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 Playing Advice: Bluegrass (Scruggs) Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Telltale signs a banjo player is a guitar player


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/360854

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shmoss - Posted - 02/03/2020:  08:26:48


Let's hear it.. How do you know that a banjo player is really a guitar player? There's a lot of guitar pickers out there that dabble or cross over into banjo. I'm curious how seasoned banjo players can tell the difference between a dyed-in-the wool banjo picker and a guitar player who fancies themselves as a banjo player! I hope this question makes sense.

KCJones - Posted - 02/03/2020:  08:34:11


Excessive use of single-string technique. Very little rolling. Doesn't plant the pinky/ring fingers.

Possum Fat - Posted - 02/03/2020:  08:35:53


Tremelos with fretting finger at the end of a phrase.

eagleisland - Posted - 02/03/2020:  09:42:06


Why does it matter to you? Seriously, there are a lot of players who can play both brilliantly. Ron Block is but one of many.

talljoey - Posted - 02/03/2020:  09:59:10


I went from banjo to guitar, and yesterday to a 12 string. My picking hand is quite versatile and when I jam I am normally the only fingerpicker in a sea of flat pickers. Music makes me happy- except my husband’s only request not to play electric guitar is getting harder to honor!

DeanT - Posted - 02/03/2020:  10:07:05


Long strap, often leaving banjo hanging below the belt, and installing guitar strap buttons to the banjo. Not using a capo, and using a lot of bar chords. Playing any key at any time, no capo, and being perfectly comfortable with not using the 5th string whenever it doesn't work. Or fretting the 5th string, often with the thumb. Only plants pinky, because the ring finger, equipped with a pick, has lots of uses. Willing to at least try to play anything from any genre, and even willing to agree to not grass it up. Not worrying about tuning between every song, and willing to own a banjo without planetary tuners... with no intention of ever installing planetary tuners. Carries a slide (possibly real bottle neck) in his case, because slide banjo is just cool. Hardly ever posts in the bluegrass topic on the BHO until, well, a question like this comes up.


Edited by - DeanT on 02/03/2020 10:12:03

Mooooo - Posted - 02/03/2020:  10:12:08


Use of Chicago Tuning, refuses to wear picks and claims "it sounds just like bluegrass picking", picks with 4 fingers and wonders why others don't. Thinks they are creating a new style of picking while doing what I already mentioned. Can name up to two "professional pickers" who play that way. Plays mostly licks and has a hard time picking the melody. And most common: Is "preachy" about their playing.



I would argue that Ron Block is a Banjo picker who also plays guitar.


Edited by - Mooooo on 02/03/2020 10:27:24

spoonfed - Posted - 02/03/2020:  10:21:14


I would also add, ignores everybody in the room playing Blackberry Blossom EXACTLY the same way cos thats how the book shows it, does not get into a panic when key changes occur just, plays out of a different position, cant tell the difference between JD, Scruggs, Ralph etc, they all just sound like banjo players (not pickers!) to him !

chuckv97 - Posted - 02/03/2020:  10:31:27


(in spite of what Skip said ,which I agree with, btw) Plays Merle Travis style (Eddie Adcock),, slides into full chords (Don Reno),, avoids the first string cuz it’s tuned different than guitar,,, uses a lot of bends and prepared bends (Ron Block),,,installs a whammy bar on his banjo (I think Allen Shelton did something like that) ,,, mistakes Earl Scruggs for Boz Scaggs,,, liked it when Bernie Leadon left the Eagles,,,, plays with a flatpick and two fingers,,,, throws in Django Reinhardt licks....


Edited by - chuckv97 on 02/03/2020 10:34:16

Mooooo - Posted - 02/03/2020:  10:43:20


Works at Guitar Center and teaches banjo. Has really low action.

chuckv97 - Posted - 02/03/2020:  10:46:34


Only owns banjos with the fly swatter peghead

Mooooo - Posted - 02/03/2020:  10:50:20


Plays a banjitar and thinks he's playing a banjo. Will swear up and down that it sounds just as good as a banjo. Oh....and almost always has really long hair.


Edited by - Mooooo on 02/03/2020 10:55:51

chuckv97 - Posted - 02/03/2020:  10:57:53


Learned his/her (her/his) scales single-string style , not Keith style. (thinks “Keith” is an Irish beer)

Mooooo - Posted - 02/03/2020:  11:01:05


Knows which fork and spoon to use. And actually uses the napkin.

OM45GE - Posted - 02/03/2020:  11:12:49


Doesn't drool while playing



Seriously, I'm with Skip. 


