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Nov 26, 2020 - 11:06:09 AM
31 posts since 11/26/2020

Greetings Everyone! And a Happy Thanksgiving Day to All!

I am a HUGE fan of 5-string banjo (both clawhammer and bluegrass), and I own both instruments, but I'm an absolute beginner to the banjo and I find myself sorely in need of some help.

The problem? I just do NOT understand the purpose or use of the 5th (g) string? I know, I know, I'm an idiot, but I just don't get it.

For example, in studying the various rolls for banjo (both in tablature form and on YouTube instructional videos), it appears that virtually every form of basic roll for banjo, includes plucking of the 5th (g) string, but I simply cannot understand this, when the g note is completely dissonant (sour) relative to many chords?

In other words, when plucking rolls while fingering chords, how can the 5th (g) string be included in the roll, when it distastefully sours chords like E, A and others? This just makes zero sense to me. Even when I'm simply strumming chords, I find myself striking that 5th (g) string, causing the tune to go sour, and its extremely frustrating as a beginner. In fact, at times, I'm literally tempted to just jerk the entire 5th string off of the banjo altogether!

Can someone help school me on this? What am I missing here?

Edited by - Texasbanjo on 11/26/2020 14:54:11

Nov 26, 2020 - 11:20:23 AM
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Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

25364 posts since 8/3/2003

Sounds more like a bluegrass thread than a clawhammer, but since you asked:

When just playing backup and doing vamps (plucking chords to put it your way), you don't pick the 5th string. If you're making full 4-finger chords, those are the ones you will strum or vamp or pick, however you want to say it.

If you're doing rolls in G using G, C, D chords, the 5th string should sound okay with those 3 chords as it's part of the scale of those 3 chords. If you're making a forward roll or a square roll, you probably won't need to hit the 5th string at all. On a forward-backward roll or just a reverse roll you will hit the 5th string and again, it should sound okay with those 3 chords.

If you're doing rolls using other than those chords or are playing in other keys besides G, you will probably need to capo the 5th up to whatever key you're playing in; i.e., if you're playing in E, capo the 5th string accordingly and so forth. If you can't capo the 5th string, just stay away from it if it sounds bad to you.

If you're just strumming across chords, you will need to watch and be sure you don't hit that 5th string if it doesn't sound right. Normally, if you're playing bluegrass, you won't be doing any strumming, you'll be doing vamps or pinches. If you're using a flat pick to strum and play, then you probably aren't playing bluegrass, but some other genre of music. Bluegrass is played 3 finger Scruggs type with thumb and finger picks, not a flat pick.

Does any of that help?
 

Edited by - Texasbanjo on 11/26/2020 11:21:44

Nov 26, 2020 - 11:26:38 AM
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LzChase

Sweden

167 posts since 10/30/2019

The 5th string is what we call a drone string. It's exact origins I do not know, but it dates back as far as the instrument itself does. In both Clawhammer and the older Stroke-Style, the 5th string acts as both a playing string and a thumb rest which aids in hitting the other strings, with your other fingers. The 5th string is never fretted in traditional play and is (mostly) tuned to a note that matches the root note of the main tuning. As far as I'm aware, It's purpose musically, in a nutshell, is simply to create a sound unique to the instrument, much like the drone pipes on a bagpipe.

Once you pick up speed, the drone note won't sound sour anymore. It'll simply go with the flow.

Edited by - LzChase on 11/26/2020 11:31:01

Nov 26, 2020 - 11:28:44 AM
Players Union Member

janolov

Sweden

40873 posts since 3/7/2006

It is called drone and is a tone ringing in the background throughout the piece. From the beginning, chord playing was rare in traditional music from Europe and the melody was filled out with drone notes. Fore example, bagpipe is an instrument that is based on drones rather than chords. The banjo probably has its origin i West Africa and the early banjo precursors from Gambia and Senegal (akonting) has a short string used for drones, and when the banjo was taken over by the white man (especially Joel Sweeney in the 1830's) the drone string continued to be a part of the banjo, because it was used both in Africal music and European music and the new American music.

