August 21, 2005

#111: Choices in banjo backup

Dave asks:

In your videos while playing rhythm, I have a hard time knowing which version of the chord I should be playing. Does it matter whether I use a barre or other chord shape and where on the neck it is?

As long as you make the correct chord (chord name that is), it's not critical which version you use. As you get more familiar with each chord's sound, you may start *choosing* the one you like best in each situation. That is your choice, and it depends on your personal taste.

You do explain the various things a player can be doing, but when I hear what you are doing it is rolls and such that my crappy beginner banjo does not even make those sounds. How do you know when to use what? Is there a method to your madness that does not require 40 years of experience?

This and similar videos are not directed at banjo players specifically, with the intention of teaching a variety of banjo backup techniques. It IS intended that in the videos, you have the opportunity to observe what I do, and get a sense of when I prefer to chop or roll, go up the neck or not, etc. These are just personal choices I am making, which are not planned or practiced, and might be different each time I play the song. Lots of alternatives are quite acceptable. The idea is for the player to constantly be responding to what's going on in the music, and do the best thing to fit the music at each point. This is learned through experience, and it's also a good idea to watch experienced players and get a sense of why they make they choices they do.

My Branching Out on the Banjo series lays out a great many techniques, from basic to adventurous, which give a player a good “palette” of backup sounds to work with. Most of what I do on the jamming videos can be referenced to things I show on those DVDs. A lot of it is more involved and advanced than you would be currently advised to try to learn, so I would advise for now to just do what you know, and as your knowledge of the neck and the sounds you can make grows, you’ll probably make more interesting and varied music.

Pete

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Bluegrass Banjo Backup, Basic Level

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These DVDs will expand your playing! Learn the neck, great backup ideas!