Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

511
Banjo Lovers Online


Discussion Forum

Want to hide these Google ads? Join the Players Union!

 All Forums
 Playing the Banjo
 Playing Advice: Bluegrass (Scruggs) Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Pros Who Don't Move X to Y Positions


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/363441

northernbelle - Posted - 04/24/2020:  14:54:31


Are there any video examples or anecdotal sightings of professional players who do not move from the X to Y (and vice versa) positions when they go for a volume or tonal change?

I find myself doing so more often by feel on my own banjo, maybe because after years of orchestral instrument playing, it comes more naturally for me to do it that way?



I play a top tension with a lot of sustain (which I normally prefer) but often play with my pinky up against the bridge like Terry Baucom does to get a more typical flat head sound, but lose that control/proximity if I move to the Y position all the time.

Is this super weird (only me?) or do you do this too or see pros who do?



Been meaning to ask this for a long time so here goes! Thanks.


Edited by - northernbelle on 04/24/2020 15:08:36

chuckv97 - Posted - 04/24/2020:  15:29:38


I have a TB-1 conversion that has a lot of sustain too, so I don’t pick very far off the bridge unless I’m vamping. I haven’t fooled with it yet but I read somewhere that tightening down the tailpiece will give a drier sound

deestexas - Posted - 04/24/2020:  16:16:30


I doubt that there are many pros who would continue to play an instrument with excessive sustain.

banjodobro56 - Posted - 04/24/2020:  17:04:24


You talk about sustain like it's a bad thing... wink



youtube.com/watch?v=lL4kJL_NDR0

chuckv97 - Posted - 04/24/2020:  17:23:15


Bill Keith played with a lot of sustain...although not so much with Monroe.

Bronx banjo - Posted - 04/24/2020:  17:31:31


I don’t think Ralph Stanley did a lot of moving around with his right hand. Pop

Bronx banjo - Posted - 04/24/2020:  17:32:39


Pop? Where did that come from?

Jack Baker - Posted - 04/24/2020:  17:48:44


Not so Chuck. Bill always played fast tunes with Monroe so not much sustain. He always had the same sound in everything he played. That top tension is what he played most of the time so sustain was built into the pot...Jack


 

Originally posted by chuckv97

Bill Keith played with a lot of sustain...although not so much with Monroe.






 


Edited by - Jack Baker on 04/24/2020 17:50:53

chuckv97 - Posted - 04/24/2020:  17:55:43


That’s what I noticed about his time with Monroe on the recordings,,his fast playing made it sound more staccato than sustained.  I don't know if he set up his banjo differently then , but his later recordings had more sustain, to my ears anyway. And yes, I do realize the top tension banjos had more sustain,,thnx for the info, Jack.


Edited by - chuckv97 on 04/24/2020 18:01:18

Mooooo - Posted - 04/24/2020:  18:01:01


clawhammer pros tend to stay in the Z position

Jack Baker - Posted - 04/24/2020:  18:04:58


Chuck,


I played many parties with Bill and he always had that top tension sound combined with his touch. I tried to play his top tension and couldn't do anything with it. I don't think he adjusted it too much once he got the sound he wanted...so funny....Jack p.s. what you were hearing in his later recordings was just that recordings changed with time and became clearer...




Originally posted by chuckv97

That’s what I noticed about his time with Monroe on the recordings,,his fast playing made it sound more staccato than sustained.  I don't know if he set up his banjo differently then , but his later recordings had more sustain, to my ears anyway. And yes, I do realize the top tension banjos had more sustain,,thnx for the info, Jack.






 


Edited by - Jack Baker on 04/24/2020 18:07:27

chuckv97 - Posted - 04/24/2020:  18:16:36


Looks like Butch took a few minutes to get used to it too
youtu.be/rv1KnHLxl5Y

Jack Baker - Posted - 04/24/2020:  18:31:36


I think Butch is playing a Top Tension designed or something by Bill. Bill Keith always played a Rich & Taylor Top Tension...J  A Gibson Top Tension is a lot different than a rich and taylor...You notice in the youtube it says Top Tension Bill Keith style; whatever that means :-)


...




Originally posted by chuckv97

Looks like Butch took a few minutes to get used to it too

youtu.be/rv1KnHLxl5Y






 


Edited by - Jack Baker on 04/24/2020 18:37:07

BigFiveChord - Posted - 04/24/2020:  22:01:19


quote:

Originally posted by northernbelle

Are there any video examples or anecdotal sightings of professional players who do not move from the X to Y (and vice versa) positions when they go for a volume or tonal change?

I find myself doing so more often by feel on my own banjo, maybe because after years of orchestral instrument playing, it comes more naturally for me to do it that way?



