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 Playing Advice: Bluegrass (Scruggs) Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Sheet music


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/394045

mikelandis721 - Posted - 11/18/2023:  10:13:58


Any advice for someone new to the banjo on using regular sheet music to learn a song? First not the same as what is identified on the sheet? How do you identify what roll and notes to compliment it?

Texasbanjo - Posted - 11/18/2023:  11:41:43


Sounds like you are brand new to the banjo. If so, you probably need to learn the basics of 3-finger Scruggs before you start trying to take a melody and make it sound like bluegrass.

Are you familiar with the basics? rolls, chords, slides, hammers, pull offs, things like that? If you are, then you take the melody notes and see what will fit in with them, a partial roll, a slide, a lick at the end of a musical phrase.

Can you play by ear; i.e., hear a melody and be able to produce it on the banjo? Can you figure out the chords and chord sequence of a song?

Your question is a little too broad to be answered easily. Let us know more about you, how much experience you have in reading musical notation, how long have you been playing the banjo, do you play other instruments. More knowledge of what you know will help us help you.

RioStat - Posted - 11/18/2023:  11:45:32


Welcome to the Hangout Mike!  Seeing how you posted your question under the "Bluegrass/Scruggs" forum, I take it you want to learn bluegrass banjo.



Just my opinion, however, I feel that are so many excellent resources available nowadays  (video lessons, YouTube series, Skype, in-person, tablature, etc....) that there's no reason to waste your time trying to learn bluegrass banjo from "sheet music".



As you've e already noticed yourself, the very "nature" of a 5-string banjo is not conducive to standard musical notation.



You would be much better served starting off with Jim Pankey's fine series of "Beginners Bluegrass banjo" videos, available right here on BanjoHangout, and learning to read tablature (tab), rather than trying to learn anything from sheet music

NotABanjoYoda - Posted - 11/18/2023:  11:58:32


I started with eli gilber 30 days, then jim pankey 2 series on bho, then Jack Hatfield now Janet Davis and the Earl bible.

I used to find tabs with rh finger plucking helped but after Jacks books it became slowly obvious. Start with songs with one roll pattern, then two etc.

Tractor1 - Posted - 11/18/2023:  12:08:55


yes I would say to learn the rolls a bit in order to find the user friendly patterns-- especially alternating thumb--pinches and the biggie-the forward roll--you can find them many places with basic songs-- then you can work your sheet music in by filling in the big spaces left by quarter notes --but you will have to practice the rolls and learn how to play the words louder than the auxiliary notes-
my opinion --ain't saying it is right or asking agreement

FenderFred - Posted - 11/18/2023:  12:11:54


quote:

Originally posted by mikelandis721

Any advice for someone new to the banjo on using regular sheet music to learn a song? First not the same as what is identified on the sheet? How do you identify what roll and notes to compliment it?






What kind of banjo do you have 4, 5 or 6 string? What type of music do you want to play?



 



 

thisoldman - Posted - 11/18/2023:  12:14:20


It's a LOT easier to find music written in standard notation for piano, guitar, etc. than it is for banjo. There is at least one beginner level instructional book written in both tab and standard notation. That would be one option. Under the Learn tab on the left side of the page you will find lots of music written in tab/tablulature, using the Tabledit program. You could download the free version of Tabledit, download a tune (in tab), then have the program convert it to standard notation.

I tried guitar after I retired, and used music written in standard notation. Then when moved on to different stringed instruments I found that using tab simplified the learning process. Those who have a good "ear" can learn without written music.

There are resources like the Parking Lot Pickers Songbook that is written in standard notation and tab, but you just get the melody notes.

Joel Hooks - Posted - 11/18/2023:  13:09:48


quote:

Originally posted by thisoldman

It's a LOT easier to find music written in standard notation for piano, guitar, etc. than it is for banjo. There is at least one beginner level instructional book written in both tab and standard notation. That would be one option. Under the Learn tab on the left side of the page you will find lots of music written in tab/tablulature, using the Tabledit program. You could download the free version of Tabledit, download a tune (in tab), then have the program convert it to standard notation.



I tried guitar after I retired, and used music written in standard notation. Then when moved on to different stringed instruments I found that using tab simplified the learning process. Those who have a good "ear" can learn without written music.



There are resources like the Parking Lot Pickers Songbook that is written in standard notation and tab, but you just get the melody notes.






While the OP posted in the bluegrass section so my below statements are not for that specific style, your statement is 100% false regarding how easy it is to find sheet music for banjo.



There are thousands and thousands of pieces to be found on the Internet, all in public domain.



Between the Internet archive and the Classic Banjo Ning website one will find more than a lifetime's worth of sheet music, many including second banjo and piano accompaniments.



 



Additionally, there are nearly 100 beginner books available (also public domain) plus one that is currently in print by Mel Bay (not in public domain but the best finger style "classic" banjo instruction book ever published).



