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The Infamous Descending Scruggs Lick From Earl's Breakdown

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Oct 23, 2019 - 1:39:22 PM
224 posts since 3/29/2018

Hello everyone. So, I have The Earl Scruggs book and the tab. I have watched Earl do it on videos, and have tried to break it down measure by measure.....I can hear it in my head and still I am really struggling with it. I think it is the timing that isn't clicking....
There are a couple videos out there, but I don't think they are doing it "like Earl did"---which is what I want to learn.
I know it is an advanced one, but any help would be appreciated....Looking at you, Warp...lol...just kidding....kinda...
Any videos out there where someone takes the time to break it down slowly and methodically?

This has just been a buggaboo of a Phrase for me.
Any tips appreciated.

Oct 23, 2019 - 2:09:07 PM
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kjcole

USA

1191 posts since 4/21/2003

If you can tackle Earl's Breakdown, then you might want to consider using a slow down app or program to slow down one of Earl's audio recordings of this, just like in the old days of turntables! In general, the added struggle of figuring out fingerings from an audio recording pays big dividends as you come to gradually recognize recurring patterns in Earl's techniques. Then learning from slowed recordings gets faster and seems to stick with you better (due to that added struggle of connecting a pitch to a fingering - capoing is easy to figure out, but don't get tripped up by forgetting that the Foggy Mountain Boys weren't always tuned to A440).

Edited by - kjcole on 10/23/2019 14:12:16

Oct 23, 2019 - 2:09:25 PM
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Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

23463 posts since 8/3/2003

There's a tab in the archives that has what I think is the descending lick you're talking about. You might listen to it and see if that's what you're talking about. The problem you may be having with the timing is: it uses quarter notes and 8th notes and maybe you're trying to make the entire lick 8th notes??

Go here, and it's at about measure 72 or so: banjohangout.org/tab/browse.as...l&v=12874

Oct 23, 2019 - 3:35:12 PM
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102 posts since 10/31/2003

Here's is how I always thought about it and explained it to students. Play the 1st note 8 fret second string, then look at the rest of it as 4 note sections two eights followed by two quarter, a pattern all the way down until the last d note before the A chord which has only 3 notes and not 4 in the pattern. See if helps, kinda slick how simple this really is but Earl made it an awesome and noticeable lick.
Good Luck
Larry

Oct 23, 2019 - 4:18:18 PM
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chuckv97

Canada

44647 posts since 10/5/2013
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When I first heard that “falling-down-the-stairs” lick I thought it was too weird. It sounded like a musical joke Earl threw in there, and I didn’t want to learn it.
Same with the vamping section in the second Randy Lynn Rag break. But then, who am I to criticize Earl Scruggs. As an aside, one of the best things he did was the ascending phrase in "Foggy Mountain Special" starting on the 4th string , 5th fret and walking up with that bounce to the 10th then 12th fret. 
I’m a huge fan of his playing and most what I do is his stuff (the easier things, at least) :-)

Edited by - chuckv97 on 10/23/2019 16:26:14

Oct 23, 2019 - 5:06:13 PM
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12 posts since 4/4/2014

Using the proper right hand fingering as noted in the book was a big help for me playing that break.

Oct 23, 2019 - 6:57:09 PM
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50 posts since 10/26/2018

That lick always throws our bass player off with its timing.

Oct 24, 2019 - 6:31:42 AM
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3285 posts since 3/28/2008

Start by listening to it--a LOT. Listen to it so much that you can hum it along with the recording. Listen to it so much that when you wake up in the middle of the night, it's the first thought that runs through your head. You'll never be able to play it right unless you really feel it.

Oct 24, 2019 - 8:02:52 AM
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seanray

USA

1656 posts since 9/11/2004

Slow down the original recording, loop that lick and play along with it until you get the timing right.

Oct 24, 2019 - 8:22:20 AM
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6353 posts since 8/30/2004

Sean,
Very good advice....J

Oct 24, 2019 - 8:43:54 AM
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1352 posts since 2/10/2013

I recently had to relearn that part of the tune. Here is what worked best for me. First of all, I read the music as though it were in "cut" or 4/4 time. I hate 2/4 time.

I didn't work on the timing AND noting at the same time. I went through the lick just mentally counting out the timing - 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and. I did that until I felt comfortable with the timing for the complete lick. I didn't start working on noting until that was completed. Working on one problem at a time is reputed to be more effective than working on multiple problems. That may be what happens.

