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What Tune Are You Working On Now and how do you learn it?

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Feb 10, 2018 - 8:55:18 AM



6176 posts since 8/20/2016

What are you working on now and how do you learn and remember it?

I love to learn new tunes. I learn by ear. If it is a tune by an artist that I really like I tab it out note for note in hopes that I will retain certain licks just as played by the big boys and add them to my reportoire. If it is a tune that I know without a banjo in it already, I try to work up my own version and stick in some licks that I know already and some that I come up with to fit the melody. I tab it out so I can remember what I was thinking.

Right now I'm getting Redbud up to speed, about 75% right now, but it's kind of tricky. It's a nice bouncy tune, but almost no open notes. Luckily it repeats the first half of the tune, but the second half is a bit harder. I'll get there. Good luck on your new tunes and have fun.

Edited by - Mooooo on 08/10/2018 11:50:18

Feb 10, 2018 - 9:04:03 AM
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1607 posts since 11/8/2010

I'm working on Foggy Mountain Special which is very much like Jazzing which I learned last. Next will be Foggy Mountain Rock to give me more options for playing over a twelve-bar blues progression which is likely to come up in non-bluegrass jams.

I learn by ear using the Transcribe! software and will sometimes tab out to help my memory.

Feb 10, 2018 - 9:10:48 AM
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3143 posts since 6/5/2011

Originally posted by Mooooo

What are you working on now and how do you learn and remember it?  <snip>


..."Good Night Ladies"  ...since March 2017 using Jack Hatfield's Book One BG Banjo Method, so apparently the 2nd. and 3rd. parts are: slowly and with considerable difficulty.   sad

Feb 10, 2018 - 9:17:39 AM
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2310 posts since 11/15/2003

I just worked up "The Way" by Fastball a couple of days ago!

Feb 10, 2018 - 9:21:28 AM



6176 posts since 8/20/2016

Originally posted by warpdrive

I just worked up "The Way" by Fastball a couple of days ago!

You've been picking a looong time now Warp. And quite accomplished. I wonder how a guy like you learns and remembers a new tune. My guess is you're so old school that you can remember everything. I am truly interested, if you could let us know, it would be great. Thanks.

* cool tune you are learning

Edited by - Mooooo on 02/10/2018 09:22:01

Feb 10, 2018 - 9:28:54 AM
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68548 posts since 5/9/2007

I'm working up the "Off to California Hornpipe" from a tab in "Back Porch Melodic Banjo".
Once I can play through without looking at the tab I'll have it internalized and begin ornamenting.

Feb 10, 2018 - 9:37:23 AM
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276 posts since 1/18/2008

Some Travis style Deep River Blues.

Feb 10, 2018 - 10:11:48 AM
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13403 posts since 8/14/2003

After the thread of Earl doing, Sing For me on the guitar last week.. It flung a craving on me.. So I picked up the Martin after many, many years and am brushing up my Earl guitar playing.. Several songs, of course, you are my flower, John Henry and various Religious that Earl did not play banjo on.. We have other banjo players, so it will fit in well..

Feb 10, 2018 - 10:14:05 AM
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38597 posts since 10/5/2013

Whisky Before Breakfast, capo ll , C position. Melodic with B part way up the neck

Feb 10, 2018 - 10:24:58 AM
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Clive Halls


202 posts since 11/25/2006

I’m learning Ashokan Farewell in G from tab which i dowloaded from this site. I play through it many times until my fingers know how to play it.

Feb 10, 2018 - 10:44:07 AM
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2310 posts since 11/15/2003


I tell ya, it's the darnedest thing, at going on 58 years old, i seem to be faster and cleaner, and able to figure out most anything i want now, and what puzzles me is just when i think it going to be something that will take me days to figure out, it falls together in just a few minutes!

I think "for me" it really has to do with the fact that i came from a musical family, i had a grandfather and great uncle that preformed and recorded in the thirties, and i was aware of music and how it worked and what to my young mind, it was supposed to sound like at a very young age!
I started piano at 7(never learned to read, just faked it for the teacher, still can't read )
i was chunking mandolin at 8 or 9 and learning guitar and a accomplished rhythm man by the time i took up banjo at 13.

But i tell ya mike, i think really, the truth behind my success of learning and retaining all the tunes and still to this day, a love of "all music of all genre's" is the fact that i was always trying to play what i liked to hear on tv and radio and not what necessarily my dad and his friends and even my grandpa liked, although grandpa rust,he admittedly said he liked big band and dance music growing up!

