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Is Scruggs Style More Group Oriented?

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Jun 3, 2020 - 2:51:50 PM
61 posts since 2/22/2019

I was reading archived topic here from the CH forum. The general consensus was that CH was better for people looking to play alone and Scruggs style was more group oriented. Looking to get into banjo and will be mostly playing alone.

Jun 3, 2020 - 3:21:52 PM
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Eric A

USA

646 posts since 10/15/2019

Folk styles can provide both melody and chordal accompaniment at the same time. A complete sound. Bluegrass banjo really needs at least a guitar to go with it.

Jun 3, 2020 - 3:23:47 PM
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Foote

USA

366 posts since 3/25/2009

The argument to the above would be John Hartford.

Jun 3, 2020 - 3:28:47 PM
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chuckv97

Canada

50113 posts since 10/5/2013
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I don’t care to play Scruggs style banjo alone,,I need other players to enjoy it. I play fingerstyle guitar by myself to get a satisfactory result.

Jun 3, 2020 - 3:32:39 PM

61 posts since 2/22/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Foote

The argument to the above would be John Hartford.


So my skill level would need to that of JH to enjoy solo playing?

Edited by - HighLonesomeF5 on 06/03/2020 15:41:27

Jun 3, 2020 - 3:55:01 PM
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1386 posts since 4/13/2009
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Even when playing alone, John Hartford usually provided a very useful rhythmic accompaniment with his feet.

Jun 3, 2020 - 4:44:44 PM
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2154 posts since 5/2/2012

As long as you are playing alone, I personally don't think it matters what style you choose. If you choose Scruggs style you can get (or make) backing tracks and play in your own virtual band. I'm thinking that Scruggs style picking lends itself to BG songs, and CH lends it self to "old-time" music, but there is crossover for sure. So you might think about the music you want to learn to play, and figure out what playing style fits best. Do you sing? That might make a difference. Your screen name and your favorite band (Bill Monroe) suggests to me that Scruggs style is in your future.  

Edited by - thisoldman on 06/03/2020 16:48:12

Jun 3, 2020 - 6:37:09 PM
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RioStat

USA

5208 posts since 10/12/2009

If you're playing alone.....who cares?

Do whatever you want to do.

Jun 3, 2020 - 8:21:38 PM

Foote

USA

366 posts since 3/25/2009

I agree. If you enjoy it is all that matters. As far as role models of solo three finger banjoists, add Danny Barnes to the list with Hartford. I've seen solo sets by Barnes that are amazing. Ok, so sometimes he creates a band with his banjo and a lap top, but it's still just him on stage.

Jun 4, 2020 - 4:43:03 AM

Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

24476 posts since 8/3/2003

If you're playing alone, you might want to try something like Band in a Box.... it's like having a band at your fingertips and you are the main attraction. You can input chords to any song and play it in any key and at any speed and can loop it to play as many times as you wish. I work with BIAB every day when I practice. I use it for learning new songs, learning new breaks, working on backup, working on vocals and harmony.

BIAB can be expensive if you purchase all the bells and whistles. I have just the basics and that's plenty for what I need.

As a Scruggs player for over 20 years, all I can say is: I prefer Scruggs style to clawhammer. I've tried both and claw just doesn't do it for me. No offense to claw players, but it's just not for me.

Jun 4, 2020 - 6:38:06 AM
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1862 posts since 2/10/2013

Before deciding on which banjo style to learn, it helps to become more familiar with the music being played in your area. If you plan on enjoying the social aspects of playing, select the style that provides the best opportunity to play with others.

I play "Scruggs" style. But if I had known in advance that most of my playing would be alone and/or only with computer software, I would probably be playing clawhammer today.

Jun 4, 2020 - 7:43 AM
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3429 posts since 3/28/2008
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Hartford and others have done effective solo Scruggs/bluegrass banjo work. But what one would do in that situation is a subset of the whole Scruggs style: You have to pick and choose your licks, rolls, etc. so they make sense to the listener without the steady beat that the rest of the band provides.

I've done a little of that kind of thing myself, but when I do, I don't feel free to play whatever comes into my head, the way I would in a band setting. I play it closer to the vest, so to speak. (Hmmm...maybe that's why Hartford always wore a vest...?)

Edited by - Ira Gitlin on 06/04/2020 07:43:18

Jun 4, 2020 - 10:48:43 AM
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3965 posts since 10/18/2007

One thing I like about clawhammer: The usual protocol in jamming is that everyone in the group plays at the same time. Typically people don't take breaks to show off their playing. This makes the jams, at least for me, more relaxing and my mistakes are hidden. On another note: I love bluegrass too and have no problem playing for hours by myself. As mentioned, find the sound you love the best, that gives you the passion to play.

Jun 5, 2020 - 6:55:32 AM
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1862 posts since 2/10/2013

I think the comment that clawhammer provides melody and rhythm at the same time "hits the nail on the head". More people seem to "tap" their foot to a clawhammer banjoist, than someone soloing using 3 finger banjo styles.

I don't play clawhammer, and I am not saying one style of playing is better than the other. I just think clawhammer provides a more complete sound for someone playing banjo without other musical accompaniment.

Jun 5, 2020 - 7:20:16 AM
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RB-1

Netherlands

3727 posts since 6/17/2003

quote:
Originally posted by Richard Hauser

Before deciding on which banjo style to learn, it helps to become more familiar with the music being played in your area. If you plan on enjoying the social aspects of playing, select the style that provides the best opportunity to play with others.


Be careful of what you'd wish for, Dick...wink

If I'd followed that advice, I wouldn't be playing the banjo now as there's no such thing as a 'fitting' banjo style to our indiginous music.

