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Feb 27, 2020 - 7:30:46 AM
653 posts since 8/30/2012

It occurred to me yesterday. Do most bluegrass players play Scruggs style? Or would it be more accurate to say they play Stanley style?

Of course, Ralph Stanley was mostly just trying to emulate Scruggs. So I'm not trying to take anything away from the master. But if you really listen to most banjo pickers today, it seems that players are doing more Stanley style rolls and licks than they are Scruggs. Maybe it's just me. Seems like people are using the forward roll much more than alt-thumb as a basis for their playing. And the index finger is used more often where Scruggs would use the thumb. Both things that are more Stanley than they are Scruggs.

Just a thought that occurred to me. They're both awesome, of course. And this doesn't really include the top-of-the-crop pros that can basically play anything. But perhaps Stanley-style is an underused label.

Thoughts?

Feb 27, 2020 - 8:37 AM
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10532 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by KCJones

It occurred to me yesterday. Do most bluegrass players play Scruggs style? Or would it be more accurate to say they play Stanley style?

. . . if you really listen to most banjo pickers today, it seems that players are doing more Stanley style rolls and licks than they are Scruggs.

Thoughts?


I think players are doing more Crowe style than Stanley or Scruggs.

Feb 27, 2020 - 8:37:12 AM

Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

23966 posts since 8/3/2003

I use both styles. It's according to what I'm picking and where I need either/just used the thumb or index as to which finger I start a roll on. I presume that a lot of people pick that same way.

Feb 27, 2020 - 8:39:25 AM
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3349 posts since 3/28/2008

It depends on how closely you look.

The view from 30,000 feet: Yes, they all play Scruggs style. They all use three-finger picking in ways that obey certain general principles. They all use pretty much the same left-hand moves, often in exactly the same licks.

But get up close and you see that very few sound like Scruggs. The prevailing "Scruggs style" picking is more like Scruggs as filtered through J.D. Crowe (and all the other Sunny Mountain Boy banjo players), Terry Baucom, Ron Stewart, et al.

And Stanley style is a little self-contained neighborhood on a cul-de-sac off of Scruggs Boulevard.

Feb 27, 2020 - 8:58:06 AM
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Mooooo

USA

7614 posts since 8/20/2016

One thing that rarely passes my lips is "Stanley Style" - it's just Scruggs style the way Ralph played it. It's not so much different from Scruggs style than Melodics is or Single String, so in my mind Stanley Style is really getting anal about the whole matter. Semantics. JD Crowe style, Sonny Osborne style, how about Bela Fleck style...Noam Pikelny style? To me, in Bluegrass picking there is Scruggs, Melodics and Single String. Everything else falls into one of these or a combination of these. Maybe someone will come up with a strumming style with fingerpicks on and it will be the next thing, but I doubt it. I am satisfied that Ralph Stanley played Scruggs style his own way like anyone else at the time was doing (in their own way). Scruggs also hit melody with his index and sometimes with his middle finger. So did Ralph. Just because he used his index more often doesn't really warrant that we all make a distinction based on finger choice.

Feb 27, 2020 - 9:11:17 AM
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248 posts since 10/23/2010

KC, You seem to be thinking that Scruggs used alternating thumb rolls almost exclusively, which isn’t the case at all.
Scruggs‘ style usually ‘leads' with the thumb, but he probably used the forward roll just as often as Stanley. 
Stanley picks the melody more with his index. 

Edited by - jchipps_1 on 02/27/2020 09:18:34

Feb 27, 2020 - 9:23:01 AM
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conic

England

717 posts since 2/15/2014

quote:
Originally posted by Mooooo

One thing that rarely passes my lips is "Stanley Style" - it's just Scruggs style the way Ralph played it. It's not so much different from Scruggs style than Melodics is or Single String, so in my mind Stanley Style is really getting anal about the whole matter. Semantics. JD Crowe style, Sonny Osborne style, how about Bela Fleck style...Noam Pikelny style? To me, in Bluegrass picking there is Scruggs, Melodics and Single String. Everything else falls into one of these or a combination of these. Maybe someone will come up with a strumming style with fingerpicks on and it will be the next thing, but I doubt it. I am satisfied that Ralph Stanley played Scruggs style his own way like anyone else at the time was doing (in their own way). Scruggs also hit melody with his index and sometimes with his middle finger. So did Ralph. Just because he used his index more often doesn't really warrant that we all make a distinction based on finger choice.


