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Jul 30, 2021 - 7:59:46 PM
5 posts since 7/30/2021

Hello! I'm a year in and have learned to play a few really fun tunes in two finger style, but I often find myself wanting to experiment and play some (seemingly simple) pop songs.

I have been trying to figure out 'I want Candy.' It's so cute and upbeat and I thought it would be fun on the banjo. The whole song is just two chords, C and F. but when i'm in open G and play with those chords, i just can't find any combination of plucking that really works.

Is this a skill that one develops over time? Is there anything else I can be doing to work towards being able to find the notes I'm looking for?

Thanks!

Jul 30, 2021 - 8:37:11 PM
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RioStat

USA

5569 posts since 10/12/2009

If you've got your banjo tuned to standard G tuning, then capo at the 5th fret, (5th string at 10th fret), then "open" will be C, and the C shape chord will be F, giving you the capability to play lots of open strings, and find the melody more easily.

Jul 30, 2021 - 8:40:17 PM
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chuckv97

Canada

59112 posts since 10/5/2013

Find just the bare melody first, then add the in-between notes to create the full solo. 

Edited by - chuckv97 on 07/30/2021 20:41:07

Jul 30, 2021 - 8:56:36 PM
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218 posts since 3/2/2013

quote:
Originally posted by chuckv97

Find just the bare melody first, then add the in-between notes to create the full solo. 


Yes this is good advice...I first heard this when the professional banjo player Pete Wernick said "first just find the darned old melody". Than like Chuck97 says add your in between notes with your 2 finger picking patterns. You may possibly need to use the single string technique in some places in the song to get melody notes where you want them. 

Edited by - brententz on 07/30/2021 21:01:51

Jul 30, 2021 - 9:09:12 PM
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74 posts since 5/20/2020

for pop songs, find a uke tutorial on the youtubes

youtube.com/watch?v=BAfK_iCYhKk

Jul 30, 2021 - 9:10:27 PM
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chuckv97

Canada

59112 posts since 10/5/2013

Yes, absolutely, Brent. But seeing as April is still early in her banjo journey maybe single string style hasn’t been used yet. I’d like to know, April, which banjo tunes you’ve learned - do you have tab for them or did you just learn them on your own? And do you have a link for “I Want Candy” so we know what you’re dealing with?

Jul 31, 2021 - 12:42:12 AM

193 posts since 5/21/2020

quote:
Originally posted by AprilDawn

Hello! I'm a year in and have learned to play a few really fun tunes in two finger style, but I often find myself wanting to experiment and play some (seemingly simple) pop songs.

I have been trying to figure out 'I want Candy.' It's so cute and upbeat and I thought it would be fun on the banjo. The whole song is just two chords, C and F. but when i'm in open G and play with those chords, i just can't find any combination of plucking that really works.

Is this a skill that one develops over time? Is there anything else I can be doing to work towards being able to find the notes I'm looking for?

Thanks!


When you feel  your ready to learn more check out this site. https://banjobenclark.com/

Edited by - FenderFred on 07/31/2021 00:42:46

Jul 31, 2021 - 1:00:59 AM
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108 posts since 4/6/2009

The title "I Want Candy" sounded vaguely familiar, then I listened to it on YouTube and a stronger memory of the sound came back. According to YouTube, the original was by The Strangeloves and reached # 11 in 1965, when I was in 10th or 11th grade. My music interests at the time centered around clarinet lessons, band and orchestra music, so a lot of the 60s music I only heard in passing.

After listening to that recording several times, and having played 2-finger thumb lead banjo for 50+ years, here is what I worked out on the banjo, and what I advise. (Note: this is The Stangelove version, and may not align with what other musicians did with the song.)

