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Telltale signs a banjo player is a guitar player

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Feb 7, 2020 - 10:48:22 AM

79 posts since 10/4/2018

Will happily explain to you more than once why guitar tuners are better than planetary tuners.

Feb 7, 2020 - 11:23:13 AM

shmoss

USA

48 posts since 1/29/2011

Guitarpickher - my comment was not meant to be snarky at all. I don't consider myself a dyed-in-the-wool banjo player.. in fact, quite the opposite. I'm the very person I referenced in my question: a guitar player who attempts to play banjo.. and so this question was partly due to my curiosity in how to disguise my guitar playing tendencies in my banjo playing.. and also for comic relief (of which there has been plenty). Carry on... I've enjoyed reading everyone's responses.

Edited by - shmoss on 02/07/2020 11:32:40

Feb 7, 2020 - 11:36:55 AM

Jim Yates

Canada

6642 posts since 2/21/2007
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by jan dupree
quote:
Originally posted by Jim Yates
quote:
Originally posted by jan dupree

Sometimes you just have to buy a guitar and start learning "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" by Led Zeppelin. It just can't be played on a banjo and still sound right.


I learned Babe I'm Gonna Leave You from a Joan Baez LP.  (So did Jimmy Page.)


It was recorded by Baez just strumming, and 3 or 4 other groups single note picking . But none of them even come close to Zeppelin with the finger picking version. I bought the Zeppelin Collection Complete Songbook, with tabs. I was playing it on 5 string, but without the bass notes you really can't get the same sound of the song. I'm now playing it on a Martin 1931 D-28 Authentic. A banjo could be used for the 2nd. guitar part to accompany, because that part is up the neck at the 10th. and 12th. fret throughout the entire song.


The early Joan Baez In Concert album I had wasn't "just strumming".  She used a very fast finger-picked arpeggio.  I actually prefer her version to Led Zep's.

Feb 7, 2020 - 11:58:51 AM

506 posts since 1/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by Jim Yates
quote:
Originally posted by jan dupree
quote:
Originally posted by Jim Yates
quote:
Originally posted by jan dupree

Sometimes you just have to buy a guitar and start learning "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" by Led Zeppelin. It just can't be played on a banjo and still sound right.


I learned Babe I'm Gonna Leave You from a Joan Baez LP.  (So did Jimmy Page.)


It was recorded by Baez just strumming, and 3 or 4 other groups single note picking . But none of them even come close to Zeppelin with the finger picking version. I bought the Zeppelin Collection Complete Songbook, with tabs. I was playing it on 5 string, but without the bass notes you really can't get the same sound of the song. I'm now playing it on a Martin 1931 D-28 Authentic. A banjo could be used for the 2nd. guitar part to accompany, because that part is up the neck at the 10th. and 12th. fret throughout the entire song.


The early Joan Baez In Concert album I had wasn't "just strumming".  She used a very fast finger-picked arpeggio.  I actually prefer her version to Led Zep's.


I just heard the one on youtube.

Feb 7, 2020 - 1:38:42 PM
Players Union Member

Burr

USA

2 posts since 4/15/2012

I play guitar, dobro, banjo penny whistle, keyboard and probably a few I can't remember, the point is I enjoy playing music, what a waste of time

Feb 7, 2020 - 4:19:20 PM
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148 posts since 8/12/2006

I regularly switch between banjo and guitar on gigs, and often absent-mindedly start playing banjo chords on the guitar....not a good sound.

Feb 7, 2020 - 4:24:14 PM

17 posts since 9/11/2013

quote:
Originally posted by shmoss

Guitarpickher - my comment was not meant to be snarky at all. I don't consider myself a dyed-in-the-wool banjo player.. in fact, quite the opposite. I'm the very person I referenced in my question: a guitar player who attempts to play banjo.. and so this question was partly due to my curiosity in how to disguise my guitar playing tendencies in my banjo playing.. and also for comic relief (of which there has been plenty). Carry on... I've enjoyed reading everyone's responses.


Feb 7, 2020 - 4:41:20 PM

17 posts since 9/11/2013

Hi Shmoss!
Guitarpickher here apologizing if I may if I misunderstood your post... guess until I totally understand what someone is saying I should keep my mouth shut. It just rubbed me the wrong way basically cuz recently I found out I have Menieres Disease and I feel if you have talent to play Banjo it would be great to share with as many people as possible which also goes for any instrument. You never know what day may be the last day you might not ever be able to play again for any number of reasons. I totally read your post the wrong way and obviously thought you were the died in the wool player you were referring to just because of the way it was worded.

