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Sep 19, 2020 - 5:39:20 AM
405 posts since 6/12/2017

If I hear a song, but want to play my own version how do I do that?

Starting with figuring out keys, scales, chords? Then going from a basically melody and then spicing it up. I'm interested in folk songs, so that's why I'm posting this in Old Time.

My last post got hijacked by a few bad apples.

Edited by - 6stringedRamble on 09/19/2020 05:39:58

Sep 19, 2020 - 6:20:37 AM
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8144 posts since 3/17/2005

I read your last thread and I think you got a lot of good advice there.
Be aware that with songs (as opposed to tunes) a banjo accompaniment is not necessarily going to be the melody the singer is singing.
That's all I've got.

Sep 19, 2020 - 8:44:52 AM
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3897 posts since 10/13/2005

Although I can play about 200 fiddle tunes, my primary focus with clawhammer banjo has always been folk songs. The best book to start to understand tunings/scales etc. and how they connect to singing is Tim Jumper's The Banjo Player's Songbook. The lyrics are directly connected to what the banjo is doing. It took me quite a long time to figure out that regular G tuning for the banjo was the worst pitch for my voice, most songs ended up either too high or too low for me to sing. Most people have a range of only about an octave and a half (me!). On a banjo in regular G tuning, an octave and a half runs roughly from the open 4th string to the fifth fret on the first string. To match the pitch of my voice, I have a banjo tuned with Aquila Minstrel strings with G pattern tuning but lowered down to the key of D (dADF#A) . You aim for the fourth string to be the lowest note you can comfortably sing which in my case is the note A. From this lowered tuning you can tune to D modal or other tunings but that 4th string stays at the same pitch so you can extract as many notes out of the banjo to match the pitch of your voice. So with me the low note is A but the key is D. Most folk songs, not all, have notes below the key of the song. For instance, Red River Valley starts on the word "From" which is on the open fourth string, the note A, but the key is D (open third string). To find your lowest singing note, you could use a piano or guitar. With some songs, the lowest note and the Key are one and the same. With "Wildwood Flower" such is the case. If you tried to sing it out of regular G pattern tuning, you start out on the third open string but end up going past the fifth fret on the the first string and out of your singing range. But if you tune your banjo to the equivalent of double C in regular G tuning it brings the range back into your voice. From the above D tuning that would be dADAB and the song would be in the key of A. Instead of starting the song on the third open string, you start out on the open 4th string.

Over time, I have learned how to learn songs using just recordings, but also tab and regular musical notation. After a while you learn enough about the banjo and scales and tunings to figure out how YOU ant to play a song. For instance, I can play/sing The Hills Of Mexico out of open D above but also D modal tuning. There is no one "right way" to play any song or tune. Dock Boggs as people have said is not an easy way to start learning how to sing and play the banjo due to his uniqueness and variability, but with determination and persistence it could be done. If what I have said about music theory etc. is too unintelligible I recommend getting any simple book on basic music such as How to Read Music by Helen Cooper. I don't know too much about music theory but understanding the basic basics I found helpful. About one short evening studying music theory was enough for me. There have been many songs (Oh Death) that I thought I'd never be able to perform but came to find out they were actually pretty simple once I understood how it all worked. I learned almost everything about all this on my own because I was so banjo isolated but I think a teacher could have expedited my learning curve by years if i had one. This website BHO has been immensely helpful. Hope this helps you to some degree. banjered

Sep 19, 2020 - 6:49:37 PM
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3023 posts since 10/17/2009

A pretty traditional way is simply starts with learning to play tunes; but as you learn tunes, listening and getting a sense of how melodies work.

Extending on that is to listen to many versions of the same tune/song. Listen and compare. Get a good ideas from the same similar melodic idea, different ways the tune/song can be expressed. Might be bit different in chords, or rhythmic feel, syncopation; as well as slight melodic differences. That said, might be best to start with ones that are fairly similar but yet noticeable different. One might be comparing a simple version straightforward melody... to one that ornaments or weaves it a bit more, yet (if listen close) still retains the simple melody within. These help to understand and build ideas of what can do with melodies. Listen and compare; borrow ideas others have used in other songs/tunes.

The listening and comparing is not necessarily limited to listening to banjo music. Can get some good ideas from other instruments or genres. Jamming can also be helpful method.

