember hearing and enjoying...Seems like i got into listening to him more than i did Earl at first....Oddly enough i didn't absorb any of his banjo stylings though.

Probably a good thing....because i can name like two people who try to play like him that sound good...i think stanley-style is the most misunderstood style or something...lots of bad stanley imitators out there.


"TAB is like Gerbers.....music can't be spoon-fed to ya forever."
http://www.jodyhughesmusic.com

Fortancient - Posted - 04/22/2008:  10:23:28


Man I love to hear his recordings and LOVE the trebbly "style" and tone.
I dont care if its a "style" "school" or what it sounds great to me.

Don Miller
Powerbawl Redbone Kennels

phischer - Posted - 04/24/2008:  03:40:19


I just found this video on Youtube, I thought it kind of shows a little of where Ralph's tone might come from. You can see his right hand up close. It surprised me how much of the blade of the pick is not touching the finger. That is a lot of metal touching metal with no meat to deaden it. I tend wear the blades real close on the finger.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJqU...ture=related

Regards,
Casey

"I got no fancy line to share, just this poor attempt at one!"


Edited by - phischer on 04/24/2008 05:02:09

Tango_grass - Posted - 04/24/2008:  09:05:38


I totally love Ralph's pickin. But lets compare FMB, to CMB. Totally different sound. Different punch, tone, timeing. He's not Earl and doesn't have to be. I'll enjoy each of these banjo giants together, in harmony.

Chris,

The VZ Valley Boys
----
The Official Tango_grass Myspace


Edited by - Tango_grass on 04/24/2008 09:07:10

stanleytone - Posted - 05/26/2008:  06:10:44


i guess we could start a whole new forum(scruggs vs stanley)and generate more tension than the clinton-obama feud! i have always been a HUGE fan of ralphs banjo style ,and learned to play banjo that way.earl is great and a legend for sure,and the foggy mountain banjo album is probably the greatest banjo album ever made,but theres just a certain cockiness (call it independence) in ralphs playing that has always hit me like a ton of bricks.to me,earl's playing is uptown,while ralph's is downtown.earl has finesse,ralph has soul.

robbif - Posted - 07/31/2008:  07:45:18


I just posted a link to my recording of Ralph's banjo workshop at the 1980 Berkshire Mtn. BG Festival.
Please see this topic...
http://www.banjohangout.org/forum/t...IC_ID=123035

Sandy Rothman - Posted - 07/31/2008:  13:02:06


quote:
Fits better with his singing, I think, than Earl's playing would.

Fortunately, at least at this point in medical history, it's anatomically impossible to find out (in person).

rtyrie - Posted - 08/01/2008:  18:06:30


A little swerve on the topic but...
At the Ryman Auditorium Thursday night, Dr Ralph spoke a few words on his playing styles. He mentioned that over his career he started with clawhammer, progressed to two finger and then three finger and at this time in his career plays clawhammer again. He did one number playing the banjo bringing a great reaction from the audience.

Ron

GF-100-HF

rscrews - Posted - 08/02/2008:  00:16:24


Think for a minute about the time period that Ralph learned to play the banjo in a three finger style. No tab, no books, no videos, no cds, no formal banjo lessons, ect. Just himself and what his mother taught him about old time clawhammer banjo playing. The only people to listen to was local musicians, hearing Earl on the Opry with Monroe, and a few others on local radio shows. He played the way that he felt fit the style of himself and Carter. 100% original. Just like Earl Scruggs and Don Reno learned there styles. Imagine how hard that must have been and the time it took for each of these men to craft their own unique style. Its is amazing to me. Rather someone likes their particual style or not, Just think about the hard work and dedication these men went though to become masters of the banjo. Its hard enough for me with all the modern info about the banjo we have now. I can't imagine how hard it must have been back then.


Edited by - rscrews on 08/07/2008 18:31:57

Deaf David - Posted - 08/02/2008:  10:08:29


quote:
Originally posted by rscrews

Think for a minute about the time period that Ralph learned to play the banjo in a three finger style. No tab, no books, no videos, no cds, no formal banjo lessons, ect. Just himself and what his mother taught him about old time clawhammer banjo playing. The only people to listen to was local musician, hearing Earl on the Opry with Monroe, and a few others on local radio shows. He played the way that he felt fit the style of himself and Carter. 100% original. Just like Earl Scruggs and Don Reno learned there styles. Imagine how hard that must have been and the time it took for each of these men to craft their own unique style. Its is amazing to me. Rather someone likes their particual style or not, Just think about the hard work and dedication these men went though to become masters of the banjo. Its hard enough for me with all the modern info about the banjo we have now. I can't imagine how hard it must have been back then.





Well said. They each pretty much had to invent their own wheel, so to speak. I've often wondered if the phrase "self taught" has any meaning any more. I have never taken a lesson from a banjo teacher, or even had the pleasure to play with another banjo player. But, I have "how to" books, CDs, DVDs and on-line tutorials in addition to this forum. If Earl, Ralph and Don Reno had had access to all this, I doubt they could have developed such unique style.

________________________________________________
Don''t nobody like my pickin'' but me; and that''s good enough.
________________________________________________

Flying Eagle - Posted - 08/08/2008:  16:38:18


Today on my way home from work I was listening to my iPod set to "shuffle songs" and a song by the Stanley Brothers came on. It was from a live album entitled "Clinch Mountain Bluegrass" that was recorded while Carter was still alive. The cut begins with Carter saying:

"Like to do a trio number next for ya here, one called "How Mountain Gals Can Love". Ralph then proceeded to kick it off pretty peppy and they did the song.