Edited by - guitarpickher on 02/07/2020 16:43:28

Feb 7, 2020 - 4:46:56 PM
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DeanT

USA

36240 posts since 7/28/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Anthony Boadle

I regularly switch between banjo and guitar on gigs, and often absent-mindedly start playing banjo chords on the guitar....not a good sound.


I did that early on, but it only lasted about 6 months... for this very reason. Plus, it was a hassle, and we already had 2 guitar players. So I migrated to playing banjo on everything, and it became part of our sound. It's been a lot of fun, and a real challenge sometimes, and something some of the BHO purists love to poopoo whenever they get the chance. I wouldn't have it any other way, and I have to thank the banjo for keeping music fun and challenging for me. I was pretty burned out on the whole scene 15 years ago, and the banjo re-lit the fire, and still keeps me going. Comparatively, I'm a pretty mediocre musician, and I doubt I would still be going as a pure guitar player. The banjo gave me something different, and non existent in the local scene, so it's kept me working.  

Feb 7, 2020 - 5:10:05 PM

shmoss

USA

48 posts since 1/29/2011

Guitarpickher - no offense taken! I'm so sorry to hear about your condition - a close family member of mine was just diagnosed with tinnitus (which I've read can be a symptom of Meniere's) and I know how tough it can be. I hope you are still able to find plenty of enjoyment from music!

Edited by - shmoss on 02/07/2020 17:11:07

Feb 8, 2020 - 8:14:59 AM

148 posts since 8/12/2006

quote:
Originally posted by adl1132

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 8, 2020 - 8:24:09 AM
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53965 posts since 12/14/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Anthony Boadle
quote:
Originally posted by adl1132

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.


 


Here's a musical genius worth quoting:

"MUSIC is just a bunch of notes."

-Frank Zappa-

Feb 8, 2020 - 8:28:06 AM
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148 posts since 8/12/2006

I just noticed this post whilst browsing through the conversation.
I'm blessed, as a UK ex-pat, to be living in Ireland since the early nineties. During that time I've played many pub gigs, and have always found that three-finger Bluegrass style slips into trad tunes without any problem.
I always feel that I'm just taking Bluegrass back to it's some of it's roots

Feb 8, 2020 - 2:46:38 PM
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ClawJam

USA

190 posts since 12/21/2012

quote:
Originally posted by mike gregory
quote:
Originally posted by Anthony Boadle
quote:
Originally posted by adl1132

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.


 


Here's a musical genius worth quoting:

"MUSIC is just a bunch of notes."

-Frank Zappa-



Feb 10, 2020 - 10:53:44 AM
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stanger

USA

7274 posts since 9/29/2004

The banjo was my first stringed instrument (took a few piano lessons as a kid). Back in 1962 when I began, there were only 3 other 5-string players in town, but there were dozens of young folks who were playing folk music on the guitar.
So many that it was next to impossible for me not to learn how to play the guitar a little bit. Even when I joined the Navy, where there were more banjoists, the 5-string players were still a rare bunch. Most of them could play the guitar.

The best banjoist I ever met during those formative years of mine was John Carlini. He was legendary around Norfolk at that time; I kept hearing his name, but he was never around, hanging out, like the rest of us.

That was due to two things: he was married, so he preferred home life to hanging out, and he was a Musician Second Class Petty Officer, holding down a gig in a Navy dance band as the guitar player.

Back then, melodic playing was totally unknown territory to every player I knew, me included. We had all heard Bill Keith and the New Directions record, but the style was so different no one could approach it.

I came off a hot set at a popular coffee house in Norfolk one night, feeling like I was the champion all-time best banjo player there ever was, walked into the warm-up room to put my banjo away, and there was John. He was with a mutual friend, just out on one of the rare times he wanted to hang out.

He asked if he could try my banjo, and in 5 seconds, I was totally humbled. He not only knew melodics, he could play them with complete authority, and he could switch in and out of the style with great ease and aplomb.

He didn't teach, but he was kind enough to show me a few really basic licks that took me about 5 years to understand. To this day, I still remember him as being the very best banjoist I had heard until then, and I had briefly jammed with Earl Scruggs a couple of years before. John could pull tone as well as he could play, too.