Well, that worked for me. Good luck.

Oct 24, 2019 - 10:30:38 AM
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jwold

USA

1135 posts since 7/21/2004

Perhaps you should try doing it 'your' way. I suspect there's variations in every recording of Earl doing it. While I agree it is very important to know how to play the song properly, but i wouldn't sweat it too much. Just getting through the song is plenty difficult.

Oct 24, 2019 - 11:18:44 AM

5332 posts since 10/13/2007
Online Now

Jack the Man Baker posted this early this am (or was it late last night Jack?)

https://www.banjohangout.org/tab/browse.asp?m=detail&v=23955

ken

Oct 24, 2019 - 11:26:21 AM
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RB3

USA

554 posts since 4/12/2004

If you look at the tablature in the Scruggs book, you'll see that in the first measure of the run, he plays an 1/8 note followed by a sequence of two 1/16 notes and two 1/8 notes. That sequence of two 1/16 notes and two 1/8 notes is the essence of the run and after the initial 1/8 note, the sequence is continuously repeated for the next 4 1/2 measures . That note sequence constitutes 1 1/4 beats of time, so as the sequence repeats, the 1/8 notes, which tend to be accented, occur at different points in time relative to the beats. That yields the syncopation that makes the run both interesting and difficult.

If you'll learn to proficiently play that sequence of two 1/16 notes and two 1/8 notes, you'll find that the run is not that difficult to execute. You'll also be able to use the same technique for shorter licks in other songs. J.D. Crowe does it all time.

Oct 24, 2019 - 11:38:58 AM
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Mooooo

USA

7193 posts since 8/20/2016

Dum diddle dum Dum, diddle dum Dum, diddle dum Dum, diddle dum Dum, diddle dum Dum, diddle dum Dum, diddle dum Dum, diddle dum, diddle diddle diddle boodle-dee, Dum....

That's how I play it.

Edited by - Mooooo on 10/24/2019 11:40:10

Oct 24, 2019 - 11:53:33 AM
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6353 posts since 8/30/2004

Ok, here it is in slo mo.  devil   Earl's Breakdown  p.s. This is a brilliant lick for Earl way back then...
Down The Neck Run     Tabledit

Originally posted by Astrobanjo

Hello everyone. So, I have The Earl Scruggs book and the tab. I have watched Earl do it on videos, and have tried to break it down measure by measure.....I can hear it in my head and still I am really struggling with it. I think it is the timing that isn't clicking....
There are a couple videos out there, but I don't think they are doing it "like Earl did"---which is what I want to learn.
I know it is an advanced one, but any help would be appreciated....Looking at you, Warp...lol...just kidding....kinda...
Any videos out there where someone takes the time to break it down slowly and methodically?

This has just been a buggaboo of a Phrase for me.
Any tips appreciated.


Edited by - Jack Baker on 10/24/2019 12:00:05

Oct 24, 2019 - 1:44:12 PM
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10216 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by jwold

Perhaps you should try doing it 'your' way. I suspect there's variations in every recording of Earl doing it. While I agree it is very important to know how to play the song properly, but i wouldn't sweat it too much. 


That's certainly what I do! I first heard (and saw) Earl play the lick in a 1972 bluegrass festival performance with the Revue. Went home and tried to recreate from memory what I heard, which I'm sure was incorrect, seeing as I was a novice player at the time. Heard it again the following year when I bought Will The Circle Be Unbroken. Never slowed it down or tabbed it out, but it helped me clean up my own version which I've been happily playing it for decades.

Like you, I agree there probably would have been value in learning it "right," but it never seemed important to me. I'm sure I've encouraged others to learn the right ways to play things. I'm nothing if not inconsistent.

Anyway, thanks to Jack's tab, I don't have to work it out!

Oct 28, 2019 - 11:17:27 AM
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jwold

USA

1135 posts since 7/21/2004

quote:
Originally posted by Old Hickory
quote:
Originally posted by jwold

Perhaps you should try doing it 'your' way. I suspect there's variations in every recording of Earl doing it. While I agree it is very important to know how to play the song properly, but i wouldn't sweat it too much. 


That's certainly what I do! I first heard (and saw) Earl play the lick in a 1972 bluegrass festival performance with the Revue. Went home and tried to recreate from memory what I heard, which I'm sure was incorrect, seeing as I was a novice player at the time. Heard it again the following year when I bought Will The Circle Be Unbroken. Never slowed it down or tabbed it out, but it helped me clean up my own version which I've been happily playing it for decades.

