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Jun 3, 2022 - 9:18:33 AM
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34 posts since 6/17/2020

Interesting stuff. I've been tinkering with the arrangements in Tony Trischka's Master Collection of Fiddle Tunes for Banjo (amazon.com/Trischka-Master-Col...786676310) That's been super helpful in learning different tricks/melodic sequences. As a nice benefit, there are audio samples for all of the pieces.

I've also tried tackling fiddle tunes directly, and find myself bumping into the tonal ends of the banjo (many of the tunes want to go lower than the D fourth string & I then puzzle through how to reconsider those passages.

Jun 3, 2022 - 9:31:14 AM
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13681 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by mrodbell

Interesting stuff. I've been tinkering with the arrangements in Tony Trischka's Master Collection of Fiddle Tunes for Banjo (amazon.com/Trischka-Master-Col...786676310) That's been super helpful in learning different tricks/melodic sequences. As a nice benefit, there are audio samples for all of the pieces.


A tremendous resource. The arrangements are in both melodic and single-string styles, with a bit of Scruggs, too, I think.

It was supposed to include a standard tuning/no capo version of Jerusalem Ridge, but through a production error the tab didn't make it into the book. Tony has discussed that on his Artistworks school.

quote:
Originally posted by mrodbell

I've also tried tackling fiddle tunes directly, and find myself bumping into the tonal ends of the banjo (many of the tunes want to go lower than the D fourth string & I then puzzle through how to reconsider those passages.


That's definitely a challenge. I find I have three choices in that situation: jump the octave for occasional passages, raise the entire pice an octave, alter the melody using a harmony note or other alternative for the notes below D.

I suppose there are two other options: Play in a tuning that lowers the fourth string or transpose to a key in which no note in the song is lower than D. That's often not a good choice since it probably throws the arrangement into a non-standard key, making it difficult to play with others. Fine for a solo performance.

Jun 3, 2022 - 11:54:25 AM

AGACNP

USA

361 posts since 10/12/2011

quote:
Originally posted by mrphysics55
quote:
Originally posted by AGACNP
quote:
Originally posted by mrphysics55

Kitchen Girl is easily played in A-Modal or A.
It frequently gets played in Old-Time Jams. No real mystery.

Is the point of this exercise to play everything possible from Open G with no capo .. but maybe a 5th string tweek?
I’m ignorant of the BG approach and am very curious.


Ive been around bluegrass music all my life, but never really any old time jams and such. I will look into Kitchen Girl and maybe learn that one.

Ive been around other bluegrass banjo players who have no compunction about playing fiddle tunes with capo. Personally, I have found it a welcome challenge to learn some C and D tunes out of open G without capoed 5th string. My reason for starting the thread was to ask about other BG players approach to learning such tunes.


yessmiley
I can also recommend that you look at D tunes. This is a common key that fiddle players use. I usually play those tunes out of double D tuning. aDADE

... a couple of good ones in D ...

Soldiers Joy

Whiskey for Breakfast 


Thanks for the suggestions, Eddie. I have worked out passable versions of these two, and working on speed now. Also, Ragtime Annie, Angeline the Baker, New Five Cents are favorites at our jam. I use G tuning: gDGBD.

Jun 3, 2022 - 11:56:18 AM

AGACNP

USA

361 posts since 10/12/2011

quote:
Originally posted by steve davis

Kitchen Girl has a good amount of A to G in the A part and a great exercise of Am to E in the 1st 2 frets (B part).

One of my favorite things about no capo is access to those low notes in the first 2 frets.That low banjo D is powerful stuff and hammering from D to A and a one note E7 chord. 0100


Steve, I agree with the "power" of that low D! In listening to Pikelnys album version of Cheyenne, I've become convinced he's in open G, based on the low D note of one of his breaks.

