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Banjo Lessons: Forward Rolls: “Boil Them Cabbage Down”

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All right.
We've been talking about the alternating
thumb roll
Now we're gonna talk
about the forward roll.
This is another finger pattern.
We're not, we're not talking about
tumbling like you might have done in high
school or junior high school.
The forward roll is the pattern is
thumb index middle.
And it can be on any string.
It doesn't matter.
It can be on third second, first, strings.
Fourth, second, first.
Fifth, second, first.
Or the middle can come into the third
string, fifth, third, first,
it doesn't really matter.
And Earl Scruggs has, has put forward
rolls to great use in his playing.
It's a very driving kind of a sound.
When you stack them back to back it sounds
like this.
I'll just work on the first three strings
for the moment.
Three, two, one.
Just repeating.
In very even time.
Try not to pause.
Now bring your thumb
over to the fourth string.
Now the thumb and the fifth string.
Now, for practical purposes, rather than,
at least at the moment,
rather than just stringing these together,
let's have eight notes.
And what you're
going to do is you're gonna start with the
second string with your index finger.
I should mention, when you're playing
bluegrass, the middle finger
In these rolling styles,
the Scruggs style, is always gonna be on
the first string
With the rarest, rarest of exceptions.
It might once in a very long while come
over to the second string.
But virtually everything you're going to
be dealing with in scruggs style is
rolling style.
Which is what we're going to be playing
for awhile now.
It's just gonna be middle finger on the
first string.
The index will go back and forth between
the second and third strings.
And then,
some people's styles, like Ralph Stanley,
he used to have his-
Index finger coming into
the fourth string.
And the thumb will cover everything from
the fifth string
To the fourth.
To the third.
To the second.
But for right now,
we're just gonna have the middle finger on
the first string.
Index on the second.
Thumb on the fifth.
That's all you have to worry about.
So now what we're gonna do, we're gonna
start with two notes.
Which is just a partial forward roll.
And I guess it's, I'm not sure who named
it a forward roll.
But I guess the forward roll just
indicates you're moving forward.
You're going.
Kinda in that direction.
So what you're gonna do.
You're starting with just two notes.
Which is two-thirds of a forward roll, if
you wanna look at it that way,
minus the first note.
Index on the second string.
Middle on the first string.
That's how you start, with just those two
Then you do a forward roll from the fifth
Fifth, second, first.
Fifth, second, first.
And you'll do two of those forward rolls.
So the whole thing will be eight notes.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
So let's do those a few times in a row.
Three, and four, and.
Closer together.
Now let's apply this to a tune called Boil
Them Cabbage Down.
This is a tune, from what I can tell, it's
an African-American tune
dating from probably the 1800s maybe even
But, apparently,
Well, let me sing it for you first.
And I'll just sing it while I'm strumming,
and it's-
And so again we're using G C and D seventh
for this song.
G, G C, C G, G, D seventh.
These are not the lyrics.
C, C G D seventh G.
Now the lyrics are.
Boil them cabbage down boys,
turn them hoe cakes round.
Now a hoe cake apparently in the
Antebellum South,
and maybe the North also.
But when the slaves were on the plantation
they would be out in the field.
And they would be cooking up corn, corn
cakes basically.
And they would cook them on a hoe.
They would take cornmeal, put it together.
And put it on the hoe.
And the hoe would be angled like this.
And they'd put it in toward fire.
And that would be their lunch.
And so that was what a hoe cake was.
The only song that I can sing is Boil Them
Cabbage Down.
But the tune has moved into the old time
and bluegrass fields.
And so here it is.
With just the G, C, and the D seventh
Now, if you remember, on this little light
of mine, rather than the full C,
we'd have the ring finger up.
We would just have the index and
middle down.
For this tune, for Boil them Cabbage Down,
let's just fret the first two strings.
Just that much of the C chord.
You don't need to worry about the fourth
Bluegrass shorthand.
So the ring will be on the first string,
second fret.
The index will be on the second string,
first fret.
So here it is,
just using this one roll through the whole
And it'll be one measure of G.
One of C.
One on G.
Now one of D seventh.
G, C, G.
Okay let me slow that down one more time.
Three and four and.