 



 

thisoldman - Posted - 11/18/2023:  13:18:37


Joel Hooks You're right, there is a lot of music for banjo written in standard notation. My comment was directed towards BG music, since this was in the Scruggs forum.

mikelandis721 - Posted - 11/18/2023:  15:16:34


Thanks for the responses.
I'll answer a few question that might help with an answer.
Yes i am a beginner. Took lessons many years ago and decided to pick it up again
I do know my rolls, hammer ons, slides, etc.
Back to the question that if the first note would be the note on the sheet, what pattern would be acceptable and what is the complimentary note in the roll? 3rds or 5ths or what?
I can read music, have a little knowledge of theory, play the guitar, harmonica, and a little piano.

Old Hickory - Posted - 11/18/2023:  16:49:33


quote:

Originally posted by mikelandis721

. . if the first note would be the note on the sheet, what pattern would be acceptable and what is the complimentary note in the roll? 3rds or 5ths or what?






That's not how it works.



Typically (because nothing in this is ever always)  when rendering melody in Scruggs style banjo, the full literal melody is not played. Most often, only the core or essential melody is played. You'll have to decide for yourself on a song-by-song, measure-by-measure basis the core melody of any song you're trying to play. Many or most  passing notes get dropped. They're not essential to expressing a recognized melody and it can be difficult or impossible to hit every note of a song within a roll. That's the nature of the instrument: the combined challenge of where the notes are located and what fingers you have available to fret and pick them. It's also common for banjo players to occasionally shift notes forward or back one position to simplify hitting them in a roll.



What roll to use? Totally up to you, based on what you know and what sounds best.



Which notes to play between melody notes? That's entirely up to you. The one constant rule of music theory: If it sounds good, it is good. So what notes do you hear? How do you want to harmonize the melody? Exactly as the chords are written in some sheet? Or reharmonized to fulfill your own creative desires? Third and fifth that you mentioned are certainly options. So are sevenths - both dominant and major. Ninths, elevenths, and thirteenths are fair game, depending on the song, genre, and your desired effect. Other notes (intervals) are available, too. Far beyond my knowledge to understand or describe when and why the notes of extended harmonies are good choices.



But I can occasionally use them. For me, playing an actual melody within rolls is a process of trial and error. In this particular example, I hit a higher percentage of the actual melody notes than I would have expected. The chords are not exactly those from any single published version. People are probably tired of my sharing this.



 


Jack Baker - Posted - 11/18/2023:  17:17:41


Ken,
Wonderful playing....Jack

Jack Baker - Posted - 11/18/2023:  17:31:03


Mike,


Welcome to BHO. Just learn how to read stringed instruments tablature--much easier than fooling with music notation....Jack Baker




Originally posted by mikelandis721

Any advice for someone new to the banjo on using regular sheet music to learn a song? First not the same as what is identified on the sheet? How do you identify what roll and notes to compliment it?






 

Good Buddy - Posted - 11/18/2023:  17:48:56


That was fantastic Ken. Listened to it twice 'cause it was so nice.

Old Hickory - Posted - 11/18/2023:  18:39:27


quote:

Originally posted by mikelandis721

Any advice for someone new to the banjo on using regular sheet music to learn a song? 






Don't get ahead of yourself. Start with a tablature-based instruction book, video, or online school.



If books work for you, I suggest "Bluegrass Banjo" by Peter Wernick. The preliminary material takes you through strumming chords, playing a simple, single line, un-adorned melody, then playing the melody within a roll.



This process shows you how it's done. It's probably a big leap to go from that to doing the same thing with songs of your own choosing. So probably better to spend time with the songs tabbed in the book -- or someone else's book, or here in the Hangout's Tab Library. The more you work with tabbed songs that do what you want to learn to do, the faster you'll learn to do it yourself.



For the material you prefer to work on, get the sheet music (notation) and do as I touched on above: Find the core melody, then work out for yourself - trial and error - wrapping the melody within rolls, chords, licks. It takes time to learn this. Judging from previous discussions here, some players never learn it



Good luck.

thisoldman - Posted - 11/19/2023:  07:14:49


It's my understanding that in the Hatfield instructional books, which are tab based, the melody notes are highlighted. If you want to see what that might look like, check out some of Rick McKeon's tabs, here .   Re-read Ken's post, look at Rick's tabs, and you'll see one person's idea of fitting rolls/picking patterns into an arrangement.  If you pick just the highlighted melody notes in Rick's arrangement, you will hear what the melody sounds like, then if  you pick all the notes you'll have a BG style arrangement.  



If you want to press the easy button, check out Janet Davis' Splitting the Licks book. Tab based.  She takes tunes and writes several, getting more complex, arrangements for each tune:   Melody notes only, forward rolls only, different rolls, one with licks,  and one with HO, PO and slides.  If you deconstruct the  arrangements, you might figure out the rationale for the picking patterns she chose, and what melody notes she decided to include. 



One of my memories as a beginner was looking at a measure in a tune, deciding I wanted to substitute for a melody note, and figuring out a picking pattern that included that note in that measure.  Kind of a lightbulb moment. 

Texasbanjo - Posted - 11/19/2023:  08:19:10


One thing that often causes beginners problems in trying to make their own arrangement to a song is thinking that everything must be in rolls. Too often that makes for a rather dull, boring song. Get away from thinking what roll and think what sound do I want. Sliding into a root note, doing a hammer on to a melody note, using a partial roll, using a hot lick at the end of a musical phrase, even (heaven forbid!) using a rest in a song will sometimes make a song more interesting.

