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May 7, 2021 - 1:42:41 AM
7 posts since 9/30/2020

Hi, Folks.

Apologise for the long preamble, but I'm trying to set the context. I'm a bit part banjo player. Playing it on and off for about 5 years (when I bought a Deering Goodtime). Worked through beginner book, used Janet Davis' Splitting the Licks (got halfway through). Tried Clawhammer for about 6 months, but not really for me. So I'm back on the picks, and using Janet Davis' School for Banjo - melodic bluegrass style. I like it and about halfway through. Think I'm now going to stick with banjo and get stuck in seriously. I bought a new banjo (Grafton - open back with White Laydye style tone ring assembled here in the UK from imported parts - not the most refined finish, but solidly constructed and assembled ... and a £1000 cheaper than an equivalent Deering here in the UK) and I know a bit about music, and scales etc from my guitar thrashing. I don't play in a band anymore, but I can play guitar and sing solo at open mics etc - but Banjo?? Can play simple back up and stuff, and that's okay. But I want more. There are opportunties to play where I live (pre-Covid) and I bought Tony Trishka's fiddle tunes tome - that's a great source for the future. But my aim is to get more capable of winging it at sessions as I can do on guitar. I've just bought 100 banjo lessons as a reference tool (saw a review on a banjo mag review), and that looks good for me.

Eventually ...... I'm wondering if anyone has had eyes on a book called A Guide to Non Jazz Improvisation on Banjo? (Weissman) I can only find it on line, so I can't judge. It would be helpful to know if anyone has seen it, used it etc, and has an informed opinion on its usefulness.

Thanks for your help,

Malcolm

May 7, 2021 - 5:46:18 AM

beegee

USA

22371 posts since 7/6/2005

It's OK. It has some discussion of modes and scales and provides example of non-standard rhythm patterns, such as Bossa Nova and Latin rhythms. Nothing earth-shaking, but a nice reference book with CD.

I find rather oxymoronic to have instruction in improvisation. Isn't the essence of improvisation "making it up as you go?"

May 7, 2021 - 8:51:11 AM
likes this

343 posts since 10/8/2018

True except it’s kind of like language... before you can make it up as you go along, you have to learn the language.

I am fluent in English and can totally make up many kinds of sentences as I go along!

But ask me to make up a sentence in Bulgarian... ?

Couldn't do it if I tried!

So if you think of studying music theory as being the equivalent of studying Bulgarian grammar...

...then it makes sense...

May 7, 2021 - 9:35:45 AM

2499 posts since 5/2/2012

Sherry (Texasbanjo ), one of the moderators here on the HO, sometimes writes about learning what I think she calls "melody phrases" that she can plug and play at will when she first took up the banjo. I understand the concept, and wish that some day she would share those phrases. These are not melodic phrases, nor licks, as I understand it. As I imagine it, I would be listening to a tune and realize that a phrase in the tune sounds a little like one of the melody phrases I already know, and I could plug this phrase in here. It has been writtten that learning BG is like learning a language -- you learn "words" then put those words into "phrases", then phrases into "sentences". Improvisation, to me, seems above my level of talent. Plus I know that I would need to put in a LOT of practice, trial and error stuff, to figure out what fits and what doesn't. I wish there was some sort of "easy button" for this stuff, but realistically I know there isn't.

May 7, 2021 - 1:39:44 PM

beegee

USA

22371 posts since 7/6/2005

I am an advocate of "noises" that fit in chord structures. Substitute one chord noise for any other of the the same metric equivalent

May 7, 2021 - 2:16:25 PM

Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

25927 posts since 8/3/2003

@thisoldman

I'm the one who uses musical phrases, but I've never tabbed them out. Basically, they are just 2 or more bars of music that will fit into many songs as part of the melody. I wouldn't even know where to start to categorize them. I just hear a song, figure out the chord sequence and get an idea of the melody and my fingers and brain do the rest.

The way I figured them out was when I was jamming and got the nod for a break on a song I didn't know. Took a lot of mistakes to figure out what went with what, but once you get that in your head, the rest is just brain and fingers doing their thing.

When I first started making my own breaks, my teacher wrote out a few different pentatonic ideas that would fit into songs and I went from there. I don't know if I still have those or not. I'll look and if I do, I'd be happy to share them with anyone who would like them.

Edited by - Texasbanjo on 05/07/2021 14:17:13

May 7, 2021 - 8:12:02 PM
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rcc56

USA

3521 posts since 2/20/2016

I'm not familiar with the book. But anything that covers several types of scales, a bit about chord construction, and a few basic ideas like ornamentation, arpeggios and sequences is very useful.

I have been teaching for over 30 years:   all string instruments and the occasional piano student, many styles of music, and at beginning to advanced levels. I'm also a semi-forcibly retired professional jazz bass player. Anyway, back to my students. When we start talking about improvisation, the first thing I tell them is that we can't teach improvisation, but we can teach ideas, tools, and theory to help a student learn to improvise.

I find the term "Non Jazz Improvisation" to be amusing.  To me, all improvisation is jazz, whether it's "straight ahead jazz," "Dixieland," "be-bop," hillbilly jazz, hippie jazz, a cadenza in a work of Mozart, or an ornamented repetition or a "double" in a baroque suite movement. The tricks are the same, only the dialect is different.