The banjo was just another instrument to him. A different voice that could do what the guitar couldn't. He loved them both, and he was a master on both.
He gave me some advice later on about how to become a better banjo player; he suggested I buy a good guitar. He said music comes from many well springs, and learning more than one instrument kept his inspiration to play fresh. If the guitar's spring dried up, his banjo refreshed it and made the water flow again.

He showed me a little on how to use one to work out a better version on the other.

That was the most valuable lesson of the few I got from him. He was a great guy, but didn't like to talk about musical concepts very much. He was a professional musician and would rather listen or make music than talk about it.

It didn't matter what instrument he started with, it was what he learned and how he played. He grew up with a professional violinist father and a mother who was a professional pianist. She taught him everything he knew on the guitar by playing all the guitar parts on the piano. He sat next to her on the piano bench with his guitar in hand. They the didn't care what instrument he played, or even if he took one up.

That was up to him. But once he decided to play the guitar, his mom wanted him to be as good at it as he wanted to be. So she taught him theory, notation, sight reading and playing by ear all at the same time. All on the piano.

I think that's the right attitude.

p.s.
I know Skip personally. He's a very good banjo player, and I never knew until this thread he didn't start on it. When we first met, the subject probably just never came up. But now that I know he began on the bass and drums, it's easy for me to understand where Skip's excellent sense of timing and rhythm came from.
regards,
stanger

Feb 10, 2020 - 10:15:40 PM

406 posts since 5/29/2006

quote:
Originally posted by shmoss

Let's hear it.. How do you know that a banjo player is really a guitar player? 


Has more than 28 teeth.

Feb 11, 2020 - 8:43:46 AM

Jim Yates

Canada

6642 posts since 2/21/2007
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by Good Buddy

Will happily explain to you more than once why guitar tuners are better than planetary tuners.


These guys all do play guitar, but I think of them as banjo players who also play guitar, rather than guitar players who also play banjo.  They can (could) probably all tell you why they prefer guitar tuners to banjo tuners.

Chris Coole, Arnie Naiman and Pete Seeger


Feb 11, 2020 - 11:26:07 AM

Paul R

Canada

12458 posts since 1/28/2010

quote:
Originally posted by Jim Yates
quote:
Originally posted by Good Buddy

Will happily explain to you more than once why guitar tuners are better than planetary tuners.


These guys all do play guitar, but I think of them as banjo players who also play guitar, rather than guitar players who also play banjo.  They can (could) probably all tell you why they prefer guitar tuners to banjo tuners.

Chris Coole, Arnie Naiman and Pete Seeger


I think it was Frank Evans who told me that guitar tuners on banjos are used by so many Toronto pickers (such as Chris Coole and Arnie Naiman), that it's referred to as "Toronto tuning". (I used to see Chris in the early Nineties when he was starting out, busking outside the old Mountain Equipment Co-op store on Front Street. I asked him then if he knew "West Fork Gals", and he didn't. A few years ago I asked him again and he said there were two versions on the album by himslef and Arnie Naiman.)

Feb 13, 2020 - 12:53:37 PM
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10542 posts since 6/2/2008

Of course plenty of string instrument players play guitar, banjo, mandolin and fiddle -- and play them all as they're supposed to be played.

I interpret the original post as being about ways to tell when a person playing banjo is a guitar player who doesn't really play banjo.  More specifically: doesn't play banjo using recognized or conventional banjoistic technique.

As Skip said way back on the first page, playing banjo is different than playing guitar. I'd extend that by saying banjo played by someone who approaches it as a banjo is going to sound different from banjo played by someone who approaches it as a guitar.

I think the guitar-oriented player, even one who can fingerpick, is going to approach banjo with a different right hand. They'll Travis pick, reflecting unawareness of what to do with the 5th string. Absence of two low strings below the fourth will throw them off, resulting in rhythms and note choices missing the syncopation of Scruggs style and the melodic finesse of Keith.  Like Skip, I recognize it when I hear it, even if I can't describe it any better.

Case in point. The female vocalist in the bluegrass band I played in 7 years ago recorded some of her original songs. When she played one for us, I said "The banjo player's really a guitar player, isn't he."  She acknowledged I was right.  Here's the guitar player's banjo solo.   He actually finishes up with a descending melodic phrase. I chalk that up to luck. It starts out OK, then he doesn't nail the dismount.

