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 Playing Advice: 4-String (Jazz, Blues & Other Trad Styles)
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Bebop 4-string?

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Compass56 - Posted - 12/19/2008:  16:51:04

Do any of you know of any banjoists who have ever taken on straight ahead bebop on either tenor or plectrum? I've heard banjoists do fine versions of swing and jazz pieces on 4-string, but I don't think that I've ever hear "In Walked Bud," "Giant Steps," or any of the other great pieces from the bebop genre done on 4-string. I know that Pat Cloud does that kind of thing on 5-string, but are there tenor or plectrum banjoists who take on that material?

Edited by - Compass56 on 12/19/2008 19:48:27

A. Barger - Posted - 12/19/2008:  17:35:23

It's so funny that you wrote this...Before I was a banjo player, I was a sax player, and I loved playing Charlie Parker, and have his omnibook. Last night I decided to practice my sheet music skills on the 5-string, and picked up the book. It's really fun and challenging to work out the melodic patterns and use the complicated chord forms. Sorry I can't help you on the tenor aspect, though : /


If you make a mistake once, it''s a mistake. If you make a mistake twice, it''s jazz!

Compass56 - Posted - 12/19/2008:  19:47:40

Thanks for responding Andrew.

After rereading my original post, I realize that I shouldn't have limited my question to 4-string banjo. The idea of bebop banjo is apparently so specialized that ANY information on ANY bebop banjo (4 or 5-string) would be interesting and helpful to me.

TylerJackson10er - Posted - 12/20/2008:  08:01:50


I play a lot of bebop on tenor. I try to copy ideas from guys like wes montgomery, bird, coltrane, diz, pat martino, wynton kelly, etc. If you take bebop tunes and practice them at 'extreme slow' and slowly speed up the tempo over time, eventually you will be able to play better lines.

I'm actually in the process of putting together some lessons via the internet about how to play bebop on tenor better if anybody's interested.

I recorded a couple tunes of myself playing a few standards if anybody wants me email it to them.

Tyler Jackson

Compass56 - Posted - 12/20/2008:  09:44:41

Tyler, I'm definitely interested in your tenor/bebop lessons. Keep me posted and keep me in mind as you put this project together.

Dogface - Posted - 12/21/2008:  10:31:00

Also interested, Tyler !

Love to hear the tunes you recorded... Why not post them on you BHO page.


If there are no dogs in heaven then when I die I want to go where they went...

Will Rogers

Banjocoltrane - Posted - 12/22/2008:  08:41:22

I will give you a little something to help you in your bebop journey.

1)Practice II-V's A LOT in every key

2)In Bebop, the II and the V chord are the SAME thing, there is no you don't have to think I must use this MODE over the ii minor and I must use this other mode over the V chord...see them as the SAME THING.

3)There are NUMEROUS ways to approach the ii or V7 chord...An easy way to start on your bebop journey is using the upper extensions mixed in with the bebop scale

Here is ONE Brief outline of how to do this (VERY SIMPLIFIED)

Let's suppose you have a G7 chord.........or a Dmin7 (since they are the same thing in bebop terms)
Your chord tones are G B D F

However, if you play the 1 3 5 7 you won't get the sounds you are searching for, it'll sound like folk music still...You have to learn how to play off the UPPER EXTENSIONS like Charlie Parker, Clifford Brown, Dizzy did.

For G7, they would be as follows
3 5 7 9 (B D F A)

5 7 9 11 (D F A C)

7 9 11 13 (F A C E)

Here is just ONE example how to put this to use
1)Go up the upper extension arepeggio B D F A
2)Then DESCEND the bebop scale G F# F E D C B A G

These would all be eighth notes, which enables the chord tones to stay on the downbeat. Could be used over G7 or Dminor7

I'm not giving you a TAB of this because it's IMPORTANT you figure it out all over the fingerboard and find your own fingerings. However, if you don't know where these notes are at on the fingerboard I'll be more than glad to help you.

Another major aspect of Bebop is the use of Rootless chord voicings, chord extensions...Within the next year or so, I'll be putting together some instructional material detailing all of this.

Good Fortune

Online Banjo, Guitar, Mandolin, and Music Theory Lessons available:

Thor - Posted - 12/22/2008:  09:52:47

After rereading my original post, I realize that I shouldn't have limited my question to 4-string banjo. The idea of bebop banjo is apparently so specialized that ANY information on ANY bebop banjo (4 or 5-string) would be interesting and helpful to me.

Looks like some neat stuff here:

neplusultra - Posted - 12/22/2008:  10:27:23

Love to bop...just as Tyler mentioned, can't get enough Bird and Coltrane. When I was 18 and working in a Dixieland band at Great America theme park, the trombone player used to write out II - V turnarounds for me and have me play them on our break. He thought it was funny to corrupt the banjo player with Coltrane lines...I thought it was great and use them all the time in other stuff I do. In listening to the other boppers I worked with that summer (all of us were a bunch of college aged musicians) I kept hearing about some guy named Jamey, years later I started working through the Abersold materials....they are a must for any instrument. Start with book one. Book three is all about II - V progressions.

The only warning about playing bop is that you have to be very judicious in its use...for example, if you're being paid to play the Chrismas party at the Elk's Lodge or to headline a banjo show filled with older folks, then you may want to leave the BeBop at home as the audience will likely not want to go there...and, it might be wrong to force them to go with you.