1. Forget the chords. Old-time banjo styles are built more around melody and rhythm (as previous posts have mentioned).
2. Tune your banjo in standard open G (gDGBD) tuning, and play it in the key of G, which will put the song at a different pitch than on the recording. But that's OK because you know the song and you know the tuning.
3. Don't try to play along with the recording, and don't complicate things with the capo.
4. Plant your 2nd & 3rd right hand fingers on the banjo head and pluck the notes with your thumb only.
5. There are only five left-hand notes, and this is how my notation works: 3s-2f means play the 3rd string fretted at 2nd fret (AND, because it's a 2nd fret note, you'll use your 2nd finger to fret it!). 3s alone means play the open 3rd string.)
6. Phrase One: 2s 2s 2s 2s3f 2s 3s2f 3s 2s (I know a girl who's soft and sweet)
Phrase Two: 2s 2s 2s 3s2f 3s 3s 4s3f 3s (She's so fine she can't be beat)
Repeat Phrases One and Two (Got everything that I desire, ? ? that girl's on fire)
Chorus: 2s 2s 3s2f 2s 2s3f 2s3f 2s1f 2s3f (I want Candy, I want Candy)
7. I've tried to indicate the short and long spaces between the notes by the way I spaced them. Sing along as you play the notes slowly. When you can play the notes "square" with your thumb, try jazzing up the rhythm as you see fit. Next, add your right index finger on the first string, in between the melody notes you are playing with your thumb. Not between every thumbed melody note, just where there's room. No rules here, just play it as you feel it, while keeping that underlying pulse steady. Think of the drummer in The Strangeloves' video.

Jul 31, 2021 - 1:54:31 AM
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108 posts since 4/6/2009

Here's the next step, after you've found the notes and played around with them and gotten comfortable with singing and playing the song in the basic way I described above.

Now add the standard 2-finger-thumb-lead picking patterns for the right hand. The goal is to use these to fill out the melody and rhythm. There are three basic patterns--

1. The pinch: "Thumb, pinch" = thumb plays the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th string on the downbeat, then thumb & index pinch the outside strings (1st and 5th) on the upbeat.
2. The bum-a-did-dy: "T-I-T-I" = thumb-index-thumb-index, evenly spaced and steady. The thumb plays a melody note on the down beat, and the 5th string on the upbeat; in between the index plucks the first string always.
3. The bum----di-dy: Same as #2, but leave out the first index finger note. This gives the pattern a rhythm of long-----short-short .

These patterns are used in any order--or omitted--as needed to fill in the spaces between the melody notes. The melody notes are usually on the down beats and the upbeats, so in this 2-finger style that means the melody notes are usually played by the thumb on strings 2, 3 or 4 (2s, 3s, 4s). The first string is reserved for the index finger, which becomes a second drone in this style of picking, similar to the drone of the 5th string. At any time, you can omit a pattern or two and play melody notes only. Every song has a different melody and rhythm, so there are no rules other than keeping a steady underlying pulse.

Jul 31, 2021 - 2:00:04 AM
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108 posts since 4/6/2009

I regret that in my first post, the program here did not preserve the spacing I made between the notes of the song.

Jul 31, 2021 - 5:14:34 AM
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3614 posts since 7/12/2006

Any particular reason for playing two finger style? Have you considered three finger Scruggs syle? I think youd find it more fun, while still using two finger style on single string licks like Don Reno did.

Jul 31, 2021 - 7:39:55 AM
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3866 posts since 3/28/2008

At the risk of seeming too forward, I'll suggest that you contact me privately to set up a lesson. I can orient you to the banjo, as I have done for many beginners.

iragitlin.com/music-instruction

Jul 31, 2021 - 8:43:38 AM

5 posts since 7/30/2021

quote:
Originally posted by RioStat

If you've got your banjo tuned to standard G tuning, then capo at the 5th fret, (5th string at 10th fret), then "open" will be C, and the C shape chord will be F, giving you the capability to play lots of open strings, and find the melody more easily.


