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Banjo Lessons: Single String Scale Exercises

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I want to talk some more about single
string right now, and I'm gonna give you
some exercises, which will build your
facility in the single string zone.
And this is not moving around the neck,
this is just working out of scale
positions and developing.
Your comfortability with that.
But I find for myself just doing these
exercises, all single-string playing
feels more comfortable after I've done
this for a little bit.
So, basically when you're playing scales,
there are three ways to play a scale in
the single string.
Well, there are many ways, but there are
three basic main ways to do it.
One is starting with the pinky.
Let's say we're in G since we're so G
oriented, but
this can move around anywhere.
You could do, you could do G-sharp.
But we're gonna go down one fret and do G.
Let's start with the pinky on the fifth
fret of the fourth string.
And so you'll do that.
Start there.
And this is completely alternating thumb
index, thumb index, thumb index.
So I'm not even gonna have that written
out in the tablature.
Just know that maybe in the first two or
three notes of each section but it's all
thumb index, thumb index.
Completely alternating in the right hand.
So, again, one finger per fret is what
you've got going on here.
Start with the pinky.
On the fifth fret of the fourth, G.
And then index, ring, skipping the third
fret going to the fourth fret,
pinky on the fifth fret.
Of course, I didn't alternate the right
Let me do that correctly on the right
Now, what's interesting is, see how my
index finger's poking up like that?
This is, is how my hand is,
is naturally, naturally going, and
ultimately, you want economy of motion.
But I find, in my own hands, that
sometimes my hand just won't do it.
So you do what to be as close to the
finger board as possible,
especially when you're doing single string
cuz there's such a close relationship.
Between the left and right hands, there
are not a lot of open strings like you get
in Scruggs style or just, you know,
holding one chord position.
But your hand will do what it will do and
my hand.
As soon as I do that, the index goes up a
little bit.
So, that's just the way it is.
Okay, that's one way to do a, G scale.
The next way is starting with the middle
finger on the fifth fret of the fourth
string, and so you'll have the index below
on the fourth fret and
the pinky above on the seventh fret.
It feels a little bit easier to me, but
it's good to have facility at all
three positions, there's one more after
this one.
Starting with the middle on the fifth fret
of the fourth.
Going to the pinky on the seventh fret of
the fourth,
again I had my thumb behind the neck,
that's how.
It works best for me, so my fingers are
kinda curled around here.
Index, middle, pinky go to the second
string, fifth fret, seventh fret,
middle, pinky.
And back on the G note of the fifth fret
of the first string.
Then you're gonna have your index on the
fifth fret of the fourth string.
And starting G.
First it started with the pinky and then
it did this.
And then the middle.
And now the index.
And the way I play it, I don't end up on
the first string,
I end on the second string.
So it's, it's a little more of a stretch
You're going to be crossing from the fifth
to the ninth fret, so.
Index, middle, pinky, index, middle,
pinky, five, seven, nine, five,
seven, nine, thumb, index, thumb, index,
thumb, index, thumb, index,
and middle, ring, seven, eight on the
second string.
Now, let's.
Take each of those again, and rather than
just starting on G,
let's go to the lowest note.
That you can reach comfortably, which in
this case is your E note.
Just like you end like this.
Or you could end like that.
Two, four, five.
But now I'm starting on the fourth string.
Two, four, five.
So you're, you're extending your reach,
And this starts getting into.
Modal territory but I'm not gonna talk
That in this lesson.
So, basically, you're gonna have your
index on the fourth fret, sorry,
second fret of the fourth string, ring on
the fourth fret of the fourth, pinky, two,
four, five, on the third string.
Two, four, five, two, four, five.
Three, five.
Four, five, and I find that really awkward
That ring, the pinky.
Not really awkward, but it's a lot, it's a
little bit awkward, and
you may find that too.
But that's, that's a really good thing to
get used to doing if you wanna get more
fluent in single string.
And go up and down, if you wanna go.
I only have you going up, but you can go
down also.
Okay, and then you do the same.
With the.
Middle at the fifth fret of the fourth
Except you have that extra note at
the fourth fret of the fourth string.
If you go down to the index.
So let's start there.
You're still playing notes of the G scale.