Jun 3, 2022 - 12:03:06 PM
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AGACNP

USA

361 posts since 10/12/2011

quote:
Originally posted by phb

I started off with Janet Davis's "You Can Teach Yourself Banjo". She basically shows beginning players around and has some melodic arrangements for melodic style standards such as "Devil's Dream", "Blackberry Blossom" and some more. Since I had played classic guitar in my youth, the melodic style material came easy to me. The approach of playing adjacent notes on adjacent strings with one open strings isn't foreign to classic guitar playing, I actually composed some stuff using that approach before I ever had touched a banjo. I found learning those basic melodic style arrangement from that banjo primer easier than learning the Scruggs style material. There was a clear melody that was even recognisable when playing slowly. In that time I even made my first own melodic style arrangement which is still in my tabs (Sailor's Hornpipe). As I stated before, it was far easier for me to grasp the concepts of melodic style playing. At that point in time I couldn't have come up with a Scruggs style arrangement for anything.

I eventually came to realise that melodic style playing wasn't going to help me when playing in jams. It wasn't really the type of music I wanted to play, I had bought a banjo to play bluegrass music. I thus decided to leave all melodic playing aside until I felt I had come sufficiently far with Scruggs style. It has been like that for ten years now. Some time this or last year "Blackberry Blossom" was played frequently in my jams which is why I reconstructed the Janet Davis arrangement from memory (the book has vanished from my bookshelf).

With my local session recovering from the covid hiatus, we got a new fiddle player (hardly ever had one and the one we sometimes had wasn't too good). Since she is quite good, fiddle tunes have become more popular at my jam. Since I try to jam as much as I can, I hardly ever decide to not play a song or tune which again meant that I had to work on some fiddle tunes at home. The first one I tackled was "Salt Creek" because that was popular at my jam a few months ago. I never liked that one much but put together an arrangement collecting ideas from different sources and adding some bits of my own. I tried to make it as Scruggsy as possible. I downloaded a backing track from the internet and practiced my arrangement with that.

The bits I came up with for my "Salt Creek" arrangement (B part) were quite important for me. They weren't sensational in any way, it was more about realising how I had come up with them. I was away from the computer as I was on vacations in a region that hardly even has access to mobile internet. I therefore was on my own. I remembered the fiddle melody as our fiddle player had played it and tried to come up with some banjo equivalent. I have no idea whether our fiddle player plays the melody the way I remember it and, if so, this is the way "Salt Creek" is supposed to be played on the fiddle. The important thing for me was to realise that I could just memorise the fiddle melody and then look for some banjo representation of the same melody.

Some weeks later I first heard "Salt Spring" in a jam session and very much liked it (it suddenly gets played everywhere around me and I feel ignorant for not having known it earlier). This time I remembered how I had come up with my own few measures for "Salt Creek" and used that approach intentionally. I set up a backing track, looped it infinitely and sat down with my banjo playing along with the backing track. I first looked for the most important melody notes, started filling in some rolls until only a few "holes" remained and then concentrated on those until the arrangement was complete (I recorded and posted that in the Sound-Off subforum).

This took about two hours and was a completely different approach to what I had done before. For the first time I really felt I was creating something of my own in a musical way. Other arrangements I had made were more of an academic exercise and pretty much paper-based (virtual or real paper). Those older arrangements were a process to arrive at some tablature, the "new" approach was a process that directly created sound. To me this was a very important experience (only took me more than ten years...). I realised that there were so many fiddle tunes and each one of them could become a practical exercise in coming up with a break of my own helping me to become much better at playing solid breaks for unfamiliar songs in jam sessions.

The next arrangement I made in this way was "Cherokee Shuffle", again because it got played at my jam and I like the tune. It took me a little longer to come up with an arrangement that felt natural to me but again I was quite happy with the result. None of my fiddle tune arrangements made use of any Scruggs style licks but they were all rolls around the important melody notes and clearly recognisable. Due to the Scruggs style nature of my arrangements, the fact that those tunes were fiddle tunes did not have any effect on my capo choices. I capoed 2 for A major fiddle tunes and I do not capo for D major fiddle tunes (still have some of those in store I have to work on, e.g. "Angeline the Baker"). For both A major and D major I spike the 5th string at 7 like I would do for any Scruggs song in those keys.

I have been working on Jerusalem Ridge now which I always liked and which has been something like the ultimate fiddle tune to me. I have always admired people able to play this tune. Our fiddle player is currently learning this tune and when we met at a bluegrass even a couple of weeks ago, she told me to sit down with her and accompany her on the banjo so that she could practice it some more. I realised that it wasn't all that complex harmonically. When it showed up at our next jam session, I decided I might secretly try and work out a lead arrangement and see how that would go.