I admit that sometimes there is too much ringing of the fifth string, especially in Bluegrass where you play it with a thumb pick, but it is a part of the banjo playing so you have to accept it. There are tenor banjos, plectrum banjos, guitar banjos and mandolin banjos that does not have the fifth string. Also in the socalled classic banjo era (from about 1860), the banjo had the fifth string, but it was used only for melody notes.

Nov 26, 2020 - 11:34:40 AM

31 posts since 11/26/2020

Sherry,

Thank you so much for your reply and the information provided, and you're right, this thread probably should have gone under the Bluegrass heading. That occurred to me shortly after posting it.

Anyway, yes, what you've shared here is of tremendous help and I thank you for that. First and foremost, it confirms that I'm not necessarily losing my mind on these observations. Despite being a beginner, I am aware of the stylistic differences between clawhammer and bluegrass playing techniques, and frankly, I find myself gravitating towards the former, which is probably why I posted it there.

In any event, what you've shared with me here makes perfect sense, which if I read it right, is to basically avoid plucking the 5th string when doing rolls using chords other than G, C and D, and similarly, to avoid striking it when strumming chords too, unless playing those same three compatible chords. And so, that is what I will concentrate on doing.

Also, I don't know if this is accurate or not, but I'm wondering if perhaps you might be the same "Sherry" from Texas that offers banjo lessons on YouTube? Are the two of you one in the same?

Nov 26, 2020 - 11:52:04 AM

Alex Z

USA

4046 posts since 12/7/2006

"In any event, what you've shared with me here makes perfect sense, which if I read it right, is to basically avoid plucking the 5th string when doing rolls using chords other than G, C and D, "

No, I don't think any accomplished player avoids the 5th string.

" I simply cannot understand this, when the g note is completely dissonant (sour) relative to many chords?"

The g that may sound "sour" to you at this point when playing the banjo slowly, becomes just another passing note in the scale when played to up tempo music.  For example, if you're a huge fan of clawhammer and bluegrass, are you hearing sour notes every half second in the music on recordings?

Also, the style of music as it has developed over years has a certain sound to it (for example, easy to distinguish clawhammer sounds from bluegrass 3-finger picking sounds), and the 5th string -- as it occurs in the music -- is part of that sound.

Hope this helps.

Nov 26, 2020 - 11:58:44 AM

31 posts since 11/26/2020

quote:
Originally posted by LzChase

The 5th string is what we call a drone string. It's exact origins I do not know, but it dates back as far as the instrument itself does. In both Clawhammer and the older Stroke-Style, the 5th string acts as both a playing string and a thumb rest which aids in hitting the other strings, with your other fingers. The 5th string is never fretted in traditional play and is (mostly) tuned to a note that matches the root note of the main tuning. As far as I'm aware, It's purpose musically, in a nutshell, is simply to create a sound unique to the instrument, much like the drone pipes on a bagpipe.

Once you pick up speed, the drone note won't sound sour anymore. It'll simply go with the flow.

Thank you Lz!

You've said . . . "The 5th string is never fretted in traditional play", and I totally get what you're saying, yet, to my beginner (and perhaps somewhat ignorant) way of thinking, it is essentially always fretted, since its structurally fixed at the 5th fret, making a constant g note, when and if struck. This is what is making it particularly hard for me to learn rolls (per se), because the typical 8-note pattern of a roll, is disrupted when the roll calls for striking that 5th string, but the chord being fingered is an incompatible E or A/Am, etc. 


Nov 26, 2020 - 12:08:24 PM

31 posts since 11/26/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

"In any event, what you've shared with me here makes perfect sense, which if I read it right, is to basically avoid plucking the 5th string when doing rolls using chords other than G, C and D, "

No, I don't think any accomplished player avoids the 5th string.

" I simply cannot understand this, when the g note is completely dissonant (sour) relative to many chords?"

