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Banjo Lessons: “Ode to Joy”

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[MUSIC]
Okay,
let's get started playing some music now.
The very first tune I ever played on the
banjo was called well, it was Ode to Joy,
Beethoven's famous Ode to Joy from his
Ninth Symphony.
And when I first picked up my banjo, I had
a long neck christy banjo.
And when I picked that up,
the very first thing I played was just the
simple melody of Ode to joy.
[MUSIC]
And, I was just in heaven.
I wasn't playing blue glass, but I just
wanted to get my fingers on the banjo.
So, let's start with that very same tune
and
to do that we're going to play the first
five notes of a scale.
And if you know doe a deer, a female deer,
from the Sound of Music, you know how the
sale, scale goes.
Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do.
I'm just doing this all on the third
string and you don't have to worry about
playing that right now I'm just playing
that so you can hear it.
What we're gonna do is just play the first
five notes of the scale.
[MUSIC]
Do, re, mi, fa, so.
And you can use any finger you want in
the, in the left hand here.
So let's just say you're using the middle
finger.
[MUSIC]
You start with the open third string,
which is the, this is the first string
here down on the bottom.
First, second, third.
The short string on top is the fifth
string, but
we're gonna just take the third string
here.
Hit that with your thumb in your right
hand.
And then bring the middle finger down on
the second fret.
These are the frets here, these metal
crossbars here.
Go to the second fret, to the fourth fret,
fifth fret.
Seven fret.
[MUSIC]
Do re mi fa so.
Those are the first five notes of the
scale.
But we're gonna start in playing Ode to
Joy at the fourth fret,
and just play the simple melody.
[MUSIC]
Okay once you've got that down, you'll be
playing a tune on the banjo.
When I remember how excited I was when I
was able to do that.
Now let's take it to the next level.
Rather than just, just having the bare
bones melody,
we're gonna start adding some other notes
around it.
And when you start playing Bluegrass
Scruggs style,
a lot of what's going on is you have the
basic melody notes and
they're stuck inside these things which
are called finger patterns or rolls.
Well I'll talk about that in just a
minute.
But I'm starting with the melody so
you can hear how the melody fits into
these flurry of other notes that you hear.
And to begin with that process, let's just
alternate between the third string,
that middle string there.
[MUSIC]
And your first string,
the one down on the bottom here.
[MUSIC]
And I'm just gonna go back and
forth between the thumb and the middle
finger, just back and forth like that.
Playing the exact same melody in the left
hand.
So, let's just try that and there'll be a
couple of spots where there's a little
hold where you're not actually singing a
note and when that happens, I'll bring
the thumb up to the fifth string, which is
the short string up on top here.
About 150 years ago, they used to call
that the thumb string because
your thumb's up there all the time.
[SOUND] So again, you're just alternating
between the thumb and the middle, and
it's gonna sound like this.
[MUSIC]
All right.
I'll play it a little more slowly, now.
I just wanted you to be able to hear what
it's gonna sound like.
So, here it is slowed down.
[MUSIC]
Fifth fret, fourth, second, open.
[MUSIC]
All right.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
Okay.
Let's go to the next level.
Now, in bluegrass you're gonna be using
three fingers.
And before we get into this any farther, I
just wanna mention, and
I'm gonna talk about that in just a
minute.
That you can just have your hand floating
free right now if you want or
you can have some fingers down on the
head.
This is the head of the banjo here for a
little more support.
Earl Scruggs keeps two fingers down but if
you wanna keep your ring or
your pinky that's fine too.
I'm just saying that it doesn't a big
difference right now but
in just a moment I will get into a little
more detail about that.
Okay now, at this point what we're going
to do is start playing a roll.
And again a roll is a finger pattern and
this is going to be an alternating thumb
roll.
That's what it's called.
And it's going to sound like this.
[MUSIC]
And so
what you're going to do is, you're going
to alternate the thumb with the index.
And then the thumb with the middle finger.
Thumb, index, thumb, middle.
Again it sounds like this.
[MUSIC]
And
we're going to integrate the melody of the
Ode to Joy into that roll.
Now sometimes again, as I went to the
fifth string,
the short thumb string up here.
I'll do that with the alternating thumb
roll so
rather than just being on the third,
second, third and first strings.
[SOUND] If there's a space in the melody,.
[SOUND] I'll go thumb on the third string,
index on the second,
thumb on the fifth string, middle on the
first string.
And it'll sound like this.
[MUSIC]
So most of the time you'll be just going.
[MUSIC]
And once in a while you'll be going.
[MUSIC]
And then go up to the fifth string.
It's always the same roll.
[MUSIC]
Okay, now I'll play it up to tempo and
then I'll slow it down for you.
So, here we go with the three finger roll
and it sounds like this.
[MUSIC]
All right?
Okay, look, I'll slow it down now so you
can hear how it,
kind of how the mechanics of it work.
So, once more.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]