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Banjo Lessons: Finding the Melody: “When the Saints Go Marching In”

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All right,
as we're taping this, I put a a thing up
on the form asking for suggestions for
lessons to get an idea of what you're
looking to learn about and
Cole wrote me a note saying they had some
trouble sometimes hearing the melody and
finding the melody.
In Scruggs' style where is that melody and
that is a big problem because it's
often a question of not being able to find
the tree for the forest.
Because you have all these rolls floating
around the melody.
Had a graphic example of this when I do my
solo shows I'll often do a Beatles medley
and I would ask people to sing along, and
I'd play a little bit of Hard Day's Night
and just have a lot of flowing.
When I first started doing this I just had
it all rolls and I'd look out and
have, wait for
people to sing along and they wouldn't
because they couldn't hear a melody.
And then my wife came to one of my shows
said why don't you just play the simple
melody and nothing else for
part of it, so they can find where the
melody is in the tune.
And as soon as I did that,
immediately everyone started singing along
at the next show.
So, it is true that rolls can really
obfuscate or hide the melody so.
What I wanna do is take a little bit of
When the Saints Go Marching In,
which is a pretty well-known song, and
I'll just play it first off just the basic
And I'm not, I don't have this written
down in the tablature, so this will just
be for you to find it on your own, or you
can sort of watch when I'm playing too.
But it'll be good for you to do this on
your own.
And it's, in general it's a really good
idea for you to sit and
just try to hear melodies in your head and
find them on the banjo.
That's a really good thing to do to build
ear training.
So here's When the Saints Go Marching In,
Marching In, just the basic melody,
nothing else.
There it is.
Nothing else.
Nothing fancy at all.
That's not so hard to hear.
Now, the first arrangement in tablature
here, and
the first one I'm going to play for you,
is still featuring a lot of quarter notes.
But I'm starting to fill up the space a
little bit.
And so.
You know,
since most of you have probably already
worked through Boil Them Cabbage Down,
it's the same thing with Boil Them Cabbage
Where the basic melody is.
And then you're just building from there.
With all the slides and all the rolls.
But in this case,
we're gonna do When the Saints Go Marching
So, here's the first version.
And slowed down.
Okay, now we have some rolls going on.
I'm doing a pinch on the first two
strings in unison.
Both notes are the same, and
two forward rolls.
that's something that Earl Scruggs does a
lot, with a lot of tunes.
Not strictly, but a lot of times.
He'll have a melody note and then spin off
a couple of forward rolls or
more off of that melody note just to keep
the flow going.
And generally, not always, but
generally when you're doing rolls based on
a melody note, in this case.
You'll want that
melody note to be in there.
In the roll.
And I've probably mentioned this elsewhere
on this site, but
I'll just mention it here again, I always
look at it as being film,
if you're watching a movie, you have this
illusion of having a seamless flow.
But in actuality, you have these
individual frames.
I guess we're not talking about digital
film, but.
Well, certainly in the old style, these
individual films going by quickly, so
there's this illusion of film.
And illusion of motion.
And the same thing with rolls.
In this case, the melody,
you have two strings which are carrying
the melody, the second and first strings.
when you're playing a tune and you know
the melody's on a particular string,
if you can you would like to bring that
out a little bit more,
bring out that melody note a little bit
more so it jumps out at you.
And when you're listening to find the
melody, try to hear where's that note.
Where, what note is being emphasized a
little bit more and that might help you.
So in this case.
even though you have the first and, first.
No, I'm sorry, the 5th string and that's
not a melody note.
It just kinda flows in there.
your ear hopefully is drawn to the 2nd,
and 1st strings.
Which are the melody note.
Now just all quarter notes but instead of
just going.
These are measures six and seven.
I'm throwing a 5th string in, just to fill
the space a little bit.
And the melody is on the 2nd
fret of the 3rd string, and I'm just using
a forward backward roll to fill the space.
Then I hit the low note,
the low D note on the open 4th string.
Cuz it's such a nice rich note.
5th string to fill.
Another roll, another forward roll.
I've got the melody note on the 3rd string
there, and this is measure ten.
I'm finishing measure ten with a pinch
with the index and middle.
You don't wanna use the thumb,
you don't wanna double.
A thumb because.
You're coming off the 5th string,
which is an 8th note.
It's a little more punchy
to use the pinch.
Now, on to measure 11.
Another filler.
In that number.
And I'm going to the C chord, which is
Melody note is on the 2nd string.
But I'm doing it pinched, because again,
it's punchier.
Roll, forward roll.
More 5th strings to fill the space.
In the little tag ending.
Just to fill the ending.
All right.
So that's a slightly simpler version of
the tune.
Let me play it one more tune one more time
all the way through.
Okay, now at the end of the tabular you
see there are some.
Measures that can be substituted to make
is sound a little Scruggsier.
Another thing when, and I'll talk about
that in a moment, but another
way you can hear melodies is by listening
for slides, hammer-ons, and pull offs.
Those are often used to bring out the
Now something like Foggy Mountain
There is no melody, there is no song
It's just licks.
That kind of a thing.
So that's a case where the hammer-on is
not being used to bring out the melody,
but with a song it often is.
And so if we go to the first measure.
Instead of going.
Just, instead of hitting that.
Melody note dead on with that pinch.
You can hammer into that.
Now that sounds a little stronger.
Little more like Scruggs.
Now what
you're doing is you're hammering on index
to middle.
On the second string two to three.
And as you're hammering.
Right after you do that,
hit the first string.
again, whenever you're doing a hammer-on,
slide or pull off.
You want it to be a little bit punchier, a
little bit stronger.
Hit it a little bit harder, in this case
with your index finger on your right hand.
Now, we're gonna add in.
We're gonna add some slides here,
because when you have a melody note on the
2nd string, you can slide into it.
I'm getting a little ahead of myself here
but just want to give you a flavor for
what's going on because in the
intermediate section, there's a couple of
lessons on developing Scruggsy solos which
goes into this in a little more detail.
But I just want you to have a flavor, for
how we can build on a simple structure
where, first of all you have just only the
melody notes.
Then melody notes and a little bit of
rolling, and now we're starting to add
hammer-ons and slides, so you can hear
where a melody goes in this process to
becoming Scruggs style, and maybe this
will help you understand.
Where the melody is, where it can be
brought out with a hammer-on or
brought out with a slide.
So let me get into the middle of the tune
in here.
Okay, now we're in measure six.
Got the pinch.
Then the filler with the 5th, and 1st
Instead of going.
You're gonna slide into that note.
It's a little more,
it's a little bit looser that way.
And more Scruggsy.
And this is the same exact slide you had
in Boiling Cabbage Down.
Just plug it right in.
Go, measure seven.
With another 5th and 1st string filler,
and one more slide.
there's that melody note on the 2nd
string, but instead of hitting it dead on.
We're gonna slide into it.
And the same forward,
backward roll on the D 7th.
Now we're in measure 14.
And we're gonna do the same thing.
And then instead of just hitting the 2nd
fret of the 3rd string in measure 15th,
I'll do a little roll.
On the D 7th.
So let me do this,
one more time up to speed without talking,
and one more time slowly without talking.
And a little bit slower.
So I hope that's been a help in finding
the melody amongst all those slides and
hammer-ons and pull offs and rolls and all
that sort of thing.
Again, we just started with the basic
Built it up a little bit, add a few rolls
and a little filler between the quarter
notes, and then that last version is a
little more full blown Scruggsy kind of
a thing where the melody is being brought
out with hammer-ons and slides.
No, no no pull-offs in this particular
version so,
that's it and thanks for checking it out.