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Old Time Fingerpicking
Classic Style Banjo
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Playing Backup
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Banjo Lessons: Earl's Backup for “My Little Girl in Tennessee”

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Virginia Abbott
requested that I do a little bit of backup
one of Earl Scruggs' greatest tunes, My
Little Girl in Tennessee.
And this was recorded very early 50s,
1950, 51, something like that.
For Mercury records, the early Flatt and
Scruggs material which is so amazing and
Earl's band just sounds so great.
That skinhead, just that amazing timing on
his right hand.
Now the thing is, this was recorded in
so there's no stereo where the banjo's a
little panned off to one side,
where you can really hear what he's doing
A little bit of this is just educated
guessing knowing the kind of rolls he
uses and that sort of thing.
But I, I dare say it's, it's pretty
So there might be a note or two here and
there that's not quite what he's playing.
It's I think for the most part, I can
stand behind his tablature and
it's it works pretty well.
So let me play the tune first just really
because of copyright issues I can really
have a tab for it, I'll just play it for
you, so you can hear how it sounds and
then we'll discuss the back-up.
So it goes G, G,
G, C, G, G, D,
G, C, G, G, D, G
Now, actually, that's not the back,
the back-up that Earl does, that's just
what I'm doing right now.
So, you can hear what the chords are.
And one thing, I should mention and this
is something when I did the original
lessons on that, but way back when eight
or nine months ago when that was.
I had not realized this yet, but
watching some of these Martha White videos
that Flatt and
Scruggs did back in the 60s and are now
available on DVD.
I noticed when Rolls doing this off beat,
chunky kind of thing that he actually
lifts his hand off, off like that, and
the right hand is just going up.
So while you're sort of dampening the left
hand by lifting up your fingers,
he's also letting go with his right hand
is leaving the head, which sometimes
really does, rather than the feeling of
always have you tied down to the head.
And I think it opens up the sound in a
very subtle way just a little bit.
And there's something really nice about
that bouncing around like that.
You're falling on the banjo when you do
Anyway, you get the idea.
It's just something try, I like that
myself I'm doing it all the time now.
And now what Earl does is, he just tries
to stay out of the way
actually I believe this is the back-up for
the first fiddle break.
Both of these are back-ups for the fiddle
It's down the neck and then up the neck.
And I'll do down the neck first, so here's
the, the down neck break.
So I start this first measure with a pinky
on the fifth fret of the first string.
Pull off.
Quick slide alternating thumb.
Now for the C.
That's a pretty popular move that Earl
does there, he's playing out of the C
chord position.
Moves the middle from the fourth from the
third string, back down,
back down to the fourth string, second
fret, back to G and just slide.
And then slides again, quarter, forward
The similar thing that
you're doing on the D chord, it's very
similar to what we did on the C chord.
On the D you're going.
Just up two frets.
So for the D chord on major seventh.
You just are fretting the second,
third strings are in D chord and next on
the third string second fret and middle
on the second string third fret, starting
with a quarter note on the fourth string.
the ring on the fourth fret of the fourth
Bring the ring over to the third string to
pull off.
Back to the ring and then ring on the
fourth string.
And then open.
Alternating thumb to the slide,
back to the C, same deal with the middle
coming to the third string and
then back to the fourth string.
So that's the basic down the neck back-up
that Earl's using.
He does a variation
measure 18 is the variation where it's a
sub for bars seven and eight.
And so, if you go along I'll plug this
into measure seven and eight.
Okay, that's the whole down the neck
Now I also transcribed the up the neck
break, neck break.
But the up the neck back-up that he does
behind the second fiddle break.
Interestingly, when he starts off with the
down the neck break.
He's close to the bridge for all this
Now I softened it a little bit when I'm up
the neck and I think he does too.
So, let's analyze what's going on here.
let me slow this down a little bit.
So, you're starting off
In this position with the ring on
the first string, ninth fret.
Index on the second string, eighth fret,
which is like, it is not like,
it is, they are, should say,
the top two notes of your D position G
chord between the seventh and ninth frets.
I've said if you're just taking the first
two strings and
playing them with the index and ring, and
it's the same position that you use when
you're doing the Sally Gooden position.
Like that so,
you're just basically working pretty much
out of just this position for
the first two measure with the one little
So, and
it's really the Foggy Mountain Breakdown
And here it's
And then it continues
The forward roll.
Adding the pinky on the 11th fret of the
second string.
Then Earl slides into the full C chord.
Slide on the third,
go to the second string.
Now up here,
you're basically doing, doing the G
position, F position G.
Which is the same as this up an octave,
between the 15th and 17th frets.
And again, Earl is just fretting the first
two notes.
So it's.
Where are we?
Here we are.
Measure 23.
And that's, again,
the Foggy Mountain breakdown roll.
could bring the thumb across, index,
thumb, but you don't need to.
And then measured 24.
you got on the middle on the second string
11th fret,
pinky on the 12th fret of the first
To the standard and Sally Gooden position.
And then down to the
Seven forward backward roll on the C.
And the pinky D.
And the choke.
So that choke on measure 34.
I'm sorry, measure, yes 34, is
This is the standard.
So that choke is very important.
So when it, what you wanna do is,
you wanna be able to bend that second
string all the way to the almost, so
it's pushing the third string almost to
the fourth string.
You really wan, really wanna get into
And again,
it's the Foggy Mountain Breakdown roll on
the right hand.
You, you can either go index, index, or
you go index, thumb.
As you would the Foggy Mountain Breakdown.
And this is sort of like, I always refer
to this choking thing.
[SOUND] It's not a quick like.
[SOUND] Like that.
And you wanna return to the slack position
where you're not bending it anymore.
Each time you hit it.
At least that's how I like to hear it.
And I always talk about the movie Sergeant
York with Gary Cooper.
Some of you older folks out there might
remember that, I certainly do.
And there's a scene where Gary Cooper as
Sergeant York,
who was a big World War I hero is in basic
And he's kind of starting to pull the
trigger a little too fast.
And the sergeant says, now squeeze it like
a lemon.
York squeeze it like a lemon, and this is
kind of the same thing.
[SOUND] just don't go, Like that.
It's a slower kind of a deal.
And you wanna hear that note right there.
You don't wanna just go [SOUND] You wanna
really get back to that note.
And I, I, as I'm let, letting go of the
slot, of the choke,
I just lift my finger away.
So I'm still touching the strings, but I'm
not fretting,
I'm not touching the fretboard.
Either way you hear just going back.
Anyway, and also if you're
having trouble bending the string, you
might wanna try a lighter gauge string.
I've got an 11 on the second string.
I used to use 12, and then it was a little
bit tricky to get the bending happening,
so I went to an 11 and it's much easier
So let me play this whole thing one more
Enjoy those back-up licks, and you can
just take them out and
stick them into other tunes.
A lot of these things are interchangeable.
So I'm actually staying kind of close to
the bridge for the second break too.
Usually, up the neck when he's doing this
kind of business.
He'll be away from the bridge,
but when he goes down the neck, he goes
back to the bridge.
So it's sort of like you're doing kind of
one of these things.
When you're down the neck here, you wanna
be close to the bridge.
When you're up the neck, you wanna be away
from the bridge.
Again, in this sort of situation he does
want us,
he is saying kinda close to the bridge
because he's doing not so much.
These particular licks, but
he's doing a more hard driving kind of
thing, so for
both of these you can stay close to the
So enjoy the back-up for my little girl in