A Book Of Five Strings - online tutorial

Strategies for mastering the art of old time banjo.

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The Am Position:
The Em Position:
The Dm Position:
Suspended Position:
Augmented Position:
"Root-Five"
When you hear a bass or guitar alternating between high and low bass notes they are playing two notes of the chord in what is often called a "root-five" pattern.
I know what you're thinking, why is it called root-five if there are only three notes in a major chord?
Major chords are made from the first, third and fifth notes in the scale. For example, a G major chord is made up of the notes G-B-D. To play an alternating bass over a G chord we would play G (the root note) and D (the fifth note) of the G scale. "Root-five."
The practice pattern I pointed out earlier as being one of the most useful is a root-five pattern because we were alternating between the G (root) string and the D ("five") string.
In a jam session listening to the bass pattern of the guitar or bass can assist you in spotting chord changes. Once you start to recognize the pattern you will begin to feel the alternating bass pushing the song into the next chord.
Backing up your voice by playing a frailing strum with alternating bass can really "fill out" the sound of a song.
One thing to be aware of when it comes to using this idea is that the banjo has limits when it comes to bass strings. For example, when a chord progression goes to C (a C chord is made of the notes C-E-G) we have to compromise a bit because we don't have a low C string in open G tuning. We could retune the fourth string to C, but that opens up a separate set of problems. The easy solution is to compromise and






E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III