Thanks very much Moooo, I thought it was just me. Although i love to listen to them,  I never understood stanley or crowe  style, what is it ? Yes I can hear differences but its not a style to me. 

As for "strumming style with fingerpicks on" Eddie Collins has a video of this called  "Scratchy" Banjo Rhythm" which works ok if you practice

Feb 27, 2020 - 9:24:38 AM
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chuckv97

Canada

47736 posts since 10/5/2013

On first listening years ago I found Ralph Stanley’s similar to Scruggs’. Except Ralph had that hard-as-nails tone from picking very close to the bridge. Then later I realized how often he picked the 4th string with the index finger to get a melody note while keeping the forward roll going. Steve Sparkman's playing captures Ralph's style to a T - it's noticeable from the first couple measures he plays on any tune. This from John Wright’s booklet on Ralph Stanley:


 

Edited by - chuckv97 on 02/27/2020 09:26:54

Feb 27, 2020 - 9:31:44 AM

Mooooo

USA

7614 posts since 8/20/2016

quote:
Originally posted by conic
quote:
Originally posted by Mooooo

blah blah blah...


Thanks very much Moooo, I thought it was just me. Although i love to listen to them,  I never understood stanley or crowe  style, what is it ? Yes I can hear differences but its not a style to me. 

As for "strumming style with fingerpicks on" Eddie Collins has a video of this called  "Scratchy" Banjo Rhythm" which works ok if you practice

 


I love to listen to them all as well. I will check out Eddie Collins. I have been thinking, if someone told me that I played Munde-style, I would be very happy indeed. JD, Sonny Earl, Ralph were all very important in Bluegrass along with many others.

Feb 27, 2020 - 9:34 AM

535 posts since 11/21/2018

The current/latest, pickyfingersbanjo podcast has it's guest discussing this with a little demo and talking about how Ralph played more index lead, especially on the lst string closer to down stroke (clawhammer) playing rather than Scruggs thumb lead style.
He says that the lst string is more readily available for melody in downstroke styles but I'm not a downstroke player so don't know how "absolute" that is...

He gets into the "aesthetics' (what he calls the traditional "stink/funkyness of Ralph's style (and other players that recall old time "feel".

Might be an intersting listen in relation to this discussion/thread.

Feb 27, 2020 - 9:34:27 AM
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88 posts since 8/20/2019

I grew up with my father listening to Don Reno, Alvin Breeden, John Hickman and Bill Emerson. When I began playing, those are the guys I immediately began studying. I never had any Scruggs or Stanley records or tapes. Never bought any, so I wouldn't know a Scruggs roll if you handed it to me. When I did try to listen to Stanley, I didn't like the constant pinging sound on the high 5th string.

Breeden spent time with me showing me things when I was young, and I'd go listen to him play his shows also.

I'd say I play just '3-finger style' with a big influence on Reno, Breeden, Hickman, and Emerson. Versatility, creativity, drive and smoothness is what I got from those four guys, so I have to give them credit for my style playing.

Don Wayne Reno once told me at a festival in Virginia, "it's nice to play like someone and study their style, but never forget to put yourself into your playing"... that's the best advice anyone gave me for developing picking style on banjo.

87 winners ribbons from competitions, I must be doing something right ? , but I wouldn't say I play 'Scruggs' style because I never listened to his playing. When people do compliment me on my playing and ask what style I'm playing, they aren't familiar with it, I usually say 'Breeden' style, then point them to his records on youtube. He and Reno were very close in play styles, but Breeden had it tuned in a little better imo.

Feb 27, 2020 - 9:53:15 AM
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2 posts since 11/14/2015

Scruggs both used the forward roll and led with the index finger. I'm not sure why you are attributing these techniques to Ralph exclusively.

JD Crowe plays a lot of Scruggs solos nearly note for note on the Bluegrass Album Band Albums (obviously Crowe had his own tone and original licks, but I wouldn't call that a style).

Edited by - OMGBobSaget on 02/27/2020 09:53:41

Feb 27, 2020 - 10:22 AM
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conic

England

717 posts since 2/15/2014

I cant hear much of a difference in stanley.   I hear a lot of really good pickers in england and can hear differences in the way they do it but i dont think to myself " oh thats a different style" unless they did not follow the scruggs path and developed their own style picking folk music.   maybe i dont listen enough

 

Anyway, for the Mooo.....Eddie Collins scratchy banjo strum is a different style.......

