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Jan 17, 2021 - 7:58:31 PM
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22 posts since 1/11/2021

Hi y'all!

I have few questions about the black book. I used to play guitar long time ago and felt in love with the banjo.. I have been practicing for a bit more than 2 weeks and I reached the "home sweet home" first line lesson in the book. However I play cripple creek quiet fast but not as fast as the studio version. Should I keep practicing that before keep going in the book? Second question. The book introduce the beginning of "ballade of Jed.." should I keep learning the all song before going on or just wait being done with the book lessons? Thanks!
Ben

Jan 17, 2021 - 10:03:05 PM
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11479 posts since 6/2/2008

The Scruggs book, while having great material you can use to teach yourself banjo, is not a structured learning method. The songs are not arranged in a sequence where each builds on the ones before, reinforcing previous skills and introducing new ones.

So the answer, I believe, is work your way through the material in whatever way works for you. The only suggestion I have is that instead of attacking the material in order, work on what appears to be easy or basic first. Cripple Creek, Cumberland Gap, Groundhog, Down the Road are good ones to start with. Reuben to get the basics of D tuning. Then Sally Goodin, Foggy Mountain Breakdown and  Lonesome Road Blues for some foundational up-the-neck phrases. Then whatever you feel like or whatever your progress suggests.

If I were teaching out of the Scruggs book I think that's how I'd go. The songs in the first group are going to have a lot of the same components. That's the essence of Scruggs style. He created the vocabulary for bluegrass banjo. Learning those elemental pieces and how they fit into songs is how you become a banjo player.

Good luck.

Jan 18, 2021 - 4:46:12 AM

3518 posts since 7/12/2006

Many beginners get discouraged ,thinking they have to start with the Scruggs book. I think most players will agree it is not a beginners book. The tabs in said book are supposed to be as Earl played them, and he was not a beginner when he recorded these tunes. Not saying a beginner shouldnt delve into this book,especially if you are already an accomplished musician.

Jan 18, 2021 - 5:27:18 AM
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2381 posts since 5/2/2012

Here is an old thread talking about the relative difficulty of the tunes in the Scuggs book.  I bought a copy after I was playing for awhile, but by then I realized that the book was more for reference rather than an instructional book.  For those materials I looked elsewhere.  

If your asking about learning strategy, this is what I used to do to learn tunes in the beginning.  Over a period of time I worked on a tune I was trying to  memorize  (but not play perfectly, nor up to speed), then picked another tune to start working on.  I worked on that tune until  I could play from tab easily, but not memorized yet, and then I had a 3rd tune I was just starting to work on.  So I was working on (at least) three tunes every week or so - a new one I was starting on, one I was working on playing accurately from tab, and the third one that was memorized and I was working on polishing  up.   I should add I very rarely had a piece learned and polished in 3 weeks.  I would cycle those "older tunes" in and out of my weekly practices until I was satisfied with the way I played them. So the bulk of my practice was spent on working on the three tunes, with the rest of the time spent on older tunes.   Is that making sense?  That way I had some variety (important to me) during my daily practices, rather than spending the bulk of my time working on one tune a day.  I'm no musical prodigy, so I found it took me something like 200-300 playings of a tune to get the point to where I had it memorized, could play it (almost) perfectly, and at a tempo I was comfortable with.  And you will find, with BG, the more tunes you learn, the easier it be to learn new ones.

Edited by - thisoldman on 01/18/2021 05:53:48

Jan 18, 2021 - 5:55:22 AM

2381 posts since 5/2/2012

quote:
Originally posted by thisoldman

Here is an old thread talking about the relative difficulty of the tunes in the Scuggs book.  I bought a copy after I was playing for awhile, but by then I realized that the book was more for reference rather than an instructional book.  For those materials I looked elsewhere.  

If you're asking about learning strategy, this is what I used to do to learn tunes in the beginning.  Over a period of time I worked on a tune I was trying to  memorize  (but not play perfectly, nor up to speed), then picked another tune to start working on.  I worked on that tune until  I could play from tab easily, but not memorized yet, and then I had a 3rd tune I was just starting to work on.  So I was working on (at least) three tunes every week or so - a new one I was starting on, one I was working on playing accurately from tab, and the third one that was memorized and I was working on polishing  up.   I should add I very rarely had a piece learned and polished in 3 weeks.  I would cycle those "older tunes" in and out of my weekly practices until I was satisfied with the way I played them. So the bulk of my practice was spent on working on the three tunes, with the rest of the time spent on older tunes.   Is that making sense?  That way I had some variety (important to me) during my daily practices, rather than spending the bulk of my time working on one tune a day.  I'm no musical prodigy, so I found it took me something like 200-300 playings of a tune to get the point to where I had it memorized, could play (almost) perfectly, and at a tempo I was comfortable with.  And you will find, with BG, the more tunes you learn, the easier it be to learn new ones.


