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Telltale signs a banjo player is a guitar player

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Feb 3, 2020 - 8:26:48 AM

shmoss

USA

48 posts since 1/29/2011

Let's hear it.. How do you know that a banjo player is really a guitar player? There's a lot of guitar pickers out there that dabble or cross over into banjo. I'm curious how seasoned banjo players can tell the difference between a dyed-in-the wool banjo picker and a guitar player who fancies themselves as a banjo player! I hope this question makes sense.

Feb 3, 2020 - 8:34:11 AM
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KCJones

USA

653 posts since 8/30/2012

Excessive use of single-string technique. Very little rolling. Doesn't plant the pinky/ring fingers.

Feb 3, 2020 - 8:35:53 AM

159 posts since 5/3/2004

Tremelos with fretting finger at the end of a phrase.

Feb 3, 2020 - 9:42:06 AM
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14619 posts since 12/2/2005

Why does it matter to you? Seriously, there are a lot of players who can play both brilliantly. Ron Block is but one of many.

Feb 3, 2020 - 9:59:10 AM
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410 posts since 2/5/2014

I went from banjo to guitar, and yesterday to a 12 string. My picking hand is quite versatile and when I jam I am normally the only fingerpicker in a sea of flat pickers. Music makes me happy- except my husband’s only request not to play electric guitar is getting harder to honor!

Feb 3, 2020 - 10:07:05 AM
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DeanT

USA

36240 posts since 7/28/2005

Long strap, often leaving banjo hanging below the belt, and installing guitar strap buttons to the banjo. Not using a capo, and using a lot of bar chords. Playing any key at any time, no capo, and being perfectly comfortable with not using the 5th string whenever it doesn't work. Or fretting the 5th string, often with the thumb. Only plants pinky, because the ring finger, equipped with a pick, has lots of uses. Willing to at least try to play anything from any genre, and even willing to agree to not grass it up. Not worrying about tuning between every song, and willing to own a banjo without planetary tuners... with no intention of ever installing planetary tuners. Carries a slide (possibly real bottle neck) in his case, because slide banjo is just cool. Hardly ever posts in the bluegrass topic on the BHO until, well, a question like this comes up.

Edited by - DeanT on 02/03/2020 10:12:03

Feb 3, 2020 - 10:12:08 AM
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Mooooo

USA

7656 posts since 8/20/2016
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Use of Chicago Tuning, refuses to wear picks and claims "it sounds just like bluegrass picking", picks with 4 fingers and wonders why others don't. Thinks they are creating a new style of picking while doing what I already mentioned. Can name up to two "professional pickers" who play that way. Plays mostly licks and has a hard time picking the melody. And most common: Is "preachy" about their playing.

I would argue that Ron Block is a Banjo picker who also plays guitar.

Edited by - Mooooo on 02/03/2020 10:27:24

Feb 3, 2020 - 10:21:14 AM

1489 posts since 2/12/2009
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I would also add, ignores everybody in the room playing Blackberry Blossom EXACTLY the same way cos thats how the book shows it, does not get into a panic when key changes occur just, plays out of a different position, cant tell the difference between JD, Scruggs, Ralph etc, they all just sound like banjo players (not pickers!) to him !

Feb 3, 2020 - 10:31:27 AM
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chuckv97

Canada

47886 posts since 10/5/2013
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(in spite of what Skip said ,which I agree with, btw) Plays Merle Travis style (Eddie Adcock),, slides into full chords (Don Reno),, avoids the first string cuz it’s tuned different than guitar,,, uses a lot of bends and prepared bends (Ron Block),,,installs a whammy bar on his banjo (I think Allen Shelton did something like that) ,,, mistakes Earl Scruggs for Boz Scaggs,,, liked it when Bernie Leadon left the Eagles,,,, plays with a flatpick and two fingers,,,, throws in Django Reinhardt licks....

Edited by - chuckv97 on 02/03/2020 10:34:16

Feb 3, 2020 - 10:43:20 AM
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Mooooo

USA

7656 posts since 8/20/2016
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Works at Guitar Center and teaches banjo. Has really low action.

Feb 3, 2020 - 10:46:34 AM

chuckv97

Canada

47886 posts since 10/5/2013
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Only owns banjos with the fly swatter peghead

Feb 3, 2020 - 10:50:20 AM
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Mooooo

USA

7656 posts since 8/20/2016
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Plays a banjitar and thinks he's playing a banjo. Will swear up and down that it sounds just as good as a banjo. Oh....and almost always has really long hair.

Edited by - Mooooo on 02/03/2020 10:55:51

Feb 3, 2020 - 10:57:53 AM
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chuckv97

Canada

47886 posts since 10/5/2013
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Learned his/her (her/his) scales single-string style , not Keith style. (thinks “Keith” is an Irish beer)

Feb 3, 2020 - 11:01:05 AM
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Mooooo

USA

7656 posts since 8/20/2016
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Knows which fork and spoon to use. And actually uses the napkin.

Feb 3, 2020 - 11:12:49 AM
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OM45GE

USA

95094 posts since 11/7/2007

Doesn't drool while playing

Seriously, I'm with Skip. 