As far as keys, scales and chords... not sure what asking; but it does help to have understanding of how those work... as well as rhythm, beat, meter, and sense of phrasing.

Sep 20, 2020 - 1:01:44 PM
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263 posts since 10/4/2018

I have different approaches for songs and tunes.

Usually for a song, I will figure out what key by singing along and if it's too high, I bring it down. Then I figure out the chords. I like to play the melody even when I'm singing, but not always note for note. I hit the important notes that land on my downstroke and don't usually worry about the ones that don't, unless it is easy to play without interrupting the bum-ditty. Hammer-ons and pull-offs are your friend when it comes to fast melody notes on the off beats.  I also throw in the chords if it's necessary or convenient, but usually drones are fine when not picking a melody note. If there is no melody note in a measure, I hit the chords.

For a tune, I will find the range of notes of the tune and make sure they fit on the banjo without making any awkward octave jumps out of melodic necessity. I try to pick as many accurate notes as possible while keeping the steady beat. If some passage gets awkward, I will opt for keeping the beat than hitting every single note accurately and go for a more syncopated sound.

I probably left out a lot of nuances or things that come from experience of doing something a thousand times. But you will see that with practice you tend to find things that work and you use those techniques in many places. Just to get started, I suggest you hit every note with a downstroke until you have them memorized and you will naturally hear where the bum-ditty fits in and the music should naturally flow from there. I am not a professional banjo picker, so take what i say with a grain of salt, and some pepper too.

Edited by - Good Buddy on 09/20/2020 13:06:15

Sep 21, 2020 - 5:48:32 AM

405 posts since 6/12/2017

quote:
Originally posted by banjered

Although I can play about 200 fiddle tunes, my primary focus with clawhammer banjo has always been folk songs. The best book to start to understand tunings/scales etc. and how they connect to singing is Tim Jumper's The Banjo Player's Songbook. The lyrics are directly connected to what the banjo is doing. It took me quite a long time to figure out that regular G tuning for the banjo was the worst pitch for my voice, most songs ended up either too high or too low for me to sing. Most people have a range of only about an octave and a half (me!). On a banjo in regular G tuning, an octave and a half runs roughly from the open 4th string to the fifth fret on the first string. To match the pitch of my voice, I have a banjo tuned with Aquila Minstrel strings with G pattern tuning but lowered down to the key of D (dADF#A) . You aim for the fourth string to be the lowest note you can comfortably sing which in my case is the note A. From this lowered tuning you can tune to D modal or other tunings but that 4th string stays at the same pitch so you can extract as many notes out of the banjo to match the pitch of your voice. So with me the low note is A but the key is D. Most folk songs, not all, have notes below the key of the song. For instance, Red River Valley starts on the word "From" which is on the open fourth string, the note A, but the key is D (open third string). To find your lowest singing note, you could use a piano or guitar. With some songs, the lowest note and the Key are one and the same. With "Wildwood Flower" such is the case. If you tried to sing it out of regular G pattern tuning, you start out on the third open string but end up going past the fifth fret on the the first string and out of your singing range. But if you tune your banjo to the equivalent of double C in regular G tuning it brings the range back into your voice. From the above D tuning that would be dADAB and the song would be in the key of A. Instead of starting the song on the third open string, you start out on the open 4th string.

Over time, I have learned how to learn songs using just recordings, but also tab and regular musical notation. After a while you learn enough about the banjo and scales and tunings to figure out how YOU ant to play a song. For instance, I can play/sing The Hills Of Mexico out of open D above but also D modal tuning. There is no one "right way" to play any song or tune. Dock Boggs as people have said is not an easy way to start learning how to sing and play the banjo due to his uniqueness and variability, but with determination and persistence it could be done. If what I have said about music theory etc. is too unintelligible I recommend getting any simple book on basic music such as How to Read Music by Helen Cooper. I don't know too much about music theory but understanding the basic basics I found helpful. About one short evening studying music theory was enough for me. There have been many songs (Oh Death) that I thought I'd never be able to perform but came to find out they were actually pretty simple once I understood how it all worked. I learned almost everything about all this on my own because I was so banjo isolated but I think a teacher could have expedited my learning curve by years if i had one. This website BHO has been immensely helpful. Hope this helps you to some degree. banjered


I have watched a course on music theory a few times. I can never remember how scales, keys, and chords work. Its pretty dry stuff to me. Besides even if I did I would know which tunings to use on the banjo. That's what I think I need help with.