Banjo was kind of natural for me, "but not SCRUGGS/ and especially not CROWE!
Melodic and chromatic stuff has always just flowed for me, but i knew early on that i was really struggling with Scruggs and Crowe, and i fooled a lot of people, but i could never fool the great pickers that I knew, like my friend Robby Boone(plays jd better than jd!)
I could hear what i was doing wrong, but was always just a note or two off from what was really being done. Luckily for me, the bands i was playing with didn't do the hardcore traditional stuff, we did a full production show, twin fiddles, texas fiddle tunes, clogging, 50's and 60's rock, with just enough bluegrass to get us booked at big festivals, and enough variety, that we could appeal to listeners of every genre. We had no trouble going into a festival booked for 3 days and never repeated any tunes unless requested!
I didn't get serious about learning correct Scruggs until i was almost 40 years old, and to this day, i stay as far away from JD Crowe style as possible, his timing and what he takes off his roll to achieve it, just boggles my mind.

Mike, i hear banjo in just about every genre of music.
I hear hip hop songs that i start doing rolls in my head too!
I was inspired to learn" the way" from listening to Chris Thile a fews week ago on Live From Here!
To be honest with you, i listen to way more pop and blues and funk than i do Bluegrass, not to say that i don't love to play with a good hot traditional Bluegrass band, but it seems that my ability to go outside the box, and just try to play like kevin feels it, has always kind of worked for me, and when i get my life back together again in some time down the road, if the fates will have it, i might get back out again and make 10's of dollars and give it another go, only time will tell!
Thanks for your interest mike!

Feb 10, 2018 - 11:02:42 AM
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6176 posts since 8/20/2016

Thank you Warp. Gives us guys who aren't pros inspiration and perhaps a new outlook on where influences can come from. Lots of us listen to music outside the bluegrass genre, I wonder how many try to pick along with that stuff on the banjo. I just wish I could remember stuff like I could when I was a kid.

Feb 10, 2018 - 11:15:40 AM
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Players Union Member



348 posts since 9/10/2014

Lonesome Road Blues, via tab and play along track.
Long Journey Home is on deck. Same way of learning.

Feb 10, 2018 - 11:45:42 AM
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1801 posts since 4/5/2006

When I was learning, I used to tab stuff longhand, b4 computers. Mostly to make sure everything metered out correctly, but also for posterity, sometimes referring back to it, adding variations & so forth. I now have Tabledit, but I find it to be a royal pita to write tab with all the repetitions (AA BB)(1st & 2nd endings) and other notation like regular music. Plus the one thing that really bothers me is Tabledit insists on numbering the pickup measure as #1.

I first worked out a version of Whiskey (Capo II) out of C positions decades ago. It was kind of half & half including Scruggs, Dillard, & Hickman licks as well as melodic scale runs. More recently I worked out a full melodic version, in the key of D of course, out of standard G tuning. That''s the one I put on Table edit. It took me longer to document it than it did to work it out.

The challenge now is to be able to play more of those key of D fiddle tunes in open G tuning. But some of them are so ingrained after all these years, it's like I have to re program my brain, hands, everything. I'm often inclined to agree with Sonny, BG banjo ain't supposed to sound like that. blush 

The band I used to play with did a lot of vocal numbers. It was fun to work out breaks & see how close I could come to whoever we were using for reference, & then put my own twist on it. 

Some things I can just hear it and after a few times through, I've got it. Others, like Sweet Georgia Brown & Lime Rock have been kicking around the memory banks for years.       

Edited by - monstertone on 02/10/2018 11:55:21

Feb 10, 2018 - 12:14:49 PM
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2246 posts since 2/16/2017

Specifically, I've been working on a Scruggs version of Soldier's Joy straight from tab and the break in Hartford's version of Lorena, partly from a crappy tab in the archive here, and partly from ear since the tab falls short. Still trying to get Lorena all smooth and sounding right, but it seems to be my 15 month old's favorite song so I'll keep at it till I get it right.

In general I've been working on a lot of up the neck stuff, because it lags behind my down the neck playing. I've gotten a lot more comfortable with it lately though.

I'm remembering the same way I always do, grind it till it sticks. I can memorize words in a matter of minutes, but numbers and music never seem to stick with the same ease that words do. Music is very mathematical, so I don't know if there's a neurological relationship between how your brain processes numbers and music, but it sure feels like there is.

