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Jan 18, 2021 - 9:31:37 AM
5909 posts since 10/13/2007
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I wondered why Earl did Home Sweet Home in C instead of G. I know Smith Hammit did it originally in C, but it seems to lay out so much easier in G.
Thanks,
Ken

Jan 18, 2021 - 9:46:06 AM
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3618 posts since 5/29/2011

I have heard that Earl learned it from someone who played it in C. He liked the sound of the G chord when the fourth string was fretted and so he developed his own version based on that.
When I was a teenager I had an RB100 with a pair of cam style D tuners. Allen Shelton played Home Sweet Home in D and he took me off to the side at Bass Mountain and showed me how to play it with the D tuners. To this day whenever I play Home Sweet Home some wiseacre has to say "Earl didn't play it that way."

Jan 18, 2021 - 9:52:10 AM
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corcoran

Canada

416 posts since 8/3/2004

Earl’s version was based on the 1927 recording “The man who wrote home sweet home never was a married man,” by Mack Woolbright and Charlie Parker. Woolbright played it in drop C tuning, and the B part (chorus) in Earl’s version is very very similar to Mack’s. The question then might be why Mack Woolbright chose to play it in drop C tuning, and the answer is probably, as suggested, that the low C note on the fourth string sounds really good.

Jan 18, 2021 - 9:59:39 AM
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2531 posts since 2/10/2013

Mark - In order to avoid the remark you mentioned, I avoid using certain types of licks.
I don't like hearing a tune played the same way every time it is played. I don't hear anything surprising or interesting. And I know what I am going to hear before it is played.

I do think too many players, myself included, default to the key of "G". I was playing tunes using other tunings. They are played so seldom I stopped doing this. When I play something like "Nashville Blues", everybody just looks at each other. They like it, but have to desire to learn how to play rhythm for the tune.

Jan 18, 2021 - 10:17:51 AM
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1388 posts since 2/9/2007

That tune, played on the banjo with a progressively more complicated series of variations, was recorded countless times from the 1890's onward. It was THE standard study/challenge/showoff piece for the ("classic" finger style) banjo back in the day (like "Carnival of Venice" was for the cornet/trumpet). Of course, it was set in the banjo's home key and standard tuning, and was adopted in that setting by the generation of mountain banjoists that preceded Earl.

Jan 18, 2021 - 10:23:39 AM
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3618 posts since 5/29/2011

quote:
Originally posted by Richard Hauser

Mark - In order to avoid the remark you mentioned, I avoid using certain types of licks.
I don't like hearing a tune played the same way every time it is played. I don't hear anything surprising or interesting. And I know what I am going to hear before it is played.

I do think too many players, myself included, default to the key of "G". I was playing tunes using other tunings. They are played so seldom I stopped doing this. When I play something like "Nashville Blues", everybody just looks at each other. They like it, but have to desire to learn how to play rhythm for the tune.


Many years ago I heard Sonny Osborne say in an interview that he never played the same thing twice. He is the master of improvising on the fly. I have tried to emulate that.

The problem around here is that no one knows anything about bluegrass except Earl Scruggs and Ralph Stanley. If you don't play a song exactly the same way they did then it's "wrong." And forget about anyone in Lexington wanting to learn new material. If I tried to play Nashville Blues in a jam session I would be the only one playing. Everyone else would be sitting there watching and waiting for me to finish so we could play something like Lonesome Road Blues.

Jan 18, 2021 - 10:42:18 AM
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164 posts since 4/8/2019

quote:
Originally posted by corcoran

Earl’s version was based on the 1927 recording “The man who wrote home sweet home never was a married man,” by Mack Woolbright and Charlie Parker.


I suggest that Earl's version was more likely influenced by the popular recording by Frank Jenkins, made in 1927 (I think). 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHfiKpZtgOY

Like Earl, Jenkins was from North Carolina, but he was considered a pioneer in three-finger playing, and his recordings with Da Costa Woltz's Southern Broadcasters and his own band the Pilot Mountaineers were very popular and received wide sales throughout the area.  And Jenkins played Home Sweet Home in C, by the way.

