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 Playing Advice: Bluegrass (Scruggs) Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Converting Songs to Scruggs Style: How to find the right rolls, chords etc.


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/364111

Snertbert - Posted - 05/18/2020:  13:59:04


Hi folks,

is there some trick or method of choosing rolls and chords when trying to convert songs from "normal" music to Scruggs-Style? I like playing along with an accordion (sounds astonishingly good) but I would like to "spice up" the accordion songs so that they sound more like I am playing a banjo and not a guitar. And unfortunately, I am not an experienced player who can "hear" what best to do.
Does it make sense to use the same cords that are given for the accordion? Are there tricks how to best play them on a banjo (roll patterns etc.)?

I'm not very experienced in music theory either, so please be gentle :-)

Thanks a lot for your advice!

Texasbanjo - Posted - 05/18/2020:  14:12:50


You can use the same chords as the sheet music for the accordion. A chord is a chord is a chord. If it's in the key of G, you'd have main chords of G, C and D; if it's in C, you'd have main chords of C, F and G and so on.



If you just want to back up the accordion player while he's playing melody, you can use vamps, any type roll that you like and that sounds good and if you want to spice it up a little, you can slide into a root note; i.e., slide from say 2 to 5 on the 4th string to get a G (root) note and finish off with a partial roll, add a hot lick at the end of the song or musical phrase.   Backup is a very personal thing and you can pretty much do whatever you want as long as it sounds good.



Now, if you want to play the melody while the accordion backs you up, you need to figure out the melody and then spice that up by again, sliding into a melody note, doing a hammer on or a pull off to emphasize a melody note, do a hot lick at the end of a musical phrase. And it is not necessary to play continual notes, rolls all through the song, an occasional rest ( no note) or a quarter note instead of an 8th note can make a song sound even better than just playing all rolls, which gets monotonous and boring after a while. Again, playing by ear is a personal thing and as long as it keeps with the melody and sounds good, it's good.


Edited by - Texasbanjo on 05/18/2020 14:13:40

chuckv97 - Posted - 05/18/2020:  15:01:58


Hi Swen,, have you played guitar for a while? Just gauging your music experience. If you’re just starting you’ll have to learn the banjo rolls first to be able to play along with the accordion in “banjo style”. Can you read tab? There are some videos on YouTube showing you basic rolls. And like Sherry said, you play the same chords as the accordion.

thisoldman - Posted - 05/18/2020:  17:04:42


If you lived in the US, I'd suggest you get a copy of Janet Davis' book Splitting the Licks. She has different arrangements of several different songs. The first arrangement of each tune is just the melody notes, the second arrangement is all forward rolls (if you compare the two you will see where the melody notes fall within the rolls). The 3rd and 4th arrangments are more complex.

Old Hickory - Posted - 05/18/2020:  18:33:15


quote:

Originally posted by Snertbert

is there some trick or method of choosing rolls and chords when trying to convert songs from "normal" music to Scruggs-Style? I like playing along with an accordion  . . .






Chords are chords. Use the same chords the accordion player is using. If he or she is playing in a key that's difficult for you, then use a capo to help you find a place on the neck where you can play the song as if it were in an easy key such as G or C, but have it come out in the same key the accordion is playing.



For example, if the accordion is in B-flat, you would put a capo at third fret (and capo 5th string at 8) and play as if you're in G.  You'll need to learn enough about music to transpose the song to the key you want to play in. There's much more to it than this, but it's more than I can get into.



As to there being any trick or method to choosing rolls, I'd say no.  If you're a relative beginner, you're stuck with the right hand patterns you know, learn or discover. Actually, that's true for players of any experience level. It's just that more experienced players probably have more picking patterns at their command as well as the ability to modify picking patterns they already know.



My only advice is let the music be your guide. Pick in a way that brings out of your fingers the music you hear in your head.



Good luck.

monstertone - Posted - 05/19/2020:  09:47:34


There is this  "thing" called brain between your ears & your fingers that, at present, is a road  block. sad It's problem is it is your brain & not that of Earl Scruggs. crying In order to aleaviate that issue, enable your brain to think like Earl, that is to hear a melody & instantly compose a bluegrass banjo rendition, you have to "get inside Earl's head"



The best way I know to do that is to listen to a lot of Earl Scruggs work, starting with the vocal numbers. Understand even Earl had to work at it. When he first started playing three finger style, his Mother reprimanded him because even she was unable to determine what song he was trying to play! Earl used to sit around  working out roll patterns by resting his fingers on his leg,  while carrying on a conversation! Earl's music is heavily syncopated. His melody notes often times not falling exactly as sung. To say that Earl Scruggs was obsessed with the banjo would be putting it mildly! He made it his life's work. 