Thanks Scott! I will definitely give that a try! (P.S., I'm originally from Ohio) 

Jul 31, 2021 - 8:50:27 AM
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5 posts since 7/30/2021

quote:
Originally posted by chuckv97

Yes, absolutely, Brent. But seeing as April is still early in her banjo journey maybe single string style hasn’t been used yet. I’d like to know, April, which banjo tunes you’ve learned - do you have tab for them or did you just learn them on your own? And do you have a link for “I Want Candy” so we know what you’re dealing with?


Thanks Chas! I have been using the Brainjo method! So I have learned the core songs, Old Macdonald, Long Journey Home, Roll in My Sweet Babies Arms, Worried Man Blues, and Will the Circle Be Unbroken. Darlin' Corey had been my goal so I learned that right after the core songs. I have also learned 'Let it Snow', 'Boulevard of Broken Dreams,' 'Time to Move On', (Tom Petty). All in two finger style, using tabs. 

I Want Candy is by the Strangeloves https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6Vw9RGm1tM

Thanks for your help!

Jul 31, 2021 - 8:53:11 AM

5 posts since 7/30/2021

quote:
Originally posted by stanleytone

Any particular reason for playing two finger style? Have you considered three finger Scruggs syle? I think youd find it more fun, while still using two finger style on single string licks like Don Reno did.


My plan was definitely Scruggs style! The Brainjo method starts beginners off with two fingers to build up confidence, as I continue on the journey I will relearn the core songs, and many of the others I have learned in the three finger style. I'd also like to learn clawhammer too!

Jul 31, 2021 - 8:58:23 AM

5 posts since 7/30/2021

quote:
Originally posted by bart_brush

I regret that in my first post, the program here did not preserve the spacing I made between the notes of the song.


Wow! Thank you Bart! I will give this a try and report back! 

Jul 31, 2021 - 9:52:03 AM

108 posts since 4/6/2009

A further and important definition of what I called the "steady underlying pulse"--

This steady pulse is of PRIMARY importance, and in this 2-finger-thumb-lead style that means SPECIFICALLY that EVERY down beat and EVERY upbeat is played with the THUMB. That's why it's called "THUMB-LEAD"!

This is true whether you're playing a lone melody note(s) with your thumb, or playing one of the three patterns (in which your thumb strokes will usually be melody notes), or simply vamping. (Vamping means playing one of the the three patterns--or a combination of patterns--for at least 2 repetitions, just to keep time at the end of a verse or phrase. A vamp does not include melody notes and usually involves does not involve left hand fretting.)

In 2-finger-THUMB-lead style, the thumb does what the bass drum and tuba does in a marching band. It's what the drummer in a rock band does with her foot on the bass drum pedal. In bluegrass, it's what the string bass does and what the guitar player does with her flat-pick (BASS-strum-BASS-strum). It's what guitar fingerpickers like Etta Baker and Mississippi John Hurt do with their thumb--KEEP THE BEAT!

Yes, there are banjo players who get some melody notes with their index finger, or mix the 2-finger-thumb-lead style with 2-finger-INDEX-lead. However, I strongly recommend sticking with strict THUMB-lead. Use your THUMB to PLAY THE MELODY and KEEP THE BEAT on the downbeat and upbeat.

Lastly, do NOT finger chords with your left fingers. Only use ONE left finger at a time. and ONLY to fret the melody notes. The harmony (the chords) IS there, it is implied in the melody. But DON'T play the chords! Trying to add chords will destroy the important primacy--in this style, 2-F thumb-lead--of MELODY and RHYTHM. You will add incidental and occasional chords LATER, and AFTER you've internalized melody and rhythm and made those automatic.

Jul 31, 2021 - 10:45:44 AM
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108 posts since 4/6/2009

Regarding suggestions to play Scruggs style, and that it can be "more fun", and that two-finger picking is a precursor to 3-finger-----I respectfully disagree strongly. All these styles developed over time, but they are NOT stepping stones leading to the final ultimate style of Scruggs picking. They are more like separate branches that sprout from different locations along the banjo tree and develop in their own direction.

