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Sep 27, 2022 - 11:34:31 AM

bayhud

USA

44 posts since 9/4/2019

So I've been playing banjo for about 6 years now (off and on). I am currently in a band, so I really want to tighten up my playing. I've never had an in-person lesson, as most of my learning has been through YouTube videos. My right hand has developed a bad habit and I can't seem to play rolls correctly. I sound good to most, but to someone with a trained ear I'm sure they can hear that something is "off" with my right hand technique. Does anyone have a video suggestion on developing the proper muscle memory for scruggs style? Thanks in advance.

Edited by - bayhud on 09/27/2022 14:15:56

Sep 27, 2022 - 12:05:22 PM
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AGACNP

USA

366 posts since 10/12/2011

quote:
Originally posted by bayhud

So I've been playing banjo for about 6 years now (off and on). I am currently in a band, so I really want to tighten up my playing. I've never had an in-person lesson, as most of my learning has been through YouTube videos. My right hand has developed a bad habit and I can't seem to play rolls correctly. I sound good to most, but to someone with a trained ear I'm sure they can hear that something is "off" with my right hand technique. Does anyone have a video suggestion on developing the proper muscle memory for scruggs style? Thanks in advance.


Dr. Josh Turknett is a neurologist who also happens to play banjo. His teaching methods are clinically evidence based. He briefly addresses how to unlearn bad habits here.

https://www.brainjo.academy/brainjo-bite-how-to-break-a-bad-habit/

Sep 27, 2022 - 1:08:15 PM
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2158 posts since 11/17/2018

quote:
Originally posted by bayhud

I've never had an in-person lesson


You might consider finding a good teacher (in-person, online, etc.) who can straighten out your right-hand technique.

Sep 27, 2022 - 1:30:38 PM

RB3

USA

1491 posts since 4/12/2004
Online Now

I would urge you to go to YouTube and search out videos of Earl Scruggs. There are quite a few that have good views of how Scruggs used his right hand and how he bent and wore his finger picks. No one ever played the banjo better or got better tone out of a banjo than Earl Scruggs.

You also might consider making a video of your own playing with a closeup of your right hand and post it here so that others can critique what you are currently doing.

Sep 27, 2022 - 1:57:29 PM
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8222 posts since 8/30/2004

Hi Bailey,
I would suggest you find a "good reliable" teacher in person for at least one or two lessons. Imitating or listening Earl in my opinion won't solve what you're asking about...Jack

Originally posted by bayhud

 

Sep 27, 2022 - 2:20:23 PM

bayhud

USA

44 posts since 9/4/2019

@RB3 I uploaded a video. Not sure if I played a good arrangement showing what I need to work on but if anyone can point out an obvious change I need to make I'm all ears.

Sep 27, 2022 - 2:28:54 PM
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8222 posts since 8/30/2004

Well,
It looks like Wayne is your man. Your problem to my ear is you play at rocket speed that even Earl didn't do at first. You will not solve your roll problem with that attack speed...Jack

Sep 27, 2022 - 2:47:36 PM
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bayhud

USA

44 posts since 9/4/2019

@Jack Baker Thanks for the tips. I think you're right. I've never taken the time to slow down and work on individual roll patterns, so when i play fast it almost covers up the mistakes. I'm also unfamiliar with each roll pattern. There are only 2 I could do on command. So I think going back and re-learning the patterns and taking them slow might be the only way I can break the bad habit.

Sep 27, 2022 - 3:07:18 PM
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8222 posts since 8/30/2004

Hi Bailey,
Are you working on beginning songs along with your rolls? Work on your slides, hammers, pull offs. chokes. Do them all in perfect time by slowing everything down. You really don't need dozens of roll patterns. Just do enough in different directions and patterns and that should be about 15 actual rolls--just make sure they are "dead on" even. There are of course, hundreds but they don't really matter since they are all just varitions...Sounds like you're on your way...Jack

Edited by - Jack Baker on 09/27/2022 15:10:56

Sep 27, 2022 - 3:38:03 PM
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beegee

USA

23121 posts since 7/6/2005

Your style seems to have developed from a snatch and grab method. Speed comes from properly applied rolls played evenly with proper timing values. Work with a metronome and 8-note rolls until it evens out.