Feb 10, 2018 - 2:27:31 PM
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2301 posts since 4/19/2008

here's my list taken from my word processer recent list, wow not one bluegrass song, since Jan. 1:

(I Know) I'm Losing You
Imaginary Lover
Hohner Harmonica Demonstration by Annie Raines
Peter Gunn Theme
Along The Navajo Trail
You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin’
Cry Me A River
I Got Rhythm
Send In The Clowns
Take It Easy banjo
Mama Told Me Not to Come
In the Presence of the Lord
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
Mama Told Me Not to Come
God Gave Rock & Roll To You
Bloody Well Right
Shower The People
Ring Of Fire
I Left My Heart In San Francisco
The Rainbow Connection
Girl Talk
Georgia on My Mind
Falling In Love Again
Don't Get Around Much Anymore
Blue Moon
Deep Purple
Call Me Irresponsible
Ain't Misbehavin’
Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song

Feb 10, 2018 - 2:54:16 PM



6176 posts since 8/20/2016

Originally posted by mmuussiiccaall

here's my list taken from my word processer recent list, wow not one bluegrass song, since Jan. 1:

...Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song

That's an impressive list Rick. How did you learn these and how did you memorize them all? Or are you learning all of these at the same time?

Edited by - Mooooo on 02/10/2018 14:56:17

Feb 10, 2018 - 4:06:27 PM
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2301 posts since 4/19/2008

95% of them are for my band. I'm up to 350 songs total for that band my usual procedure is to download the lyrics from the Internet and then by ear imputing the correct musical parts for our instrumentation which is drums percussion keyboards guitars bass saxophone vocals. Practice wise I probably haven't done that in 20 years .

Feb 10, 2018 - 5:44:18 PM
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6374 posts since 2/14/2006

Right now I'm working on a tune I have played before, but am out of practice. i haven't played it for at least 6 months. Ashley Lewis wrote this song called "Cascade," and we played it at IBMA on this youtube before.  We have a show coming up next weekend and it's on the list.  So it says something about how I forget tunes!

Feb 10, 2018 - 6:22:08 PM



6176 posts since 8/20/2016

You guys sound great Doug, good luck next week. Hope it leads to something huge.

Feb 11, 2018 - 7:08:53 AM
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Players Union Member



1284 posts since 8/8/2012

I'm currently learning You Are My Sunshine from a Bill Nesbitt lesson. I printed out the tab and learn a bar at a time, then play the ones learned together along with the slow version of the lesson video to smooth them out. Once the complete tune is learned, I continue to play along with the lesson video versions increasing the speed until I reach the appropriate tempo. Keep picking.

Feb 11, 2018 - 8:12:38 AM
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1543 posts since 1/16/2010

Working on a few Weissberg arrangements...”Pony Express” currently. Just repetition over and over when I can pick up the banjo. And then thinking about it and moving my left and right hand fingers like I’m actually playing...while I’m at work.

Feb 11, 2018 - 8:41:12 AM
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3164 posts since 3/28/2008

I've been polishing up "Big Sciota", both melodic and Scruggs style. It's a good tune, though not a top favorite of mine. But a lot of my friends play it, and it's likely to show up at our gig this afternoon at the Port City Brewing Company in Alexandria, VA.

Edited by - Ira Gitlin on 02/11/2018 08:41:30

Feb 11, 2018 - 1:39:42 PM
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3949 posts since 6/15/2005

"Cattle in the Cane," "El Cumbanchero," "Kansas City Railroad Blues" and "Cowboys and Indians." The first two have been coming up a lot at one of my jams, the other two I just happen to like.

Ira, please say hello to Big Seymour Oaty for me.

Feb 11, 2018 - 2:06:25 PM

13403 posts since 8/14/2003

(yeegh... That video makes me feel old Doug... I remember Jimmy as the kid carrying the fiddle around, back in the bank basement days. Haven't seen some of them guys in 20 years or more..)

Feb 11, 2018 - 8:46:56 PM
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592 posts since 2/9/2016

Eighth of January  -- repetition

This is called periodically at the Slow Jam I attend on occasion.  Once a semi-regular had a guest with him who had never heard the song, or Battle of New Orleans. Afterwards this tune caused a bit of discomfort for some and humor for the rest of us. As it turns out the visitor was from England.

Edited by - dr4dpet on 02/11/2018 20:57:02

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