September 09, 2001

#8: Easy solos and tabs

Mike C. writes:

I am interested in your bluegrass jamming video, but I noticed that it does not come with banjo tablature. Would the tab for the 17 featured songs be available separately? I have been playing for a relatively short time and have not yet learned to play many of the songs that are on that video.

I don't expect that the tabs of the banjo solos will be made available. Many of the songs we played can be found in tab books and collections. But the more important skill to develop is the ability to "fake" some sort of solo, even if it has very little of the melody in it. Just keep your right hand moving, doing rolls and whatnot, and whatever licks you can insert where they fit. It's more important to gain experience doing that than to master exact breaks you learn from tablature on a large number of songs.

I recommend learning a few simple breaks from tab before trying to do it yourself, but once a few tab breaks have shown you the way, you've got to try it on your own. Exact tab arrangements do have their place, especially classic versions of classic songs, but to get fully up and running, you need to work on the skill of "thinking on your feet". So put on the video, and when the place comes up in each song where the band is just playing backup for the home viewer/picker, give it a shot. You'll notice that Nick Forster plays a simple solo on guitar right before the play-along part, so you can see where he gets the melody (2nd, 3rd, and 4th string are tuned the same as a banjo) and get a few hints that way. I recommend rewinding the video (put it on "shuttle" if you have the capability) to the beginning of Nick's solo and then on through the play-along part. Doing that several times will help you a lot.

For more instruction on how to make up solos, see my Beginning Bluegrass Banjo video and pages 22-32 of my Bluegrass Banjo book.

Good luck!

Pete

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