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOQsXkVSbE0

Feb 27, 2020 - 10:49:21 AM
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88 posts since 8/20/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Buckhorn

I grew up with my father listening to Don Reno, Alvin Breeden, John Hickman and Bill Emerson. When I began playing, those are the guys I immediately began studying. I never had any Scruggs or Stanley records or tapes. Never bought any, so I wouldn't know a Scruggs roll if you handed it to me. When I did try to listen to Stanley, I didn't like the constant pinging sound on the high 5th string.

Breeden spent time with me showing me things when I was young, and I'd go listen to him play his shows also.

I'd say I play just '3-finger style' with a big influence on Reno, Breeden, Hickman, and Emerson. Versatility, creativity, drive and smoothness is what I got from those four guys, so I have to give them credit for my style playing.

Don Wayne Reno once told me at a festival in Virginia, "it's nice to play like someone and study their style, but never forget to put yourself into your playing"... that's the best advice anyone gave me for developing picking style on banjo.

87 winners ribbons from competitions, I must be doing something right ? , but I wouldn't say I play 'Scruggs' style because I never listened to his playing. When people do compliment me on my playing and ask what style I'm playing, they aren't familiar with it, I usually say 'Breeden' style, then point them to his records on youtube. He and Reno were very close in play styles, but Breeden had it tuned in a little better imo.



Feb 27, 2020 - 11:12:57 AM

banjoy

USA

8827 posts since 7/1/2006

Ralph Stanley relied heavily on forward rolls more than Scruggs, which gave his picking a real bounce to it. He and Scruggs (since this conversation seems to focus on those two primarily) were able make the melody pop out from the rolls.

I love JD's picking, especially the power he has in his right hand, but to me his style is just an endless series of licks strung together, I never really hear a melody line from his picking. But I love listening to his stuff anyway, it's his own style and I like it.

In regards to my personal style, I just play, I never studied one individual picker and never tried to emulate anyone else. I love hearing all this stuff, but I do not try to copy it. I have been both criticized, and complimented, for this. Go figure.

I'm not sure I agree that most pickers rely on the forward roll as heavily as Ralph did/does, but then, there are tons of pickers I've never heard so that may very well be true, but of those I'm familiar with and those I hear I'm not familiar with, I hear a wide range of roll choices in use, even more that Scruggs, JD, Ralph, etc, could have ever conceived.

All just my opinion and observation.

Edited by - banjoy on 02/27/2020 11:17:18

Feb 27, 2020 - 5:15:45 PM
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3308 posts since 7/12/2006

what i think is neat about ralphs playing is how he negotiates certain standard scruggs licks without playing them like earl. since ralph does not use the "banjo in the hollow" roll or the TITM that are used on some standard scruggs licks he modifies them to fit his way of playing. its really cool to compare what Earl did and how Ralph interpreted it and made it his own. in that way ralph was a genius. I have always said that Earl played with flawless finesse and ralph with gutteral soul.Earl was uptown while ralph was downtown. Earl was Clapton while ralph was johnny ramone

Edited by - stanleytone on 02/27/2020 17:21:36

Feb 28, 2020 - 12:39:25 AM

beegee

USA

21537 posts since 7/6/2005

I was picking in a jam in Lawtey Florida years ago when a pretty good picker told me I played a lot like Bill Emerson. I was thrilled. I didn't;t know what he meant. But I was thrilled. I've always liked Big E.

Feb 28, 2020 - 3:22:47 AM

192 posts since 2/15/2015

A forward roll is a paradiddle...

That struck me back in high school when I was also working through an Arbans trombone book and drumming in a rudiments elective class.

Feb 28, 2020 - 6:59:56 AM

1606 posts since 2/10/2013

Most of the 3 finger style banjoists I hear sound like their playing is based on "Scruggs" style. They have added techniques to the style, but most of it is "Scruggs" style. People like Eli Gilbert show us new "hot" licks, and we add them to our repertoire. The reason they catch listener's "ears" is because it sounds different than the common used "Scruggs style material in a tune.

