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Banjo Lessons: Blues Etude

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All right,
here's a blues etude that I'm gonna be
leading into.
Blues is obviously a very important part
of bluegrass.
And blues and all music's pretty much,
it's a big part of American music.
And basically, when you're playing Blues,
you're playing out of a blues scale.
But let's start with just a regular G
diatonic scale.
Do re mi fa so la ti do.
Zero two on the third string.
Zero one on the second string,
zero two four five, or you can use the
fifth string for the last note.
a blues scale is generally a pentatonic
We might add another note or two to kind
of make it a little more colorful.
But since we're in the wonderful world of
G as we so often are in bluegrass,
we're gonna deal with a pentatonic scale
from the Greek penta.
I'm on slightly shaky ground there, but
I'm pretty sure that's right.
Meaning five, it's a five note scale.
One, two, three, four, five, and then you
end on the same note you started with,
in this case G.
And then notes you're going to be getting
are the.
[SOUND] The first note of the scale.
You skip the second note of the scale.
You go to the third
note of the scale but you flat it.
You go down one fret.
So, it's the first note of the scale.
The flatted third.
Do, re, mi, fa.
The fourth note of the scale, C in this
case in G.
One, two, three, four.
So one, flat three, fourth note of the
scale, fifth note of the scale.
Which is the first string D.
And then the flatted seventh, as if you're
a G seventh chord.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.
Then you flat it.
The third fret of the first string, F.
And end up on G again.
Since we're starting on the third string,
you could also get a nice blues note on
the fourth string.
[SOUND] There's the fifth note of the
scale, and the flatted seventh, but
an octave lower down on the fourth string.
That's the third measure.
And then you can do it in a bluesy scale,
In a melodic style.
[SOUND] Open third, eight fret of the
fourth string.
B flat, the flatted third, the pinkie.
The fourth note of the scale with
the index on the fifth fret of the third
Open first.
then sixth fret of the second string for
the flatted seventh, F.
Same notes, just a non-melodic style.
So, you can go.
There's the flatted third,
narrows up an octave on the eighth fret of
the third string,
since the eighth fret of the fourth and
the eighth fret of the first are the same.
Or you could go farther up.
One flat, three, four,
five, flat seventh, one, flat three, four,
there's your C note up higher.
Your middle is here.
Just slide it up to the eleventh fret of
the second string.
And back down.
you could go that far and then add the
ring on the 12th fret of the 5th string.
To get a really cool sound.
Those are the lead in ideas,
just talking about the blues scale and
giving you a couple different ways to do
that with the melodic and
just the regular playing the individual
notes with maybe the single string style.
So this is an etude.
Initially, I started off just kinda coming
up with.
Basic licks, you know, like a four measure
lick, blues lick.
And then I started realizing after I got
done with it all,
if you just play it straight through from
beginning to end after you've learned each
segment, it works as a really good atude
just playing it all the way through.
So I'm starting off with
Just doing a forward, backward roll G.
And then I add one of the blues notes.
Which is the C note,
the first note of the scale.
There's the sixth note of the scale, but
now I'm gonna move it up one fret.
And there's your flatted seventh note.
Good blues note.
And now.
I'm gonna add the index on the first fret
of the second string, the C note.
And the seventh,
flatted seventh on the first string.
one nice thing about that is you get rid
of the open second string,
which is the B note, which is the third
note of the scale, do, re, mi.
Since you wanted a flat [SOUND] Third note
in the blues scale.
So, if you're hitting
that open second string, it gets a little,
it's a little too major sounding.
by hitting that fourth not of the scale,
And there are a lot of old time tunings
where you tune the second string up to C.
Sometimes called a, so
I've heard it called Sawmill Tuning or
Modal Tuning, and
it's kinda cool because it gets very
It's neither major nor minor.
It's just kinda has that raised fourth
note there.
So, anyway.
[NOISE] Now, [NOISE] that's measure seven.
Ring, index, pinky.
You've got the flat third, fourth, excuse
me, flat seventh, backward roll.
That's measures 18 and 19.
That makes kind of a nice Bluegrass lick
right there.
Allen Shelton was one of the first people
I heard playing these blues
licks with Jim and Jesse in the early to
Bill Keith did a lot of it also.
And then measure 20.
is the next progression, the next lick you
could say, and
I'm just bending the note just a little
bit at the third fret of the third string.
Alternating thumb,
and then the lick we just played.
Next I'm goin'
Again, goin' down low gives you a little
Alternating thumb.
You have the third fret of the fourth
string, that blues note the flatted
Moving on, just more of these blues notes.
And then I do some hammer-ons.
Not fast hammer-ons, each one is worth an
eighth note.
Then, you have pull offs in measure 36.
And I'm pulling off ring to index.
And, on the second string,
and then ring to open on the third string.
[SOUND] Make sure they really snap, so
you hear the note your pulling off to as
loud as the note you're hitting initially.
Pull off on the fourth string.
Two of them, in fact.
And then.
This measure 40,
actually I'm keeping the index on the
first fret of the second string for that.
Even though I'm not even playing that
note, actually, I am playing it.
I'm sorry.
But throughout,
even when you're not playing it keep that
index down.
[NOISE] So I'm pulling off of the pinky,
three to zero.
[NOISE] And then ring pulling off three to
one, then three to zero.
Again, the index staying where it is even
when you're not playing it.
So you're doing the melodic blues scale.
Eighth fret of the first with the pinky,
the flatted third.
the middle finger on the sixth fret of the
second, which is the flatted seventh.
then, just a variation on that.
[NOISE] So, pinky on the eighth fret of
the first.
Middle's all ready on the sixth fret of
the second.
[NOISE] Pinky comes down one fret for the
seventh fret.
[NOISE] And then the index on the fifth
fret of the first,
middle staying cemented on that sixth fret
of the second string.
Now the index on the fifth fret
of the first, I'm sorry,
pinky on the fifth fret of the first.
Index on the first fret of the second.
Move the whole thing down a fret.
And down.
Then the melodic
Like you just played.
you're going up here to the higher blues
Fourth note of the scale,
flatted the third over here of the second
string, 11th fret.
Tenth fret of the first, 11th fret of the
Index, middle, it's a C note and a B-flat
And you're doing Osborne roll, middle,
index, middle, thumb,
going to that open first.
Move the whole thing down, just slide the
middle down to the sixth fret of
the second string, add the index on the
fifth fret of the first string.
You get [SOUND]
I'm losing myself here.
Once more.
that last measure is, [SOUND] Or second to
last measure.
Index and middle, ring, middle,
index, pinky.
And then backward rolls.
Hear that a lot in blues playing.
Courtney Johnson did a lot of that.
Bobby Thompson did a lot of that.
Just make sure you don't do it in pretty
songs that have no blues notes in, like
It doesn't work.
And then you have an ascending thing.
This is measure 64.
if you put this all together in one long
I think that's a nice thing to try to do.
Let's see if I can get through it here.
[NOISE] Starting with measure 12.
All right.
So, that's it.
There's the Blues Etude.
So, try it out in different chunks like
And I'm not applying this to any
particular tune right now, but
I think if you work through these, you'll
just find that a lot of these things can
just be put into place, as it'll sort of
start happening spontaneously.
So, good luck with the Blues etude.