Like you, I agree there probably would have been value in learning it "right," but it never seemed important to me. I'm sure I've encouraged others to learn the right ways to play things. I'm nothing if not inconsistent.

Anyway, thanks to Jack's tab, I don't have to work it out!


I guess I should say that on those few occasions I've ever played this/jammed on this tune, I do try to play it pretty close to the way Earl did it...

Even Earl screwed up now and then...something happened at :55.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0jdoBDNGoA

Edited by - jwold on 10/28/2019 11:20:32

Oct 28, 2019 - 12:52:58 PM
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2506 posts since 4/19/2008

Here's my take on it


Oct 28, 2019 - 1:46:42 PM

6353 posts since 8/30/2004

It's all good Rick,
Earl did it one way on the Foggy Mt. Jamboree LP and never did it the same way in person....All of these versions capture the lick and that's the important part...Jack ps. I looked at both of Earl's books and even they differ in timing...Jack

Edited by - Jack Baker on 10/28/2019 13:54:16

Oct 28, 2019 - 4:57:24 PM
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Tim13

USA

3111 posts since 4/1/2008

quote:
Originally posted by mmuussiiccaall

Here's my take on it


I too use the third string instead of the 1st string once I'm at the 6th fret.  Sounds a bit better to my ear.

Nov 3, 2019 - 10:47:38 PM
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210 posts since 10/11/2008

Best to keep in mind that this is a descending chromatic lick at heart, after it gets on the 4th string, which is where the trouble usually starts in keeping it "timed" correctly (arriving at its destination point at the right time). At that point, he is walking down 2 notes at a time with the open 5th and 1st (and open 5th and 3rd) in between each 2 note walk-down (mostly filler).
Even played correctly, it is sometimes difficult for novice accompaniment to hear the end point, where a chord change is necessary.
I've found, as was suggested above, that "playing it my own way" is easier and can make the lick more interesting and easier to follow:
--don't fixate on the filler notes. You can drop them if you like.
--break up the timing of the chromatic notes, dropping one or two if you like, and accenting the ones that make sense to you.
--the beauty of a chromatic run is that you can start somewhere and go anywhere, just so you arrive at the right destination note at the right time.
In other words, play with it, have fun with it, and put your own "stamp" on it.
All after learning how Earl did it, however. ( <<<my opinion-YMMV)

Edited by - Banjosephus on 11/03/2019 22:50:21

Nov 4, 2019 - 11:55:44 AM
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2042 posts since 4/5/2006

That run is the result of one of the very few faux pa's made by Earl, but he worked his way out of by the time he got down the neck to the A chord. However, the cat was out of the bag as it was made on a live performance heard all over the range of the station. So when the band recorded the song, Earl had to do it the same way.

Nov 4, 2019 - 9:31:39 PM
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210 posts since 10/11/2008

quote:
Originally posted by monstertone

That run is the result of one of the very few faux pa's made by Earl, but he worked his way out of by the time he got down the neck to the A chord. However, the cat was out of the bag as it was made on a live performance heard all over the range of the station. So when the band recorded the song, Earl had to do it the same way.


Earl said he recorded the tune without the benefit of D-tuners,  as well.  In dropping the B-string,  he was at the mercy of a regular tuner and his keen ear.  Amazing job he did,  too.  On the Columbia Greatest Hits album (I think it is--maybe the Mercury one),  you can hear he came up just a little short one time--pretty darn good. 

Nov 5, 2019 - 5:45:49 AM

3195 posts since 12/6/2009

this looks interesting,
youtube.com/watch?v=vFWGTSqpzNM

Nov 5, 2019 - 6:16:40 AM

462 posts since 2/21/2005

quote:
Originally posted by monstertone
That run is the result of one of the very few faux pa's made by Earl, but he worked his way out of by the time he got down the neck to the A chord. However, the cat was out of the bag as it was made on a live performance heard all over the range of the station. So when the band recorded the song, Earl had to do it the same way.


That’s a fascinating piece of history regarding the recording of Earl’s Breakdown. Where did you find or find out about a live version that pre-dates the Columbia studio recording? I’d love to hear it if it’s still available. It would mean that Earl played it live without the benefit of a cam tuner. That’s quite an accomplishment, but I bet Earl could do it.

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