I seldom hear "Reno" style banjo. I once learned to play the tunes in the Homespun "Reno" instructional. I found "Reno" style very hard to play. I heard quite a few banjo players say the did not play that style because they did not like it. I think that they found it required too much effort to learn.
I have heard a few folks play "Ralph Stanley" style, but it most cases they used it for specific tunes, not for most of the tunes they played.

Note that this is just an observation, not an endorsement or condemnation.

Feb 28, 2020 - 7:02:06 AM

6489 posts since 8/30/2004

I agree with Mike (moooo) totally. I think that over analyzing every single detail is just confusing to people who are not pros but I'm sure BHO members will continue to post and post and post HA!....Jack

Originally posted by Mooooo

 

Edited by - Jack Baker on 02/28/2020 07:11:26

Feb 28, 2020 - 7:04:03 AM

2614 posts since 11/15/2003

Buckhorn,
Fantastic picking,..if I had too put a label on your picking based on that video, I'd call it a Stanley/ Reno mix, and very fluid and clean I might add!

Look guys, scruggs has more to do with his phrasing and Earl's personal hand attack and timing rather than the exact notes he hit

We've know for years, the notes he played...yet the proof is there are only hand fills that can get close to sounding like him...I myself just try to be the best version of me, and if someone happens to think I've come close at sometime or another
I take the compliment, thank them, and enjoy the moment

Warp!

Feb 28, 2020 - 7:33:29 AM

88 posts since 8/20/2019

'warpdrive', thank you for the kind words, I always admired Emerson for his smoothness and being clean. I used to play a lot better in my younger days, my hands don't work like they used to now, as I'm retired military and own a farm, and a farmer's hands get pretty beat up, I'm thankful at least I still have all my fingers left!, as farmers around me are missing quite a few!

After reading all these posts, I'm beginning to think of 'picking style' as things like : 3-finger, 2-finger, frailing, clawhammer, etc...
And refer to the banjo players we admire and study as 'banjo playing influences' vs saying 'Scruggs style', or 'Stanley style' etc... I mean, they both played '3-finger style', but they put their own influences and themselves in the playing making the 3-finger sound different.

Wonder what would those two guys say if you could go back in time and ask them what style they played?

Feb 28, 2020 - 7:39:20 AM

3345 posts since 12/6/2009

first off....Ralph does not and never did copy Scruggs or anyone...and I quote (closely)..." I play my way. I wanted to just play my way and not copy, I couldn't if I tried ")....anyone who listens to what Ralph does knows its true. Ralph has a complete his own unique style. Ralph leads with the index on all strings Scruggs used his thumb where ever he could....Scruggs was more interested in the melody where Ralph was more interested in what the banjo did as a continuing uninterrupted flow of sound...there for mostly forward rolls.....Scruggs had more rolls then Carter had liver pills, and all those rolls were so he could extract the melody from what he was doing. Gave his thumb more room in more positions. Ralph also used 16th notes almost always. Scruggs mixed up tempos and rhythms.

Feb 28, 2020 - 7:58:03 AM
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3345 posts since 12/6/2009

if any of this sounds like Earl Scruggs I'll give you a chicken.

youtube.com/watch?v=zSEqHSSRNK4

Feb 28, 2020 - 8:09:14 AM
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88 posts since 8/20/2019

After reading this post, I just wanted to try the style of someone else that I haven't studied, and found this John Hartford video: youtube.com/watch?time_continu...=emb_logo

So took a few minutes and came up with this on an old 100-dollar banjo I have hanging on the wall, tuned it way down and tried a little Hartford style... (I'd never try this at home with my Stellings! LoL) but the old wall-hanger banjo sounded pretty good for this style.  ... and pay no attention to my crackly voice on that short verse I sang.... ugh... I'll stick to the banjo from now on!


Edited by - Buckhorn on 02/28/2020 08:11:49

Feb 29, 2020 - 4:49:12 AM
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3345 posts since 12/6/2009

nice buckhorn.
People also forget that Earl Scruggs copied many banjo players at the time he was developing and self admitted to....people like Snuffy Jenkins and others (I'd have to go refresh memory)....Scruggs was not the first 3 finger banjo player....he may have just found a way to create the driving sound we all love and want to be....and I doubt seriously if he and Leter never joined with Bill Monroe...the music would have been a long time coming if ever.

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