Snertbert - Posted - 05/19/2020:  11:16:17


quote:

Originally posted by chuckv97

Hi Swen,, have you played guitar for a while? Just gauging your music experience. If you’re just starting you’ll have to learn the banjo rolls first to be able to play along with the accordion in “banjo style”. Can you read tab? There are some videos on YouTube showing you basic rolls. And like Sherry said, you play the same chords as the accordion.






Hi Chuck,



in the early ninties I had guitar lessons for about a year, so practically no. Tab reading works quite good, also playing after tabs. So I should drill some chords to get more fluent with them.

Snertbert - Posted - 05/19/2020:  11:18:41


quote:

Originally posted by thisoldman

If you lived in the US, I'd suggest you get a copy of Janet Davis' book Splitting the Licks. She has different arrangements of several different songs. The first arrangement of each tune is just the melody notes, the second arrangement is all forward rolls (if you compare the two you will see where the melody notes fall within the rolls). The 3rd and 4th arrangments are more complex.






Thanks for the advice. I live in Germany, but the book is available in a music store and I ordered it! If the book offers some kind of systematic approach this is exactly what I'm looking for

Snertbert - Posted - 05/19/2020:  11:24:38


quote:

Originally posted by monstertone

There is this  "thing" called brain between your ears & your fingers that, at present, is a road  block. sad It's problem is it is your brain & not that of Earl Scruggs. crying In order to aleaviate that issue, enable your brain to think like Earl, that is to hear a melody & instantly compose a bluegrass banjo rendition, you have to "get inside Earl's head"



The best way I know to do that is to listen to a lot of Earl Scruggs work, starting with the vocal numbers. Understand even Earl had to work at it. When he first started playing three finger style, his Mother reprimanded him because even she was unable to determine what song he was trying to play! Earl used to sit around  working out roll patterns by resting his fingers on his leg,  while carrying on a conversation! Earl's music is heavily syncopated. His melody notes often times not falling exactly as sung. To say that Earl Scruggs was obsessed with the banjo would be putting it mildly! He made it his life's work. 






ok this gives me some comfort. I will add some of Earl to my playlist and try to get more "Earl-ized" from it :-)



It's a bit odd that you can't recognize a bluegrass banjo song when you play it slowly to practice it. This happens all the time for me. But when I'm getting a bit faster or someone plays some backup tunes to it, it sound much better soon.

thisoldman - Posted - 05/19/2020:  14:47:21


Here is some more information about the book from the publisher Splitting the Licks  One sample page is shown, with one arrangment with the melody notes and the chords, and the second arrangment using forward rolls only.  



And bringing out the melody is a talent in itself.  Not all arrangements are created equal.  But something like a simple arrangement of Banjo in the Hollow or Cripple Creek sound good even when played slowly and with good timing.  


Edited by - thisoldman on 05/19/2020 14:50:11

SimonSlick - Posted - 05/19/2020:  16:51:08


One big obstacle to playing "normal" music in so-called Scruggs style is that the style (highly arpeggiated with a
marked absence of melodic sustain) is itself quite abnormal.

monstertone - Posted - 05/22/2020:  09:41:54


quote:

Originally posted by SimonSlick

One big obstacle to playing "normal" music in so-called Scruggs style is that the style (highly arpeggiated with a marked absence of melodic sustain) is itself quite abnormal.






Ain't that the truth! I would venture a guess that a very large percentage of wanna be Scruggs style banjo players, unfamiliar with Bluegrass music, have difficulty discerning the melody in a banjo break. I have known some instructors to write tab highlighting the melody notes in a different color. Even then, the melody note often being picked by a different finger in no apparent pattern, requires such a level of concentration of the novice, the melody is still unrecognizable! Only when that melody becomes ingrained as some of most basic of children songs, will the fingers learn to unconsciously hit those melody notes a little bit harder than the rest. 



If it's any comfort, think about this. We are attempting to play music having 2 (or4) beats to a measure, using 3 fingers, on an instrument having 5 strings. If that's not bad enough, the 5th string is tuned higher than the rest! indecision

chuckv97 - Posted - 05/22/2020:  09:49:28


To that end, I like what Alan says at 0:12

youtu.be/XITbFM3hM9g


Edited by - chuckv97 on 05/22/2020 09:49:51

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