I play a top tension with a lot of sustain (which I normally prefer) but often play with my pinky up against the bridge like Terry Baucom does to get a more typical flat head sound, but lose that control/proximity if I move to the Y position all the time.

Is this super weird (only me?) or do you do this too or see pros who do?



Been meaning to ask this for a long time so here goes! Thanks.






I also play a top tension with a lot of sustain; it recently came down with a bad case of "too much sustain." Too much sympathetic vibration. I reset the setup as neutral as possible and tried (am trying) a few different bridges. But what REALLY cut the excessive sustain was moving from a clamshell tailpiece to a Kershner. Made a world of difference for me. Hope you can work it out!


Edited by - BigFiveChord on 04/24/2020 22:06:40

northernbelle - Posted - 04/24/2020:  23:21:26


My banjo doesn't have "too much" sustain. It's very controllable but enough that I prefer it to a standard flat head sound overall. I just find that it's sweet spot is not so much down at the neck area and don't care for the string tension down there much when vamping. I use D'addario mediums too, and they're pretty stiff strings.



When I lst discovered Bill Keith's playing around '77 and wanted a TT, he was playing the Great Lakes TT which had a completely different sound from his later R&T.

I never likedk the R&T sound nearly as much as I did the Great Lakes. I think part of that was that he seemed to go to a non frosted or bottom frosted head later on too.



Anyway, would like to see more examples of pros who reduced their volume and tone without going much down towards the neck to see if what I'm trying to do has some merit.


Edited by - northernbelle on 04/24/2020 23:22:43

monstertone - Posted - 04/27/2020:  13:13:17


Doug Dillard drove hard, all the time. Never chunked/vamped chords. He wrapped his pinky on the foot of the bridge. I don't think I ever saw him use the Y position.

northernbelle - Posted - 04/27/2020:  13:29:38


Thanks JD, I'll take another look at Doug's picking. I hadn't noticed that in the past but then wasn't looking for this in the past. Heading for the you tube...

Jack Baker - Posted - 04/27/2020:  15:50:54


Doug usually played an arch top Gibson and did curl his pinkie finger around the bridge. He liked the crisp woody sound and he could make it sound great. Not that many people who hug the bridge like Doug can get a good tone no matter where they moved their right hand. 



I met Doug at a few festivals and talked with him by phone several times. Quite a gentle kind and generous man...Hated to see him pass so early in life...J


Edited by - Jack Baker on 04/27/2020 15:54:59

northernbelle - Posted - 04/27/2020:  17:55:43


Thanks Jack. Yeah, I hated to see him go, too... I'll watch for that pinky on the bridge "technique" he used. Maybe between him and Tery Baucom that's more common that is usually thought. I can see discourgaing a beginner to do it, but one you have some decent skill level I think it can be a tool in the tool box-especially when recording.

heavythumb - Posted - 04/27/2020:  18:16:33


I took a weekend workshop with Bill Keith. I think it was 1972 maybe 1973. Bill had a TB-7 with a repro neck. At the time it was missing one of the pieces of inlay at the fifth fret. I offered to replace the inlay, but Bill passed on that. The banjo I had at the time was a custom Brizillian rosewood, two piece flange, flat-top that I made. Bill said he liked the tone of the banjo. He asked if I would be interested in selling it. I passed on that. Maybe Bill was just trying to make me feel good.

Bill and I swapped banjos for a while. I played Bill's for some vocals and instrumentals. I liked the tone, but for my pickin at the time I couldn't controls the sustain.

I bought a TB-18 about 1980-1981. I made a five string neck and used that as my primary banjo for a while. It came with a Presto tailpiece. While trying to get it set up to my liking, I switched to an Oettinger tailpiece. That's the way it is today. I don't have too much sustain.

Surprisingly my main/favorite axe is a 1927, TB-3, no holes arch top, Liberty Bear Claw tailpiece with a conversation neck. This is the banjo I played when I was in a full time band for six years. It is the sound I like. Maybe Don Stover influenced my taste.

I have a 40 hole arch top to compare it to. I prefer the no hole tone.

And I have an RB-75 ~ 1935 (guessing) that I seldom play to compare the top tension to. I like the Top tension tone better.

However it is nice to have a choice and I do enjoy each banjo from time to time.

YMMV

Heavythumb

chuckv97 - Posted - 04/27/2020:  18:40:47


What was Bill playing here? Isn’t this the one Butch was playing on my earlier post.

northernbelle - Posted - 04/27/2020:  22:26:32


HeavyThumb, great anecdotes, thanks! My T.T. has a standard, Gibson style resonator instead of the carved, heavy one piece versions. It also has a no hole tone ring which I also prefer. I use a Kershner tailpiece as the Presto's lightness added more overtones and this banjo had an "over tone-y" sound already that was just right.
It gives me more adjustments too for recording sessions.

heavythumb - Posted - 04/28/2020:  04:20:03


Northernbelle:
My TT has the two piece carved resonator. Yes, it is warped but that doesn't effect my pickin'.