Since Jerusalem Ridge is a more complex tune than common, I didn't use my new approach (backing track and then just playing along until I am happy). I didn't feel confident I could do that sort of thing for such a complex masterpiece. Thus, I put it into my slow-downer software and pretty much transcribed the fiddle melody for banjo. I was still familiar with the concepts of melodic playing and chose uncapoed, unspiked open G from the get-go. Again this would have been my choice for any A minor song and I knew how the scales for G, C and D lay out on the neck in melodic style.

In the beginning the transcription process was more intended to help me actually learn the different parts of the tune, identify the important melody notes and then decide what I could play on the banjo to somehow resemble what the fiddle was playing. However, I was surprised to find that it was quite easy to use the melodic style concepts and play the fiddle melody almost note for note. In fact there are only three measures where I don't replicate the fiddle melody exactly: one measure because I simply didn't find a way, one measure where I made a subtle (I'd say unnoticeable) change to the melody to make it easier to change between the two main positions for A minor melodic playing and one measure where the fiddle plays the same melody note repeatedly and where it was both technically and musically more fitting to roll through the chord instead. I will upload tabs to my arrangement when I have practiced it enough to post a recording of it.

I still prefer Scruggs-style representations of fiddle tunes over melodic style. I like how the frills around the cardinal melody notes get removed and replaced by other filler stuff. Like Chuck I feel that the banjo should add some variety to what the fiddle and mandolin are playing.

Scruggs style is far less intuitive to me than anything else but also far more appealing than melodic style (melodic style is just that, the melody, no surprises, no secrets). I perhaps will try to work out some Scruggs style arrangement for Jerusalem Ridge some time in the future but right now my melodic style arrangement is keeping me busy enough. I have been practicing it every evening after work for a week or so and it still starts to get sloppy at anything above 85bpm (my usual speed limit is at somewhere between 100bpm and 110bpm). Yesterday I tried it at 90 to 100bpm and could notice how the mistakes became more with the increasing speed. But I guess I can't get faster if I don't play faster. I got through it a few times with hardly any real mistake at 90bpm so I am getting better at it. But notes get uneven in volume and duration. A few days ago the same happened at 85bpm. Well, little baby steps...


I really appreciate the background you've provided. My approach has been somewhat opposite in that I had the Scruggs background initially, but had worked out some note-for-note fiddle tunes on guitar in the past. This exercise helped develop my ear for it, but I've found that finding the same melody on the banjo neck with three picks isn't quite as "linear" as on guitar with a single pick.

Jun 3, 2022 - 2:29:01 PM

76887 posts since 5/9/2007

It takes a bit of courage to ask a fiddle player how you are doing with your fiddletune playing.
Be ready for answers that may disturb you.

Jun 3, 2022 - 4:17:19 PM

5535 posts since 5/9/2007

I don’t try to emulate the fiddle player in OT jams..
We all do play at the same time, not taking breaks.
But we listen to one another. We don’t step on each other. We listen so that we may complement one another.
The fiddle player(s) generally drives the melody but steps back at times to complement the group as well.

Jun 4, 2022 - 11:04:23 AM

76887 posts since 5/9/2007

Roanoke is another G fiddletune,I believe.
I like listening to the way Courtney Johnson and Butch Robbins handle fiddletunes.
My main goal is to challenge myself to play as close to the fiddle melody as I can.When the fiddle is taking the lead I like to play an exact harmony where possible.

I like learning fiddletunes that don't necessarily have a banjo version I've ever heard.This keeps me on track for figuring out upcapoed keys and getting it right.
There are many ways to play than just to emulate how Earl might have done it.
Did Earl ever play Huckleberry Hornpipe or Clarinet Polka?

There are a lot more fiddletunes than the ones we've heard from Monroe or the Foggy Mt. Boys.

Jun 4, 2022 - 2:34:55 PM
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4411 posts since 6/15/2005

quote:
Originally posted by steve davis


Did Earl ever play Huckleberry Hornpipe or Clarinet Polka?