But, when you cross paths in a jam session with others who can handle Tyler, Buddy or Steve DiBonaventura then it's all worth it.

Edited by - neplusultra on 12/22/2008 10:28:08

Granpdas Spells - Posted - 12/22/2008:  11:00:20

Don Stiernberg is a jazz mandolin player who does some tenor banjo stuff, and I've seen him play some bebop live.

Edited by - Granpdas Spells on 12/22/2008 11:09:01

NYCJazz - Posted - 12/22/2008:  12:51:31

Does "Blue Monk" count as Bebop?

I've worked a couple of times to figure out 'Bongo Beep" by Dizzy Gillespie (thru the Dirty Dozen Brass Band version) on tenor.

It''s taken me all my life to learn what not to play.

~ Dizzy Gillespie

TylerJackson10er - Posted - 12/24/2008:  13:55:27

FYI I just posted a little blues bebop thing for anybody interested. Hope it works, this was my first time uploading here.

Tyler Jackson

TylerJackson10er - Posted - 12/29/2008:  21:29:11

I've been posting a few live clips for anybody interested.

Tyler Jackson

A. Barger - Posted - 12/30/2008:  23:00:52

Is there a tuning on the five string that lends itself to bebop more than open G? I've noticed that some chord forms are a real stretch, even though I have big hands. The diminished F form comes to mind.


If you make a mistake once, it''s a mistake. If you make a mistake twice, it''s jazz!

banjofanatico - Posted - 12/31/2008:  10:06:13

That was cool. I like the modern blues played on the tenor banjo like that.


gjt1028 - Posted - 12/31/2008:  11:07:27

Originally posted by A. Barger

Is there a tuning on the five string that lends itself to bebop more than open G? I've noticed that some chord forms are a real stretch, even though I have big hands. The diminished F form comes to mind.


Well, I suppose you could tune it gDGBE, like a guitar. I play jazz and swing mandolin. You got four courses, and as often as not you've got chords with at least 4 notes, a lot of times more. You end up using partial chords a lot, mostly 3 notes. Bill Knopf wrote a book a number of years ago on jazz chords for the 5string, in G tuning.

The Fdim7 chord, in open G would be 3436, low to high. Not a chord I use everyday, but it doesn't seem like much of a stretch; barre at the 3rd fret, play the Cb (B) with the middle finger, and the pinky gets the Ab on the 6th fret of the high D. Of course, I don't have a banjo in my hands right now . . .


Edited by - gjt1028 on 12/31/2008 11:19:00

Compass56 - Posted - 01/02/2009:  07:42:53

Tyler, I enjoyed the recordings that you posted immensely. After I heard them, I went straight to iTunes and bought most of your stuff that is for sale. I could not, however, find the live recording clips that you mentioned in your last post in this thread. Where are they?

minstrelmike - Posted - 01/02/2009:  08:09:28

I studied tunings for a short time to see if I could find something 'better' (not looking strictly at bebop tho). I didn't find any better banjo tunings for chording which made me realize why open G is the most popular tuning for playing just music in general on the banjo (the chords work better). A guitar is set up so you learn 6 chords and sound good. The domra, a Russian mandolin, is tuned to fourths instead of fifths, but those chords don't work nearly as well as standard mandolin fifths tuning which seems to be the most popular. And if you are doing 2-5 progressions over a circle of fifths, then tuning to fifths makes the most sense. So I'd say try 'standard' tenor tuning if you want to try a new tuning, but I would recommend sticking with open G otherwise it's like learning a whole new instrument (why not just get a viola then?)

But I am extremely lazy. For example, since I know that an extended chord has at least 4 notes (and more than likely five or 6) and I know I'm only going to be able to fret 4 at most (and more likely only three distinct different notes), then I cheat by finding chords that don't require the 5th note or the root note. For example, the F chord is 3-2-1-3 on the 5-string open G banjo. You can make an F7 by dropping either the 1st or 4th strings down two frets to get: 1-2-1-3 or 3-2-1-1 (most people's preferred seventh shape).

However, you can make it a 'full seventh' by playing 1-2-1-1 (and it's an extremely easy chord but it has no F note in it). That works in any song that is expecting an F7. However, it is also a set of diminished chords: D#- or A- or C-. AND because you are expecting the bass or sax to be playing the root, this chord also substitutes for an F# diminished.

It won't if you're playing by yourself and want a bass line going someplace, but if you're experimenting over different chord forms, losing the 1st and 5th open up the banjo at least as much as re-tuning it would.

By the way, the open-G tuning is the only instrument I know (besides piano) that can easily sound out the difference between a diminished chord and a diminished seventh. Adim=1-2-1-1 Adim7=1-2-1-4

Mike Moxcey
Fort Collins, Colorado, USA

banjofanatico - Posted - 01/02/2009:  08:51:09

Another tuning for 5-string that is good for jazz is the C tuning : CGBD - the low D string tuned down one step to C. I find that you get jazzier sounding chords with this tuning. This is also known as "Plectrum" tuniing. You don't have that repetition of two D strings, which is kind of annoying in jazz playing. So the 3-2-1-3 chord becomes an F7 chord instead of a plain F chord in this tuning.


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