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Exercising the circle both ways

Posted by WayneConrad on Friday, June 21, 2019

I do a lot of exercises around the circle of fourths/fifths (it's the same circle, but if you go around it one way, you're going up by fifths, and if you go around it the other way, you're going up by fourths).  For example, I'll practice a scale in C, then go up a fourth and practice it in F, then go up a fourth and practice it in Bb, and so on.  I realized the other day that I never go up a fifth, which is also legitimate and should be practiced.  So I'm going to start practicing more by going up fifths.  Doing that, I play in the key of C first, then G, then D, and so on around the circle until I get back to C.

I've been making progress in learning alternate ways to play major scales on the bottom three strings in open G or drop C tuning (the bottom three strings, G B D, are the same in both tunings, so knowing scales on those strings is very useful.  The goal is to be able to blend all the different ways to play the scales together until I can move freely around the fretboard without being limited to one position on the neck.  Will I get there?  I don't know.  Will it result in anything I can perform that someone wants to hear?  I don't know.  I want to learn it for it's own sake.

I've been doing a lot of exercises out of Emile Grimshaw's "Plectrum Playing for Modern Banjoists".  I'm not playing plectrum banjo, but that doesn't matter.  This book is chock full of scales and exercises, mostly in drop C tuning, that adapt well to the clawhammer-ish picking I do.  There are some very musical practice exercises in this book that sound like the beginnings of proper tunes, which is neat because it encourages me to practice musically.  That is, not just playing the notes in a certain time and certain order, but with musical phrasing and dynamics so they sound good.  The exercises have a lot of "meat" in them, musically, and are the right level of challenge for where I am right now.  Although a beginner book, some of the exercises are quite challenging at my intermediate level.  Banjo students 100+ years ago had grit.

My homework for the next three weeks is to learn dominant 7 chords on the bottom three strings only, every inversion, every key.


3 comments on “Exercising the circle both ways”

AndyW Says:
Saturday, June 22, 2019 @12:18:35 AM

Wayne, I think you would have great fun on an electric guitar. Sliding around in scales, you also get the added extra 'fun' of super sustain allowing bending and tremolo.

WayneConrad Says:
Saturday, June 22, 2019 @9:12:16 PM

@AndyW - I know you are right, but I just have no love for the guitar. I mean, I love to hear it, but have no interest in playing it.

AndyW Says:
Sunday, June 23, 2019 @6:29:32 AM

Fair enough. My own guitar has not moved from my bedroom cupboard since I picked up banjo nearly two years ago.

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