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Fingerboard Familiarity Instructionals

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Jan 23, 2020 - 6:47:48 PM
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1512 posts since 2/10/2013

I recently read an instructional and there was a small chapter on major scales in closed positions. Everything was done using single string technique. I started working on this small chapter in order to improve my single string playing technique. I quickly realized my keyboard familiarity up the neck was not good enough.

I think advanced beginners and intermediate level banjoist would benefit from an instructional publication that included scales and exercises, tab and notation, that provided something like this. The student would become aware of where every note is located on the fingerboard. In addition, it would teach the reader how to create versions on tunes up the neck. And they could learn how to play parts of a tune "down" the neck, and other parts in higher positions.  Mentally figuring out where notes are on the fingerboard dramatically slows down or stops the mental improvisation process.

This probably sounds ridiculous to advanced banjoists. But having this knowledge would allow a person to do more than rely exclusively on memorization of licks and chord fingerings.  I am guessing the music would have more originality.

Edited by - Richard Hauser on 01/23/2020 18:52:28

Jan 24, 2020 - 4:58:39 AM
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Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

23702 posts since 8/3/2003

I'm trying to remember where I got information like you're requesting. It showed you the 3 major fingerings and how to find the 1, 3, 5 notes under your fingers and then find the rest of the scale by only moving up or down one fret. It was either Alan Munde or Pat Cloud, if my memory serves me right. Maybe whoever it was will chime in here with some of that information. Doubt I could find it now, as it's been years since I've looked at it.

Jan 24, 2020 - 5:58 AM
Players Union Member

pickn5

USA

1409 posts since 8/8/2012

Interesting. I'll check my instructional material to see if I have something like that.

Jan 24, 2020 - 6:06:19 AM

426 posts since 9/21/2018

I've been working on that by helping my daughter with her ukulele lessons. She's just getting in to learning partial scales on single strings, so I've been using my banjo so we can do that together, and I try to play the same octave as her (her open 1st string is a 7th fretted 1st string, A).

Instructional materials on all of that would be handy though.

Jan 24, 2020 - 7:58:49 AM
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10436 posts since 6/2/2008

quote: Originally posted by Texasbanjo

>> I'm trying to remember where I got information like you're requesting. It showed you the 3 major fingerings and how to find the 1, 3, 5 notes under your fingers and then find the rest of the scale by only moving up or down one fret. It was either Alan Munde or Pat Cloud, if my memory serves me right. Maybe whoever it was will chime in here with some of that information. <<

Several books have the type of chart you're describing. Hangout member mmuussiiccaall has probably posted one. He has a chart for almost everything!

I think your message gets to the point that advanced players in the midst of a high speed improvisation aren't thinking of the name of each note. There's no time. I believe they're thinking about the sound of the phrase they're hearing in their head. They understand, without thinking about it, how far each note is from the one that came before it and know, through instinct or muscle memory, what these "intervals" look like on the fingerboard.

And despite Richard Hauser's suggestion to the contrary, I believe there's a lot of memorization involved. For single-string players, in particular, there's memorization of scale shapes all up and down the fingerboard: major scales (and their modes), minor scales, pentatonic scales, blues scales . . . starting on any degree of the scale.

I totally agree there's value in the type of instructional material Richard is describing. To some extent, it already exists.

More valuable, I believe, is learning and internalizing the sounds of what that material is trying to teach.

Edited by - Old Hickory on 01/24/2020 07:59:04

Jan 24, 2020 - 8:06:20 AM

1512 posts since 2/10/2013

I am pleased to read positive replies. I also play guitar and fiddle. For the guitar, the "Flatpicking Essentials" series instructionals have a large volume that can be used to that enables the reader acquire and use the knowledge I talked about. I ordered Volume 4 in the series yesterday. After I become familiar with that book, I may be able to use that teaching approach to improve my familiarization with the banjo neck.

On the fiddle, players refer to positions. First position, second position, etc.. So far I haven't heard this term used by banjoists. Once in a great while I hear the term used by guitarists.

Jan 24, 2020 - 10:14:49 AM

Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

23702 posts since 8/3/2003

Old Hickory

Many years ago I got into single string and melodic and learned what notes went where when I was in a closed fingering position or open and fretted melodic picking. Now I don't have to think about it, my fingers and brain just get together and play what I want to play. However, I did work on those closed position/melodic scales up and down the fretboard when I first started. Perhaps I did memorize enough to get where I wanted to go. At this point, I don't know, but I don't think "closed fingering position 1, notes so and so", I just start picking and it works.

Jan 24, 2020 - 10:18:32 AM
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Mooooo

USA

7431 posts since 8/20/2016

I don't know if this is helpful for any of you guys, but I have memorized shapes that help me out. You can take these as far as you want and they are easy to figure out on your own.

In this system the 1 represents your index, the 2 is your middle, the 3 is your ring, and the 4 and 5 are for your pinky.

