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Jul 2, 2022 - 1:25:16 PM
5 posts since 6/19/2021

Hi Guys and hope you all can help!

Picking up the banjo again after a 6 month break (work commitments) but now back on it and can commit an hour each night at least!

My frustration is I’ve signed up and paid for various lessons and sites but not of them really follow an order. They just show you songs to play (which are all the same) and for me playing all the basic songs I find a little boring. If I don’t like the song I feel reluctant to learn it etc.

What I’m asking or trying to understand is, do I just need to suck it up and play the run of the mill songs and that’s it? Or i am better learning a handful of songs, but focussing on tabs / chords and the theory so then it makes learning more effective.
Every online course / free YouTube stuff is all the same, and boil the cabbage, cripple creek and the other generic ones just don’t grab me.

I should mention that I’ve been in a band for years playing rythem guitar and my goal is to play in a modern country band playing a back up mainly etc. I’m not looking to play bluegrass all the time (don’t hate me guys) so I can play more modern back ups songs in a band environment.

Hopefully that makes sense, I’m just struggling with what to focus on so I can be a great back up banjo player rather than a Scruggs.

I love the sound of a banjo in a modern country environment and love to listen to bluegrass bands, especially steel drivers etc.

Thanks and any help appreciated.

Jul 2, 2022 - 1:39:22 PM
Players Union Member

Eric A

USA

1550 posts since 10/15/2019

Hopefully those basic songs are well selected to teach basic right and left hand techniques, and foundation chord progressions, etc. Once you are doing those cleanly, perhaps starting to find them boring, that's about the time to branch out and play some things of your own choosing.

Jul 2, 2022 - 1:43:58 PM

powell

UK

5 posts since 6/19/2021

Yes your right, I know these songs have given me the basics and and the introduction to the stage I’m at. I guess I‘Ltd the just road everyone has to go down. Thanks

Jul 2, 2022 - 1:48:14 PM
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168 posts since 6/10/2017

Maybe you could search YouTube for examples of the modern country songs you like with banjo back-up and post them here with a link. Then some of the teachers/players here can tell you what the banjo player is picking and then point you in the direction you want to go.

Jul 2, 2022 - 1:49:59 PM
Players Union Member

Eric A

USA

1550 posts since 10/15/2019

You can also take those basic tunes and start messing around with them. For example, if one is heavy on forward rolls for teaching purposes, now be sure you see what the core melody notes are and try it with mostly square rolls or pinches, or whatever. That will get you on the road to working out your own arrangements, for those songs and for whatever pops into your head.

Edited by - Eric A on 07/02/2022 13:52:44

Jul 2, 2022 - 2:07:04 PM
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Players Union Member

Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

27547 posts since 8/3/2003

If you've played rhythm guitar in a band, you should be familiar with chords, chord sequences, melodies, timing, and some banjo techniques.

I can see how the beginner songs might be boring but..... as mentioned above: you do need to learn the basics, then branch out on your own. Can you play the forward, reverse, square and forward-reverse rolls easily and at a medium tempo without too many errors? Can you do slides, pull offs, chokes, hammer ons? If you can do all this, you've probably covered the basics and should go ahead and try to make music on your own.

In other words: try to play by ear. Take a song you like and see if you can pick out the melody on the banjo. Figure out the key and the chord sequence, play the melody and try to add a hot lick at the end of a musical phrase or at the end of a song. Try adding slides or hammers to a melody note to emphasize it. The more you noodle at something like that, the better it becomes and the easier it is.

Whatever you decide, good luck and have fun on your banjo journey.

Jul 2, 2022 - 2:40:10 PM
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2840 posts since 5/2/2012

By all means, jump in and learn some backup skills, since this is one of your end goals. I've read some nice things about Jack Hatfield's book on backup. I like Goeff Hohwald's stuff (DVD, book of tab, play along tracks). Eli Gilbert did a series of lessons on rolling backup. Youtube videos are free, and if you become a patron on Patreon (cheap at the lowest level) you can get tabs.

Edited by - thisoldman on 07/02/2022 14:51:16

Jul 2, 2022 - 3:40:35 PM
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13450 posts since 6/2/2008

Like you, I came to banjo -- 50 years ago this spring -- with several years of guitar and band experience. Kid bands, but still . . . 