Sep 27, 2022 - 4:34:59 PM

Alex Z

USA

5006 posts since 12/7/2006

On the positive side, you have a musical sound, kind of old-time mountain, like Ralph Stanley.  And the pace of the music is consistent (different from the timing between individual notes).

If that's the sound you like, you don't have to give that up to work on clarity and timing.  Just work at a slower speed.  

Nothing drastically wrong with your picking hand.  Arm position looks good, wrist looks relaxed. Fingers and thumb are moving without interference with each other. 

Think of banjo picking as an athletic process -- can't learn more precise motions under pressure of the game, which is this situation is the pressure of speed.  You can learn without the pressure of speed, and then after mastering the motions you take them into the game.

You're doing fine.  There are many styles and many ways to learn, yet the learning process has some basic principles.  Slow down, master the motions and the timing.  You have the tone already.  Then put the skills to use in the game.  

Sep 27, 2022 - 5:23:41 PM

bayhud

USA

44 posts since 9/4/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Jack Baker

Hi Bailey,
Are you working on beginning songs along with your rolls? Work on your slides, hammers, pull offs. chokes. Do them all in perfect time by slowing everything down. You really don't need dozens of roll patterns. Just do enough in different directions and patterns and that should be about 15 actual rolls--just make sure they are "dead on" even. There are of course, hundreds but they don't really matter since they are all just varitions...Sounds like you're on your way...Jack


Hey jack,

I usually use a kickoff to start songs, I was just rolling around in the beginning of that video to make sure it was in tune. I can play just about any traditional style song, give or take some fiddle tunes I have trouble with, but my mane issues are knowing when to hit the 5th string with my thumb, how to fit rolls into chord transitions, and how to know which roll pattern fits where. 

Sep 27, 2022 - 5:43:05 PM

bayhud

USA

44 posts since 9/4/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

On the positive side, you have a musical sound, kind of old-time mountain, like Ralph Stanley.  And the pace of the music is consistent (different from the timing between individual notes).

If that's the sound you like, you don't have to give that up to work on clarity and timing.  Just work at a slower speed.  

Nothing drastically wrong with your picking hand.  Arm position looks good, wrist looks relaxed. Fingers and thumb are moving without interference with each other. 

Think of banjo picking as an athletic process -- can't learn more precise motions under pressure of the game, which is this situation is the pressure of speed.  You can learn without the pressure of speed, and then after mastering the motions you take them into the game.

You're doing fine.  There are many styles and many ways to learn, yet the learning process has some basic principles.  Slow down, master the motions and the timing.  You have the tone already.  Then put the skills to use in the game.  


@Alex Z 

Thanks for the input Alex. I take a lot of inspiration from Ralph Stanley so I'm glad you can hear the resemblance, I really like the wild punchy tone he could lay down so that's been a main focus of mine. I think most of you are right about slowing down and taking time with the techniques. I was able to pickup the banjo and make it sound pretty good from the start, but I think I've skipped a lot of fundamentals by trying to teach myself. I will put your input to use and try to learn a few fiddle tunes from scratch, without taking any shortcuts. 

Sep 27, 2022 - 6:43:43 PM

Alex Z

USA

5006 posts since 12/7/2006

"I take a lot of inspiration from Ralph Stanley so I'm glad you can hear the resemblance"

Heard that first thing!  "Inspiration" may be the right word here.  Not a lot of people can get that tone and the unconscious pacing and accents.  It ain't just notes and metronomic timing.

I've learned several of his tunes note-for-note from recordings, but I don't sound at all like him

smiley, metronome or no.

You have a special talent for bringing out the Stanley sound.  Keep that talent.  That will only get better as you work on clarity and timing.  Mr. Ralph is an extremely clear and precise player -- yet there is something more in his playing that distinguishes his sound.  You've captured that.