Sorry...duplicate post

Edited by - thisoldman on 01/18/2021 05:57:20

Jan 18, 2021 - 9:03:03 AM

3605 posts since 5/29/2011

The Earl Scruggs book is a great reference book but not an ideal resource to learn from. If you want to copy Earl Scruggs and never be able to improvise or develop your own style then Earl's book is a good learning tool. If you want a book to learn how to play the banjo there are a lot of other options which work better.

Edited by - Culloden on 01/18/2021 09:16:51

Jan 18, 2021 - 9:47:47 AM
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2503 posts since 2/10/2013

Sorry to be discouraging, but the "Scruggs" book was written a long time ago. There are now better instructionals than that book. I always considered it more about biographical information and tune repertoire than I did an instructional. Websites like Mike Hedding's have excellent beginner material. And there a video explaining how to play the material is available. Tab and sound file come with every instructional.

In addition, the tabs in the "Scruggs" book are not beginner level. Bill Keith wrote the tabs for that book, and don't think it was produced to teach a novice how to play the banjo.
Check out Jim Pankey's material in BHO.

Edited by - Richard Hauser on 01/18/2021 09:48:49

Jan 18, 2021 - 9:58:56 AM

2814 posts since 6/30/2020

quote:
Originally posted by thisoldman
I bought a copy after I was playing for awhile, but by then I realized that the book was more for reference rather than an instructional book.  For those materials I looked elsewhere.  

If your asking about learning strategy, this is what I used to do to learn tunes in the beginning.  Over a period of time I worked on a tune I was trying to  memorize  (but not play perfectly, nor up to speed), then picked another tune to start working on.  I worked on that tune until  I could play from tab easily, but not memorized yet, and then I had a 3rd tune I was just starting to work on.  So I was working on (at least) three tunes every week or so - a new one I was starting on, one I was working on playing accurately from tab, and the third one that was memorized and I was working on polishing  up.   I should add I very rarely had a piece learned and polished in 3 weeks.  I would cycle those "older tunes" in and out of my weekly practices until I was satisfied with the way I played them. So the bulk of my practice was spent on working on the three tunes, with the rest of the time spent on older tunes.   Is that making sense?  That way I had some variety (important to me) during my daily practices, rather than spending the bulk of my time working on one tune a day.  I'm no musical prodigy, so I found it took me something like 200-300 playings of a tune to get the point to where I had it memorized, could play it (almost) perfectly, and at a tempo I was comfortable with.  And you will find, with BG, the more tunes you learn, the easier it be to learn new ones.


I heartily agree 100% with the above post. 
As a multi-instrument player I have found the best learning pattern for me to be exactly as described by thisoldman above. I will also say that I was an accomplished fingerstyle guitarist long before I took up Bluegrass banjo and found the transition to be relatively seamless in many regards. 
I would recommend a new(er) player start out with beginner or intermediate material which provides more opportunity to work on timing and mechanics and the repetion required to learn some standard banjo rolls. 
Gradually work your way to more intense versions of the songs you then have down pat. 

Jan 18, 2021 - 11:38:53 AM

22 posts since 1/11/2021

Thanks for all those answers! I'm more a book/cd person than a video instructions. If you had one to suggest for beginners that would also let you play around without following a song. What book would that be? Thanks again

Jan 18, 2021 - 12:00:32 PM
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11479 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Benedictus

Thanks for all those answers! I'm more a book/cd person than a video instructions. If you had one to suggest for beginners that would also let you play around without following a song. What book would that be? Thanks again


Based on a quick look at its description online, I think Ned Luberecki's Complete Banjo Method looks promising. You can buy it directly from Ned, the publisher (Alfred.com) or Amazon. If you have Prime, shipping will be free at Amazon. Otherwise, I think it costs the same wherever you buy it, so maybe support Ned.

Pete Wernick's Bluegrass Banjo has been around since the late 70s/early 80s.  It's a classic. If you go with this one, do start at the beginning with chords. I hope the current version has corrected some of the basic music theory mistakes in the original.

Jack Hatfield's banjo method and Janet Davis's You Can Teach Yourself Banjo book/CD are often recommended.

And finally, I'd expect Alan Munde's Getting Into Bluegrass Banjo to be worthwhile.

For something you can buy and own rather than subscribe to, these strike me as good choices.

As you progress, you can supplement with more advanced self-instruction books -- such as Tony Trischka's Melodic Banjo or the advanced levels of Ned Luberecki's method -- or just go straight to song books of leading artist's tablatures. Or buy a very short subscription to someone's online school, download all the lesson tablature, and proceed at your own pace.

Lots of options.