From the time I was 14 I had been figuring out chords to songs and when I was 19 I took a few lessons in fingerpicking. On my own I had figured out banjo chords in 1970, but I couldn't figure out the picking hand. Not having any banjo records or listening to any banjo music had a lot to do with that! Anyway, once I started lessons two years later to learn the mechanics, I was able to start working out things on my own in addition to what my teachers were showing me.

So maybe it will be the same with you. Like others are saying, apply what you already know on banjo to the songs you want to be playing. Both simple solos and simple backups.

Buy some books. The beginner tunes may not be more interesting, but good books will have a thought-out progression to more challenging material.

Keep in mind that the point of these simple songs is not to be able to play Boil Them Cabbage Down or Banjo in the Hollow (which have never come up in a jam in my life) but to learn and practice foundational skills: forming clean-sounding chords, changing chord shapes in time without stopping, picking notes cleanly and in time, getting good tone from the banjo, varying tone by where you pick, controlling your volume, playing with expression, gaining speed . . . and more.

Simple songs are better exercises for all this precisely because they're simple. Most of their chords last a full measure, giving you time to use a whole pattern. They allow the introduction of more sophisticated fretting and picking techniques, which can then be applied in more challenging or interesting songs. 

But if you're ready for a more challenging material, go for it.

If you haven't come across these, do check ou the 100+ free online lessons from former Hangout regular John Boulding.  No Boil Them Cabbage!  Actually, not many songs. Mostly he teaches concepts and techniques for you to apply on your own. The series is called "Lick of the Week" and for a while, when he started, it was about licks, but it soon developed into more.  The link above goes to the index page, so you can find lessons that are interesting to you. The videos themselves are all on YouTube.

Jul 2, 2022 - 4:11:16 PM

2840 posts since 5/2/2012

If you are looking for some inspiration, do a member search for "AB Junior" and check his media page.

If you are looking for something really simple, check out "Munson Covers Banjo" on utube. He usually has one (two at the most) picking patterns, lyrics and chords are the screen. Basically simple backup to his singing. Lots of different genres.

Jul 2, 2022 - 4:56:18 PM
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383 posts since 11/9/2021
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I always feel that a good tune, fiddle or banjo, imparts a basic musical lesson. Like Monroes Hornpipe. If you learn that, you now know arpeggios and how they get used, same thing like tunes Whiskey Before Breakfast - it teaches you about following chords. These 2 are always in my teaching line up.

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Jul 3, 2022 - 1:03:55 AM

powell

UK

5 posts since 6/19/2021

Thanks Guys, really appreciate your positive comments and support. I think mixing it up will be the way forward for now. Starting to learn some back up for modern stuff, whilst finding some non basic tunes I really like. I’ve started with ground speed last week, which I think a great tune once you can build the speed up.

Jul 3, 2022 - 8:39:48 AM

153 posts since 2/7/2020

Back up for modern styles is pretty basic, like a steady forward roll. Not sure you'd need much tailored instruction for that.

Jul 3, 2022 - 11:50:12 AM
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327 posts since 3/2/2013

quote:
Originally posted by powell

Hi Guys and hope you all can help!

Picking up the banjo again after a 6 month break (work commitments) but now back on it and can commit an hour each night at least!

My frustration is I’ve signed up and paid for various lessons and sites but not of them really follow an order. They just show you songs to play (which are all the same) and for me playing all the basic songs I find a little boring. If I don’t like the song I feel reluctant to learn it etc.

What I’m asking or trying to understand is, do I just need to suck it up and play the run of the mill songs and that’s it? Or i am better learning a handful of songs, but focussing on tabs / chords and the theory so then it makes learning more effective.
Every online course / free YouTube stuff is all the same, and boil the cabbage, cripple creek and the other generic ones just don’t grab me.

I should mention that I’ve been in a band for years playing rythem guitar and my goal is to play in a modern country band playing a back up mainly etc. I’m not looking to play bluegrass all the time (don’t hate me guys) so I can play more modern back ups songs in a band environment.

Hopefully that makes sense, I’m just struggling with what to focus on so I can be a great back up banjo player rather than a Scruggs.

I love the sound of a banjo in a modern country environment and love to listen to bluegrass bands, especially steel drivers etc.

Thanks and any help appreciated.


Scruggs was a great backup player and developed most of what bluegrass banjo uses for backup. If you don't learn scruggs your backup will be greatly lacking. Also you don't need to play all the run of the mill songs. Success isn't in knowing how to play this song or that but in HOW you play what you do know with great timing, clarity, tone and expression. If you have a repretriore as big as a barn but lack these things your music will lack most of what people want to hear. This doesn't mean don't try other songs you want to learn before gaining the above things but just make sure to major on the important things that will improve your playing. Theory (just enough) and technique. And listen listen listen to Scruggsy backup in the meantime.