Edited by - OM45GE on 02/03/2020 11:13:49

chuckv97 - Posted - 02/03/2020:  11:31:10


Guys from the Bay State like Skip and Bill are suspected to have been guitar players first

adl1132 - Posted - 02/03/2020:  12:24:16


This thread reminds me of comments I often hear about bluegrass musicians who dare to try and play Irish Traditional Music. The idea there is that once you've played bluegrass, it is impossible to learn to play Irish Trad correctly. One style seems to prohibit the learning of the other, in some people's minds. I've never quite understood the logic of that myself.

Mooooo - Posted - 02/03/2020:  12:35:08


I don't think we are saying they shouldn't play bluegrass. Many guitarists pick bluegrass banjo very well. Those are the guys you don't notice that they come from a guitar picking background. They learn traditional bluegrass, and often successfully bring in guitar techniques that sound good. Then there's the times when it is unsuccessful and the above mentioned stereotypes stick out like a sore thumb. I guess more than half of us started on guitar. I did.


Edited by - Mooooo on 02/03/2020 12:36:13

chuckv97 - Posted - 02/03/2020:  12:45:07


I started on guitar,,Alfred’s Book 1,,reading the little black dots,,then to Mel Bay Book 2. I thought I was in gloryland when I could pick-strum “Old Black Joe”. Then I moved on to fingerpicking which helped the move to banjo. I think Maybelle Carter was a banjo player first, developing her signature “Carter Scratch” from her CH days.

btw, talking about mixing genres, there’s a guitar player at our jams that only learned blues scales,,,every break , whether appropriate to the tune or not, is a blues solo. Fidn’t dit, as they say at gluebrass vestifals


Edited by - chuckv97 on 02/03/2020 12:46:01

DC5 - Posted - 02/03/2020:  13:01:42


I don't know, but in a workshop with Adam Hurt he commented that I had started on guitar. I don't know how he knew this, but clearly there is a way.

OldNavyGuy - Posted - 02/03/2020:  13:02:23


Doesn't stand when the judge says "will the defendent please rise".

5Stringer - Posted - 02/03/2020:  16:29:46


New guy comes to the jam, I notice him because he's got a banjo, after awhile I can hear he's not playing rolls or anything I'm familiar with, and when I finally look over to watch him, he's using bar chords all up and down the neck. Then I go, whoa, his picks are on backward!

MacCruiskeen - Posted - 02/03/2020:  17:20:25


quote:

Originally posted by talljoey

- except my husband’s only request not to play electric guitar is getting harder to honor!






I just got my first electric guitar, a Fender 'fat' Stratocaster. It's fun! Go over to the dark side!



And my wife can't complain about it because she bought herself a Telecaster at the same time.

eagleisland - Posted - 02/03/2020:  18:28:44


quote:

Originally posted by chuckv97

Guys from the Bay State like Skip and Bill are suspected to have been guitar players first






Hah! This is funny.



Seriously, I have previously been very open about this part of my musical history. I have no shame in it. I also played bass guitar and drums, and sang in church choir and musical theater. They are all different forms of music, but all can inform one's understanding of music, if not the particular genre.



Playing the banjo IS different than playing the guitar. Leaving aside the obvious differences such as the fifth string, it's hard to put it into words; the only way I can describe it is that the musical feel is different. I'm usually pretty good at explaining things verbally, but describing the difference between the feel of guitar and that of banjo remains an essay I'm not ready to write.


Edited by - eagleisland on 02/03/2020 18:30:43

Paul R - Posted - 02/03/2020:  18:41:28


Uses a flat pick.

Seriously.

A guitar player in a Celtic-inspired local band picked up the banjo for a song and used a flat pick. At the break, he remarked to me that I must think him an awful player. I simply recycled Mike Gregory's comment that he can play it any way he wants. (It was the mandolin player's banjo.)

When I was courting the Mrs. (late Seventies) we saw a young rock band at a club, and one of them picked up the banjo to play - what else? - "Dueling Banjos". He used a flat pick. I was horrified and impressed at the same time.

DeanT - Posted - 02/03/2020:  19:19:26


I'm one of those guys guilty of a lot of stuff mentioned here. Although I can fake enough to fool uneducated folks, I will be the first to admit I am NOT a bluegrasser. A reason I rarely post here (bluegrass topic). I got the banjo job in my band by default, when another member bought one, thinking it would add a cool "country" sound. He never learned it. With many years of open tuned finger picked guitar, I asked to try it. I jammed for several hours on it that day, they liked it, and I got the banjo job. That was 16 years ago, and I'm still doing it. It's funny... banjo players may say I sound like a guitar player playing a banjo... but when I play my guitar now, folks say I play it like a banjolaugh


Edited by - DeanT on 02/03/2020 19:23:19

maxmax - Posted - 02/04/2020:  00:43:07


They can usually noodle around on the banjo OK, then you hear them say "wouldn't it be hilarious if I played the banjo?". Busted!