The g that may sound "sour" to you at this point when playing the banjo slowly, becomes just another passing note in the scale when played to up tempo music.  For example, if you're a huge fan of clawhammer and bluegrass, are you hearing sour notes every half second in the music on recordings?

Also, the style of music as it has developed over years has a certain sound to it (for example, easy to distinguish clawhammer sounds from bluegrass 3-finger picking sounds), and the 5th string -- as it occurs in the music -- is part of that sound.

Hope this helps.


Thanks Alex!

You've said . . . "The g that may sound "sour" to you at this point when playing the banjo slowly, becomes just another passing note in the scale when played to up tempo music."

This is exactly right, and its because as a beginner, I'm starting out on exceptionally simple and slow tempo tunes, played by professional recording artists, that are plucking 2-3 chords on (typically bluegrass) banjos. So, for example, If I try to pluck a simple roll of some sort, for a song with the chords of G (open), C (x2102), D7 (x0210) and Em (x2002), that 5th (g) string is flat-out ugly for the latter half of that sequence, and of course, I can't change the fact that the song is of slow tempo.  

Nov 26, 2020 - 12:09:48 PM

LzChase

Sweden

167 posts since 10/30/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Patriot
quote:
Originally posted by LzChase

The 5th string is what we call a drone string. It's exact origins I do not know, but it dates back as far as the instrument itself does. In both Clawhammer and the older Stroke-Style, the 5th string acts as both a playing string and a thumb rest which aids in hitting the other strings, with your other fingers. The 5th string is never fretted in traditional play and is (mostly) tuned to a note that matches the root note of the main tuning. As far as I'm aware, It's purpose musically, in a nutshell, is simply to create a sound unique to the instrument, much like the drone pipes on a bagpipe.

Once you pick up speed, the drone note won't sound sour anymore. It'll simply go with the flow.

Thank you Lz!

You've said . . . "The 5th string is never fretted in traditional play", and I totally get what you're saying, yet, to my beginner (and perhaps somewhat ignorant) way of thinking, it is essentially always fretted, since its structurally fixed at the 5th fret, making a constant g note, when and if struck. This is what is making it particularly hard for me to learn rolls (per se), because the typical 8-note pattern of a roll, is disrupted when the roll calls for striking that 5th string, but the chord being fingered is an incompatible E or A/Am, etc. 


 


That's correct, it is essentially fretted at 5 permanently in a way. Note that while you'll never have to worry about having to fret the 5th string during traditional play, you Will need to capo or retune the 5th string if you capo the other 4 to match the root note, otherwise the drone note will sound out of tune for real as it no longer matches the root of your main tuning. For example, if you capo up to A from standard Open G tuning, you will have to in one way or another tune the 5th string to A. Once tuned or capoed to match the root, it resumes it's drone role and you won't have to worry about fretting it.

I understand that terms like "root note" or "drones" may be hard to understand for a beginner, unfortunately I can't find another word for it. It'd just make my explanation more confusing.

Edited by - LzChase on 11/26/2020 12:14:48

Nov 26, 2020 - 12:16:20 PM

31 posts since 11/26/2020

quote:
Originally posted by janolov

It is called drone and is a tone ringing in the background throughout the piece. From the beginning, chord playing was rare in traditional music from Europe and the melody was filled out with drone notes. Fore example, bagpipe is an instrument that is based on drones rather than chords. The banjo probably has its origin i West Africa and the early banjo precursors from Gambia and Senegal (akonting) has a short string used for drones, and when the banjo was taken over by the white man (especially Joel Sweeney in the 1830's) the drone string continued to be a part of the banjo, because it was used both in Africal music and European music and the new American music.

I admit that sometimes there is too much ringing of the fifth string, especially in Bluegrass where you play it with a thumb pick, but it is a part of the banjo playing so you have to accept it. There are tenor banjos, plectrum banjos, guitar banjos and mandolin banjos that does not have the fifth string. Also in the socalled classic banjo era (from about 1860), the banjo had the fifth string, but it was used only for melody notes.


Thanks to you too, Janolov!

