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Nov 22, 2020 - 6:49:54 AM
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2388 posts since 2/10/2013

I don't have the opportunity to network with other banjo players, so I am posting this question here on BHO. Hopefully some members will be able to offer constructive advice.

When learning a new technique, say a 2 measure "lick", I first practice the "lick" until it can be easily played. That isn't difficult. But what are you doing to make use of the new material a regular part of your playing repertoire ? I have played along with "Band in a Box" and replaced the "licks" I normally use with the new "licks". That helps, but isn't as effective as I would like. Sometimes they sound right, but they can also sound inappropriate. So now I have decided to find a tune I regularly play, and replace some of the "licks" with the new licks. The modified version of the tune will NOT replace the original version. It will become an additional variation. I would have to find a tune where the new "licks" sound right. Hopefully this approach will create additional variations for a tune, make me more comfortable using the new material, and have me use the new material where it seems appropriate. When improvising, this mental process must happen very quickly.

So in summary, how do you make use of new material something you can do without conscious thought. Just as we do in the material we play all the time, and don't think about it.

Nov 22, 2020 - 7:03:03 AM



54660 posts since 10/5/2013
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All I can do with new material or licks is like you describe,,, and sheer repetition.

Nov 22, 2020 - 7:09:31 AM

231 posts since 4/17/2011

If you haven't heard it, I'd recommend checking out the Chris Pandolfi episode of the Picky Fingers podcast. He has a very specific method for integrating new licks/ideas and talks about it at length.

Nov 22, 2020 - 8:55:36 AM



3545 posts since 10/29/2003

I find that a lot of things in banjo playing/learning is trial and error . To me the banjo is like a puzzle that requires time and effort to figure out.
As Chuck says repetition to integrate into appropriate application.
I personally like to figure out and create arrangements of tunes and songs as well as create original tunes and licks. However this requires the repetition that I usually
end up forgetting anyway.

Good luck

Edited by - O.D. on 11/22/2020 08:57:38

Nov 22, 2020 - 9:20:39 AM

13596 posts since 10/30/2008
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I also work on licks and phrases, frankly usually stuff I hear on CDs and recordings. If I can get them right, I'll play along with the recording until I can do it without a lot of thought.

Then, later if I'm jamming, those licks just "come to me" and I throw 'em in if it seems like they'll fit. They just become part of my "bag of licks" that I can draw on with little (eventually "no") thought.

One that caught my ear was Sonny Osborne's lick at the end of his break on "Hillbilly Fever". Going from the Cabin in Caroline last line lick into a sort of steel guitar/Dobro blues closing. I find that lick fits in a lot of songs. Nobody else plays it.

Nov 22, 2020 - 9:39:05 AM

Texasbanjo (Moderator)


25333 posts since 8/3/2003

You'll find that there are "chord specific licks" that can only be played with a certain chord and other licks that can be played with more than one chord. When you learn a new lick, figure out whether it's chord specific not. That way you will know whether to fill in that new lick on just a certain chord or on several various chords. That may help with your trial and error method and when in a jam situation.

I think a lot is just experience, playing, trying out various licks and..... if at all possible, playing in a jam situation or better, a band situation. Not all of us are able to do either jamming or be in a band, so playing along with BIAB or a recording or a friend is the next best thing.

I've found on lots of hot licks, I try to incorporate them at the end of a musical phrase and see if it works there. If not, then I try it out somewhere in the middle of the song on a particular chord or chords. I guess trial and error is about the only way to be sure something works.

Nov 22, 2020 - 2:34:49 PM
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2379 posts since 4/5/2006
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Like Sherry mentioned, a lot of licks are chord specific, & some will work over more than one chord. Bill Knopf talks about G-noise, D-noise etc, in one of his books. The ones that were the greatest challenge for me were the transition licks inserted between the chord changes. I think you just have to listen/play/sing a lot of music to get some of that stuff.  

