A Book Of Five Strings - online tutorial

Strategies for mastering the art of old time banjo.

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A particular moment may call for something with a lot of double thumbs or hammer-on's or it may only call for a simple frailing strum. It's the same as your speaking voice. Some situations call for you to speak slowly and others require that you to speak quickly. Sometimes we want to say a lot or we may wish sum up our thoughts with one or two words. We hardly ever make a distinction between the different ways we use our voices or phrase our sentences because we react to the moment without thinking. We never stop and say to ourselves, "now I have to sound happy" or "now I have to sound angry." What we feel is unconsciously reflected in what we say and how we say it.
It's the same with our music. Playing simply may at times have more impact than a lightning fast combination of licks. The trick is getting familiar enough with the instrument that your phrasing becomes completely natural. That's where jamming comes into play.
As you gain confidence playing at jam sessions start experimenting with melody lines and backup licks. Stay within the structure of the song, but find out for yourself just how much you can get away with. Explore how many ways you can phrase a pattern of notes without affecting the timing or missing the chord progression.
In the next chapter we are going to discuss how to find a melody line in a chord progression. Keep coming back to this chapter for ideas on how to shape melody lines to suit what you want to say and how you feel.