You've said . . . "There are tenor banjos, plectrum banjos, guitar banjos and mandolin banjos that does not have the fifth string."

Yes, I mentioned that I am a keen fan of the banjo, and that claim is a fact, as I also have two tenor banjos here, one 19-fret resonator (tuned CGDA) and one 17-fret open-back (tuned Irish = GDAE). Obviously, they do not cause me the same troubles, as they lack that problematic 5th (g) string. However, they are predominantly 'melody' instruments, and given their respective tunings, chord playing is rather gymnastic!smiley

Nov 26, 2020 - 12:19 PM

13 posts since 5/15/2018

I’d say use your ear to fit your own tastes. When you find the 5th obnoxious use your thumb on another string that sounds better to you. I only find this a problem if I play say a E major chord when a song is in the key of G and in G tuning because it changes the E chord to a minor tonality. Usually the root or 5th of the tuning will work with any chord in that key there’s only a problem comes when a chord appears from outside the key and that’s a bit rare. 2 other things capos and alternate tunings open up very interesting uses for the 5th string.

Nov 26, 2020 - 12:23:48 PM

31 posts since 11/26/2020

quote:
Originally posted by LzChase
quote:
Originally posted by Patriot
quote:
Originally posted by LzChase

The 5th string is what we call a drone string. It's exact origins I do not know, but it dates back as far as the instrument itself does. In both Clawhammer and the older Stroke-Style, the 5th string acts as both a playing string and a thumb rest which aids in hitting the other strings, with your other fingers. The 5th string is never fretted in traditional play and is (mostly) tuned to a note that matches the root note of the main tuning. As far as I'm aware, It's purpose musically, in a nutshell, is simply to create a sound unique to the instrument, much like the drone pipes on a bagpipe.

Once you pick up speed, the drone note won't sound sour anymore. It'll simply go with the flow.

Thank you Lz!

You've said . . . "The 5th string is never fretted in traditional play", and I totally get what you're saying, yet, to my beginner (and perhaps somewhat ignorant) way of thinking, it is essentially always fretted, since its structurally fixed at the 5th fret, making a constant g note, when and if struck. This is what is making it particularly hard for me to learn rolls (per se), because the typical 8-note pattern of a roll, is disrupted when the roll calls for striking that 5th string, but the chord being fingered is an incompatible E or A/Am, etc. 


 


That's correct, it is essentially fretted at 5 permanently in a way. Note that while you'll never have to worry about having to fret the 5th string during traditional play, you Will need to capo or retune the 5th string if you capo the other 4 to match the root note, otherwise the drone note will sound out of tune for real as it no longer matches the root of your main tuning. For example, if you capo up to A from standard Open G tuning, you will have to in one way or another tune the 5th string to A. Once tuned or capoed to match the root, it resumes it's drone role and you won't have to worry about fretting it.

I understand that terms like "root note" or "drones" may be hard to understand for a beginner, unfortunately I can't find another word for it. It'd just make my explanation more confusing.

 


You've said . . . "I understand that terms like "root note" or "drones" may be hard to understand for a beginner, unfortunately I can't find another word for it. It'd just make my explanation more confusing."

No-no, not at all! I understand you completely, and I fully grasp the concept of "root note", but in a way, that is at the very heart of my struggle, because the 'g' note (5th string plucked open during rolls), just isn't the root note or even related to the root note when using E, A, D7 and other chords. To my ear, that's where the dissonance is coming from, and what I'm hearing from you and the others here, is that I had better get used to it, because its simply an integral ("drone") part of the banjo persona.

Nov 26, 2020 - 12:35:21 PM

31 posts since 11/26/2020

quote:
Originally posted by kr

I’d say use your ear to fit your own tastes. When you find the 5th obnoxious use your thumb on another string that sounds better to you. I only find this a problem if I play say a E major chord when a song is in the key of G and in G tuning because it changes the E chord to a minor tonality. Usually the root or 5th of the tuning will work with any chord in that key there’s only a problem comes when a chord appears from outside the key and that’s a bit rare. 2 other things capos and alternate tunings open up very interesting uses for the 5th string.


