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Oct 4, 2021 - 7:30:02 AM

wsfrmn

USA

6 posts since 7/8/2020

Hey folks, does anyone know what in the world the Virginia banjo player J. P. Nester is doing on "Train on the Island?"

youtu.be/OMoVvBpOJwk

Is this a 3-finger style? Is it just really, really fast downpicking? I've never been able to tell and just can't keep my curiosity to myself anymore! There's so much drive in that song.

Oct 4, 2021 - 8:58:43 AM

cevant

USA

290 posts since 2/5/2020

up picking

Oct 4, 2021 - 9:33:32 AM
like this

1648 posts since 2/9/2007

That's straight ahead classic banjer-rappin' (clawhammer, knockdown, etc...).

Most modern players try to get drive out of a strong back-beat, which is exactly what Nester is NOT doing here. He's accenting the downbeat, and further emphasizing it with the preceding thumb string note. the back-beat is often more felt than heard.

Instead of "bump DITT-y, bump DITT-y" it's more like "ka-BUMP(shh), ka-BUMP(shh)". "Bump" is the downbeat in both, and the moves are pretty much identical, but the emphasis is different. You want that thumb string to be a pickup note that points your ear to the following beat, and not just a tag that follows after the back-beat.

Oct 4, 2021 - 9:41:33 AM
Players Union Member

janolov

Sweden

41258 posts since 3/7/2006

In several earlier threads some people have said that he played clawhammer: https://www.banjohangout.org/archive/158839 or https://www.banjohangout.org/archive/302609. However, I can agree that it does not sound like clawhammer, but can be up-picking (picking up with the index, than brushing down with the index and then thumb).

Oct 4, 2021 - 10:15:20 AM

wsfrmn

USA

6 posts since 7/8/2020

Instead of "bump DITT-y, bump DITT-y" it's more like "ka-BUMP(shh), ka-BUMP(shh)". "Bump" is the downbeat in both, and the moves are pretty much identical, but the emphasis is different. You want that thumb string to be a pickup note that points your ear to the following beat, and not just a tag that follows after the back-beat.

Whoa! That makes total sense. And it explains the B-side to that record, too. Out of curiosity, do you know of any other banjo players who did or do this? (I'm off to begin the weeks/months/years od practice it will take to do this successfully!)

Oct 4, 2021 - 10:42:52 AM
like this

1648 posts since 2/9/2007

quote:
Originally posted by wsfrmn
Instead of "bump DITT-y, bump DITT-y" it's more like "ka-BUMP(shh), ka-BUMP(shh)". "Bump" is the downbeat in both, and the moves are pretty much identical, but the emphasis is different. You want that thumb string to be a pickup note that points your ear to the following beat, and not just a tag that follows after the back-beat.

Whoa! That makes total sense. And it explains the B-side to that record, too. Out of curiosity, do you know of any other banjo players who did or do this? (I'm off to begin the weeks/months/years od practice it will take to do this successfully!)


Just about every real traditional player makes a lot of use of that sort of emphasis, though it is especially clear in these sides.  Listen for it, and you'll hear it everywhere, even in some stuff which sounds at first listen to stress the back beat. 

Oct 4, 2021 - 11:05:33 AM
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1648 posts since 2/9/2007

and, yes, it's possible (though IMO unlikely) that he did that up-picking rather than knocking down. it's still index-lead, and the essential thing is how the rhythm is accented.

Oct 4, 2021 - 12:03:15 PM

RG

USA

3115 posts since 8/7/2008

I'm with Dan, highly doubt that this is up-picking, that's definitely knock-down to my ears at the speed he plays... and yes, ALL about the downbeat with old-time music, so much of what you hear today (new-age old-time) has that backbeat emphasis that popular music is based on, but not JP Nestor/Norman Edmonds old-time...

Oct 4, 2021 - 12:31:30 PM
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Players Union Member

janolov

Sweden

41258 posts since 3/7/2006

I think the rhythm is some similar to Mike Seeger "Around the World" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7loplsraGg. On the instruction DVD (Southern Banjo Styles) he plays an up-picking style with three fingers anchored to the banjo head and the index going up and down and the thumb on the fifth string, also some drop thumb.

Oct 4, 2021 - 1:21:34 PM

cevant

USA

290 posts since 2/5/2020

Reminds me of Virgil Andersons up picking two finger combination.

youtu.be/gvRY7vYKgyw

https://youtu.be/V84xrvIbwNM

Edited by - cevant on 10/04/2021 13:26:42

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