Edited by - OM45GE on 02/03/2020 11:13:49

Feb 3, 2020 - 11:31:10 AM
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chuckv97

Canada

47886 posts since 10/5/2013
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Guys from the Bay State like Skip and Bill are suspected to have been guitar players first

Feb 3, 2020 - 12:24:16 PM
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adl1132

USA

157 posts since 12/18/2012

This thread reminds me of comments I often hear about bluegrass musicians who dare to try and play Irish Traditional Music. The idea there is that once you've played bluegrass, it is impossible to learn to play Irish Trad correctly. One style seems to prohibit the learning of the other, in some people's minds. I've never quite understood the logic of that myself.

Feb 3, 2020 - 12:35:08 PM
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Mooooo

USA

7656 posts since 8/20/2016
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I don't think we are saying they shouldn't play bluegrass. Many guitarists pick bluegrass banjo very well. Those are the guys you don't notice that they come from a guitar picking background. They learn traditional bluegrass, and often successfully bring in guitar techniques that sound good. Then there's the times when it is unsuccessful and the above mentioned stereotypes stick out like a sore thumb. I guess more than half of us started on guitar. I did.

Edited by - Mooooo on 02/03/2020 12:36:13

Feb 3, 2020 - 12:45:07 PM
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chuckv97

Canada

47886 posts since 10/5/2013
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I started on guitar,,Alfred’s Book 1,,reading the little black dots,,then to Mel Bay Book 2. I thought I was in gloryland when I could pick-strum “Old Black Joe”. Then I moved on to fingerpicking which helped the move to banjo. I think Maybelle Carter was a banjo player first, developing her signature “Carter Scratch” from her CH days.
btw, talking about mixing genres, there’s a guitar player at our jams that only learned blues scales,,,every break , whether appropriate to the tune or not, is a blues solo. Fidn’t dit, as they say at gluebrass vestifals

Edited by - chuckv97 on 02/03/2020 12:46:01

Feb 3, 2020 - 1:01:42 PM
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DC5

USA

10179 posts since 6/30/2015

I don't know, but in a workshop with Adam Hurt he commented that I had started on guitar. I don't know how he knew this, but clearly there is a way.

Feb 3, 2020 - 1:02:23 PM
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1517 posts since 11/17/2018

Doesn't stand when the judge says "will the defendent please rise".

Feb 3, 2020 - 4:29:46 PM
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183 posts since 8/9/2004

New guy comes to the jam, I notice him because he's got a banjo, after awhile I can hear he's not playing rolls or anything I'm familiar with, and when I finally look over to watch him, he's using bar chords all up and down the neck. Then I go, whoa, his picks are on backward!

Feb 3, 2020 - 5:20:25 PM

493 posts since 8/14/2018

quote:
Originally posted by talljoey

- except my husband’s only request not to play electric guitar is getting harder to honor!


I just got my first electric guitar, a Fender 'fat' Stratocaster. It's fun! Go over to the dark side!

And my wife can't complain about it because she bought herself a Telecaster at the same time.

Feb 3, 2020 - 6:28:44 PM
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14619 posts since 12/2/2005

quote:
Originally posted by chuckv97

Guys from the Bay State like Skip and Bill are suspected to have been guitar players first


Hah! This is funny.

Seriously, I have previously been very open about this part of my musical history. I have no shame in it. I also played bass guitar and drums, and sang in church choir and musical theater. They are all different forms of music, but all can inform one's understanding of music, if not the particular genre.

Playing the banjo IS different than playing the guitar. Leaving aside the obvious differences such as the fifth string, it's hard to put it into words; the only way I can describe it is that the musical feel is different. I'm usually pretty good at explaining things verbally, but describing the difference between the feel of guitar and that of banjo remains an essay I'm not ready to write.

Edited by - eagleisland on 02/03/2020 18:30:43

Feb 3, 2020 - 6:41:28 PM
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Paul R

Canada

12474 posts since 1/28/2010

Uses a flat pick.

Seriously.

A guitar player in a Celtic-inspired local band picked up the banjo for a song and used a flat pick. At the break, he remarked to me that I must think him an awful player. I simply recycled Mike Gregory's comment that he can play it any way he wants. (It was the mandolin player's banjo.)

When I was courting the Mrs. (late Seventies) we saw a young rock band at a club, and one of them picked up the banjo to play - what else? - "Dueling Banjos". He used a flat pick. I was horrified and impressed at the same time.

Feb 3, 2020 - 7:19:26 PM
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DeanT

USA

36240 posts since 7/28/2005

I'm one of those guys guilty of a lot of stuff mentioned here. Although I can fake enough to fool uneducated folks, I will be the first to admit I am NOT a bluegrasser. A reason I rarely post here (bluegrass topic). I got the banjo job in my band by default, when another member bought one, thinking it would add a cool "country" sound. He never learned it. With many years of open tuned finger picked guitar, I asked to try it. I jammed for several hours on it that day, they liked it, and I got the banjo job. That was 16 years ago, and I'm still doing it. It's funny... banjo players may say I sound like a guitar player playing a banjo... but when I play my guitar now, folks say I play it like a banjolaugh

Edited by - DeanT on 02/03/2020 19:23:19

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