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Earl Scruggs and the Five String Banjo (1st ed)

Posted by bellf on Friday, November 4, 2016


After reading some posts about its history (Bill Keith's involvement, and the changes to the revised edition) I recently bought the first edition of Earl Scruggs and the Five-String Banjo. First of all it's a great book. The biographical information about Earl Scruggs is great. I suspect this information would be well-known to bluegrass banjo players who have been at it for a long time, but a lot of it was new to me and it was very entertaining. Within the text of the exercise sections there is also some information from Scruggs about his history of playing. For example, he used to play Earl's Breakdown without special tuners. He simply tuned down and up again by ear. I'm sure this is well known (I think I had heard this)  but I like to hear it from the horse's mouth.

There is a hilarious forward by some MD who thinks that women can't play the banjo - I suspect that that has been removed from the revised edition.  

The exercises are interesting. Scruggs (or Keith) recommends doing a pinch with three fingers (gBD) instead of two fingers (gD) as prescribed in the more modern books I've read. 

Scruggs also mentions becoming "disgusted with your own playing". I know the feeling, but I bet he still sounded great when he was disgusted.

There's a photo of a young Scruggs playing the fiddle. I wonder if there are any recordings of his fiddle playing?

I have one disappointment: I was under the impression that the up the neck break to Foggy Mountain Breakdown was in this book, but it is not. I'm not sure why I thought that - I think I'd heard it mentioned on a youtube video somewhere. Perhaps it's in the revised edition.

I'm glad I bought this book. I like learning the tunes from it and enjoy the information about Earl Scruggs.



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