I apologize for the thread drift, but Steve's mentioning Clarinet Polka made me smile.

Over forty years ago the band I was in worked out an arrangement of Clarinet Polka in which the mandolin played both harmony and countermelody to the banjo (me). We played it in G, and the banjo part I came up with spanned almost the entire fingerboard.  Nowhere near as complex or imaginative a banjo arrangement as Tony Trischka's amazing version, but it was my own.  We liked to introduce it by saying  we were about to play the title song from our forthcoming album, The Clarinet Polka and Other Bluegrass Favorites.

Fast forward to my favorite pre-pandemic jam, which often included a very good clarinet player. His breaks were spot on, he understood bluegrass time, he listened, and he knew when not to play. The first time I jammed with him I told him how much fun it was to have him in the jam and mentioned that I could play Clarinet Polka on the banjo, to which he responded that he didn't know the tune!

Jun 4, 2022 - 3:12:38 PM
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chuckv97

Canada

66936 posts since 10/5/2013

A couple things about melodic style though,, not many or no hammer-ons, slides, or pulloffs in most of the ones I’ve heard or seen in tab. I like to see some of those techniques used more often rather than continuous straight-on notes

Edited by - chuckv97 on 06/04/2022 15:13:12

Jun 4, 2022 - 5:07:04 PM
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13681 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by chuckv97

A couple things about melodic style though,, not many or no hammer-ons, slides, or pulloffs in most of the ones I’ve heard or seen in tab. I like to see some of those techniques used more often rather than continuous straight-on notes


I use all of those techniques to get out fingering jams in melodic style. Slides, hammers and pull-offs with the second note getting a count equal to the first and no note picked coincident with it help me play phrases that would require tricky, difficult or (for me) impossible picking. Sometimes only once in a song, but it's in my toolbox. I agree you don't see a lot of it.

Jun 4, 2022 - 5:35:17 PM

chuckv97

Canada

66936 posts since 10/5/2013

Didn’t Billy Faier do a lot of that? It’s a good technique.

Jun 4, 2022 - 7:58:35 PM

HarleyQ

USA

3215 posts since 1/31/2005

quote:
Originally posted by steve davis

Roanoke is another G fiddletune,I believe.
I like listening to the way Courtney Johnson and Butch Robbins handle fiddletunes.
My main goal is to challenge myself to play as close to the fiddle melody as I can.When the fiddle is taking the lead I like to play an exact harmony where possible.

I like learning fiddletunes that don't necessarily have a banjo version I've ever heard.This keeps me on track for figuring out upcapoed keys and getting it right.
There are many ways to play than just to emulate how Earl might have done it.
Did Earl ever play Huckleberry Hornpipe or Clarinet Polka?

There are a lot more fiddletunes than the ones we've heard from Monroe or the Foggy Mt. Boys.


laughYou definitely don't "emulate" Earl. I've heard you bothwink

Jun 5, 2022 - 6:15:38 AM

76887 posts since 5/9/2007

quote:
Originally posted by chuckv97

A couple things about melodic style though,, not many or no hammer-ons, slides, or pulloffs in most of the ones I’ve heard or seen in tab. I like to see some of those techniques used more often rather than continuous straight-on notes


Playing melodically is much more than just "continuous straight on notes".

You must not have listened to very much of Butch Robins or Alan Munde to say "no hammer-ons,slides or pull-offs".

I use lots of "techniques" when I render a fiddletune or any melody melodically on the banjo.I ornament them depending on my mood in that moment.I am a melodic player that plays in the spur of the moment because I basically play by ear.After I learn the melody I'm freer to play around with the timing,chord and substitutions and insertion of "quotes" from other tunes.

The melodic playing such as that forgetful on-stage "tribute" to Foggy Mt. Breakdown from the early 80s is a thing of the past.

I always looked for all the Bill Keith recordings I could find and then discovered Munde,Robins and most importantly excellent fiddlers to play with.The fiddlers I prefer to play with don't just rattle off the melody notes.They each have their own style.I picked up some of that from them.