Should Scruggs style be regarded as a preparation for a new 4-finger picking style which will be even more fun because of it's increased complexity and brilliance? Don't confuse complexity, speed and a large ensemble (the bluegrass band) with quality. All banjo styles are beautiful in their different ways. I never heard Roscoe Holcomb complain about the limitations of his 2-finger style, nor Doc Boggs about his 3 finger style, nor Fred Cockerham about clawhammer. I never heard any 4-string banjo players say they were working their way up to 5-string banjo and bluegrass music. Mike Seeger played in all styles.

I love listening to ALL these styles, but I ENJOY playing 2-finger more than any of them. Specifically, I enjoy the archaic sound of the different tunings, the hypnotic effect of the picking patterns, the different tones of different banjos with steel, nylon or gut strings; the beauty of a slow song played on a quiet banjo, and the puzzle of playing a fluid melody break with just thumb and index fingers plus pulls, hammers, slides and bends. Keep an open mind!

Aug 1, 2021 - 2:11:08 PM

2614 posts since 4/5/2006

quote:
Originally posted by AprilDawn

Hello! I'm a year in and have learned to play a few really fun tunes in two finger style, but I often find myself wanting to experiment and play some (seemingly simple) pop songs.

I have been trying to figure out 'I want Candy.' It's so cute and upbeat and I thought it would be fun on the banjo. The whole song is just two chords, C and F. but when i'm in open G and play with those chords, i just can't find any combination of plucking that really works.

Is this a skill that one develops over time? Is there anything else I can be doing to work towards being able to find the notes I'm looking for?

Thanks!


This song has a strong Latin beat, often labeled as  Calypso music back in the 60's. The drums are very prominent, making it difficult to hear what may be a single steel drum, playing around with the melody, in the background.

WOW, talk about jumping in both feet flat-footed, you don't fool around! lol And yes, it is a skill that develops over time. It may behoove you to investigate Earl Scruggs playing of Don't Let Your Deal Go Down, done in the key of F, played out of standard G tuning. Don't worry too much about the key though. Being a vocal number, it will be done in whatever key best suits the vocalist. First learn it in easy banjo keys, G & C.

Knowing what I know now, I would attack this, three finger melodic style, perhaps throwing in a Scruggs style lick between the verses. Now, a lot of people say learn Scruggs style first. However, I know banjo instructors who start beginning students on Blackberry Blossom. Look up Pat Cloud, & David Guptill. Pat is on BHO as banjola1. Last I heard, (been gone a long time) David Guptill is in Orange Co. While you're at it, look up South West Bluegrass Association, aka: SWBA. Their members run the gamut, from raw beginners (not for long) to advanced, scattered throughout the LA basin. Good luck.

Edited by - monstertone on 08/01/2021 14:17:16

Aug 1, 2021 - 2:52:20 PM
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754 posts since 10/4/2018

That's a guitar song. If you want to make it a Scruggs-style banjo song, I suggest you first learn to play Scruggs-style banjo and then adapt that to this song creatively.

Aug 1, 2021 - 4:26:53 PM

Enfield1858

England

128 posts since 8/1/2020

bart_brush
With you all the way on your post above, Bart.

To each his or her own, but I didn't start with TFTL because it was the simplest way to get going, or as a 'stepping stone to higher things' - I just loved the sound.  Same as mountain tuning - the first time my teacher played me a piece in that tuning, I was hooked - that was the sound I wanted to make!

Do I think sticking with TFTL will cramp my style, or limit me in any way? NO chance!! The only limiting factors are my basic talent, and how much effort I put into improving. I remember watching the Oscar Peterson Trio on TV one night, and he was talking about his music and how and why he chose his material - and he made the point using 12 bar blues as an example. Yes, he said, you can play a 12 bar blues with just three chords - but it's very simplicity means that you can throw a stack of variations into it, and the only limit to what you can do with it is your imagination (and your talent, but Oscar didn't say that!)