Thanks Kevin, and yes, that sounds like the best approach. I mentioned it earlier (above), but one of the very simple songs I'm trying to work on right now uses the chords of G, C, D7 and Em, and of course the 5th (g) string is a non-problem for three of those four chords (G, C and Em), but the D7 throw-off my roll pattern something fierce, because it sounds so dissonant or sour. Its probably something that experienced players have long-ago mastered, but I think I'm just gonna have to try and adjust to alternating the roll pattern somehow, right at the point where the D7 chord comes into play, and that's something that I didn't realize took place in banjo playing. It adds yet another thing to think about (another level of complication or impediment to learning), while learning or playing. Or, perhaps I simply need to look at using (switching between) different roll patterns at different times in the song? Maybe that's where I'm going wrong?

Edited by - Patriot on 11/26/2020 12:42:43

Nov 26, 2020 - 2:29:31 PM

31 posts since 11/26/2020

I should probably take a moment to clarify something about the D7 chord that I mentioned above. The banjo tab for the song in question actually calls for a standard D chord, but the D chord is kinda tough to play, so I've been defaulting to the easier D7, which doesn't seem to sound too much differently.

Anyway, the central point remains the same, and that's the fact that the 5th string (g) still sounds a tad weird to me when I'm plucking all five strings using these four (G, C, D, Em) chords in a standard forward or forward/reverse roll pattern. But thanks to everyone who contributed here. I think I know now what I need to change and how I need to re-think things a bit.

Happy Holidays to All!

Nov 26, 2020 - 2:53:39 PM

Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

25364 posts since 8/3/2003

quote:
Originally posted by Patriot

Sherry,

Thank you so much for your reply and the information provided, and you're right, this thread probably should have gone under the Bluegrass heading. That occurred to me shortly after posting it.

Anyway, yes, what you've shared here is of tremendous help and I thank you for that. First and foremost, it confirms that I'm not necessarily losing my mind on these observations. Despite being a beginner, I am aware of the stylistic differences between clawhammer and bluegrass playing techniques, and frankly, I find myself gravitating towards the former, which is probably why I posted it there.

In any event, what you've shared with me here makes perfect sense, which if I read it right, is to basically avoid plucking the 5th string when doing rolls using chords other than G, C and D, and similarly, to avoid striking it when strumming chords too, unless playing those same three compatible chords. And so, that is what I will concentrate on doing.

Also, I don't know if this is accurate or not, but I'm wondering if perhaps you might be the same "Sherry" from Texas that offers banjo lessons on YouTube? Are the two of you one in the same?


No, I don't offer lessons on u-tube.  I used to teach person to person, but I've retired from that now.

Actually, you don't have to avoid the 5th string if you are in other keys than just G, you just need to get a 5th string capo or rr spikes so you can capo up the 5th string where it sounds right instead of sour.   But, if you don't have that capability, then stay away from it if it sounds bad to you.

And, since this is more bluegrass than clawhammer, I'm moving it for you to the bluegrass forum where you'll probably get even more ideas and posts.

Edited by - Texasbanjo on 11/26/2020 14:57:13

Nov 26, 2020 - 3:07:45 PM
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5904 posts since 3/11/2006

>>>The problem? I just do NOT understand the purpose or use of the 5th (g) string? I know, I know, I'm an idiot, but I just don't get it.

You're not an idiot. You're trying to understand what's going on with the instrument and the playing style. Sometimes though, especially in the beginner stage, you have to simply submit to instruction and realize that things will become more clear as you gain experience.

>>>In other words, when plucking rolls while fingering chords, how can the 5th (g) string be included in the roll, when it distastefully sours chords like E, A and others?

Try this experiment: Pick a tune where the tab has examples of the "sour" 5th string and find a recording of the tune played by an advanced player so you can see if when played up to speed the "sour" 5th string actually sounds bad or not. Sometimes a bit of dissonance is part and parcel of the banjo sound anyway.