Sep 28, 2022 - 3:07:08 AM
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phb

Germany

3576 posts since 11/8/2010

Perhaps you could try playing some instrumentals note-for-note with the recording in some slow-downer software such as Transcribe!, Amazing Slowdowner or Song Surgeon. Start slowly and steadily increase the tempo. Placing all the notes as precisely as possible where they are in the recording could be a good training to even out the notes in your playing in general. That being said, I think you are generally doing fine.

Sep 28, 2022 - 8:48:42 PM

ChunoTheDog

Canada

1869 posts since 8/9/2019
Online Now

I think focusing on bringing out the melody of a tune and trying to get an even roll/tone with the 1st and 5th string would be a good fun practice bit, often times we subconsciously focus so hard on the thumb & index.

Edited by - ChunoTheDog on 09/28/2022 20:49:34

Sep 29, 2022 - 7:19:49 AM

2934 posts since 5/2/2012

I watched the video, and the first thing that struck me was how "busy" your thumb is. Your thumb covers the 3rd, 4th and 5th strings. While your middle is working the 1st and your index finger is hitting the 2nd. Sometimes your index is hitting the 2nd twice in a row. One of the good things about learning the basic rolls/patterns is that once you have them under your fingers with accuracy and impeccable timing you don't have to direct as much mental energy into the motions...and can concentrate on your fretting hand as well as staying in time with your bandmates.

This is supposed to be a primer on Stanley style picking.  3 basic rolls.  

Sep 30, 2022 - 7:41:16 AM

bayhud

USA

44 posts since 9/4/2019

@ThisOldMan sound pretty spot on except my thumb doesn't hit the 2nd String. What 3 rolls would you suggest I work on?

Sep 30, 2022 - 1:57 PM

2976 posts since 4/5/2006

To my ear, your playing sounds robotic. You are fast, but every note is the same volume. You need to work on putting emphasis on the beat.

Edited by - monstertone on 09/30/2022 13:59:50

Sep 30, 2022 - 3:50:41 PM

1576 posts since 8/31/2004

I recommend that you slow down and work on playing with a metronome or some other device to help you with accuracy and timing. You could get your guitar player to back you up (and sing the song if possible) while you play it slower until you can stay in time. "Bound to Ride" is a good song to work on. When you get the timing straight at a slower tempo, then speed up. I would recommend playing along with Jim Mill's version when you get your timing and accuracy issues straightened out.

Keep at it.

Sep 30, 2022 - 4:11:22 PM

2934 posts since 5/2/2012

Rolls? For me, forward rolls (and their many variations), forward-backward roll (and variations), and the square or in-and-out roll. Backward roll? Not so much. And yes, your thumb did not hit the 2nd string in the video. The 3rd, 4th and 5th strings were all picked by the thumb.

The Stanley primer provided the 3 rolls the article talked about.

Oct 1, 2022 - 9:29:35 AM

bayhud

USA

44 posts since 9/4/2019

@ThisOldMan thank ya sir!

Oct 9, 2022 - 8:26:50 PM
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Tim13

USA

3176 posts since 4/1/2008

I've found that learning a few classic tunes from a recording, of Earl, Sonny, or JD, and then playing along with them helps me when I need a technique touchup. For example, on The Osborne Brothers Bluegrass Collection CD, Sonny plays virtually a note for note version of Earls Blueridge Cabin Home break x2. During this version, you can hear Sonny's backup very well too. Sometimes I play along with it, both the breaks, and the backup, and my timing, and basic technique, tightens up, and improves.

Oct 9, 2022 - 9:11:33 PM

Wobba

USA

20 posts since 4/15/2020

One word: Metronome. Practice some short piece from something you want to work on every day, slow--half the speed you're playing in the vid--and with a metronome. That'll help you to tighten the picking. Even better would be to play a short piece really slow, painfully slow, with the metronome. And concentrate on precise time. Because you've got to concentrate to play like that with precise, you brain will rewire itself to handle that. And were not talking about a couple of days here. This will take weeks because you've got to unlearn the sloppy picking. But it's definitely doable. First week play something slow and precise. Next week speed it up a bit. By the third week you should be up to speed on that. So take the parts you want to improve and start doing that. You have to build up new muscle memory for picking with good timing, and that takes some time.

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