Nov 23, 2020 - 5:25:14 AM
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6129 posts since 9/5/2006

back when i was playing alot mine were secondary thought,,, i would throw this in or that in during a song and it worked,,, next day couldn't remember what i did to save my life..... licks on the fly i guess

Nov 24, 2020 - 6:57:11 AM

2388 posts since 2/10/2013

I realize repetition is required. But more and more I am beginning to think I can start using something regularly if it is played as part of a tune, not just as an exercise. So I am practicing something until I am comfortable with it. Then, I make it part of several tunes that are played regularly.

I made the original request hoping some BHO member might have some inventive and more effective way of implement new material in my daily playing sessions. I sometime make nice original improvisations "off the top of my head", but can't remember what I did when the tune is finished. Something like this probably happens to other experienced banjo players.

Nov 24, 2020 - 12:02:13 PM



2339 posts since 11/8/2010

My current approach with learning licks (also my first because I never had a structured approach before) is to play along with some backing tracks and to try to play a different lick out of a set of licks I am trying to internalise with each lick opportunity. Sometimes I can't think of a different one than the last I played, sometimes I can't think of any lick, sometimes every second lick is the same but the others vary. In any case the licks aren't stored away in "random access memory" as long as I can't remember and decide on one within a split second. It's harder than I had expected.

Nov 24, 2020 - 3:46:04 PM
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2388 posts since 2/10/2013

PHB - The application "Band in a Box" is a big help. As it plays the rhythm backup, the chord progression is displayed, and the measure being played is highlighted. I have a page of new tabs for each key. I will take the page for a key, and try substituting the new licks for existing licks.
Doing this provides a good feeling for how well the lick will for certain situations. I also use this approach when working on variations.

Nov 24, 2020 - 5:08:20 PM

631 posts since 2/15/2015
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Ah! Therein lies the rub!

Learn 200 songs, read charts if you must. Play whole songs for people.

Polish your sets up.

My 2cents

Nov 24, 2020 - 9:05:20 PM



759 posts since 8/28/2011

i use the new lick everywhere i can, all the time, for a while. then back off a bit, and it seems to blend in with the same frequency with all the other licks. so really i overuse it for a while. perhaps it gets embedded in its own place in my brain where licks go.

Nov 25, 2020 - 6:49:58 AM
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2388 posts since 2/10/2013

tonwil - In a book a musician wrote that he discussed this problem with a prominent member of Bob Wills band. The band member's recommendation was playing the new technique so often you never want to hear it again. At that point, it becomes a regular part of your playing repertoire.

Nov 25, 2020 - 12:33:09 PM

2379 posts since 4/5/2006
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Not having the opportunity to interact with other players makes it tough.

Usually, when I was learning a new lick, I would try it out in different places on different songs. When I found places I thought it fit, I would spring it on an unsuspecting picking buddy while jamming & watch for the responce. When the grins out weighed the grimmances, I figured I was onto something.

Lacking that instant feed back, perhaps since you play fiddle as well as banjo, maybe you can try swapping licks between instruments. Afterall, music is music. Banjo players have been playing fiddle licks for a long time. No reason the fiddle can't even up the score.  smiley  Or, how about this? Make a recording of you playing a tune on the banjo while incorporating a new lick a couple of times. Play the recording back & play fiddle along with it. If the new lick doesn't trip you up while playing fiddle against it, you know two things. #1: at least you got the number of beats & the timing right. #2: it didn't sound so bad it broke your train of thought when hearing it.

Edited by - monstertone on 11/25/2020 12:48:09

Nov 26, 2020 - 6:09:28 AM

2388 posts since 2/10/2013

I do copy guitar licks when I play banjo. In a guitar book, I noticed that when some tunes have two endings, the author used the same notes for both endings, just in different places on the fingerboard. This makes the tune sound less monotonous. In another tune, he plays some especially good sounding series of 4 note phrases. The phrases are commonly played on the fiddle. So adapting them to the banjo will provide a less commonly used good sounding idea.

I read standard notation well. I sometime complain about TablEdit, but its having the ability to provide tab AND standard notation can be very helpful.

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