Old Hickory - Posted - 11/19/2023:  10:46:08


quote:

Originally posted by Texasbanjo

One thing that often causes beginners problems in trying to make their own arrangement to a song is thinking that everything must be in rolls.  . . . Get away from thinking what roll and think what sound do I want. 






There it is right there. The most important thing to know boiled down to two sentences.



Yes, it is sometimes possible to choose a roll and make a song fit. But every roll isn't going to fit every song. Or every measure within a song.



The add-on to thinking about what sound you want is after picking one melody note and before picking the next one, you need to think about how many notes you need to play and which fingers are available to pick them. 



Yes, some players in some situations choose a roll and repeat it through multiple chord changes or position changes up and down the neck. Those rarely, if ever, are expressing literal melody of a vocal song or composed instrumental and are more often non-literal musical interpretations following the harmony (chord progression). The repeated roll or pattern in these instances is chosen for effect. 

Tractor1 - Posted - 11/19/2023:  12:24:57


rather dull boring can be caused by many different factors--though too much boring melody can definitely be the culprit--
My own wrong thinking is ,I can't see leaving out much of classic diamond in the rough melodies ==such as Sweet Georgia Brown--of Foot prints in the Snow --of course embellishing and time shifting is fair game--and variations afterwards is fair game in any direction

Tractor1 - Posted - 11/19/2023:  13:07:46


should have said'' or''Footprints in the Snow

monstertone - Posted - 11/22/2023:  10:20:04


quote:

Originally posted by mikelandis721

Any advice for someone new to the banjo on using regular sheet music to learn a song? First not the same as what is identified on the sheet? How do you identify what roll and notes to compliment it?






Many banjo players, myself included, resist learning to read sheet music like the plague. However, a basic understanding of the "language" goes a long way towards understanding how music works. Music notation & tablature are simply two different languages, methods of documentation. Identifying the notes is the first step, where to find them, and which finger to use, is a horse of a different color. indecision

Jack Baker - Posted - 11/22/2023:  10:35:20


Yeah,

I get your drift J.D.  I think tab is easier in that 5th string notes (G) can be at different places on the neck, or open, and notation doesn't really tell you that unless it's specified in the notation as to what's going on. Trust me, I didn't teach Composition at School with Tablature HA! Jack


Edited by - Jack Baker on 11/22/2023 10:36:58

Tractor1 - Posted - 11/22/2023:  11:13:46


many times putting extra lightly played notes in where they fit has showed me the magic of the syncopation in classic tunes --once I hear them played in time--I get them internalized better

Tractor1 - Posted - 11/22/2023:  11:33:21


some folks simply have better results at hearing and rendering to a correct transition than I--It saves me time--

monstertone - Posted - 11/22/2023:  13:39:11


quote:

Originally posted by Jack Baker

Yeah,

I get your drift J.D.  I think tab is easier in that 5th string notes (G) can be at different places on the neck, or open, and notation doesn't really tell you that unless it's specified in the notation as to what's going on. Trust me, I didn't teach Composition at School with Tablature HA! Jack






100% in agreement there, Jack. In fact, all the notes, save for the 4th string D, E, & F, can also be found in other places.



What I was also trying to say, without putting my foot in my mouth, was, although tablature shows how to play something, it does not clearly define the notes one is playing. Bill Keith alleviated that issue by including music notation above the tablature transcriptions in the Scruggs book. I took the liberty of penciling in the stems & flags in my book. wink

Jack Baker - Posted - 11/22/2023:  20:32:36


My only concern was that notes have to fit into rolls. True, the same notes could appear anywhere on the neck but do they fit into sensible rolls...Jack

monstertone - Posted - 11/23/2023:  11:47:43


Why must the notes fit into rolls? Where does it say thou shalt not forsake the roll for some other technique? Those, which one person defines as "sensible" rolls, may be defined, as lame excuses, by another. And yours truly was not without multiple self-imposed rules, of my own making, in days gone by. I could write a book about those hangups, roadblocks, & impediments, but I'm sure someone else has already beat be to it. laugh Long story short, all new skills take time to develop, some just take a little more time than others. The sooner we get on with it, the sooner we master it. I'm running out of time.



Where would we be without those who dared challenge orthodoxy? Matter of fact, seems I read somewhere that Beethoven's work was frowned upon by his contemporaries. cheeky

Jack Baker - Posted - 11/23/2023:  13:05:15


Ha!

I didn't exactly mean that all notes have to fit into rolls jd, I mean they often fit into rolls. Have an extra glass of wine jd. Yer gettin' too worked up and I'm not even sure I knew what I was talking about HA...Jack


Edited by - Jack Baker on 11/23/2023 13:14:55

Tractor1 - Posted - 11/23/2023:  13:55:09


sooner or later-those fingers will let you know ,that they don't particularly care for what you are asking for--sometimes I emphasis elsewhere and might even throw an empty spot in a good place

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