There are a few tunes that I don't stray far from.I tend to play Huckleberry,Roanoke and Caravan  very much the same each time.

Jun 5, 2022 - 6:19:16 AM

76887 posts since 5/9/2007

quote:
Originally posted by HarleyQ
quote:
Originally posted by steve davis

Roanoke is another G fiddletune,I believe.
I like listening to the way Courtney Johnson and Butch Robbins handle fiddletunes.
My main goal is to challenge myself to play as close to the fiddle melody as I can.When the fiddle is taking the lead I like to play an exact harmony where possible.

I like learning fiddletunes that don't necessarily have a banjo version I've ever heard.This keeps me on track for figuring out upcapoed keys and getting it right.
There are many ways to play than just to emulate how Earl might have done it.
Did Earl ever play Huckleberry Hornpipe or Clarinet Polka?

There are a lot more fiddletunes than the ones we've heard from Monroe or the Foggy Mt. Boys.


laughYou definitely don't "emulate" Earl. I've heard you bothwink


I take that as a compliment Mr. Q.My goal has been to emulate my fiddling friends.

Jun 5, 2022 - 6:45:07 AM

chuckv97

Canada

66936 posts since 10/5/2013

I listen a lot to Munde, I have 2 of his books (Banjo Sandwich and The Banjo Kid Picks Again). Also Bob Black and Bill Keith, some Bobby Thompson, Courtney Johnson, etc.
My comment wasn’t an attack on your playing, Steve.

Edited by - chuckv97 on 06/05/2022 06:51:42

Jun 5, 2022 - 7:17:18 AM
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76887 posts since 5/9/2007

I didn't take it personally.I just don't agree with calling it (all melodic playing) as being absent of normal forms of expression such as hammers,pull offs and slides.I wouldn't enjoy playing or listening without those.

I got called "creative" at last night's jam.

Edited by - steve davis on 06/05/2022 07:19:51

Jun 5, 2022 - 11:01:47 AM
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8217 posts since 8/30/2004

I do think that "Fiddle" style banjo is becoming predominant and that's fine. "Scruggs" style will always be there to provide the Drive; not to say that many fiddle style players aren't really "Driving" and powerful....Jack   p.s. Bobby Thompson had his own kind of sound really and not particularly Driving but smooth and even and, full of great ideas...

Originally posted by steve davis

I didn't take it personally.I just don't agree with calling it (all melodic playing) as being absent of normal forms of expression such as hammers,pull offs and slides.I wouldn't enjoy playing or listening without those.

I got called "creative" at last night's jam.


Edited by - Jack Baker on 06/05/2022 11:06:22

Jun 5, 2022 - 5:41:09 PM

76887 posts since 5/9/2007

I think of it more as "piano style" with the rhythms and chords (partial and full).

Jun 5, 2022 - 6:04:51 PM
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8217 posts since 8/30/2004

Steve, a very interesting way to look at Melodic playing ....jack

Jun 5, 2022 - 6:14:50 PM

76887 posts since 5/9/2007

Whistles,fiddles and horns are limited to a single note at a time.

Jun 5, 2022 - 6:19:12 PM

76887 posts since 5/9/2007

There I go overstepping again.Fiddles of course aren't limited to a single note,but a fiddletune is basically a single note at a time ornamented as seen fit.

Jun 5, 2022 - 6:50:48 PM

8217 posts since 8/30/2004

I'm so sorry Steve but you've lost me. I don't get how Piano figures into Melodic banjo. Piano is is different in how it interprets music other than the obvious chords and melody construction...I'm not meaning to be obtrusive...

Edited by - Jack Baker on 06/05/2022 18:51:35

Jun 5, 2022 - 8:47:49 PM

HarleyQ

USA

3215 posts since 1/31/2005

Are you doing any melodic here??


youtube.com/watch?v=CiJHkj5KPL0

Jun 6, 2022 - 7:25:43 AM

76887 posts since 5/9/2007

Piano style would emulate the dance hall piano rhythms for one thing,Jack.Mixing chord melodies and harmonies with melodics.Danceable stuff.
I love the way a piano backs a fiddler and am drawn to that.I think a more accurate description of my playing involves the piano as much as the fiddle.

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