Instead of ending on G you're gonna go up
to A at the seventh fret of the first
string, just because you have the pinky
And once you go up and down.
And now with this, starting with the index
as you already have done.
That's the G scale, and you've already
But now the middle can go to the 7th fret
of the first and
the pinky can go to the 9th fret of the
So, you have that extra extension up to
the 9th fret of the first string,
the B note, which is really good.
Okay, so those are the basic three scale
Going up and down.
And extending doing the extenders.
on now with our single string scale
Let's take this first scale exercise
where, with the extension.
let's just break this down into going up
Going up one note and back.
And then going up two notes.
Just adding each time.
So from the beginning.
Here's the second.
So you have
the full scale,
going up, ascending and
Now I'm going to do it in the etude form,
doing the entire everything we just did,
but without stopping, just all connected,
in one long chord.
So, that's good practice right there,
trying to get that straight.
And, when I was trying to do that last
time, rather than going.
Just all very mechanical,
try to put some feeling into it.
I always like moving a little bit away
from the bridge,
when I'm playing single string, and
lighten up your touch a little bit.
And, I should have mentioned this earlier,
but perhaps you've already been working
with a single string and got this already,
but lighten up your touch.
And you want economy of motion as much as
And again, I have my thumb behind the neck
to do it.
That's just how my hand works, and I can't
quite picture doing it any other way.
Put a little more emphasis on certain
notes more than others.
And so on and so forth.
Just try to bring out certain notes.
I'll let you feel it out yourself and work
with a metronome with all of this stuff.
You always wanna be working with a
metronome with this kind of a thing.
And then, you know, work with it for five
or ten minutes with a metronome and
then stop and maybe play that last
exercise without it just to see how,
how good it feels in your hands with the
timing being really locked into place.
Okay, so we'll be moving on to the next
exercise in the next lesson.
to Part Three of the single string scale
And this time we're gonna, we started with
the pinky the last time,
this time we're gonna do the middle
at the fifth fret.
Except starting with the index,
with the extension as we did earlier.
And we're gonna do the same.
thing where you go up one note at a time
and back again.
And then two.
Actually three notes, but
going up those added two.
So, here we go.
That's the first one.
Third, fourth.
there they
All are right there.
Let's put it
all together.
And I think it's very satisfying to
start slowly with the metronome, and
gradually build up speed.
Move it up one click, you know, that, that
last little etude there.
I think it's really fun.
Just start at one speed, add one click,
play it at that speed, then one click.
Just very gradually build it up.
See how fast you can get it without having
it fall apart.
Just to build more facility, more speed
with your single string playing.
Okay, well that's part four.
Okay folks.
Here are, are the single string exercises,
part four.
And this time you're going to start with
the index finger.
We started first with the pinky.
And then the middle with the fifth fret.
Now the index as, if you go back to part
one of this you'll see
what I'm talking about if you've just
jumped into this one here.
Doing the G scale starting
at the fifth fret of the four string with
the index.
The five,
seven, nine, five, seven, nine, seven,
eight, seven, nine.
And with the extension up to the B note,
the ninth fret of the first string.
So again what I'm doing is.
Doing segments where you go from the first
note to the second.
And then first, second, third, back to the
second, back to the first.
One, two, three, four, three, two, one.
And so on and so forth.
So here's the first one.
Okay and
that covers
all of them.
And again my thumb is behind the neck,
pretty far behind.
I've got my hand pretty arched over to be
able to do this.
So put together as an etude without
Little up, more up tempo.
Okay, so those are the initial flurry of
scale exercises in the single string
style, and there'll be more to come,
doing scale patterns and, ultimately, I'm
hoping to be talking about the modes.
No promises at the moment, but I'm sure
that somewhere down the line, we'll get
to that too, so hang in there, keep
listening, and good luck with all this.
And if these feels awkward to you just
keep working at it, it will get easier.
And I think that's one of the nice things
about, you know,
when you start feeling that progress,
especially with single string,
which seems to give a lot of people a hard
This is a good way to really work it when
we get into the trenches and
improve your single string playing
I think, again, once you do this, if
you're playing a,
a fiddle tune in the single string style
something else, it'll become a lot easier.
This, this should help your overall single
string playing.