SimonSlick - Posted - 02/04/2020:  04:35:35


Belittling the skills and technique of others is one way to avoid one's own musical insecurity.

RB3 - Posted - 02/04/2020:  07:01:20


It you see a banjo player with a good lookin' girl friend, it's likely that guitar is their primary instrument.

Richard Hauser - Posted - 02/04/2020:  08:41:33


Every good banjo player I have known could also play rhythm guitar.

WesB - Posted - 02/04/2020:  14:00:49


quote:

Originally posted by talljoey

I went from banjo to guitar, and yesterday to a 12 string. My picking hand is quite versatile and when I jam I am normally the only fingerpicker in a sea of flat pickers. Music makes me happy- except my husband’s only request not to play electric guitar is getting harder to honor!






Your husband is a wise man.......

lature - Posted - 02/04/2020:  15:30:48


They don't transpose every song known to man into the key of G.

Jim Yates - Posted - 02/04/2020:  20:56:50


quote:

Originally posted by DC5

I don't know, but in a workshop with Adam Hurt he commented that I had started on guitar. I don't know how he knew this, but clearly there is a way.






Well he had a better than 50/50 chance of being right.  I would guess that at least 76.3% of the banjo players here started on guitar.





They say sixty-five percent of all statistics

Are made up right there on the spot

Eighty-two-point-four percent of people believe 'em

Whether they're accurate statistics or not

I don't know what you believe

But I do know there's no doubt

I need another double-shot of something ninety-proof

I got too much to think about



-Todd Snider's Statistician's Blues

mike gregory - Posted - 02/04/2020:  21:52:21


quote:

Originally posted by Paul R

Uses a flat pick.



Seriously.



A guitar player in a Celtic-inspired local band picked up the banjo for a song and used a flat pick. At the break, he remarked to me that I must think him an awful player. I simply recycled Mike Gregory's comment that he can play it any way he wants. (It was the mandolin player's banjo.)



When I was courting the Mrs. (late Seventies) we saw a young rock band at a club, and one of them picked up the banjo to play - what else? - "Dueling Banjos". He used a flat pick. I was horrified and impressed at the same time.






Hey, MOM!



I'm being quoted by Foreign Dignitaries about playing the Banjo!

Paul R - Posted - 02/04/2020:  23:31:50


How dare you call me a dignitary!

And I'm not foreign.

You are.

kjcole - Posted - 02/05/2020:  05:13:23


They put their banjo down and reach for their guitar when someone calls out a fiddle tune.

Bradskey - Posted - 02/05/2020:  06:04:11


They get one of those 6 strings and think they're playing the banjo?

Seriously, most good banjo players, or string players in general, know (or should know) some guitar. It's the piano of stringed instruments.

Richard Hauser - Posted - 02/05/2020:  07:05:22


Kelly - Lots of musicians quit playing when a fiddle instrumental is being played. Fiddle tunes have more frequent chord changes and often have a number of less seldom used chords. After trying to play along for 10 or 15 seconds with no success, a smart rhythm player just "sits the tune out".
Unfortunately many rhythm players do not do this, and that makes things more difficult for the fiddler.

Jim Yates - Posted - 02/05/2020:  19:57:17


quote:

Originally posted by Paul R

Uses a flat pick.



Seriously.



A guitar player in a Celtic-inspired local band picked up the banjo for a song and used a flat pick. At the break, he remarked to me that I must think him an awful player. I simply recycled Mike Gregory's comment that he can play it any way he wants. (It was the mandolin player's banjo.)



When I was courting the Mrs. (late Seventies) we saw a young rock band at a club, and one of them picked up the banjo to play - what else? - "Dueling Banjos". He used a flat pick. I was horrified and impressed at the same time.






Well Paul, I'll admit to using a flat pick for tunes like Boodle-Am-Shake in The Maple Leaf Champions Jug Band. I mute the thumb string with my left thumb and strum full chords with the pick.  In Jim Kweskin's Jug Band, both Bob Siggins and Bill Keith did the same thing.



The original Dueling Banjers, called Feuding Banjos, was played by Don Reno, using finger-picks on a 5-string and Arthur Smith playing a 4 string plectrum banjo with a flat pick.

Paul R - Posted - 02/05/2020:  21:56:12


quote:

Originally posted by Jim Yates

quote:

Originally posted by Paul R

Uses a flat pick.



Seriously.



A guitar player in a Celtic-inspired local band picked up the banjo for a song and used a flat pick. At the break, he remarked to me that I must think him an awful player. I simply recycled Mike Gregory's comment that he can play it any way he wants. (It was the mandolin player's banjo.)