Edited by - rcc56 on 05/07/2021 20:14:45

May 8, 2021 - 1:01:24 AM

7 posts since 9/30/2020

quote:
Originally posted by beegee

It's OK. It has some discussion of modes and scales and provides example of non-standard rhythm patterns, such as Bossa Nova and Latin rhythms. Nothing earth-shaking, but a nice reference book with CD.

I find rather oxymoronic to have instruction in improvisation. Isn't the essence of improvisation "making it up as you go?"


Thanks, Bob. Sounds like it has similarities with the 100 Banjo Lessons (BL) tome. I might get the improvisation book to use with the BL book to compare their approaches to a given topic.  Cheers.

Malcolm

May 8, 2021 - 1:12:38 AM

7 posts since 9/30/2020

quote:Originally posted by guitarbanjomanTrue except it’s kind of like language... before you can make it up as you go along, you have to learn the language.

I am fluent in English and can totally make up many kinds of sentences as I go along!

But ask me to make up a sentence in Bulgarian... ?

Couldn't do it if I tried!

So if you think of studying music theory as being the equivalent of studying Bulgarian grammar...

...then it makes sense...Thanks, Will and thisoldman

Agree with all that. I've learned everything from books (including guitar, banjo, and mandolin) ... and a helluva lot of practice! Couple of years ago I went to a guitar teacher, who, after two lessons, told me I know everything, just go away and practise. Aye .. As you said, it was learning all the scales/modes/arpeggios over and over again until I bits and pieces just come to me and fit them in. It was the character building experience of live guitar playing and singing, and also writing and playing my own songs in front of strange faces, that boosted me to a higher level of mediocrity. :) Cheers.

Malcolm

Edited by - A Scot in Otley on 05/08/2021 01:19:20

May 8, 2021 - 1:24:05 AM

7 posts since 9/30/2020

quote:
Originally posted by rcc56

I'm not familiar with the book. But anything that covers several types of scales, a bit about chord construction, and a few basic ideas like ornamentation, arpeggios and sequences is very useful.

I have been teaching for over 30 years:   all string instruments and the occasional piano student, many styles of music, and at beginning to advanced levels. I'm also a semi-forcibly retired professional jazz bass player. Anyway, back to my students. When we start talking about improvisation, the first thing I tell them is that we can't teach improvisation, but we can teach ideas, tools, and theory to help a student learn to improvise.

I find the term "Non Jazz Improvisation" to be amusing.  To me, all improvisation is jazz, whether it's "straight ahead jazz," "Dixieland," "be-bop," hillbilly jazz, hippie jazz, a cadenza in a work of Mozart, or an ornamented repetition or a "double" in a baroque suite movement. The tricks are the same, only the dialect is different.


Thanks for your reply, Bob. Much appreciated. Re your  'Jazz' comment. I've learned tons of guitar stuff from a large Jazz guitar tome - but I never (knowingly) play jazz stuff  - but I absolutely get where you're coming from. Love listening to Wes Montgomery...

Malcolm

May 8, 2021 - 1:27:58 AM

7 posts since 9/30/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Texasbanjo

@thisoldman

I'm the one who uses musical phrases, but I've never tabbed them out. Basically, they are just 2 or more bars of music that will fit into many songs as part of the melody. I wouldn't even know where to start to categorize them. I just hear a song, figure out the chord sequence and get an idea of the melody and my fingers and brain do the rest.

The way I figured them out was when I was jamming and got the nod for a break on a song I didn't know. Took a lot of mistakes to figure out what went with what, but once you get that in your head, the rest is just brain and fingers doing their thing.

When I first started making my own breaks, my teacher wrote out a few different pentatonic ideas that would fit into songs and I went from there. I don't know if I still have those or not. I'll look and if I do, I'd be happy to share them with anyone who would like them.


Thanks very much for your offer, Sherry. Don't go hunting for stuff on my account. If it's readily available, I'd be interested to see them. But I insist, don't spend a lot of time looking on my account. Cheers

Malcolm

May 8, 2021 - 8:20:08 AM

343 posts since 10/8/2018

How nice to have several of our five-string cousins here!

You are as welcome as the flowers in May!

Edited by - guitarbanjoman on 05/08/2021 08:21:34

May 9, 2021 - 5:22:07 PM

26 posts since 4/8/2021

I had a teacher say once that you can only improvise what you have learned and practiced.

I thought it was an interesting concept.

May 31, 2021 - 4:51:28 PM

2648 posts since 2/10/2013

IMHO there are two types of improvisation on the banjo. Some players have a mental "library" of licks. They learn to "plug" the licks in where they will approximate a desired sound/feel. This type of improviser is the most common. The other improviser "hears" the melody in their head, and is able to create music that is more melodically accurate and a tune will be more identifiable. The latter seem to be playing for their personal enjoyment and enjoy the opportunity to try new things.

I knew one banjo players who was an outstanding improviser. His style combined elements from different 5 string styles. When he opened his banjo case, other players put the banjos in their cases. One day while he was sitting and playing, a little boy walking by with his mother looked at his mom and said "How come when he plays, it sounds like music ?".
When a really good improviser is playing banjo, you don't have to wait for somebody to start singing in order to know which tune is being played.

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