They work like this: Start out with the root note (any root note), and that will be where the "1" is located on the 4th string (this will be your starting point for the 1st position shape).

Here is the G scale in the first position (starting with your index finger)
1 - first string - played on the 5th fret
1,3 - second string - played on the 5th and 7th frets
1,3 - third string - played on the 5th and 7th frets
1,3,5 - D (fourth) string - played on the 5th, 7th and 9th frets. Start with your index finger then put the ring finger on the 7th fret, then stretch up to the 9th fret with your pinky. The rest of the notes are more comfortable with only the index and ring fingers in this position.

The second position G scale starting on the 4th string with your middle finger, goes like this:
2 - played on the 1st string, 5th fret
2,4 - played on the 2nd string, 5th and 7th frets
1,2,4 - played on the 3rd strings, 4th, 5th and 7th frets
2,4 - played on the 4th strings, 5th and 7th frets
Second Position feels the most awkward, but I start with my middle finger on the 5th fret, D (fourth) string, then my pinky stretches to the 7th fret. This leaves your index finger in position to pick up the 2nd fret of the G (third) string.

Third position (starting with your pinky) goes like this:
3,4 - played on the 1st string, 4th and 5th frets
2,4 - played on the 2nd string, 3rd and 5th frets
1,3,4 - played on the 3rd string, 2nd, 4th and 5th frets
4 - played on the 4th string, 5th fret with your pinky
Start the 3rd position with your pinky and your first finger will be in place to pick up the next note on the next string.

Simply by moving your root note up or down on the fretboard, you can play any scale in any position by memorizing these 3 patterns.

I usually go up past the octave when I practice so it looks like this (with the fourth string represented on the bottom of the pattern):

135
13
13
135

I hope this can help someone, but lots of people won't understand it without a video.

Edited by - Mooooo on 01/24/2020 10:27:32

Jan 24, 2020 - 10:34:46 AM

426 posts since 9/21/2018

Pseudo-related: I've been searching for charts that correlate the notes on the fretboard to standard notation. I think the Mel Bay wall chart might have this.

Jan 24, 2020 - 11:17:37 AM
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4983 posts since 9/21/2007

If you take out the tab, this sounds like pretty much every instruction book published for the banjo before the "folk era" or pre WW2.

Jan 24, 2020 - 11:52:10 AM

Mooooo

USA

7431 posts since 8/20/2016

quote:
Originally posted by Mooooo

I don't know if this is helpful for any of you guys, but I have memorized shapes that help me out. You can take these as far as you want and they are easy to figure out on your own.

In this system the 1 represents your index, the 2 is your middle, the 3 is your ring, and the 4 and 5 are for your pinky.

They work like this: Start out with the root note (any root note), and that will be where the "1" is located on the 4th string (this will be your starting point for the 1st position shape).

Here is the G scale in the first position (starting with your index finger)
1 - first string - played on the 5th fret
1,3 - second string - played on the 5th and 7th frets
1,3 - third string - played on the 5th and 7th frets
1,3,5 - D (fourth) string - played on the 5th, 7th and 9th frets. Start with your index finger then put the ring finger on the 7th fret, then stretch up to the 9th fret with your pinky. The rest of the notes are more comfortable with only the index and ring fingers in this position.

The second position G scale starting on the 4th string with your middle finger, goes like this:
1,2 - played on the 1st string, 4th and 5th fret
2,  - played on the 2nd string, 5th fret

1,2,4 - played on the 3rd strings, 4th, 5th and 7th frets
2,4 - played on the 4th strings, 5th and 7th frets
Second Position feels the most awkward, but I start with my middle finger on the 5th fret, D (fourth) string, then my pinky stretches to the 7th fret. This leaves your index finger in position to pick up the 2nd fret of the G (third) string.

Third position (starting with your pinky) goes like this:
1,3,4 - played on the 1st string, 2nd, 4th and 5th frets
2,  - played on the 2nd string, 3rd fret

1,3,4 - played on the 3rd string, 2nd, 4th and 5th frets
4 - played on the 4th string, 5th fret with your pinky
Start the 3rd position with your pinky and your first finger will be in place to pick up the next note on the next string.

Simply by moving your root note up or down on the fretboard, you can play any scale in any position by memorizing these 3 patterns.

I usually go up past the octave when I practice so it looks like this (with the fourth string represented on the bottom of the pattern):

135
13
13
135

I hope this can help someone, but lots of people won't understand it without a video.


easier to play

Jan 24, 2020 - 12:12:41 PM
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JoeDownes

Netherlands

3185 posts since 2/7/2008

I knew guitar scales, so I just changed the first string to be the same as the fourth string, et voila! Banjo scales!
I think to learn the fretboard it's good to start with the three major shapes. Do you know on which strings the root, third and fifth are in the three major chord shapes? Add the second and sixth to the chord shapes and you are playing a major pentatonic scale. This is what 90% of all bluegrass banjo is made of. From that place it's not too hard to figure out the major scale (add fourth and seventh) or how to flat the third or seventh.

