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Trying to learn New Orleans Chord-Melody Style on Tenor Banjo

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Jul 16, 2022 - 3:09:59 PM



1 posts since 7/15/2022

Hello everyone, I'm trying to find good resource material on the Chord-Melody style played on the tenor banjo to accompany a New Orleans Jazz (mainly) brass band. I recently joined such a group, and I need to learn this style. Can anyone recommend a book (or other resource) to teach me this. I read music and play several stringed instruments (including the mandolin).

Jul 16, 2022 - 5:08:55 PM
like this



3248 posts since 6/27/2013
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Andy,  If you're ever going to make real progress on the tenor, a good method book that explains how ALL chords are formed according to shape and the specific string (with the root note that names the chord) is absolutely essential. The old method that used to be the gold standard was "The Charles McNeil Chord System for Tenor Banjo." It was published back in the early Twenties and is now difficult to find, BUT The McNeil System for Tenor Banjo is also accessible as a FREE download from the University of Rochester. Pages 16 and 17 are what you need to see right away. That's the "key" to the system. Here's the link:

BTW, the plectrum banjo is ideally suited for chord melody if that might interest you.  McNeil had a plectrum book too as well as one for the guitar.  All had the same very sound approach.

Edited by - Omeboy on 07/16/2022 17:12:41

Jul 18, 2022 - 3:41:58 AM



654 posts since 2/16/2005

Andy, I'm not sure I understand where you are going with this musically. 

If you're playing with lots of brass, surely they would normally carry the melody.  This means that most of the time, you would be  providing the rhythm by playing harmony chords.  A tenor banjo would be ideal for that setup, and would certainly cut through the rest of the band.   But in this situation, playing chord melody would seem to me to be "icing on the cake," as they say, and would only be needed if you were taking an occasional solo.  The rest of the time, it sounds like you would be working too hard for very little return by playing chord melody, and would simply be duplicating the melody line of the horns. 

As a plectrum player myself, I agree with Omeboy that it's probably easier and perhaps even better to play chord melody on a plectrum using CGBD tuning.  But once again, I'm not sure that chord melody is primarily what you'd want to do in this situation.  

Can you explain a little further what the proposed setup is, and what you're trying to accomplish?  SETH    

Jul 19, 2022 - 2:24:05 PM

craig wood


98 posts since 9/11/2018

Since you read music, an excellent new resource is DIXIELAND JAZZ BANJO arranged by Chad Johnson, published by covers both tenor and plectrum and is melody based. Of course Omeboy is right about McNeils chord system. I have both and they have served me well. Also for banjo solos you need not always play the melody.

Jul 20, 2022 - 5:33:29 AM



1651 posts since 11/6/2008

years ago I did a booklet with some of my arrangements of jazz standard for tenor, I don't know if I still have some copies of it!
here is one of the songs in pdf with standard notation and tablature and an mp3 with my playing

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