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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Tenor banjo CGDA chord melody books

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Explorer - Posted - 08/21/2015:  21:53:13

I've been experimenting with CGDA banjo, and have been amazed at some of the videos I've been watching.

I looked at a couple of books, but it turned out they just had lead sheets and chord names. I'm hoping there might be something with more information for a complete novice at this. 

I've been working with the Mel Bay book, which is great for my reading standard notation, so I'm not locked into finding a tablature book. I have been reading the duets as if they were for a single player, but, I want to be able to play like some of the great videos which BHO members have posted in this forum.

I'm on an old computer, so the idea of online lessons just doesn't work for me. Besides, my schedule makes it infinitely preferable to be able to sit down with a book when I have time.

Help me help myself! Is there a progressive course that lays it out, or even a book with full arrangements?



Compass56 - Posted - 08/22/2015:  03:27:57

There are many such books available. Tim Allan and Don Stevison have many banjo arrangements available for sale. Even if you just started banjo yesterday, I recommend that you take lead sheets with basic chords and do your own arrangements. You'll learn so much from the process, and the arrangements will be yours. First, learn to play the single note melody. Next, hum the melody and try to picture where you would like a chord to replace a melody note. Suppose there is a D melody note where you want a chord. If, for example, there is a G7 chord going where the note is, play a G7 chord and make the highest note of the chord a D note. That's it. That's all you have to do. You can put in as many or as few chords as you want. It's all up to you.

Tony L.

crisscross - Posted - 08/22/2015:  05:27:05

A book that perhaps might help you a bit finding the right voicings for your chord-melody arrangements is "Dixieland Jazz Banjo". Instead of generic voicings in the lower positions to accompany the tunes, it has specific voicings up the neck thought to enable you to come up with a chord melody version of your

If that approach really works I can't tell you, so far I'm glad to be able to play the melody and a rhythm part.

Edited by - crisscross on 08/22/2015 05:27:43

chas5131 - Posted - 08/24/2015:  09:08:04

The Mel Bay books for Tenor Banjo are a good start.   Learning to play from chord melody sheet music and then learning how to make your own made seemed to work best for me so far.

I have even used a ukulele and ukulele chord melody books to learn chord melody on the uke in the hope that the skill will be easy to transfer.  


If you find any other tenor banjo chord melody books let me know.

chas5131 - Posted - 08/24/2015:  09:54:09

Mel Bay's Complete Tenor Banjo Method is where I have started, with a few forays into Mel Bay's Tenor Banjo Playing System.

Have played several other instruments. The above seems to enable a more complete learning process than anything else I have seen.

Explorer - Posted - 08/24/2015:  14:36:50

I'm currently working my way through the Complete Tenor Banjo book by Mel Bay, and agree that it is excellent for a thorough grounding.

It's that leap to the level of amazement I'm looking for, and the excellent videos posted by the various BHO members make me hope that I can make that leap too. 

All suggestions have been helpful, and I'm hopeful for even more!

mipake - Posted - 08/24/2015:  18:35:31

Tony gave the best short explanation of the chord melody process . Eddy Davis recently gave a detailed lesson in chord melody on this forum. I have all the books but I find real one on one instruction the best. That is why I repeatedly recommend contacting Steve Caddick, a member of BHO, for Skype instructions. He has his own arraignments with chord selections diagramed or can also walk you through making your own chord melody arraignment from a lead sheet. I find trying to play what someone else created can be problematic. Working my way through a lead sheet allows me to create a version that is at my skill level. As I get better I can go back and make it more interesting and at a higher level of play.
good luck it is a lot of fun.

Explorer - Posted - 08/25/2015:  00:51:37

As mentioned, my older computer isn't up to newfangled things like Skype. It's unfortunate!