When I was courting the Mrs. (late Seventies) we saw a young rock band at a club, and one of them picked up the banjo to play - what else? - "Dueling Banjos". He used a flat pick. I was horrified and impressed at the same time.






Well Paul, I'll admit to using a flat pick for tunes like Boodle-Am-Shake in The Maple Leaf Champions Jug Band. I mute the thumb string with my left thumb and strum full chords with the pick.  In Jim Kweskin's Jug Band, both Bob Siggins and Bill Keith did the same thing.



The original Dueling Banjers, called Feuding Banjos, was played by Don Reno, using finger-picks on a 5-string and Arthur Smith playing a 4 string plectrum banjo with a flat pick.






Well, Jim, check out the banjo action at 5:13 of this video. youtube.com/watch?v=T0xgNnmAkRM

hardleydavidson - Posted - 02/06/2020:  06:22:36


As a guitarist that's now playing banjo, there's one main difference to me between the two, The banjo makes me happy and the guitar doesn't.

I have to play the guitar in the band as it's the one I'm most proficient at, I don't enjoy it as much as I would if I had the confidence to play the banjo instead, I find it a chore. I do play them differently because they are two different instruments and I don't find myself using any of my guitar habits on the banjo, if anything the banjo has made me a better fingerpicker when it comes to guitar.

Just my fourpennethworth ;-)

shmoss - Posted - 02/06/2020:  06:39:16


Great replies everyone! Got a good laugh out of some of these responses.


Edited by - shmoss on 02/06/2020 06:39:31

jan dupree - Posted - 02/06/2020:  10:26:09


Sometimes you just have to buy a guitar and start learning "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" by Led Zeppelin. It just can't be played on a banjo and still sound right.

Jim Yates - Posted - 02/06/2020:  22:05:03


quote:

Originally posted by jan dupree

Sometimes you just have to buy a guitar and start learning "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" by Led Zeppelin. It just can't be played on a banjo and still sound right.






I learned Babe I'm Gonna Leave You from a Joan Baez LP.  (So did Jimmy Page.)

jan dupree - Posted - 02/07/2020:  08:29:29


quote:

Originally posted by Jim Yates

quote:

Originally posted by jan dupree

Sometimes you just have to buy a guitar and start learning "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" by Led Zeppelin. It just can't be played on a banjo and still sound right.






I learned Babe I'm Gonna Leave You from a Joan Baez LP.  (So did Jimmy Page.)






It was recorded by Baez just strumming, and 3 or 4 other groups single note picking . But none of them even come close to Zeppelin with the finger picking version. I bought the Zeppelin Collection Complete Songbook, with tabs. I was playing it on 5 string, but without the bass notes you really can't get the same sound of the song. I'm now playing it on a Martin 1931 D-28 Authentic. A banjo could be used for the 2nd. guitar part to accompany, because that part is up the neck at the 10th. and 12th. fret throughout the entire song.


Edited by - jan dupree on 02/07/2020 08:30:07

stratovarious520 - Posted - 02/07/2020:  08:58:45


quote:

Originally posted by hardleydavidson

As a guitarist that's now playing banjo, there's one main difference to me between the two, The banjo makes me happy and the guitar doesn't.



I have to play the guitar in the band as it's the one I'm most proficient at, I don't enjoy it as much as I would if I had the confidence to play the banjo instead, I find it a chore. I do play them differently because they are two different instruments and I don't find myself using any of my guitar habits on the banjo, if anything the banjo has made me a better fingerpicker when it comes to guitar.



Just my fourpennethworth ;-)






Wow, Ben, your story is nearly identical to mine.  I would add that the years of improvisation on guitar has made it easier to construct melodies/licks via banjo, and chord theory makes a lot more sense.

tommygoldsmith - Posted - 02/07/2020:  09:38:24


Just for what it’s worth, Alan Munde is a wonderful guitar player, as was Earl Scruggs. I believe Earl got on guitar down in the single digits of age, perhaps accompanying one of his brothers. I remember seeing Alan playing a black Les Paul to back up the future Ranger Doug at Joe’s Village Inn.

ChuckCharles - Posted - 02/07/2020:  09:48:09


Uses a flatpick, wil not play clawhammer (probably has difficulty with the difference between Old-Time and Bluegrass.) cant tell the difference between melodic and Scruggsstyle picking, wil not use different tunings, owns more guitars than banjo's (and better ones).
concider's himself a guitar player that also plays banjo.

Note: some guitarpickers actually copletely abandone the guitar when getting acquinted with the awesome world of the banjo.

kjcole - Posted - 02/07/2020:  10:21:08


JD Crowe also on electric guitar.

Gene-O - Posted - 02/07/2020:  10:45:44


Thinks Pete is Bob's father, grandfather, uncle, or other relative.


Edited by - Gene-O on 02/07/2020 10:48:06

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