 

I have tried several from the Wayne Erbesen and Art Rosenbaum books. But I could never know which ones to use on my own. Plus even if I know which tunings to use, I don't know where the notes in my key are. 

 

I have found it difficult to sing along with the songs I can play in a way I've never had with guitar. I know Pete Seeger had his classic long neck custom made to match his voice, and Boomers who grew up watching him on TV, during the 60s folk revival bought long neck vegas after Pete, then never took the capo off. Lol.

 

In terms of banjo style I like Boggs and Holcomb the best, but I can't even follow what they are doing with the banjo. But ive heard plenty of good ch versions of country blues on youtube, that I don't know how I would play either. Though the more I play the more I figure out I can play licks with ease I never thought possible. 

Edited by - 6stringedRamble on 09/21/2020 05:50:34

Sep 21, 2020 - 6:28:14 AM

405 posts since 6/12/2017

quote:
Originally posted by Good Buddy

I have different approaches for songs and tunes.

Usually for a song, I will figure out what key by singing along and if it's too high, I bring it down. Then I figure out the chords. I like to play the melody even when I'm singing, but not always note for note. I hit the important notes that land on my downstroke and don't usually worry about the ones that don't, unless it is easy to play without interrupting the bum-ditty. Hammer-ons and pull-offs are your friend when it comes to fast melody notes on the off beats.  I also throw in the chords if it's necessary or convenient, but usually drones are fine when not picking a melody note. If there is no melody note in a measure, I hit the chords.

For a tune, I will find the range of notes of the tune and make sure they fit on the banjo without making any awkward octave jumps out of melodic necessity. I try to pick as many accurate notes as possible while keeping the steady beat. If some passage gets awkward, I will opt for keeping the beat than hitting every single note accurately and go for a more syncopated sound.

I probably left out a lot of nuances or things that come from experience of doing something a thousand times. But you will see that with practice you tend to find things that work and you use those techniques in many places. Just to get started, I suggest you hit every note with a downstroke until you have them memorized and you will naturally hear where the bum-ditty fits in and the music should naturally flow from there. I am not a professional banjo picker, so take what i say with a grain of salt, and some pepper too.

 


I can already play many simple CH versions of songs..I'm not really happy with them. My roving Gambler isn't great, but that's what the banjo song book shows..I'm really past the point where I have problems learning simple tabs to simple songs. I can even play a little 3 finger. 

 

I can't really play with the "gusto" that sounds great. Whatever that is. I'm not sure. So I'm thinking picking out songs in the best next step. But I don't know how to start. Like Andy Irvine said he used to play Tom Joad like Woody Guthrie for years and decided that wasn't very professional or original, so he sings it now with this nice Irish melody.

 

Like i don't even know where to start, but let's say I like, I ain't got no home, and want to figure out how to play my own music to it, literally how I would I start? What do I do? I barely understand music theory, especially not on the banjo. That's what I'm after here. I know you guys are trying to help, but I don't even know the first thing to do

Sep 21, 2020 - 9:06:01 AM
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211 posts since 4/10/2018

Take some lessons, e.g. Brainjo or Clifton Hicks or someone who is a folk singer banjo player. Really, Tell the person what you want and Skype away. You need direct contact with someone who sings and plays banjos and can demonstrate a thing or two. Good luck.

Sep 21, 2020 - 9:18:51 AM
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jamesinkster

Canada

240 posts since 5/25/2010

Basic knowledge of music theory is not NECESSARY to pick out simple songs, but it can certainly prove helpful. If you're having trouble using just your ear, I highly recommend some theory to use as a foundation.

"Its pretty dry stuff to me." Well, yes, it is... but maybe you need to suck it up and get beyond that if you want to accomplish your end goal.

That said, I highly recommend the book: "Edly's Music Theory for Practical People" It's about as non-dry as you can get, for a rather dry subject...

Sep 21, 2020 - 10:08:45 AM
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6741 posts since 8/30/2004
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Why do you continue to waste good people's tme? You don't need lessons, you need to stop wasting everyone's time with your endless ridiculous posts. I'm surprised a Mod hasn't gotten rid of you yet. There are no answers for people like you. You are trolling and you know...STOP IT!!!....