The original song was the subject of a handful of guitar arrangements published in the late 19th century, in C, which display similar variations to Jenkins'  banjo version.

RA

Jan 18, 2021 - 10:48:57 AM

RB3

USA

935 posts since 4/12/2004

I think that the licks, techniques and notes that are available to you when you work out an arrangement for any given tune have a lot to do with which key works and sounds best. Before I retired, my employers routinely subjected me to a spate of management training sessions. One of their favorite ideas was "core competency". I think that's whats going on here. You play what you know, and that works better in some keys than others.

Yesterday, I resurrected "Freight Train" as a tune that I'll play each time I pick up the instrument. I had created arrangements for the song some time ago in the keys of both G and C. When I re-learned the two arrangements, the version in the key of C just sounded better, so that's what I'll play.

Jan 18, 2021 - 11:09:38 AM
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corcoran

Canada

416 posts since 8/3/2004

I have not heard of Frank Jenkins before, and it is informative to hear his recording. Thanks for pointing us to it. I wonder whether he was related to Snuffy Jenkins.

In any case, if you listen to Mack Woolbright’s recording, you will hear a banjo break that incorporates the same G7 lick that shows up in Earl’s version. And, as I said earlier, his B part (chorus) is a cruder but recognizable precursor of Earl’s, closer to my ear than Frank Jenkins’s version. If that doesn’t convince you, go to Earl’s banjo instruction book and read what he says in his essay about his history with the banjo, where he talks about as a 6-year-old hearing Mack Woolbright’s version of Home Sweet Home, which sent chills up his spine. It is quite likely, almost a certainty, that multiple players influenced each other, including perhaps Jenkins and Woolbright. But I at least am impressed with Earl’s acknowledgement that he heard and was influenced by Woolbright’s version of Home Sweet Home,

Jan 18, 2021 - 12:00:28 PM
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2410 posts since 4/5/2006

I think Earl took pieces of what he had heard other pickers play & worked it out the way he did because that was what sounded best to him.

West coast jam etiquette used to be, you played a tune straight the fist time around, the next time you did your own thing with it.

I first learned Earl's version of HSH in drop C tuning, & when you could successfully pull off that quad C up & down the neck lick, it was really impressive. Then when I upgraded to the arch top banjo, I learned to do HSH in D with the tuners, including an up the neck break I had worked out. That was before digital tuners & no paid much attention to the fact that the 1st & 4th strings go a wee bit sharp when you tune down to D. But, like a lot of others, I eventually discovered retuning for one song to be a pain. You can get by with it onstage while the front man covers for you, but in a jam situation, not so much. However, when jamming with fiddlers, neither G nor C are very popular keys as they much prefer A & D. I stated playing HSH in the key of D with the aid of a capo. I just didn't bother to drop the 4th string down. But if it goes around more than once, you can easily remove the capo & drop down into D tuning before your next break comes around. wink       

Jan 18, 2021 - 12:27:41 PM
Players Union Member

Blackjaxe47

Canada

1581 posts since 6/20/2014

quote:
Originally posted by monstertone

I think Earl took pieces of what he had heard other pickers play & worked it out the way he did because that was what sounded best to him.

West coast jam etiquette used to be, you played a tune straight the fist time around, the next time you did your own thing with it.

I first learned Earl's version of HSH in drop C tuning, & when you could successfully pull off that quad C up & down the neck lick, it was really impressive. Then when I upgraded to the arch top banjo, I learned to do HSH in D with the tuners, including an up the neck break I had worked out. That was before digital tuners & no paid much attention to the fact that the 1st & 4th strings go a wee bit sharp when you tune down to D. But, like a lot of others, I eventually discovered retuning for one song to be a pain. You can get by with it onstage while the front man covers for you, but in a jam situation, not so much. However, when jamming with fiddlers, neither G nor C are very popular keys as they much prefer A & D. I stated playing HSH in the key of D with the aid of a capo. I just didn't bother to drop the 4th string down. But if it goes around more than once, you can easily remove the capo & drop down into D tuning before your next break comes around. wink       


Monstertone, I agree 100% with your take on the keys that others prefer as mentioned with fiddle players preferring A & D. In my circle of friends who I used to jam with on a regular basis prior to Covid-19 I also found a lot of guitar players also prefer the same keys of A & D with the odd exception of certain songs being played and sung in C. Mandolin pickers are another group who seem to prefer tunes played in the key of D.

Edited by - Blackjaxe47 on 01/18/2021 12:28:29

Jan 18, 2021 - 1:21:09 PM

1208 posts since 8/10/2010

Because thems is the rules of banjo.... lol.

Jan 18, 2021 - 7:54:31 PM
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3666 posts since 3/28/2008

quote:
Originally posted by corcoran

I have not heard of Frank Jenkins before, and it is informative to hear his recording. Thanks for pointing us to it. I wonder whether he was related to Snuffy Jenkins.

In any case, if you listen to Mack Woolbright’s recording, you will hear a banjo break that incorporates the same G7 lick that shows up in Earl’s version. And, as I said earlier, his B part (chorus) is a cruder but recognizable precursor of Earl’s, closer to my ear than Frank Jenkins’s version. If that doesn’t convince you, go to Earl’s banjo instruction book and read what he says in his essay about his history with the banjo, where he talks about as a 6-year-old hearing Mack Woolbright’s version of Home Sweet Home, which sent chills up his spine. It is quite likely, almost a certainty, that multiple players influenced each other, including perhaps Jenkins and Woolbright. But I at least am impressed with Earl’s acknowledgement that he heard and was influenced by Woolbright’s version of Home Sweet Home,


You beat me to it.

It wasn't just that Scruggs knew Woolbright's playing. He actually saw the man play his arrangement in person. Woolbright's right-hand patterns are squarer than Scruggs's continuous backward rolling, but the left-hand positions are just about identical in the two versions. And yes, that G7 lick clinches it IMHO--not just that Scruggs duplicates it, but also the fact that he commented on it years later, recalling it as “one of the most thrilling sounds I had ever heard.”

Jan 19, 2021 - 9:06:56 AM

2410 posts since 4/5/2006

So, was Mack Woolbright banjo picker that, as a six year old, Earl was so amazed that a blind man was able to play like that? 

Jan 19, 2021 - 9:12:27 AM

3938 posts since 5/1/2003

I really get in outer space on this tune ;) the last time through I play the A part up the neck and the B part down the neck and I don’t downtune the D until the very last note. I’ve never heard a recording of it done that way.

Jan 19, 2021 - 11:42:11 PM

phb

Germany

2441 posts since 11/8/2010

quote:
Originally posted by Ks_5-picker

I really get in outer space on this tune ;) the last time through I play the A part up the neck and the B part down the neck and I don’t downtune the D until the very last note. I’ve never heard a recording of it done that way.


We neither... (hint, hint)

Jan 20, 2021 - 6:24:50 AM
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3666 posts since 3/28/2008

quote:
Originally posted by monstertone

So, was Mack Woolbright banjo picker that, as a six year old, Earl was so amazed that a blind man was able to play like that? 


Yes.

Jan 20, 2021 - 6:26:07 AM

3666 posts since 3/28/2008

quote:
Originally posted by monstertone

So, was Mack Woolbright banjo picker that, as a six year old, Earl was so amazed that a blind man was able to play like that? 


Yes.

Jan 22, 2021 - 8:23:06 PM

6876 posts since 8/30/2004

Who knows why Earl chose to play in dropped C tuning or in the key of C at all? Why do people care so much? Earl decided and we listened and that is all that matters in my opinion. We all borrow ideas from other's playing. I don't think we always have to attribute who played what first as it seems neurotic or at least, pretentious to me. Earl brought new life to the banjo and to me, that is what matters. It is how music evolves. I'm never sure why people call his alternating rolls in this tune "square or crooked" or whatever. Earl did play the backward rolls beautifully. It seems to be some kind of BHO lingo and confuses many...Here's Earl's version. 
Home Sweet Home

Originally posted by From Greylock to Bean Blossom

I wondered why Earl did Home Sweet Home in C instead of G. I know Smith Hammit did it originally in C, but it seems to lay out so much easier in G.
Thanks,
Ken


Edited by - Jack Baker on 01/22/2021 20:37:27

Jan 22, 2021 - 8:41:18 PM
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6876 posts since 8/30/2004

This one is for you Pat Cloud. I love your common sense approach to banjo and to music in general. I sense no pretense in your opinions at all. Stay safe Pat....Jack

Originally posted by Jack Baker
Who knows why Earl chose to play in dropped C tuning or in the key of C at all? Why do people care so much? Earl decided and we listened and that is all that matters in my opinion. We all borrow ideas from other's playing. I don't think we always have to attribute who played what first as it seems neurotic or at least, pretentious to me. Earl brought new life to the banjo and to me, that is what matters. It is how music evolves. I'm never sure why people call his alternating rolls in this tune "square or crooked" or whatever. Earl did play the backward rolls beautifully. It seems to be some kind of BHO lingo and confuses many...Here's Earl's version. 
Home Sweet Home

Originally posted by From Greylock to Bean Blossom

I wondered why Earl did Home Sweet Home in C instead of G. I know Smith Hammit did it originally in C, but it seems to lay out so much easier in G.
Thanks,
Ken


 


Edited by - Jack Baker on 01/22/2021 20:42:14

Jan 23, 2021 - 2:30:32 AM

64 posts since 5/21/2020

quote:
Originally posted by From Greylock to Bean Blossom

I wondered why Earl did Home Sweet Home in C instead of G. I know Smith Hammit did it originally in C, but it seems to lay out so much easier in G.
Thanks,
Ken


I'm guessin - It's because it just sounds so darn good in drop C.   

Jan 23, 2021 - 6:47:31 AM

3666 posts since 3/28/2008

 

I don't recall ever hearing anyone comment on those alternating rolls in "HSH", but I have wondered about them myself. When Scruggs uses an alternating-thumb roll repeatedly (As in "Cripple Creek") he usually plays TITM. But in "HSH" he always (?) uses TMTI. I have no idea why he does that here and nowhere else that I can think of. (Well, actually i do have an idea, but it's just unfounded speculation.)

Edited by - Ira Gitlin on 01/23/2021 06:49:17

Jan 23, 2021 - 6:52:16 AM
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6876 posts since 8/30/2004

Hi Ira,
I've seen it mentioned several times over the years. Earl just does what he does and I'm guessing he doesn't give it much thought. He just moved his roll differently. Knowing Earl over the years, I don't think he overly analyses what he does with every thought. BHO members seem obsessed with this sort of thing. Most pros don't--they just play what they feel at that moment I'm guessing...Jack

Edited by - Jack Baker on 01/23/2021 06:56:20

Jan 23, 2021 - 7:21:33 AM
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6876 posts since 8/30/2004

Thanks Ira,
Got your email. HSH is very different than Cripple Creek. HSM has a different feel to me and I think that Earl just uses what comes to him reflexively. I guess I just don't get why BHO members get so involved with why Earl makes every move.

Banjo players just play what they feel. I don't think I could pick up an instrument if I analyzed every move I made with every song I play...But thank you for being so interested...Jack

Edited by - Jack Baker on 01/23/2021 07:21:56

Jan 23, 2021 - 2:36:04 PM

6876 posts since 8/30/2004

Earl has mentioned in several magazine articles that he heard Frank Jenkins play this piece and borrowed some of his and made it his own...J

Edited by - Jack Baker on 01/23/2021 14:36:24

Jan 24, 2021 - 7:45:06 AM
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5909 posts since 10/13/2007
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quote:
Originally posted by Jack Baker
Who knows why Earl chose to play in dropped C tuning or in the key of C at all? Why do people care so much? Earl decided and we listened and that is all that matters in my opinion. We all borrow ideas from other's playing. I don't think we always have to attribute who played what first as it seems neurotic or at least, pretentious to me. Earl brought new life to the banjo and to me, that is what matters. It is how music evolves. I'm never sure why people call his alternating rolls in this tune "square or crooked" or whatever. Earl did play the backward rolls beautifully. It seems to be some kind of BHO lingo and confuses many...Here's Earl's version. 
Home Sweet Home

Originally posted by From Greylock to Bean Blossom

I wondered why Earl did Home Sweet Home in C instead of G. I know Smith Hammit did it originally in C, but it seems to lay out so much easier in G.
Thanks,
Ken


 


Jack,

Sorry to cause you so much consternation. sad I did not mean to put soured cream into your coffee this morning. laugh Let me explain to you my thought process here and maybe my topic was not precise enough. However I did gain good stuff out of it anyway and i enjoyed the discourse as well.

HSH has always been the hardest for me to get. I have listened to Earl play it at regular speed and slowed down over and over and over for years! But when I go to play it. from Earls tab.  I  can  not  hear  the melody while I play it. (this tells you about my talent level). Now I can pick up the banjo and play it in G just like that. Sooo in my study. I have listened to singer sing it .....over and over and over  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wV3Ct4yj0eo) and I have taken the sheet music and note for note tabbed it out with the melody on the 1st and 2nd string. I have then compared that to the Scruggs tab to see where the melody notes are in the roll.  From this thread I have taken that maybe I need to make my 2nd finger on the first string stronger in relation to 5th string than I am used to. And that Earl played it that way because of the pretty C note in drop C tuning.

So maybe a more  precise question on my part was why it is played in drop C as opposed to easy G.

Now as to asking how someone things. My profession has been teaching tennis. And I have believed and profited by the old saying of: "Great men are those that perceive that thoughts rule the world". I made it a career habit to ask good players what they were thinking when the did something either mechanically or strategically. And by good player I mean a good pro. Often I found the "why" they did something concept could/would be a strategy for launching many other successful actions. Maybe that applies to music, maybe not. I had some talent and intuition on the court. as you have heard my talent level on the banjo described here you can see I don't have the same on the 5. So maybe my thought process is not valid. But sometimes it seems it is to me. As always, I defer to your proven superiority in all ways on this subject. but I just thought I would try to answer your question as you alluded to is several times here.

Thanks for your attention and replies to the thread.

ken

ps : Below is what a great teacher told me. It is a thought process and it opened the doors for me wider on banjo than anything else. This is why i like thought processes:

Yes. It is very simple: Earl was trying to render a melody using the thumb on the melody notes as often as possible while maintaining a steady stream of eighth notes and not repeating a digit on consecutive eighth notes. These three parameters resulted in the four or five basic rolls he created. IMO, he never even conceptualized the rolls as static building blocks of his style until others such as Bill Keith attempted to put it down on paper (tab) and coined the term “roll”.  By then it was already innate with Earl. He just tried to play the melody with the stronger thumb, and the signature licks and finger sequences (rolls) that resulted became his vocabulary (“I call it his Lick-cabulary”) unconsciously.

All the more reason to set as a goal thinking the melody instead of thinking about the rolls and licks and memorized arrangement. If you have practiced the licks and rolls enough, REALLY ingrained them...they will appear on your fingers in some unplanned order to render the melody you intend, and you will not be ridden with a string of errors because you made one mistake in a memorized arrangement. Playing memorized arrangements by rote is a starting place, (in truth, many lifelong players never get beyond this) but it is like a chain...when you break one link the whole thing ceases to function. If you think the melody instead of the memorized arrangement, you may play it differently every time, but there are no TIMING errors which is catastrophic, and few if any dropped notes. But you have to internalize the rolls and licks first, which takes years.

Edited by - From Greylock to Bean Blossom on 01/24/2021 07:46:31

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