Later on, the singer re-recorded the song with some actual bluegrass musicians backing her up. This banjo player is also a pedal steel virtuoso. He knows how each instrument is supposed to be played.

Feb 13, 2020 - 4:06:57 PM

10542 posts since 6/2/2008

Following up. The same guitar-oriented banjo player's ending solo from the same song.

I'd think most members here would say it doesn't sound like what a banjo-oriented banjo player would play, even if we can't articulate why.

Feb 13, 2020 - 5:52:08 PM
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14614 posts since 12/2/2005

quote:
Originally posted by stanger

p.s.
I know Skip personally. He's a very good banjo player, and I never knew until this thread he didn't start on it. When we first met, the subject probably just never came up. But now that I know he began on the bass and drums, it's easy for me to understand where Skip's excellent sense of timing and rhythm came from.
regards,
stanger


I'm incredibly flattered by this, but must give credit where it's due. There are five people who were formative for me on the instrument.

The first was my father. He was a singer and pianist - mostly self-taught. Music was always a big thing growing up; Dad had an instinctive sense of how important it was for kids. We drove, and sailed, for hours at a time; much of that time was spent singing in four-part harmony.

I'll skip over all the voice lessons, musical theater, singer-songwriter stuff etc., and point to the guy who got me interested in the instrument in the first place: Tony Trischka. Yes, I loved the sound of Earl. But Trischka was the first player I heard who presented the banjo with a major sense of humor.

Then there's my first banjo teacher. His name is Guilds Hollowell; he moved from Maine to South Carolina but not before de-mystifying the banjo for me, with regard to mechanics. It was Guilds who gave me license to discard banjo dogma and to develop mechanics based on my love of the music. Guilds was also my inspiration as a teacher today: challenge students, but don't block their way with your own ideas of how things should be done. Every student learns differently. Guilds may have given me the greatest gift a teacher can: he kicked my ass out when he was certain I wouldn't get much more from him.

Fourth, my second banjo teacher: a chap in Maine named Carter Logan. Carter was the guy who pointedly told me - bringing things full circle with this thread - "you sound like a guitar player playing banjo."

For whatever it's worth, Carter put me on two arrangements of songs that fixed that: Ron Block's AKUS arrangement of "Cluck Ol' Hen" and Tom Adams's version of "Old Joe Clark." I had good basic timing before that; repeated listening of those two songs, along with Carter's coaching, sent it home.

And finally, a guy I played with in my band in Maine: Ronnie Gallant. Ronnie started as our mando player and became lead guitarist after our first lead guitar player left. Ronnie's guidance helped refine my understanding of the subtleties of bluegrass as a genre, and with my timing.

I have had these gifts of people in my life, and I will never be a great player. But each helped me love and understand the music all the more.

What's most important, IMO, to the people following this thread: you may have started late, but you can, if you look find equivalent people to help you along. I was lucky to have started with music so early but, with the web, and the Hangout, we all have access that didn't exist a generation ago. It's easier if you start young, but if you're sufficiently determined - and self disciplined - you can get there.

Get crackin'. wink

Feb 14, 2020 - 3:08:48 AM
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164 posts since 10/20/2007

The guitarist plays the banjo with his teeth and finishes the performance by smashing the banjo repeatedly against his amp. :)

Feb 14, 2020 - 3:58:50 AM

3347 posts since 12/6/2009

How the banjo is played relates to what the music was as it was played on guitar…..bluegrass guitar….bluegrass banjo. [Rock guitar…??? The Banjo]. Not that either is bad nor good but there is a difference easily distinguishable. It could have to do with the phrasing difference.

Edited by - overhere on 02/14/2020 04:00:20

Feb 14, 2020 - 9:59:37 AM

chief3

Canada

1101 posts since 10/26/2003

You can really tell sometimes when they play banjo rolls. It doesn't matter if the guitar player uses a thumb and two fingers when fingerpicking guitar. The timing and power (drive) the banjo player strives for in a banjo roll sets them apart from what the typical guitar fingerpicking is focusing on and some guitar players don't recognize or hear the difference when switching between guitar and banjo.

Feb 16, 2020 - 1:45:59 PM

3347 posts since 12/6/2009

are we talking about amateur musicians or pros.....there is a difference as to being able to play either or , or more. I never found pros who play both or more as lacking in either. imho ....even a lot of amateurs who have played for many years.

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