I have a lunch gig today (private get together at someone's house, face masks and social distancing required). I think I'll take my '25 BB. I wouldn't want the TT to get the Corona Virus. ??

Heavythumb

heavythumb - Posted - 04/28/2020:  04:28:11


To the original poster:

I play mostly up-the-neck on all my banjos. I keep my right hand away from the bridge when my left hand is above the fifth fret. When I do play below the sixth fret I move my right hand towards the bridge. I do this mostly unconsciously through habit I guess.

BTW is keeping the right hand near the bridge the X or the Y position? And who came up with those labels?

Heavythumb

Ira Gitlin - Posted - 04/28/2020:  07:48:23


quote:

Originally posted by Jack Baker

Doug usually played an arch top Gibson and did curl his pinkie finger around the bridge. He liked the crisp woody sound and he could make it sound great. Not that many people who hug the bridge like Doug can get a good tone no matter where they moved their right hand. 



I met Doug at a few festivals and talked with him by phone several times. Quite a gentle kind and generous man...Hated to see him pass so early in life...J






Lynn Morris used to perch her pinkie on the corner of the bridge. I don't recall whether she left that perch to go to the "Y" position. She said she learned banjo while living in Colorado, without anyone around to tell her not to do that. 

RB3 - Posted - 04/28/2020:  08:18:30


"X" is used to refer to the right hand being closer to the bridge and "Y" is used to refer to the right had being closer to the neck. I believe the terminology came first from the Earl Scruggs instruction book. That's the first place I remember seeing it used, and that was fifty years ago.



Most Scruggs style players use the X-Y position methodology for their right hand positioning. J.D. Crowe always does it, except when he doesn't. Check out the video link below of the New South playing "Sally Goodin". It has good views of J.D. that show how he uses both hands in combination. Evidently he thinks the higher register version of "Sally Gooden" sounds better with his right hand closer to the bridge.



Sally Goodin

northernbelle - Posted - 04/28/2020:  09:08:32


Heavy Thumb, Wayne beat me to it. Yes, I learned X and Y terms from the Scruggs book also, around 1977. I believe the book was published around '68. It's become the "standard" description. It confuses the heck out of beginners trying to remember which is which! Up or down might have made it easier to remember! Maybe Earl was into Algebra ;-)
Please be careful at your get together!

Bill Palmer - Posted - 05/21/2020:  16:51:58


I can't tell you specifically who does what, or who originated any of the X - Y terminology. I CAN tell you that it probably wasn't Earl. I use whatever hand position gives me the sound I want for a specific situation.



Earl used to rest his pinky on the treble end of the bridge. If you ever handled his banjo, you could see the dark stain on the end of his bridge.



A lot of the terminology in Earl Scruggs and the Five String Banjo came from Bill Keith. I remember visiting Earl in his home in 1963. I asked him what he called a certain roll. He told me something very strange. He said, "I never heard of a roll until Bill Keith showed me those tabs he had taken from my recordings. I just play the melody with my thumb or index finger and fill in the gaps with whatever is left over." This is almost exactly the way Alan Lomax described Scruggs style on the back of an album cover one time. I think it was Foggy Mountain Banjo.



 



 



 



 


Edited by - Bill Palmer on 05/21/2020 16:57:10

Ira Gitlin - Posted - 05/22/2020:  07:50:16


Yeah, I've heard Bill K. say the same thing--how Scruggs was astonished at the idea that you could find and categorize abstract finger patterns in his playing. That seemed amazing to me, until I realized that I approach my Travis/Atkins-style guitar playing that way. I'm sure if I sat down and thought about it, I could find and list recurring patterns. But I simply don't



Imagine an eloquent but illiterate person--for example, Homer, the legendary ancient Greek poet--who's told about grammatical analysis. He's probably never thought to categorize nouns, verbs, subordinate clauses, etc. It's a whole different way of thinking about what you do.


Edited by - Ira Gitlin on 05/22/2020 07:50:38

Jack Baker - Posted - 05/22/2020:  08:05:31


Earl thought in terms of tone when backing up a song and when he was taking a lead break. How the X Y thing started is a mystery to me. Just two ways of getting different sounds from the banjo head. 


Chet Atkins never thought in terms of patterns--I don't either. Chet always thought bass and melody and variations on everything he played. I've tabbed out most of Chet's material with his permission many years ago...Jack




Originally posted by Bill Palmer

 



Edited by - Jack Baker on 05/22/2020 08:11:37

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.09375