Originally posted by 6stringedRamble
 
Sep 21, 2020 - 12:07:08 PM

405 posts since 6/12/2017

quote:
Originally posted by Jack Baker
Why do you continue to waste good people's tme? You don't need lessons, you need to stop wasting everyone's time with your endless ridiculous posts. I'm surprised a Mod hasn't gotten rid of you yet. There are no answers for people like you. You are trolling and you know...STOP IT!!!....

Originally posted by 6stringedRamble
 

 

My questions about about music theory. Didn't realize the BHO is not for that. 

You are the one trolling me. Go away. Stop commenting to me, or on my posts. If the MODs watching this could make that happen, it would be much appreciated.  Grow the f*** up and find something better to do with your time. 

Sep 21, 2020 - 12:21:58 PM
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6741 posts since 8/30/2004
Online Now

BHO members give lots and lots of music theory to people who are reasonable in their requests. Yours are just ridiculous and wasting good people's time. STOP TROLLING...

Sep 21, 2020 - 12:29:07 PM
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Players Union Member

janolov

Sweden

40731 posts since 3/7/2006

I agree with Jack Baker. People have really tried to help 6stringRamble, but they only get rude comments back, and makes no efforts to try to understand what people are saying.

Sep 21, 2020 - 5:00:48 PM
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8144 posts since 3/17/2005

Can't help but wonder if a certain long banned feller is posting under a new name just to see who he can wind up. At any rate 6 string, you've had a lot of sound advice. If you're serious, get with one of the very good teachers who use skype. Dan Levenson comes immediately to mind.

Sep 21, 2020 - 6:20:43 PM

3023 posts since 10/17/2009

quote:
Originally posted by 6stringedRamble

I barely understand music theory, especially not on the banjo. That's what I'm after here. I know you guys are trying to help, but I don't even know the first thing to do

I am not really sure what your expectations are? You keep on saying you don't know where to start, or the first thing to do. But numerous folks on numerous threads over past few years had given lots of good suggestions on that... different perspectives of different ways folks. You keep seeming to reject; and even put down (or insult, spit at) But here goes a repeat...

From what I observe, you seem lacking  fundamental understanding of how music works. IMO, without that you will find continuous frustration. There are different ways to address that.

Music theory wise these songs are not that complicated; just need to know a few things, via observation. But some find it useful thru more formal technical explanation. But alternatively these things can be worked out by doing, listening. 

I can already play many simple CH versions of songs..I'm not really happy with them. My roving Gambler isn't great,.....  I'm really past the point where I have problems learning simple tabs to simple songs..... I can't really play with the "gusto" that sounds great.

So I'm thinking picking out songs in the best next step. But I don't know how to start.

Suggestion is that might start with working on those simple songs you can already play... and why they don't sound great.  Learn how to play them well and seek understanding (rather than jumping around or ahead).  Playing and working those simple songs and listening, as what many have been trying to explain... the way most folks learned.  These simple songs can teach you a lot about how foundation of music works; from where notes are on a banjo and in relation to key, scale/chords; to melodic, rhythmic and the harmony/chords work together; to sense of phrasing. Tab can a useful tool to help simply show where notes are, which string/fret; what their ear hasn't figured out. But the main thing is to LISTEN to the affect of the those notes. 

Additionally, I would suggest starting with focusing limited tunings/key... like "G" - gDGBD;  get to understand it's notes, scale, chords layout and sound relationships very well.

If you are seeking some magical simpler answers, or method that avoids what most experienced folks are telling you... maybe it exists... I just haven't seen one.

Sep 21, 2020 - 7:03:16 PM

3023 posts since 10/17/2009

quote:
Originally posted by chip arnold

f you're serious, get with one of the very good teachers who use skype.


 

quote:
Originally posted by paco0909

Take some lessons... 
....You need direct contact with someone who sings and plays banjos and can demonstrate a thing or two.


These bring up good point, and maybe points to part of the problem. 

Much of the advice on these essentially text forums, or even in books (like Art or Pete's classic books), or on videos, youtube...  are all really designed for and assumption of folks that are good self-directed learners. Works just fine for many.

Not everybody is cut out for self-directed, they need realize they simply need the guidance and authority of a live teacher; possibly even need face to face demonstrations.  Why in-person teachers still exist and have value. 