All we had were records of 'that alien, American music' wink

Meanwhile I'd even play banjo to the moon, but not back then, while being a beginner....

Jun 5, 2020 - 7:34:02 AM
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10822 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by HighLonesomeF5

I was reading archived topic here from the CH forum. The general consensus was that CH was better for people looking to play alone and Scruggs style was more group oriented. Looking to get into banjo and will be mostly playing alone.


Depends on what you mean by "Scruggs style."

If you mean bluegrass banjo tunes based largely on the vocabulary of licks and phrases developed by  Earl Scruggs, then I mostly agree.

But while a lot of improvised, interpreted, non-melodically literal, "Scruggs" style playing works better in a band situation (especially when played for audiences), there's a growing body of three-finger material that works as solo performance -- played for others or for yourself.

This includes fiddle tunes, classical pieces, "classic" banjo such as marches and ragtime, and melodies from the Great American Songbook.  For the past several years, I've enjoyed working out three-finger banjo arrangements of songs from Broadway and movies. Most of these aren't fully realized yet, so I play for myself for my own entertainment. My typical approach is to do the opening verse in a chord-melody style then transition to three-finger, combining rolls, melodic and single-string. Whatever it takes to render melody with accompaniment or fill.

I've been having fun working on selections from Alan Munde's Great American Banjo Songbook. All The Things You Are works really well on banjo. I think a lot of the pieces are in original keys, so that aspect alone is providing an education even if I don't learn or memorize entire songs.

Over the Rainbow is an excellent three-finger solo performance piece.

In my currently inactive Celtic band, I've had to work out my own three-finger arrangements for fiddle tunes that I couldn't find tabbed out anywhere else. These are also excellent solo pieces. I've shared tabs in the Tab Library.

Jun 5, 2020 - 10:11 AM

71955 posts since 5/9/2007

I play guitar,mandolin and banjo alone a lot.
The style is of no importance.

Jun 5, 2020 - 10:53:20 AM
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rvrose

USA

719 posts since 6/29/2007

When I started, I just liked the Scuggs style sound and wanted to learn it. I had no aspirations of playing with others at the time. But once you have the basics down and know a few songs, you will probably want to go the next step and play with others. Guitar players are easy to find, you probably already know someone. Playing with other instruments opens up a whole new world.

Jun 6, 2020 - 9:23:05 AM

71955 posts since 5/9/2007

I like how melodics stand well on their own.A fiddle tune that is easily recognized for instance.

Jun 8, 2020 - 5:24:06 PM

2154 posts since 5/2/2012

Ken reminded me of the music I enjoy playing the most - Tony Ellis tunes. His book of arrangements has a few straight BG tunes, but most of them are probably considered "old time" and are really melody driven. My Scruggs style picking skills work well for these tunes, but a 3 finger picker would be able to play these as well.

Edited by - thisoldman on 06/08/2020 17:24:28

Jun 8, 2020 - 5:31:13 PM

6629 posts since 8/30/2004

Clawhammer is a lot easier to start with than Scruggs style with all its left hand movements and licks. Clawhammer also has a built in rhythm which is fun...best played with a Fiddle and Guitar I think...Jack

Originally posted by HighLonesomeF5

I was reading archived topic here from the CH forum. The general consensus was that CH was better for people looking to play alone and Scruggs style was more group oriented. Looking to get into banjo and will be mostly playing alone.


Jun 9, 2020 - 10:07:20 AM
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2191 posts since 4/5/2006

There was a time when I could be content picking for hours long after sunset, all by my lonesome. That began to change when I started meeting & playing with other people. Jamming offered new challenges besides just playing the same "break" repeatedly. It was also a reminder I had set aside harmonica & picked up a banjo so I could sing! There is more to it than that, but no need dragging it out.

Earl found his calling when he teamed up with Lester Flatt. Maybe we've been conditioned by Earl Scruggs overload, devoting so much time & effort trying to pick bluegrass style we've lost sight of why we started down this convoluted path.

Different strokes for different folks. It's OK. I might add, the OT crowd & the BG crowd are different animals. You may find one more to your liking than the other, or maybe not. The point is, what's important to you?

Edited by - monstertone on 06/09/2020 10:13:58

Jun 9, 2020 - 10:20:22 AM
Players Union Member

Lew H

USA

2515 posts since 3/10/2008

I jam with BG pickers, usually on dobro, but sometime CH banjo. It's not hard to claw out the melody on a lot of BG songs, and it's fun too. Some of the BG banjo tunes can be simulated with CH as well. Moreover there is a fair amount of overlap between the old songs and tunes of BG (Carter Family, Ola Belle Reed, bunches of "fiddle" tunes, etc) and the standard fare of oldtime CH. More broadly, you can play a whole lot of stuff (some blues, rock, tin pan alley, etc) in either banjo style.

Jun 9, 2020 - 10:24:13 AM
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61 posts since 2/22/2019

quote:
Originally posted by monstertone

The point is, what's important to you?


Whats important to me is to have fun.  Trying to figure out which way is the best path.  

Edited by - HighLonesomeF5 on 06/09/2020 10:24:28

Jun 10, 2020 - 9:56:19 AM

36 posts since 2/7/2020

I think both old time and bluegrass are fun, but primarily when you play with others. Old time has evolved to be a more instrumental form, where bluegrass tends to be more song-focused. Both have pros and cons, depending on what you're into.

Jun 10, 2020 - 9:57:59 AM

36 posts since 2/7/2020

Also no reason you can't do both. Also learn other instruments if you can; that makes it even more fun.

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