Jul 3, 2022 - 11:54:13 AM
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491 posts since 5/21/2020

quote:
Originally posted by powell

Hi Guys and hope you all can help!

Picking up the banjo again after a 6 month break (work commitments) but now back on it and can commit an hour each night at least!

My frustration is I’ve signed up and paid for various lessons and sites but not of them really follow an order. They just show you songs to play (which are all the same) and for me playing all the basic songs I find a little boring. If I don’t like the song I feel reluctant to learn it etc.

What I’m asking or trying to understand is, do I just need to suck it up and play the run of the mill songs and that’s it? Or i am better learning a handful of songs, but focussing on tabs / chords and the theory so then it makes learning more effective.
Every online course / free YouTube stuff is all the same, and boil the cabbage, cripple creek and the other generic ones just don’t grab me.

I should mention that I’ve been in a band for years playing rythem guitar and my goal is to play in a modern country band playing a back up mainly etc. I’m not looking to play bluegrass all the time (don’t hate me guys) so I can play more modern back ups songs in a band environment.

Hopefully that makes sense, I’m just struggling with what to focus on so I can be a great back up banjo player rather than a Scruggs.

I love the sound of a banjo in a modern country environment and love to listen to bluegrass bands, especially steel drivers etc.

Thanks and any help appreciated.


I think all beginners suffer the same frustration. What to study and who to study with. My advice for what it's worth is learn the fundamentals. For simplicity, most teachers teach these tunes as part of learning curriculum those basic annoying tunes like Boil them Cabbage Down, Cripple Creek are the key to more advanced stuff. As frustrating as it may seem these tunes open up a whole roadmap to learning Bluegrass and Melodic banjo. Like building a house you need to start with a good foundation and that means finding the teacher that works best for you. There is a wide choice to choose from I have studied with many of them and they all have their own unique approach. 

Before you loose all motivation and give up, might I suggest you check out this guy.

 

 

 

Edited by - FenderFred on 07/03/2022 12:03:50

Jul 3, 2022 - 1:25:05 PM

powell

UK

5 posts since 6/19/2021

quote:
Originally posted by 81goldstar
quote:
Originally posted by powell

Hi Guys and hope you all can help!

Picking up the banjo again after a 6 month break (work commitments) but now back on it and can commit an hour each night at least!

My frustration is I’ve signed up and paid for various lessons and sites but not of them really follow an order. They just show you songs to play (which are all the same) and for me playing all the basic songs I find a little boring. If I don’t like the song I feel reluctant to learn it etc.

What I’m asking or trying to understand is, do I just need to suck it up and play the run of the mill songs and that’s it? Or i am better learning a handful of songs, but focussing on tabs / chords and the theory so then it makes learning more effective.
Every online course / free YouTube stuff is all the same, and boil the cabbage, cripple creek and the other generic ones just don’t grab me.

I should mention that I’ve been in a band for years playing rythem guitar and my goal is to play in a modern country band playing a back up mainly etc. I’m not looking to play bluegrass all the time (don’t hate me guys) so I can play more modern back ups songs in a band environment.

Hopefully that makes sense, I’m just struggling with what to focus on so I can be a great back up banjo player rather than a Scruggs.

I love the sound of a banjo in a modern country environment and love to listen to bluegrass bands, especially steel drivers etc.

Thanks and any help appreciated.


Scruggs was a great backup player and developed most of what bluegrass banjo uses for backup. If you don't learn scruggs your backup will be greatly lacking. Also you don't need to play all the run of the mill songs. Success isn't in knowing how to play this song or that but in HOW you play what you do know with great timing, clarity, tone and expression. If you have a repretriore as big as a barn but lack these things your music will lack most of what people want to hear. This doesn't mean don't try other songs you want to learn before gaining the above things but just make sure to major on the important things that will improve your playing. Theory (just enough) and technique. And listen listen listen to Scruggsy backup in the meantime.


Jul 3, 2022 - 1:27:39 PM

powell

UK

5 posts since 6/19/2021

Yes agreed. I’m there in terms of can play the basic ones. I’ve found a couple of courses to follow so will stick with them for now and refine my technique. I’ve also just came across Bennett Sullivan and like how he teaches so will go with his lessons and courses too.