Jan 18, 2021 - 5:15:33 PM
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2814 posts since 6/30/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Benedictus

Thanks for all those answers! I'm more a book/cd person than a video instructions. If you had one to suggest for beginners that would also let you play around without following a song. What book would that be? Thanks again


Your going to get many good opinions on the best learning avenues to follow. 
Whatever route you choose I would suggest you also purchase the must have "Bluegrass Banjo for Dummies" by Bill Evans. There is an abundance of information that you need to know and that will get you up and running in the proper fashion. Bill shows you HOW and explains Why. Very helpful in every way and well worth the price. 

Jan 18, 2021 - 6:23:22 PM

11479 posts since 6/2/2008

What he said. Bill is an excellent teacher.

Jan 19, 2021 - 6:49:30 AM
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3931 posts since 9/21/2009
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Jack Hatfield's books are the best I've found and I've tried several. Books 1 and 2 are where you should start. He also has some great back-up books as well as other material that ranges from beginner to expert level. The melody notes are in bold letters and that is extremely helpful for a beginner. The books come with cd's that are very helpful.

Jan 19, 2021 - 7:01:35 AM
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22 posts since 1/11/2021

Hey guys just bought Bed luberecki first book on his website yesterday. I'll see from there. It looks like what I'm looking for. After the first book I plan to use the second and earl scruggs book together and see how it goes. If I'm not happy with that I'll try one of the other propositions. Does anyone here tried Ned's method? Thanks

Jan 19, 2021 - 10:50:36 AM
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2403 posts since 4/5/2006

Think of it this way, all of these books offer a port hole into the mind of the author, how he thinks & approaches his playing. Do they reveal every little trick in the book? Rarely. Are these minor oversites,  or are they to get you thinking about it?

Slide exercises in the Scruggs book repeatedly focus on the common 2-4 Cripple Creek slide. In the song section however, the tab shows that slide as 2-3. Nowhere in the book does it say why he only slid to the 3rd fret, nor is there any mention of a 3rd fret choke. That was Earl's economy of movement. Some pickers hammer & choke that slide, while others double hammer that slide. Those are things one figures out them self when trying to get through CC at speed.

Well thought out instruction books introduce a new technique, chord, key, or tune, one or two steps at a time, avoiding information overload. The problem with Earl's book is that it not only bombards you with continuous exercises on technique, but by revealing where these techniques will be used results in the novice, myself included, prematurely skipping to the song section. Those versions were transcribed from tapes of live performances where Earl was flat out getting with the program!

While the Earl Scruggs book may not be the easiest to navigate it is, none the less, a valuable document into the mind of a genius. Not too shabby considering Earls did not read music.       

Jan 20, 2021 - 9:02:06 AM

Bowser

USA

50 posts since 12/30/2020

I just started maybe a month ago. I initially started on Jim Pankeys beginner lesson series 1-10 and have moved on to a few of his other videos.
I also bought Ross Nickersons fundamentals to Banjo but other than a few extra beginner song tabs i didnt really learn anything that Jim didnt already teach me. However in addition to Ross's tabs he included both video and audio of the song at three different speeds which is nice.

And i also have Earl Scruggs book which i honestly love. Its definitely more complicated but i believe i already got down quite a few of the fundamentals. The songs are definitely much harder. I really want to learn Foggy Mountain Breakdown. I can make it about halfway through the song and a slow-medium pace pretty fluently.

I practice 2-4 hours a day and this is what ive been doing.
1) warm up excercises
2) I take one or two laps around the songs i already know just to refresh myself.
3) learn a new beginner song or at least play it through by looking at the tabs
4) learn a new line of foggy mountain breakdown OR go back over where I'm currently at.

Jan 20, 2021 - 9:13:14 AM

22 posts since 1/11/2021

Hey Bowser that's funny. It's exactly my story except that I'm going with cumberland gap instead of foggy mountain. It's probably way easier. Can't play on the cd speed though. I keep going with Earl's book while waiting for the other one to arrive. I'll probably record my progress after the first month and do so every month just to compare. Btw pete wernick book is only (used) for literally few bucks if you're interested

Jan 21, 2021 - 6:47:27 AM

2503 posts since 2/10/2013

If a person decides to buy an instructional on melodic banjo, and can already use standard music notation, make sure the book contains standard music notation as well as tab. In my case, I seldom need standard music notation for "Scruggs" style material. My Alfred publication for Ted Luberecki's "The Complete 5-string Banjo Method" does not include standard notation. I had to use TablEdit to create instructionals that contained both tab and standard notion. I can identify notes faster in notation than I can tab. But, I keep getting better at reading identifying notes when using tab.

Jan 21, 2021 - 6:54:39 AM

22 posts since 1/11/2021

Hi Richard!
Can you please give me your personal feedback on ned Luberecki method? I'm about to receive it. I personally only can read the Tab so I guess will be okay. Thanks

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