A Book Of Five Strings - online tutorial

Strategies for mastering the art of old time banjo.

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His brother is dead and McTavish don't know it. There's two Irish guys lying in bed, neither one knows that the other one's dead.
Okay, it's slightly warped, but that little poem has helped me phrase out some pretty complicated 6/8 tunes. It won't work for everything, but it has gotten me out of some tight spots in jams where a lot of Irish music was being played.
On a completely unrelated note, you can sing almost every poem written by Emily Dickenson to the tune of "Yellow Rose of Texas".
Drop Thumb
Drop thumb is probably the most talked about technique in old time banjo, but it's also the most misunderstood. People make a lot of fuss about drop thumb and the simple fact of the matter is that it's nothing more than another way to break a note in half and turn the basic frailing strum into a string of eighth notes.
Example One
In this example we have a measure with two basic frailing strums followed by a measure of drop thumb.
Here's what's going on: when you play a drop thumb you are striking a string, in this case the first, with your middle fingernail and then swinging your thumb down to pluck another string. In this case we are thumbing the second string.
After the thumb note we strike with the middle fingernail again and follow that up with the thumb on the fifth string.
This gives you a string of eighth notes.
The count for this example is 1 2& 3 4&, 1& 2& 3& 4&.
Example Two
The drop thumb isn't limited to any particular string. In the second measure you will notice that we are playing the first and third strings.
The count is 1& 2& 3& 4&, 1& 2& 3& 4&.