Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

Banjo Lovers Online

The Immutable Laws of Brainjo: Episode 30

Posted by Josh Turknett on Monday, February 19, 2018

like this

About the Laws of Brainjo Series

The Laws of Brainjo ("the Art and Science of Effective Practice") series describes the theoretical foundation for the Brainjo Method, a system of musical instruction that integrates that science of learning and neuroplasticity specifically designed for the adult learner.

The Brainjo Method is used for the Breakthrough Banjo courses for both clawhammer and fingerstyle banjo (and a brand new fiddle course!). 

Click here to learn more about the Breakthrough Banjo course for clawhammer banjo

Click here to learn more about the Breakthrough Banjo course for fingerstyle 

Episode 30: Why Anyone Can (and should!) Learn To Play By Ear (part 3)


by Josh Turknett, MD (


So in parts 1 and 2 of this series we laid out the case that:

  1. The ability to play by ear is not an innate ability, and is something virtually anyone can learn how to do (click here to take the ear quiz), AND
  2. Learning to do so will pay off big time. It is arguably the single best way to improve your playing, and is an essential piece in the development of musical fluency.


In the second installment, I provided some ways to get started developing your ear, if this is something that's totally new to you. Inside of the Breakthrough Banjo course, I've also recently added the Ear Laboratory, an extension of the "Learning to Play by Ear" modules.

The laboratory will include video tutorials where we'll take a song and go through the process, step by step, of transforming it, by ear, into a banjo arrangement. The ultimate goal being to break down what oftentimes seems like an overwhelming process into a series of manageable steps that anyone can learn, with a bit of practice.

So, to help crystallize the concepts we've covered in parts 1 and 2 of this "playing by ear" series in the Laws of Brainjo, here is the first episode, where we'll create an arrangement of Pretty Polly, from scratch. 


Click Here To Get The Tab


Want to find out if you have what it takes to learn to play by ear?

Click here to take the "Can you play by ear?" quiz


About the Author: Dr. Josh Turknett is the creator of the Brainjo Method, the first music teaching system to incorporate the science of learning and neuroplasticity and specifically target the adult learner.

To learn more about the Breakthrough Banjo courses for clawhammer and fingerstyle banjo, click the relevant link below:

 Aspiring Clawhammer Banjoists enthusiasts click here

Aspiring Fingerstyle Banjoists click here



Wanna find a prior episode? Check out the Table of Contents below:

3 comments on “The Immutable Laws of Brainjo: Episode 30”

RickNC Says:
Saturday, February 24, 2018 @11:04:15 AM

Thanks for the tips, Josh! That is very helpful.

One thing that confuses me is that some of those notes aren't in the scale.

I was thinking that I would stay in the key of G (gDGBD) until I get more advanced. That way I can memorize where all the notes in the scale are on the fretboard. So when I am figuring out melodies on-the-fly in a jam I can limit my melody notes to just those ones.

But, watching the video, it doesn't seem like my strategy will work. You are playing, for example, the 3rd string at the 3rd fret, which is a B flat, which is not one of the notes I memorized that is in the scale.

When searching for melody notes, will the notes in the scale USUALLY be the ones we want? Is Pretty Polly an outlier? Or will notes not in the scale OFTEN be the right ones?

SonicGrass Says:
Sunday, February 25, 2018 @7:10:26 AM

Hello RickNC

If the melody has notes that are outside of the scale, those notes can be used. One way of doing this is to learn the modes, If a song has a minor sound in part or all of the song, Dorian if the third B is flatted in the key of G. Aeolian will have a flatted third and a flatted six E in the key of G. The pentatonic is useful as well in blue sounding tunes and usually will work in place of Dorian or Aeolian.

Simply put if the note is in the melody you can use it in the solo. If you want to get technical learn the modes and use them to improvise of the section with the notes in the melody that match, and if your not sure and its appropriate use the pentatonic.

SonicGrass Says:
Sunday, February 25, 2018 @7:16:11 AM

To get really geeky you can use different modes over different parts of the song.

You must sign into your myHangout account before you can post comments.

More posts from Josh Turknett

Newest Posts

Click for Details 'TKL Case' 7 hrs

More >  

Hide these ads: join the Players Union!

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories