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Jan 18, 2021 - 9:52:28 AM
447 posts since 6/12/2017

Is Doc Boggs playing considered hard or or easy?

I really struggled with a few of his tunes trying to learn through the Art Rosebaum books. I don't know if it was because I switched from clawhammer to 3-finger, and was new to the style or what. But I found some youtube tutorials of Wild Bill Jones, and Danville Girl, and I find them quite easy to learn.

Seems Boggs playing is a mix of a few pinches, then melody notes, then rolls; repeat.

Is there a theme in his keys?

I wish I had known what I was trying to do from the beginning. I started learning clawhammer, and bought mid range openback that cost me a lot of money. I wasted a lot of time and money, learning to play a style I'm I'm not interested in, on a banjo that isn't typically used for that sound. It will be a long time before I can afford a resonator.

Edited by - 6stringedRamble on 01/18/2021 09:53:33

Jan 18, 2021 - 12:15:31 PM
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Players Union Member

janolov

Sweden

40916 posts since 3/7/2006

I would say that his style are technically uncomplicated, but that doesn't mean that they are easy.

Jan 18, 2021 - 12:27:26 PM
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180 posts since 3/16/2008

This video and several others from the same channel helped me learn to play Boggs.

m.youtube.com/watch?v=_A0kPGSpptk

Tony Trischka on Artistworks has some good Boggs lessons, too.

All the best, Ron

Jan 18, 2021 - 12:46:55 PM
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615 posts since 8/14/2018

It’s not an especially complicated style, just somewhat idiosyncratic.

Jan 18, 2021 - 1:02:05 PM
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3069 posts since 10/17/2009

quote:
Originally posted by 6stringedRamble


I wish I had known what I was trying to do from the beginning. I started learning clawhammer, and bought mid range openback that cost me a lot of money. I wasted a lot of time and money, learning to play a style I'm I'm not interested in, on a banjo that isn't typically used for that sound. It will be a long time before I can afford a resonator.


The instrument, (with resonator or open back) isn't really what makes Doc Boggs style unique; rather his arrangement of note choices and right hand, technique. Which works the same on an open back banjo. 

Jan 18, 2021 - 1:06:47 PM

180 posts since 3/16/2008

That's true. I think his early work was performed on an openback, later work on the resonator.

Jan 18, 2021 - 1:07:07 PM
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8172 posts since 3/17/2005

You do not need a resonator to play fingerstyle banjo.

youtube.com/watch?v=58HqKX7TU2o

youtube.com/watch?v=58HqKX7TU2

 

Edited by - chip arnold on 01/18/2021 13:10:48

Jan 18, 2021 - 1:09:40 PM
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3069 posts since 10/17/2009

quote:
Originally posted by MacCruiskeen

It’s not an especially complicated style, just somewhat idiosyncratic.


The idiosyncratic, with syncopations, odd meters and fills, extra beats, can also not very intuitive for many folks, esp if used to other styles... that the part that can make it seem difficult.

Jan 18, 2021 - 2:21:40 PM
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1253 posts since 5/19/2018

Easy to mimic, extremely difficult to master.

Jan 18, 2021 - 4:51:30 PM
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234 posts since 4/14/2014

quote:
Originally posted by banjoak
 

The idiosyncratic, with syncopations, odd meters and fills, extra beats, can also not very intuitive for many folks, esp if used to other styles... that the part that can make it seem difficult.


I had this same thought as soon as I read the topic title. I completely agree - if you're real comfortable rolling or doing basic clawhammer... well, then Boggs is going to take some getting used to. I tend to think of Boggs' style as being akin to a guitarist coming to banjo in some ways, at least so far as the picking hand goes. 

My advice is to listen to as much of his playing as you can so that some of the strangeness of it becomes more familiar sounding. There are some videos of him playing as well, which are invaluable.

Jan 18, 2021 - 7:37:30 PM
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1603 posts since 7/4/2009

I agree with those who have said that it's not especially difficult, but extremely idiosyncratic.

Dock's style amounts to a cross between thumb lead and a technique reminiscent of parlor guitar. The basics of Dock's style: thumb plays thumb string, fourth string, and third string by picking down. Index finger picks up on the second string. Middle finger picks up on the first string. A melody note on the fourth or third string will usually be followed by a pluck up on the first and second strings, like parlor guitar. Melody on the second string is sometimes followed by a brush down on the first string, and vice versa.

I don't know what you mean by "Is there a theme in his keys?"

Jan 19, 2021 - 12:51:39 AM

447 posts since 6/12/2017

quote:
Originally posted by banjoak
quote:
Originally posted by 6stringedRamble


I wish I had known what I was trying to do from the beginning. I started learning clawhammer, and bought mid range openback that cost me a lot of money. I wasted a lot of time and money, learning to play a style I'm I'm not interested in, on a banjo that isn't typically used for that sound. It will be a long time before I can afford a resonator.


The instrument, (with resonator or open back) isn't really what makes Doc Boggs style unique; rather his arrangement of note choices and right hand, technique. Which works the same on an open back banjo. 

 

 


I know both OB and R banjos are technically the same instrument, but my OB doesn't ring loud and clear finger picking. CH is much better in that regard as I'm hitting the string with my finger nail. It could be I'm partially hard of hearing in the low tones and just hear louder brighter sounds better

Edited by - 6stringedRamble on 01/19/2021 00:52:56

Jan 19, 2021 - 12:55:52 AM

447 posts since 6/12/2017

quote:
Originally posted by Nic Pennsylvania
quote:
Originally posted by banjoak
 

The idiosyncratic, with syncopations, odd meters and fills, extra beats, can also not very intuitive for many folks, esp if used to other styles... that the part that can make it seem difficult.


I had this same thought as soon as I read the topic title. I completely agree - if you're real comfortable rolling or doing basic clawhammer... well, then Boggs is going to take some getting used to. I tend to think of Boggs' style as being akin to a guitarist coming to banjo in some ways, at least so far as the picking hand goes. 

My advice is to listen to as much of his playing as you can so that some of the strangeness of it becomes more familiar sounding. There are some videos of him playing as well, which are invaluable.


I usually can't hear the instrument over his singing. Only the instrumental sections can I head clearly. I have seen alot on youtube playing his songs CH. I haven't tried to mimic any of those though

Jan 19, 2021 - 12:58:20 AM

447 posts since 6/12/2017

quote:
Originally posted by UncleClawhammer

I agree with those who have said that it's not especially difficult, but extremely idiosyncratic.

Dock's style amounts to a cross between thumb lead and a technique reminiscent of parlor guitar. The basics of Dock's style: thumb plays thumb string, fourth string, and third string by picking down. Index finger picks up on the second string. Middle finger picks up on the first string. A melody note on the fourth or third string will usually be followed by a pluck up on the first and second strings, like parlor guitar. Melody on the second string is sometimes followed by a brush down on the first string, and vice versa.

I don't know what you mean by "Is there a theme in his keys?"


Are there are specific keys (C, G, etc) he usually plays in since the tunings are usually different from the standard tunings?

 

What's parlor guitar style? 

Edited by - 6stringedRamble on 01/19/2021 00:58:50

Jan 19, 2021 - 1:22:58 AM
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1603 posts since 7/4/2009

Boggs' most distinctive tuning - f#CGAD - is a D tuning (though on some of his early records, he tuned it so low that it came out in the key of A). The variant f#DGAD is also played in D. He also used sawmill tuning (gDGCD) to play in the key of D on Sugar Baby.

He also used regular G tuning (gDGBD) and standard C (gCGBD; no longer standard) a lot. The liner notes for his Folkways recordings give the tunings for his songs and can be downloaded free on the Smithsonian Folkways website. Once you know how he's tuned, it should be easy to figure out what key he's playing in, with the caveat that he might not be at concert pitch.

Parlor guitar - thumb on the bass, 5th, and 4th strings, index finger on the 3rd, middle on the second, and ring on the highest string. Thumb plays a bass note on the down beat and fingers pluck a chord or play an arpeggio on the up beat.

Edited by - UncleClawhammer on 01/19/2021 01:24:12

Jan 19, 2021 - 2:19:41 AM

234 posts since 4/14/2014

Mathew - I think you've hit on the "guitaristic" aspects that I also hear in Doc's playing.

I've heard another person say that his fifth string use js less regular than most and, in some songs, ita almost a surprise when you hear it.

Funny enough, his most famous tuning, Country Blues; was only used for that one song. I believe that to be true, but please let me know if I am mistaken.

Jan 19, 2021 - 2:57:11 AM
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1603 posts since 7/4/2009

Country Blues is played in the tuning f#CGAD. He used the tuning for several other songs: O Death, Drunkard's Lone Child, The Prodigal Son, Little Black Train (technically that's tuned gCGAD instead of f#CGAD; Dock forgot to tune the fifth string), Death of Jerry Dameron (sp?), and Calvary (also known as On a Hill Far Away). There are probably others.

Edited by - UncleClawhammer on 01/19/2021 03:02:12

Jan 19, 2021 - 5:11:10 AM

447 posts since 6/12/2017

quote:
Originally posted by UncleClawhammer

Country Blues is played in the tuning f#CGAD. He used the tuning for several other songs: O Death, Drunkard's Lone Child, The Prodigal Son, Little Black Train (technically that's tuned gCGAD instead of f#CGAD; Dock forgot to tune the fifth string), Death of Jerry Dameron (sp?), and Calvary (also known as On a Hill Far Away). There are probably others.


This maybe a dumb question, but why is art rosenbaums book, arranged around dozens of different old time tunings, including several of boggs? Before banjo I dabbled in violin and still in guitar, the lesson books always say tune it like this, and that's it. Now I understand all these tunings fit into music theory some how, trying to fit scales and keys and chords, but I don't understand why. I'm ready about it it now in a books that has music theory specifically as it relates to banjo

Jan 19, 2021 - 5:40:15 AM

127 posts since 6/29/2008

I may have missed something, but are you using a pick when you play claw hammer? You'll get a lot more volume and you won't have to look for a resonator banjo.

Jan 19, 2021 - 5:51:43 AM

1603 posts since 7/4/2009

quote:
Originally posted by 6stringedRamble
quote:
Originally posted by UncleClawhammer

Country Blues is played in the tuning f#CGAD. He used the tuning for several other songs: O Death, Drunkard's Lone Child, The Prodigal Son, Little Black Train (technically that's tuned gCGAD instead of f#CGAD; Dock forgot to tune the fifth string), Death of Jerry Dameron (sp?), and Calvary (also known as On a Hill Far Away). There are probably others.


This maybe a dumb question, but why is art rosenbaums book, arranged around dozens of different old time tunings, including several of boggs? Before banjo I dabbled in violin and still in guitar, the lesson books always say tune it like this, and that's it. Now I understand all these tunings fit into music theory some how, trying to fit scales and keys and chords, but I don't understand why. I'm ready about it it now in a books that has music theory specifically as it relates to banjo


This ties in to your thread about tunings, but: Because Rosenbaum's book is intended to teach old-time banjo, and the alternate tunings are a part of old-time banjo. Without them, the music would sound denuded and bland. You could play Country Blues (with more or less difficulty) in probably any tuning you wanted to, but you will never achieve the effect that Boggs achieves without using his tuning or one that's very similar.

I think you're making this more complicated than it needs to be. This is a playing by ear type of music, and melody over drones tends to be more important than scales, keys, and chords, especially with Boggs material (though there are a handful of exceptions, usually when he's playing in gCGBD).

Jan 19, 2021 - 6:36:21 AM

234 posts since 4/14/2014

quote:
Originally posted by UncleClawhammer

Country Blues is played in the tuning f#CGAD. He used the tuning for several other songs: O Death, Drunkard's Lone Child, The Prodigal Son, Little Black Train (technically that's tuned gCGAD instead of f#CGAD; Dock forgot to tune the fifth string), Death of Jerry Dameron (sp?), and Calvary (also known as On a Hill Far Away). There are probably others.


I don't doubt you, but I recall hearing something from Mike Seeger about Dock coming to New York and going to a music shop and being taken aback to find all the banjos tuned to f#CGAD and saying he only used it for Country Blues. 

Maybe I'm mis-remembering, or maybe Seeger was. 

Jan 19, 2021 - 1:37:16 PM
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301 posts since 4/13/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Nic Pennsylvania
quote:
Originally posted by UncleClawhammer

Country Blues is played in the tuning f#CGAD. He used the tuning for several other songs: O Death, Drunkard's Lone Child, The Prodigal Son, Little Black Train (technically that's tuned gCGAD instead of f#CGAD; Dock forgot to tune the fifth string), Death of Jerry Dameron (sp?), and Calvary (also known as On a Hill Far Away). There are probably others.


I don't doubt you, but I recall hearing something from Mike Seeger about Dock coming to New York and going to a music shop and being taken aback to find all the banjos tuned to f#CGAD and saying he only used it for Country Blues. 

Maybe I'm mis-remembering, or maybe Seeger was. 


That was a joke somebody played on Dock; they retuned everything to that tuning just to have fun with him. He did use f#CGAD for the tunes mentioned and others; definitely for more than Country Blues. He used f#DGAD probably a little less than the C variant.

As far as difficulty, just to add to some of the excellent stuff that's already been written here, I would say that his thumb-lead material (e.g. the stuff in the D tunings) is probably easier to play than his material in C and G tunings that involves the Seeger-style pick up/brush down licks. Stuff like Mixed Blues is not easy to play, even less easy to play and sing. Boggs' music is a lot like Mississippi John Hurt's, though, in that there are some simple concepts going on that are not necessarily easy to implement and that aren't always used in a simple way.

Jan 19, 2021 - 1:57:32 PM
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180 posts since 3/16/2008

O, and Chris's videos on YouTube are really helpful, too. Thanks for posting those, Chris!

Jan 19, 2021 - 3:11:13 PM

3069 posts since 10/17/2009

quote:
Originally posted by UncleClawhammer

I think you're making this more complicated than it needs to be.


yes

Jan 19, 2021 - 3:15:02 PM

BelfastFiveString

Northern Ireland

205 posts since 7/22/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Alvin Conder

Easy to mimic, extremely difficult to master.


I think you're right there! I find it difficult to play some of his tunes as he seems to play a style of his own. I can copy him, or tutorials of him, but never would play away in that way and make something of my own. 

It's just too many steps beyond the styles that I'm really stuck in. 

Learning his tunes is a great exercise for anyone. 

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