Compass56 - Posted - 08/25/2015:  03:20:29

Some tunes are definitely harder for me to arrange in a chord/melody format than others.  When I got home from work last night around 9:00 P.M., I went straight to the computer with my banjo to try to arrange Henry Mancini's "Moon River."  That one was tough for me.  I don't have "Moon River" in any of my fake books, so I was guessing throughout much of it.  Also, that song contains many melody notes that are not simple chord tones.  After about 30 minutes, I came up with this simple arrangement.  I'd love to hear a real arrangement of it by some of you banjo wizards out there.

Please let me know what you think of this rough little video.



Tony L.

crisscross - Posted - 08/28/2015:  04:25:50

Following Tony's advice, I tried my first chord melody arrangement on the tenor banjo. I really learned a lot in the process of doing it. I chose the German children's song "Sascha liebt nicht große Worte". Well, allegedly it's a Russian folk tune, but none of the Russians I asked so far knew it. But the harmonic minor chord changes definitely give it a Russian feeling. The melody is in straight quarter  notes and it's in many children guitar method books

To give it a little swing feeling I added some swing

What do you think? Am I on the right way to chord melody playing ? What other easy songs could I try?

Compass56 - Posted - 08/29/2015:  00:48:45

Crisscross, I love your arrangement of that German tune.  It just brims with life.  Your chords choices and swingy treatment are excellent.  Thank you for posting.

johnstephen - Posted - 08/29/2015:  10:51:19

Kudos to both of you, Tony and Crisscross.  Tony, your Moon River was beautiful!  The chords and harmonies you chose sure sounded good to me (and Moon River is one of my favorite songs, so thanks for posting it).  Crisscross, nice job on the Russian folk tune--I liked the swing you put in it, and if that's your first chord-melody, you are one talented guy.  Also for what it's worth, the little illustration on the sheet music in your video looked Russian to me.  Great job!


Compass56 - Posted - 08/30/2015:  06:58:28

John, thanks so much for listening and for your comments. I have loved this song since I saw Breakfast at Tiffany's on TV as a kid. The image of Audrey Hepburn singing "Moon River" in the movie is forever burned in my brain.

Compass56 - Posted - 08/30/2015:  07:19:38

Here's aforementioned scene from Breakfast at Tiffany's.

johnstephen - Posted - 08/30/2015:  17:29:16

A true classic -- gets me every time I see it. Thanks for posting it.

crisscross - Posted - 08/31/2015:  05:05:39

Thanks Tony and John! I know that I still have a long way to go, but a beginning is made. I have a nice arrangement of "Moon River" for flute and classical guitar, let's see I if I can do something with this arrangement as a a starting point. The result won't be nowhere as nice as Tony's arrangement, but it's the learning process that matters.

banjopa - Posted - 08/31/2015:  09:04:34


When was active 10 years ago, I provided many diagrammed solos for tenor banjo, there are still a few there that are on the website if you search for them, but here is one of them I did for the song Bye Bye Blackbird that I had many requests for. It is not too difficult to learn. Try it out if you want.

Bye Bye Blackbird


crisscross - Posted - 08/31/2015:  11:57:35

Thanks a lot Steve. I guess, that's exactly the level I'm looking for. This one brings a new challenge: some notes of the melody are on the e-string, so I've got to mute the a-string. See if I can handle it. Thanks again!

Compass56 - Posted - 08/31/2015:  12:11:10


Originally posted by crisscross


 some notes of the melody are on the e-string, so I've got to mute the a-string. 



I think that arrangement is for CGDA tuning. I don't think Steve is working with an E string.  


Edited by - Compass56 on 08/31/2015 12:18:57

Compass56 - Posted - 08/31/2015:  12:16:46

Crisscross, if a melody note occurs on a string other than that 1st string, try not going down as far instead of muting it.  The sound will be smoother.  'Just a thought.

crisscross - Posted - 08/31/2015:  22:15:54

Of course, I meant  to write "d-string". Maybe I wrote "e-string" because I had tried to do a chord melody arrangement of "Sascha" on my ukulele where the highest string is an a like on a tenor banjo, but the second string is an e. Or I simply hit the wrong key.wink

Thanks for the advice of not muting the a-string. I will try it.

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