I was wondering if anyone else has heard this recording, and if so, what do you think of Ralph's banjo playing on this particular rendition "How Mt. Gals Can Love" that they chose to put on this recording for sale. I have some very definite ideas about it... but I want to hear what y'all think; especially the big "Dr. Ralph" fans.

A whipporwill call is just a reminder,
Pretty girls have hearts made of stone.


Edited by - Flying Eagle on 08/09/2008 06:15:10

jbjo - Posted - 08/09/2008:  06:33:31


that's off a "clinch mountain bluegrass" album by the stanley brothers-there are two versions on it as they are live recordings from 3 different shows-2 at newport folk festival i believe. i think one is from '59 and the other is from '64-that may be incorrect-i will listen to the version you are talking about-as i remember ralph kicked that one your'e talking about off pretty fast, but i'll check.

James
Gibson Archtop
"Wipe ''Yo Feets"

Flying Eagle - Posted - 08/09/2008:  06:44:14


Thanks, James. Please listen to that version of HMGCL again and give your opinion of Ralph's playing. I'm wondering if Steve Sparkman is using this material when he teaches his Dr. Ralph banjo clinics. How much is Steve charging for those clinics?


A whipporwill call is just a reminder,
Pretty girls have hearts made of stone.

jbjo - Posted - 08/09/2008:  08:10:35


Jim-
I don't know about the Sparkman stuff-I didn't even know he was doing clinics-you could email him through the hangout though-if you are talking about his instructional dvd they cost $30-I have yet to buy one :o) but i'm sure they're great! I'm no expert but i guess Ralph really does fly through that opening, but the band's tempo really keeps up well-some may say that it's a lot easier to play fast but he hits those notes real clean in my opinion-the other version from '64 carter has laryngitis so george shuffler sings and they do it much slower and it's not as tight as the '59 version. one of my favorite tracks on that cd is George Shuffler singing "Little Glass of Wine"- I like it better than any i've heard carter sing-and i like carter's singing a lot! Again-this is my opinion-let's hear some others!

James
Gibson Archtop
"Wipe ''Yo Feets"

Dr Ralph - Posted - 08/10/2008:  13:25:13


I, like most fans of Dr Ralph Stanley have yearned to know the secrets of that "Stanley Sound".....

I recently bought a copy of the long awaited DVD "Stanley Style Banjo" by the amazing Steve Sparkman & he has answered many of those questions

It covers everything you need to know from placing your capo through to those intricate little differences that set Dr Ralph Stanley apart from all the other great Banjo pickers of the day.

It is now widely accepted that Steve Sparkman is the best "Stanley Style" picker in the world today... in fact if you look up Ralph Stanley in the English Dictionary it says "Steve Sparkman"!

Seriously though, if you want to pick that Stanley Style Banjo you just gotta get Steves new DVD

For more details see: http://www.stevesparkman.com/



"As soon as a Child is born He or She should be issued a dog & a Banjo"

www.myspace.com/cornishbluegrass

Flying Eagle - Posted - 08/10/2008:  16:16:09


quote:
Originally posted by Dr Ralph

I, like most fans of Dr Ralph Stanley have yearned to know the secrets of that "Stanley Sound".....

I recently bought a copy of the long awaited DVD "Stanley Style Banjo" by the amazing Steve Sparkman & he has answered many of those questions

It covers everything you need to know from placing your capo through to those intricate little differences that set Dr Ralph Stanley apart from all the other great Banjo pickers of the day.


I see... Dr. Ralph, have you ever heard the version of "How Mountain Gals Can Love" that I asked about a few posts back? I was wondering if Steve Sparkman's videos and clinics teach that style of playing. The real Dr. Ralph incorporated similar techniques on his rendition of "Hard Times" from the same live compilation album. Lots of "intricate little differences" indeed...

A whipporwill call is just a reminder,
Pretty girls have hearts made of stone.

robbif - Posted - 08/10/2008:  16:30:21


I posted a few days ago, but have a new link to my recordings.
If you'd like to hear a workshop with Dr.Ralph, see my Bluegrass Picking page..
http://frobbi.org/picking.html
Eventually I'll have another recording available.

jbjo - Posted - 08/10/2008:  16:34:54


quote:
Originally posted by robbif

I posted a few days ago, but have a new link to my recordings.
If you'd like to hear a workshop with Dr.Ralph, see my Bluegrass Picking page..
http://frobbi.org/picking.html
Eventually I'll have another recording available.





anybody else have problems with this link? it's the only one on the page that won't open for me-it's the one i want so listen to most too.....

James
Gibson Archtop
"Wipe ''Yo Feets"

banjoghost - Posted - 08/10/2008:  17:49:00


don't forget that killer diller video he made with mike seeger...here's a youtube link to part of it...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncnx...ture=related



robbif - Posted - 08/10/2008:  18:32:19


More Ralph at http://www.johnhartford.org/

One video link on the home page.
Several on the Recent Videos page.
One on The Barn page.
Several on the Front Porch page.
Probably some more I missed.

Bill Rogers - Posted - 08/10/2008:  20:28:58


Plenty of drive in that "Backstep" video. And it gets rid of the canard that Ralph's thumb doesn't leave the 5th string.....I've always thought of Ralph as a singer who plays banjo, and Earl as a banjo player who sings (a bit).

Bill


Edited by - Bill Rogers on 08/10/2008 20:29:52



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