>>>Even when I'm simply strumming chords, I find myself striking that 5th (g) string, causing the tune to go sour, and its extremely frustrating as a beginner. In fact, at times, I'm literally tempted to just jerk the entire 5th string off of the banjo altogether!

If you are strumming so that you are including the 5th string then you are not using typical/traditional technique. Strumming across all 5 strings is not done in clawhammer or Bluegrass banjo. The difficulties you are identifying are some of the very reasons that the plectrum and tenor banjos evolved... because the style of music and strumming techniques did not work so well on the five-string banjo. Musical instruments are tools, and picking the right tool for the job at hand is key. The five-string is eminently suited for the music and style it was intended to play.

Nov 26, 2020 - 3:33:56 PM
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31 posts since 11/26/2020

quote:
Originally posted by R.D. Lunceford

>>>The problem? I just do NOT understand the purpose or use of the 5th (g) string? I know, I know, I'm an idiot, but I just don't get it.

You're not an idiot. You're trying to understand what's going on with the instrument and the playing style. Sometimes though, especially in the beginner stage, you have to simply submit to instruction and realize that things will become more clear as you gain experience.

>>>In other words, when plucking rolls while fingering chords, how can the 5th (g) string be included in the roll, when it distastefully sours chords like E, A and others?

Try this experiment: Pick a tune where the tab has examples of the "sour" 5th string and find a recording of the tune played by an advanced player so you can see if when played up to speed the "sour" 5th string actually sounds bad or not. Sometimes a bit of dissonance is part and parcel of the banjo sound anyway.

>>>Even when I'm simply strumming chords, I find myself striking that 5th (g) string, causing the tune to go sour, and its extremely frustrating as a beginner. In fact, at times, I'm literally tempted to just jerk the entire 5th string off of the banjo altogether!

If you are strumming so that you are including the 5th string then you are not using typical/traditional technique. Strumming across all 5 strings is not done in clawhammer or Bluegrass banjo. The difficulties you are identifying are some of the very reasons that the plectrum and tenor banjos evolved... because the style of music and strumming techniques did not work so well on the five-string banjo. Musical instruments are tools, and picking the right tool for the job at hand is key. The five-string is eminently suited for the music and style it was intended to play.


Many thanks R.D.!

I think you're absolutely right. I think I need to just slow down and spend more time, closely listening to things a bit better. Not just fingerpicking patterns, but even things as basic as tunings and key. I'm admittedly not yet proficient in music theory, but I will occasionally discover a song that I've been playing for days or weeks in a key that is a full step higher or lower than the very recording that I am trying to emulate. And sometimes, its quite subtle. So your advice is well-taken. Thanks again. 

Edited by - Patriot on 11/26/2020 15:34:42

Nov 26, 2020 - 8:31:37 PM
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2749 posts since 4/19/2008
Online Now

Here's a chart I use for my students to help put a musical ear to the fifth string.


Nov 27, 2020 - 10:49:51 AM
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31 posts since 11/26/2020

quote:
Originally posted by mmuussiiccaall

Here's a chart I use for my students to help put a musical ear to the fifth string.


Thanks Rick!

Unfortunately, most of what's on that Chart is still above my conceptual pay-grade, but I thank you for it nonetheless, as I hope to understand such things better in the months and years ahead. yes 

Edited by - Patriot on 11/27/2020 10:50:14

Nov 27, 2020 - 3:36:29 PM

O.D.

USA

3546 posts since 10/29/2003

The 5th string is tuned relative to the key your playing in
Each key has it's own set of chords relative to the key
Generally, 5th string tuned to G works OK with the keys of G,C,sometimes D,and F due to the notes in those keys
The keys of A,B,sometimesD, and E ,and there associated chords dont work well with the 5th string tuned to G by virtue of the notes in those keys,
Therefore the 5th string needs to be tuned up or down to work /sound good for each of those particular keys

I hope I made that clear

Incidentally once your on your banjo way,you will encounter fretting the 5th string fairly regularly.

