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Foggy Mountain Banjo Project Part 3 -- Reuben

Posted by bellf on Thursday, March 29, 2018

like this

This is the March edition of my Foggy Mountain Banjo Project -- Reuben.

This tune is so much fun. I've never really played in D tuning before. In some ways I don't like the idea of alternative tunings -- they seem like too much of a hassle. I didn't feel that way about drop C - it's just one string. Once I started playing Reuben, I thought "D tuning sounds great!" 

Reuben seems like an easier tune than it is, I think. It's easy in the sense that it sounds pretty good when played slow, and the basic moves aren't too hard. But if your pull-offs aren't real snappy, you certainly notice it. So Reuben's taught me that I've got to work on my 3-2 pull-offs some more.

The chokes are tricky too. Not super hard, but you can hear it when they are not quite right.

I learned this tune mostly by ear from listening to Bennett Sullivan's slow playing of the tune. I also listened to Earl's playing slowed down many times. Bennett plays it differently to Earl in a few ways. Bennett tunes the 5th to A, while Earl uses F#. I tried both. I settled on A because I couldn't make it sound as good when I used F#. Earl's playing is more sparse in the up the neck parts, but when you don't have a band behind you it seems better to add some extra notes in to keep the rythm going. I also did a few things my own way that are different to both Earl and Bennett.

I grabbed the D7 bit (which I love the sound of) from Earl's book. I should have tried using my ear more to work this out, but I got a bit lazy.

That harmonic on the fifth fret of the first string is difficult to sound.

This is a tune I want to work on a lot more so that I can iron out some of the kinks, but I reckon it doesn't sound too bad even with a few kinks in it.

Next month -- I don't know yet. 


4 comments on “Foggy Mountain Banjo Project Part 3 -- Reuben”

Deleteme Says:
Friday, March 30, 2018 @4:52:52 AM

Interesting, I will check this out. Thanks for the link.

WayneConrad Says:
Friday, March 30, 2018 @6:40:17 AM


AndyW Says:
Friday, March 30, 2018 @8:24:26 AM

I assume Reuben and Reuben's train are the same tune.

Reuben's train is one of the tunes in Dan Levensons (Clawhammer) Old Time Festival favourites I am considering learning.

What I find slightly humorous is I am shifting out of double C/D to open G for this tune......And you are going completely the other way tuning wise....

bellf Says:
Friday, March 30, 2018 @4:22:10 PM

Thanks NorthI, Wayne and Andy.

You’re right Andy — Reuben and Reuben’s Train are the same tune. That is funny that the different traditions seem to be playing it in different tunings. I have seen an old time band perform Reuben’s Train (with singing) but I can’t remember what key they played it in.

Let me know if you post yourself playing Reuben’s Train, Andy. I’d love to hear it.

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