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A Beginner's discoveries

Posted by docfeetz on Saturday, May 26, 2007

I realize that anything I have to say will be either a demonstration of my relative ignorance or one of those "Duh" moments for anyone reading it. But a blog is a journal, and it seems appropriate to relate things I learn as I learn them. Hopefully I won't bore the veterans or sound uppity to my fellow beginners...

So I'll share what's been helpful so far. Bought two books - Earl Scruggs', of course, and Pete Wernick's. Looked at the chords, the rolls, and practice some of each every night. Dave (teacher) had us doing the alternating thumb roll and really all of the rolls on ES p. 40-41. Those two pages are about two months' work, as I see it. Look at Wernicks' book from pp 18-22 and see how he covers it a little different.

The chapters on building your own banjo (in each book) are fun. I already read "The Foxfire Book" so I'll say they are more sophisticated than  that, but most of us are going to buy a banjo.Or try to find one in a pawn shop, maybe.

I think I need totake a good look at chords next, because playing open G seems to be getting pretty boring. Guitar player pleasant discovery: It's the first four strings on a guitar except the first is dropped a whole step, so adjust accordingly. (I've played a fair amount of baritone uke which helps - that's the first four guitar strings exactly). Open G is a feebie,. C major is next, and D 7 is next. I'm trying to use those to practice alternating thumb rolls and try "Worried Man." (I just finished working up a dynamite fiddle solo for that song, so I'm all over it). I was surprised how I felt 13 years old again trying to combine rolls and chord changes but after a couple weeks I can hold my own and impress my 29 year old son.

Big discovery: The F chord (like on a guitar but with the top note raised a whole step to what would be a G on a guitar) and a straight four string bar chord with just the index finger, give you a lot of coverage - about what the guitarist's E-bar and A-bar chords would. This helps get things covered all over the neck. Except for that fifth string. I won't be ready for discussions of capos, HO train spikes, or other esoterica for awhile, so I'll propose what my favorite Japanese ukulele player advises on his web site: "If you don't know the chord, just use a similar chord you do know."

The alternative is buying a Mel Bay chord book and trying to memorize all those patterns, which (as a veteran of guitar, uke, and mandolin Mel Bay books, I can tell you is a royal pain and a sure way to get you to lose interest).

I'm also expecting from my listening, pondering, and leaps of logic, that if I can master the Foggy Mountain Roll, I could make about 150 songs sound cool right off the bat. (Listen to Tangleweed's version of "Leavin' of Liverpool," which is what really cemented my desire to learn banjo. When he comes in on the second verse, it's with a standard Foggy Mountain roll but it's a bit slower and sounds real sweet - bouncy but dignified). It's sort of a magical discovery whenever I've realized, "Hey! I can play that!"Granted, my foggy mountain roll is still in the early stages, but I know I can do it.

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