A Book Of Five Strings - online tutorial

Strategies for mastering the art of old time banjo.

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Bluegrass & Blues
Let's take a quick look at how to adapt old time frailing banjo for music that it's not usually associated with.
Bluegrass
While bluegrass banjo is normally played with three-finger picking the frailing strum can be easily adapted to a bluegrass setting. The only trick is to keep the feeling of a steam of eighth notes rolling through the tune.
Example One
In this example we are mixing a few standard bluegrass elements together. In the first measure we are playing a frailing variation of the "Foggy Mountain" roll. In the second measure we are playing a phantom and then a standard hammer-on in a C7 chord.
In the third measure we are playing the third and fourth strings at the third fret. If you go back to the instruction on the blues scale earlier in this book you will find that the pattern in this measure is playing with the "flat third" of the blues scale.
The licks in the second and third measures are pretty typical of how bluegrass musicians create a feeling of drive and tension in their solos. The seventh chord and the flat third fit the flow of the song like a western saddle on a goat, but mixing those clashing notes into the flow of the picking pattern creates a feeling of tension that gives the other notes in the break a sense of urgency.
The count for this example is pretty straightforward, but the phrasing of the measures can be tricky. To really make this work you are going to have to spend some time listening to and jamming with bluegrass musicians.






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