Good luck

Everett

Edited by - O.D. on 11/27/2020 15:38:04

Nov 27, 2020 - 7:02:45 PM

Owen

Canada

7491 posts since 6/5/2011
Online Now

Tongue -in-cheek, the 5th. string is there so it's tuner can get in your way.   cheeky   

I don't  offer this as advice.... who knows?... maybe as comic relief?  I'm pretty much a perpetual beginner, but a couple of years ago I was sitting in the jam circle observing/listening, but not playing.  When the jam ended I spoke with a banjo player who I'd been sitting next to .... 'way better than me, but by no means a "pro."  He looked my banjo over and asked how much I used the 5th. string.  My reply: "Hardly ever? Never?"  His advice: "Take it off."   

Nov 28, 2020 - 1:04:18 AM

RB-1

Netherlands

3750 posts since 6/17/2003

To me, it all comes across as if you've got yourself a banjo but never listened to it's music.

Or else you'd have known that non root chords and the fifth string are played in this context.

Listen and look to Earl Scruggs in youtube videos.

Find literal (no 'arrangements') tabs from these tunes and start from there, using slowed down sound as your guide.

That's how I learned to play, some 47 years ago and made me understand the how and why of the fifth string.

By the time you can sight read tab, you could have a look at other people's work, especially the more complex pieces.

My tabs, including some originals, are in my 'my pictures' section, under 'tabs'.

Give it some time and the mystery will reveal itself.....

Nov 28, 2020 - 2:16:36 AM
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56505 posts since 12/14/2005

Welcome to the HangOut, Partiot.

Pete Seeger* explains that the 5th string is like the guy in the back corner of the symphony orchestra, dinging on the triangle.
Everybody else is scraping their bows and fretting their necks and tootling their horns, and he's just back there, playing that one note.
But, says he, it gives the banjo its unique charm.

Since I find the banjo uniquely charming, I must agree with him.

 

* A man so patriotic that he sang about American values such as fair treatment of workers, and songs of hope for a world where people could solve their differences without sending Americans off to kill and be killed.

Nov 28, 2020 - 3:12:54 AM

648 posts since 2/15/2015

Here's a general overview.

youtu.be/Xx23cfCmF4U

About the 5th string. In western parlance it is called a re-entrant string. Here's an example of the African ekounting (read the description), the ekouting is a 3 string percussive stringed instrument. Notice the ample neck radius.  

https://youtu.be/lzt0v9roU6g

Banjo as an enhanced offspring of the ekouting (at el), and over time and as the design advanced there became more melodic approaches to consider... As they are now possible with this hybrid we know today as banjo.

Edited by - geoB on 11/28/2020 03:15:45

Nov 28, 2020 - 3:26:12 AM

3811 posts since 12/6/2009

without that 5th no matter how bad or good there would have been no Earl Scruggs as we know him and there would be no banjo hang out......proof : take the string away and try to play fmb......where it sounds like bluegrass. That string IS bluegrass banjo. some call it drone , some call it peddle point, most call it bluegrass. And its played in such a way to go unnoticed....if its off....its played so quick its hardly more then a ding

Edited by - overhere on 11/28/2020 03:30:13

Nov 28, 2020 - 1:02:13 PM

31 posts since 11/26/2020

quote:
Originally posted by mike gregory

Welcome to the HangOut, Partiot.

Pete Seeger* explains that the 5th string is like the guy in the back corner of the symphony orchestra, dinging on the triangle.
Everybody else is scraping their bows and fretting their necks and tootling their horns, and he's just back there, playing that one note.
But, says he, it gives the banjo its unique charm.

Since I find the banjo uniquely charming, I must agree with him.

 

* A man so patriotic that he sang about American values such as fair treatment of workers, and songs of hope for a world where people could solve their differences without sending Americans off to kill and be killed.


Thanks for the comment, Mike, and I agree with Pete - I too find the banjo to be "uniquely charming."

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