I’m not trying to skip the basics, as I know they are great foundations, I think I just bowled there are many more choices than the standard tunes as I can’t stand them ??

Jul 4, 2022 - 7:23:54 AM

2840 posts since 5/2/2012

When I switched to Scruggs style picking, I used a Hal Leonard book to start with. The arrangements were boring, and I had trouble motivating myself to practice. Then I picked up good arrangements of Boil Them Cabbage and Cripple Creek. They sounded great and taught me the basics.

While I admire the musicianship of BG musicians, I am not a huge fan of BG songs. I'll watch videos and go to concerts, but I have no huge desire to play the music myself. I found myself gravitating towards tunes that where the melody notes are front and center. Learning the basics of 3 finger picking is a gateway to other music. Today, my practice time is based around Tony Ellis tunes (most with an old time feel) and fiddle tunes (using Eddie Collins' Fiddle Tunes Made Easy for Bluegrass Banjo), because I can really hear and "feel" the melody while I am playing.  

So divide your practice into time spent learning the basics and time playing backup (or a intro/solo/break) for the country songs you eventually want to play. I did search in the "Learn" section of the HO, used "country" as one of the key words, and found several country tunes. Here is the result of the search.  

Jul 12, 2022 - 2:29:47 PM
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2905 posts since 4/5/2006

The real value in lessons is often overlooked, unable to see the forest for all the trees. Boring, frustrating, hard work! For instance, the Cripple Creek lesson is the techniques taught. The payoff, being able to actually play CC, is icing on the cake. An awful lot of this stuff is akin to realizing your head is good for something other than a hat rack!

Jul 12, 2022 - 8:33:17 PM
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250 posts since 7/22/2012

Go to various jams, if possible, if you aren't already...they are lessons in themselves, sometimes add a lot of motivation, too...

Jul 14, 2022 - 2:44:53 AM

4729 posts since 12/6/2009

quote:
Originally posted by powell

Hi Guys and hope you all can help!

Picking up the banjo again after a 6 month break (work commitments) but now back on it and can commit an hour each night at least!

My frustration is I’ve signed up and paid for various lessons and sites but not of them really follow an order. They just show you songs to play (which are all the same) and for me playing all the basic songs I find a little boring. If I don’t like the song I feel reluctant to learn it etc.

What I’m asking or trying to understand is, do I just need to suck it up and play the run of the mill songs and that’s it? Or i am better learning a handful of songs, but focussing on tabs / chords and the theory so then it makes learning more effective.
Every online course / free YouTube stuff is all the same, and boil the cabbage, cripple creek and the other generic ones just don’t grab me.

I should mention that I’ve been in a band for years playing rythem guitar and my goal is to play in a modern country band playing a back up mainly etc. I’m not looking to play bluegrass all the time (don’t hate me guys) so I can play more modern back ups songs in a band environment.

Hopefully that makes sense, I’m just struggling with what to focus on so I can be a great back up banjo player rather than a Scruggs.

I love the sound of a banjo in a modern country environment and love to listen to bluegrass bands, especially steel drivers etc.

Thanks and any help appreciated.


If you played “for years” playing rhythm guitar in a band then you have a super advantage. Record some solo rhythm back up tracks and get that banjo going with that. When you have excellent rhythm you free up a creative inner freedom. When I had a friend who had played super BG rhythm guitar.....he MADE my fingers have a mind of their own an those couple years my banjo progressed 10 fold.......then sadly he moved away to Johnson City and I heard less and less from him over the years he disappeared......found him recently on the net.....he became a Reverend, still played BG but alas had passed away in 2018.....anyway. Use what you know best and you’ll see the improvements grow......use your imagination to create...... I would even venture to say, all those great pickers are/were great pickers because they played with musicians who gave them freedom to expand their abilities......can you imagine what you'd be like if you played along side a Del Mccoury or a Lester Flatt for a few years.....whhhhooooooaqaaa-eeeee

Edited by - overhere on 07/14/2022 02:48:54

Jul 14, 2022 - 4:08:29 AM

kd8tzc

USA

392 posts since 4/11/2022

powell Just curious, which lessons/teachers have you used?

Jul 14, 2022 - 3:21:03 PM
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2905 posts since 4/5/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Banjfoot

Go to various jams, if possible, if you aren't already...they are lessons in themselves, sometimes add a lot of motivation, too...


Amen to that, brother.

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