So he and the bass and drummer started playing a straight and simple 12 bar blues . . . and then he started improvising . . . and throwing in all sorts of curve balls . . . and built it up into an absolute show stopper, until I wondered if he'd transitioned into something else altogether . . . and then the variations died away, and he was still playing that same 12 bar blues, with the same three chords, that he'd started with!

I think TFTL will give me more than enough to work with, and all the scope I'll ever need, until the Man with the Scythe turns up wink

With best regards,
Jack

Aug 1, 2021 - 4:29:52 PM

Enfield1858

England

128 posts since 8/1/2020

I'd forgotten that song, 'I Want Candy', from the 60s - so I turned it up on Youtube, and got thinking; that riff really rings a bell . . . of course! 'Willie and the Hand Jive'!  (originally recorded by Johnny Otis in 1958).

Aug 1, 2021 - 11:31:08 PM
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108 posts since 4/6/2009

Jack,

Thanks for mentioning this older version by Johnny Otis in 1958--seven years before The Strangeloves' hit. I looked it up on YouTube, and everyone was doing the Hand Jive--there are versions by Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Sha na na, Eric Clapton and Peter Townshend, The Band, and others. As I listened, it gradually dawned on me that underneath the Hand Jive riff is the "clave" rhythm common in West African drumming. It was brought to the "New" World by enslaved Africans and then found its way into Latin musi
I wonder: Does the "clave" rhythm show up in any American banjo music? Maybe in the New Orleans area? Are any experts in Black banjo music reading this--maybe members of the former Carolina Chocolate Drops?

Here's the basic "clave" rhythm; it's 5 strokes played over 4 beats, but only the 1st and 5th strokes are played on a downbeat. which gives it that catchy feeling----

Beat 1: Stroke 1 is on the downbeat
Beat 2: Stroke 2 is just before Beat 2, and Stroke 3 is on the upbeat of Beat 2
Beat 3: Stroke 4 is on the upbeat
Beat 4: Stroke 5 is on the downbeat

It sounds like a syncopated 1-2-3--45 or a group of 3 followed by a group of 2.

Aug 2, 2021 - 3:45:53 AM
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4332 posts since 12/6/2009

just a simple suggestion
When I was very young learning melodies on guitar was shown major scales ... and learned to sing them - do ri mi fa sol la ti do- now this is simple basic. If your voice is in C....then C scale is / C do, D ri, E mi, F fa,G sol, A la, B ti, C do.

Once you match notes with voice sound you can make a scale for the music notes you are trying to locate....


simple.example; [ mary had a little lamb]

E mar D ry, C had, D a, E little, A lamb, D little D lamb..... E lit, G tle G lamb..........
practice voice with scales and it will come to you.

Aug 2, 2021 - 4:19:55 AM

2910 posts since 4/19/2008

Aug 2, 2021 - 4:36:33 AM

Enfield1858

England

128 posts since 8/1/2020

@bart_brush

I hadn't heard the name clave until reading your post, but followed it up with a search on Wiki - and they show two patterns, both of which can be used in either 4/4 or 12/8;  here's a link to the relevant page, which also includes the standard music notation and short sound files.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clave_(rhythm)

I remember when I started getting into R & B in the mid-60s, tracing backwards from bands like the Stones to earlier records by Bo Diddley, who used the clave pattern extensively in his work - though I had no idea how he made the sound.

There's another odd cross-link I came across when Paul Simon's 'Graceland' album introduced me to the work of Ladysmith Black Mambazo - the 'call and response' motif, exactly as used in traditional African music, early Afro-American spirituals, but also in medieval church music, and still used to this day in Catholic sung masses!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFQ1TSzdpRA

Music is full of surprises, isn't it?  Such as the fact that the so memorable and haunting key chord structure and sequence in 'All By Myself', as recorded by Celine Dion, borrows directly from the second movement of Rachmaninov's 2nd Piano Concerto!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epqYft12nV4&t=291s

With best regards,
Jack

Edited by - Enfield1858 on 08/02/2021 04:39:46

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