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Aug 12, 2017 - 6:34:58 PM
140 posts
Joined Aug 10, 2012

I've recently realized that I've not studied up much on the banjo playing works and styles of Sonny Osborne. Is there a definitive guide on where to start and everything I should listen to?


Aug 12, 2017 - 7:37:54 PM
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tkersey

USA

13 posts
Joined May 17, 2015

He made an instructional DVD with Homespun Tapes.
Aug 12, 2017 - 7:39:53 PM
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beegee

USA

20199 posts
Joined Jul 6, 2005
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Sonny's got a video, but his older instruction books are pretty strightforward Scruggs stuff. Problem is, Sonny is so creative and innovtive and imaginative it would be hard to capture that magic stuff he does. And although he has lots of signature licks he uses, I have never seen  a comprehensive collection of tabs that could do the job. Then there is the perspiration it takes to develop those licks. Sonny did a column for BNL years back and he explaines some stylistic stuff in there.Get a copy of Masters of the 5 String Banjo,, Sonny's old Mel Bay book and Neil Griffin's Sonny Osboren Mel Bay book. Again, tabs do not begin to do justice to the nuances and art that characterize sonny's playing. I have a pretty large collection of Osborne Brothers music and the full set of sonny's early works on the Gateway label. I try to do a lot of his stuff, but there ain't but one Sonny.

Aug 12, 2017 - 10:27:56 PM
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125 posts
Joined May 30, 2016

You could ask him yourself. He is a member here on the hang out. He is The Chief! He tries to help anybody he can. Nobody better than him can point you in the right direction. But again as mentioned before, there's no way to really describe his playing. All I have ever heard him say about "his" styled is, " I just played what I felt".The best thing you can do is listen to all the Osborne Brothers music you can possibly listen to. And there is a lot of it so that should keep you busy for a while


Aug 13, 2017 - 4:34:44 AM
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2402 posts
Joined Dec 6, 2009

also just listen to a lot of his recordings.over and over until you get his sound in your head. helps a lot.

Aug 13, 2017 - 6:11:33 AM
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2813 posts
Joined Jul 12, 2006

quote:
Originally posted by overhere
 

also just listen to a lot of his recordings.over and over until you get his sound in your head. helps a lot.


this is the best advice you will get. you can also slow down his breaks and you will get them note for note

Aug 13, 2017 - 7:39:24 AM

n1wr

USA

610 posts
Joined Dec 27, 2010

Read through this string of messages.  Sonny is a frequent poster there.  Note - it's LONG - there are 133 pages!

http://www.banjohangout.org/topic/154475/1

Aug 13, 2017 - 8:08:41 AM
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410 posts
Joined Feb 10, 2013

I remember him saying that he also listened to other musical instruments to come up with new ideas for his banjo playing.  So don't restrict your search to what banjo players are doing.

Aug 13, 2017 - 11:06:32 AM

140 posts
Joined Aug 10, 2012

I do want to listen to his recordings but finding them all is rather hard because I use music streaming services. Is there a breakdown of different points in his career that is good to listen to?


Aug 13, 2017 - 11:21:56 AM
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3895 posts
Joined Oct 13, 2007

Bear Family has many of their old recordings on their CD sets. With those and Amazing slow downer as Gary suggested I would think you could study all you wanted.

https://www.amazon.com/Bluegrass-1956-1968-Osborne-Brothers/dp/B0000282W8

http://www.oldies.com/product-view/91149N.html

ken

Aug 13, 2017 - 4:18:37 PM
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2038 posts
Joined May 29, 2011

Unlike some professional musicians, Sonny plays a lot of his breaks on the fly so he does not always play something the same way each time. That makes it harder to find his licks in tab. His backup playing is the epitome of what a banjo player should aspire to.

The suggestions to listen as much as you can are probably the best bet.

Aug 14, 2017 - 5:36:47 AM
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2802 posts
Joined Sep 4, 2010

When I really want to study a specific banjo player, I listen to only that person for several weeks.  Sonny has a large library to pull from.  Listen for repeated licks or phrases that define his style.  I would highly recommend listening to live sets. I'm sure that there are some where the banjo mic is hot and you can really hear what he is playing on breaks and backup.  If you can find some accurate tablature, it would help to learn some of his famous breaks, but also to look for repeated ideas across multiple songs.  Good luck and have fun!

PS.  Don't forget that Sonny played a 6 string banjo for a while with a low B string.  If you can't replicate what he is doing sometimes, it may be because he was using the 6-string.

Aug 14, 2017 - 6:42:02 AM
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chief3

Canada

1015 posts
Joined Oct 26, 2003

From what I know regarding how Sonny's style was developed, I would suggest your approach could start with a very good understanding of the style of Earl Scruggs and then take notice to how Sonny made modifications to create his own style. If you really want to understand the music of a great musician, it helps to understand how they think and interpret what they hear.

Aug 14, 2017 - 4:07:16 PM
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13190 posts
Joined Mar 6, 2006

Beyond Sonnys interpretation of Earl, his style is made up of his own ideas, plus comping licks and phrases from other instruments beyond the bluegrass realm. Sonny is a genius of the banjo and his skill set goes much beyond just traditional Scruggs. If you really want to explore his rule, look to all the outside influences too.

Aug 14, 2017 - 9:54:56 PM
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346 posts
Joined Nov 29, 2007

I have spent nearly 10 years on the road with Sonny Osborne, and have been a friend of his for more than 35 years. When Sonny stopped playing the banjo in 2004, he continued with the Osborne Brothers singing with his brother Bobby. I played the banjo with the group until Sonny retired, and then continued with Bobby for another five years. I can say for certain, that Sonny knew every note Earl Scruggs ever played. Every note. This, combined with other musicians like Chet Atkins, Leon Rhodes, Hal Rugg, Buddy Emmons, James Burton, Roy Nichols, and SO many others, Sonny was such the genius, that he was able to take the playing of these greats, and incorporate into his own style. He is the most creative banjo player I have ever heard, able to play anything that was in his mind. Am I bias? Of course I am! Listen to Bluegrass Concerto, Dandylion, America The Beautiful, or anything he recorded.

We are still best friends today. Long live the chief! The best! 

Aug 24, 2017 - 3:14:26 AM
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2402 posts
Joined Dec 6, 2009

quote:
Originally posted by stringman711
 

I have spent nearly 10 years on the road with Sonny Osborne, and have been a friend of his for more than 35 years. When Sonny stopped playing the banjo in 2004, he continued with the Osborne Brothers singing with his brother Bobby. I played the banjo with the group until Sonny retired, and then continued with Bobby for another five years. I can say for certain, that Sonny knew every note Earl Scruggs ever played. Every note. This, combined with other musicians like Chet Atkins, Leon Rhodes, Hal Rugg, Buddy Emmons, James Burton, Roy Nichols, and SO many others, Sonny was such the genius, that he was able to take the playing of these greats, and incorporate into his own style. He is the most creative banjo player I have ever heard, able to play anything that was in his mind. Am I bias? Of course I am! Listen to Bluegrass Concerto, Dandylion, America The Beautiful, or anything he recorded.

We are still best friends today. Long live the chief! The best! 


when you mentioned Sonny knew every Note Earl played....it reminded me a few years ago (more then a few) a DJ  would run little contest and he'd play a song and have callers Identify the artists. He played a recording of The Osbornes doing Little Girl in Tennessee a F&S standard....I was wrong..and so were 100 others.(no one won)..they all guessed F&S and it was The Osbornes...I still dont believe it... it was uncanny ...lol

Edited by - overhere on 08/24/2017 03:15:10

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