Just kind of going to be spinning around on these social media discussions... and frustrating or annoying themselves and those trying to explain and help. Can be a waste of time.

Of course as most teachers know...  some students can still a as difficult, argumentative, belligerent and frustrating in person. wink Of course they always blame the teacher. (might avoid taking those students).

Sep 22, 2020 - 5:39:47 AM

405 posts since 6/12/2017

quote:
Originally posted by Jack Baker

BHO members give lots and lots of music theory to people who are reasonable in their requests. Yours are just ridiculous and wasting good people's time. STOP TROLLING...


 

My question. How to find apropos key, tuning, scale, chords, and notes on the banjo. Not unreasonable.

 

You've be harassing me for over a year now. know what I think youre ribbed I criticized your peer over there at Columbia. Thomas Frank has been doing sociology on you, and I've read it. I know all about professional class solidarity.

You're a tenured professor making Gd knows how much money giving music lessons, peddling musical tradition of people who couldn't be more different than  you, when the only advice you give when you're not getting paid, is grab an instrument and turn on the radio. A huckster of the first order

Edited by - 6stringedRamble on 09/22/2020 05:41:09

Sep 22, 2020 - 5:52:05 AM
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6741 posts since 8/30/2004
Online Now

I have asked the Mods to remove you and your posts. You don't know anything about me and this has to stop as in your current inaccurate post. You are upsetting the good people on BHO. You should seek medical help.

Sep 22, 2020 - 8:37:37 AM
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Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

24987 posts since 8/3/2003
Online Now

I have hidden a post that was argumentative, flaming and used language that is not allowed on the Hangout. The member has been notified to read and follow rules and guidelines in the future or have a time out.

Sep 22, 2020 - 8:49:18 AM
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211 posts since 4/10/2018

Thanks Sherry. I think all members should have their name and address in addition to their handle. This particular individual repeatedly behaves in a trolling manner that is unnecessary. It is possible to have disagreements without flaming and insults.

Sep 22, 2020 - 11:42:32 AM
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263 posts since 10/4/2018

quote:
Originally posted by 6stringedRamble
quote:
Originally posted by Good Buddy

I have different approaches for songs and tunes.

Usually for a song, I will figure out what key...<snip>

For a tune, I will find the range of notes of the tune and make sure they fit on the banjo without making any awkward octave jumps out of melodic necessity...<snip>


...<snip>...

Like i don't even know where to start, but let's say I like, I ain't got no home, and want to figure out how to play my own music to it, literally how I would I start? What do I do? I barely understand music theory, especially not on the banjo. That's what I'm after here. I know you guys are trying to help, but I don't even know the first thing to do


You are lucky, this tune, as sung by Woody Guthrie on this recording: I Ain't Got No Home in This World Anymore, is in the key of G. So you have to memorize how the melody goes in this key if you don't know exactly how every note goes and be able to hum it or sing or whistle it, in time, with all the correct pauses when the recording isn't playing. Woody was nice enough to include an introductory verse played on the harmonica to make hearing the melody easier for you. That is the first thing you must do and you can not go any further until you have all the notes in your head. Don't even try it.

Then, you pick up your banjo and try to figure out those notes in the order that they are sung by woody and with the correct timing. Open the YouTube recording and set the playing speed to 50% so you can follow along better. Presumably you are tuned to Open G and you know what each open string is going to sound like if you play one of them open you should be able to sing (whistle or hum) the rest without having to pick them.Start with the open strings and find the note that Woody is singing. Then after you found the first note, find the next one. Use as many open strings as you can. Don't try to pick out the whole melody on one string.

Keep going until you have the melody of the first verse down good and are comfortable with it and can play it without thinking, and then tag me again and we will go over how to find the chords. It may seem tedious, but you have to learn how to recognize notes, and if playing the same songs over and over hasn't  taught you that most songs use a lot of the same phrases and chord changes, you  have to teach yourself. So keep your ear open to repetitions of phrases and see if you recognize them from other songs you may know.  I look forward to hearing from you again after you have worked out the first part. Then we can go on to figuring out the chords and finally to playing it in an appropriate key for you, or someone else to sing it in. I suggest learning it in G and in C so you can play it in any key with a capo at first. Good luck,

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