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Nov 16, 2021 - 3:59:37 AM
70 posts since 11/10/2021
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I play tenor banjo in a dixieland jazz band and I am the only member of the rhythm section (We very occaisonally have a tuba join us). So, I am finding taking a solo break whilst maintaining the rhythm and the feeling of the chord changes difficult. At the moment I just play the chord changes with as many different inversions as I can while improvising a melody on the A and D strings. Is this the right way to go about it? Can anyone give me some tips or books/online material I can look at? Thanks!

Nov 16, 2021 - 4:40:30 PM
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413 posts since 2/16/2014

adamrhowe

Hi Adam,
That’s a good question. I’ve listened to a lot of great players looking for the answer to that question. May i suggest listening to people like Don Vappie, Cynthia Sayer, Tyler Jackson, Bob Barta (sunny land jazz band), Don Lewers and Marco, Elmer Snowden, Eddy Davis etc…all these are on YouTube. There are plenty of others.
Cynthia Sayer just released a book of Elmer Snowden’s transcription and it is great, highly recommended. I just got my copy today. You can hear the tunes on Spotify. I hope this helps.
Cheers
Mike

Nov 17, 2021 - 11:58:49 AM
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434 posts since 10/8/2018

Sounds like you are doing the right thing.

Yeah, it sucks having no other rhythm instrument to support you.

Maybe you could at least get your fellow musicians to clap their hands to keep the beat for you?

Sometimes just playing the basic chords with some fancy strumming can get you through.

Nov 18, 2021 - 4:07:42 PM
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85 posts since 7/9/2012

From somewhere in the interwebs, I felt a disruption in the force...as if my name was invoked in a thread....

I've been preoccupied in recent months with my wife's health issues. As 2022 arrives, we will celebrate (?) the 25-year survival anniversary of her diagnosis with malignant brain cancer. Sadly, brain radiation is a "gift that keeps on giving" - one we've had no choice but adapt to and deal with over these many years. Thanksgiving's around the corner - I do my best to be thankful every day.

About a week ago, I played at a concert for the Suffolk County Music Educator's Association (SCMEA). They host an annual concert featuring tubas & euphonium which is named for my old musical friend & associate, Howard Hovey. For at least the last 20 years, I have been honored to play as part of a pre-concert performance featuring John Klumpp on trumpet & vocals, and Howard Hovey's sons - Bob on trombone & Art on tuba. Typically, this quartet only re-assembles itself annually for the tuba day event...and I'm the only chordal instrument.

So here's a live video example of some solos taken in ensemble form with a single tenor banjo (not sure if the link will work):

https://livestream.com/cischools/scmeatuba/videos/227300922

We begin our 40-minute set at the 3:50 mark. Mostly old "classics"...

Struttin' With Some Barbecue - Lazy River - Sit Right Down & Write Myself A Letter - All Of Me - Bourbon Street Parade - Basin Street Blues - S' Wonderful - Louisiana Fairytale - Five Foot Two

Some things I consider when being the only chord instrument:
1. Using passing tones (ascending or descending) to create transitional motion between basic chord shapes.
2. The availabilty of full chords, 3-string chords, double-stops, single notes, arpeggios - all aspects of the sonic palette you have available to you.
3. Using chord shapes which yield a "free-range" pinky finger can often be helpful.
4. Establish & maintain a consistent underlying beat as the tempo...even when I became the "mad bomber" blowing up all the bridge endings on S'Wonderful. (S'Not-so-hot when my fret hand kept wanting to go to my familiar key of F....but the key the horn guys chose was Eb! No one's perfect & I'm no exception.)
5. Try incorporating extended harmonic chords to add interest. Substitutions can be cool, too. Eddy Davis' book was the first to establish in my (much younger) mind the concept of the tenor banjo as 4 parallel chromatic keyboards.

Edited by - SunnylandBob on 11/18/2021 16:09:59

Nov 18, 2021 - 4:37:32 PM
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184 posts since 11/8/2014

SunnylandBob,
Thank you.
Did not know Eddy Davis has written a book. Found it. Downloaded it.
Thank you very much.

Charley

Nov 18, 2021 - 11:41:23 PM

70 posts since 11/10/2021
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Fantastic! Thank you all!

Nov 20, 2021 - 5:50:54 AM
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731 posts since 2/15/2015

Lest we neglect to mention Mr. Greenmeat, the Manhatton Minstrel on YouTube or here on BH, Mr. Eddy Davis.

He was a blessed soul, sorely missed and his legacy lives on.

Nov 22, 2021 - 9:26:56 PM

731 posts since 2/15/2015

quote:
Originally posted by chas5131

SunnylandBob,
Thank you.
Did not know Eddy Davis has written a book. Found it. Downloaded it.
Thank you very much.

Charley


Where is Eddy's book located?

Nov 23, 2021 - 6:04:02 AM
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184 posts since 11/8/2014

Nov 24, 2021 - 1:31:58 AM
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731 posts since 2/15/2015

Thank you so much.

Nov 24, 2021 - 5:34 AM
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413 posts since 2/16/2014

SunnylandBob
Hey Bob,
So sorry about your wife’s health condition. That puts so much stress on a family.
Excellent suggestions for soloing. I had forgotten about Eddy’s book. I’ve started studying it again. I like his take on suspensions, that is, basically voice leading. Such an important skill to develop. I need to work on that.
I throughly enjoyed the set you posted. I am familiar with John and the tuba player but hadn’t heard the bone player before; he plays such tasty lines. You guys compliment each other. Fun to play with such accomplished musicians.
Stay sane brother. Cheers

Dec 24, 2021 - 3:50:52 AM
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Players Union Member

GordonB

Australia

13 posts since 11/5/2013

quote:
Originally posted by SunnylandBob

From somewhere in the interwebs, I felt a disruption in the force...as if my name was invoked in a thread....

So here's a live video example of some solos taken in ensemble form with a single tenor banjo (not sure if the link will work):

https://livestream.com/cischools/scmeatuba/videos/227300922

Some things I consider when being the only chord instrument:
1. Using passing tones (ascending or descending) to create transitional motion between basic chord shapes.
2. The availabilty of full chords, 3-string chords, double-stops, single notes, arpeggios - all aspects of the sonic palette you have available to you.
3. Using chord shapes which yield a "free-range" pinky finger can often be helpful.
4. Establish & maintain a consistent underlying beat as the tempo...even when I became the "mad bomber" blowing up all the bridge endings on S'Wonderful. (S'Not-so-hot when my fret hand kept wanting to go to my familiar key of F....but the key the horn guys chose was Eb! No one's perfect & I'm no exception.)
5. Try incorporating extended harmonic chords to add interest. Substitutions can be cool, too. Eddy Davis' book was the first to establish in my (much younger) mind the concept of the tenor banjo as 4 parallel chromatic keyboards.


Thanks Bob for your tips and the video clip which exemplifies just what you were talking about. Sorry to hear of your wife's health troubles and I wish you both the best for the holiday season and the new year. 

Gordon, from Sydney, Australia

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