1--1  3--3  5135 
-3-- --1-
--5- -5--

Edited by - JoeDownes on 01/24/2020 12:25:26

Jan 24, 2020 - 7:49:51 PM

72 posts since 9/19/2005

You can check out a book called “Scales and Appreggios for the Five String Banjo” by Peter Pardee. Also, Janet Davis has a book on banjo scales with accompanying exercises.

Jan 25, 2020 - 7:08:01 AM
Players Union Member

pickn5

USA

1409 posts since 8/8/2012

Richard Hauser I checked my instructional material and didn't find anything with scales or single string type excercises. If I find something I missed, I'll post the information. Keep picking.

Jan 27, 2020 - 6:45:05 AM

426 posts since 9/21/2018

quote:
Originally posted by pat_mccarley

You can check out a book called “Scales and Appreggios for the Five String Banjo” by Peter Pardee. Also, Janet Davis has a book on banjo scales with accompanying exercises.


Just checked availability on that book. There is a used copy on Amazon for $300. 

Jan 27, 2020 - 1:48:40 PM

72 posts since 9/19/2005

I bought it from Elderly for $40 or so but they are out of stock. John Boulding also has an book on banjo scales and appregios

Jan 27, 2020 - 7:52:42 PM
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2542 posts since 4/19/2008

Here's the ONE RING TO RULE THEM ALL, lots of scale formulas with their location anywhere up and down the neck. No tab, no book full of jargon, stare at the chart 'til it makes sense, it's just a sliding scale. (pun intended) p.s. if you can figure this chart out all future melodies and chords will come into clarity by it.


Jan 31, 2020 - 6:06:43 PM

lanemb

USA

95 posts since 3/11/2018

I often use the app Banjo Companion and use it to display scale patterns in different areas of the neck. It is also a great app for reviewing chord positions. I have the app on my cell phone and my iPad.

Jan 31, 2020 - 6:08:48 PM

72 posts since 9/19/2005

That is John Bullard who has tha scales book.

Feb 2, 2020 - 3:13:14 PM

Nickcd

UK

160 posts since 1/28/2018

quote:
Originally posted by lanemb

I often use the app Banjo Companion and use it to display scale patterns in different areas of the neck. It is also a great app for reviewing chord positions. I have the app on my cell phone and my iPad.


Unfortunately not available for droid users??

Feb 3, 2020 - 9:37:56 AM

G

Canada

841 posts since 7/8/2003

quote:
Originally posted by Texasbanjo

I'm trying to remember where I got information like you're requesting. It showed you the 3 major fingerings and how to find the 1, 3, 5 notes under your fingers and then find the rest of the scale by only moving up or down one fret. It was either Alan Munde or Pat Cloud, if my memory serves me right. Maybe whoever it was will chime in here with some of that information. Doubt I could find it now, as it's been years since I've looked at it.


Feb 3, 2020 - 9:46:28 AM

G

Canada

841 posts since 7/8/2003

Texasbanjo, you might be thinking of Pat Cloud, Key To 5-String Banjo.
He talks about scale patterns, and then how to find another scale by simply moving a single note in the origina scale pattern. I think you identify the IV based off the I. (ex C from G).
I recall the book as being very useful, packing a lot of "aha" moments into a relatively small number of pages.
(I probably couldn't play well enough when I first got the book to benefit as much as I might have. I think I'll revisit it - I'm probably ready now!)

Edited by - G on 02/03/2020 09:47:52

Feb 3, 2020 - 10:29:20 AM
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5562 posts since 3/6/2006

Playing scales out of positions can do away with the need to know the names of the notes (unless you are reading). And can help with locating the chord interval, which is important. But then you have to learn how to make music with them. I think it is useful to start out by copying the solos of your favorite single-string player - slow it down, and figure out what choices they are making. How and why.

Feb 7, 2020 - 5:09:03 AM
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pickn5

USA

1409 posts since 8/8/2012

Wayne Erbsen's Bluegrass Jamming On Banjo, pages 95-96 has neck diagrams up to the 7th fret, showing scales for G major, G blues, C major, D major, and D blues. I missed that on my first check of my instructional materials.

Feb 8, 2020 - 9:47:15 AM

4537 posts since 6/3/2011

quote:
Originally posted by mmuussiiccaall

Here's the ONE RING TO RULE THEM ALL, lots of scale formulas with their location anywhere up and down the neck. No tab, no book full of jargon, stare at the chart 'til it makes sense, it's just a sliding scale. (pun intended) p.s. if you can figure this chart out all future melodies and chords will come into clarity by it.


I recall seeing this chart several years ago when I first started picking banjo with no musical back ground.  It made no sense to me then.
Now that I know a slight bit more, it looks quite useful, I have down loaded it and expect printing it out and having hard copy at hand will be helpful when practicing. 

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