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Banjo Lessons: “Danny Boy”

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Danny Boy.
Now this is little different than anything
else on the site.
These are, it's a chord solo, basically,
playing the melody of the old Scottish
Danny Boy, just a beautiful song.
I think I got the inspiration to do this
from a guy named Buddy Emmons who's sorta
like, he's, not sorta like, he is the Earl
Scruggs [LAUGH] of steel guitar,
of pedal steel guitar.
And, he did a version of this that I have
record, that it would just bring you
It's just unbelievable how sumptuously
beautiful it is, all these amazing chords.
So I just wanted to kind of use that as an
inspiration, as a jumping off point.
So a lot of the melodies just on the first
once you get past this little introduction
you're using chords to flesh out the sound
so you don't need any other instrument.
It works just by itself, and Sonny Osborn
was really big on doing this sort of
thing, and he's the first person I can
think of that really did it on the banjo.
I'm willing to stand corrected if other
people did it first,
but he's the one that I always associate
with this sort of thing because
he was really inspired by steel guitar
players and guitar players in Nashville,
because the Osborne brothers sort of
gravitated towards that.
There was a while when they
were really on a line between country
music and bluegrass.
They were playing bluegrass, but they
would have Hal Rugg playing steel guitar,
and Grady Martin playing guitar who's a
session guy down there.
And, they were really into the session
so they had all these other influences
besides just Bill Monroe and
the Stanley brothers, and that sort of
So, anyway, that's where this
arrangement's coming from, so
I'm just gonna break it down bit by bit.
Oh Danny Boy.
Don't worry, I'm not gonna sing the whole
I'm starting, I've got some contrary
motion going here.
That's on the fourth string
the melody's doing that.
Oh Danny Boy.
I'm doing this in the context of chords.
I'm starting with an A seventh bar, the
first three strings at the second fret.
And the pinkie on the fifth fret of the
fourth string, and I'm doing it
inside pitch, and then I go down to the
fourth fret of the fourth string.
Pinch that with the first two strings, and
then I borrow the first two strings, and
hit the fourth, second, and first string.
And then I'm just strumming the full D
chord so
you can get that nice low D note as well.
And then I just bar the first two, first
three strings for
an A chord back to the D and just move
that position all the way up here to G.
And I'm just,
just using chords to fill out the sound.
G chord, D, to the D here,
and then you go to a G chord.
And I've got nice, rich chords here.
This, the melody's on the first string.
Then you go to the second string.
And I'm just doing a G open.
First three strings let go of the second
And then go inside.
That's a nice, rich chord.
Second, third and fourth strings.
Well, you could also just do.
Do that.
And I'm not just hitting the chord.
I'm arpeggiating it quickly.
Like a very quick forward roll.
And rather than doing it.
You could just go,
do that and then you open first string.
And then down to there.
And then there's a little pause.
You don't even have to play this in time.
It can be very free, like, a little more
roboto, just kind of free time.
So we're in measure five now.
The D cord, and now, D minor chord, which
is one of the diatonic chords in D and
I don't wanna get into that whole thing
right now, but.
It works and has notes within the D scale,
so it works very nicely.
This five, five, four, pinkie, ring,
index, and then I bring the ring.
Pinky up to the seventh fret of the first,
ring the seventh fret of the second,
middle on the seventh fret of the third.
Then I move the pinky up to the ninth fret
and do a G chord.
Back to the D, back to the lower D,
the lower D from there on the second,
third, and fourth string.
It's three, two, one, four, middle, index,
and ring.
And then back.
And I lift off the pinky when I do that,
and then I lift off the ring, and
go back to the pinky.
You're sort of jumping back and forth like
To the D.
And then.
You might wanna strum that.
It's a nice, it's an E seventh chord.
Here's D, moving up two frets, the D
So the ring is on the ninth.
I'm sorry, sixth fret of the fourth.
Index on the fourth fret of the third.
Middle on the fifth fret of the second.
Open first.
It would be there but I'm opening up the
first to get a seventh chord.
And then I hit the open first string.
Back to the A seventh that we started
The, barring the first three strings of
the second fret pinky and
the fifth fret of the fourth, and then,
the same way we did this before.
we go up to the G up here, the D position
G, 7, 8, 9 index, middle, ring.
And then the little.
Just a really pretty sound.
In the middle,
on the third fret of the third string.
It's kind of a.
Let's see, I'm going.
Now, it's kind of like a diminished chord
but not.
I didn't work this out before I started
this lesson, and
I'm not going back now but it's that
I'll see if I can think of it while I'm
showing you the rest of it.
So you have the second fret of the second
string with the index,
middle on the third fret of the third.
Add the ring and
then bring the index over to the second
fret of the first string back to D.
And then just the simple melody, pinky on
the seventh and fifth frets.
And then fourth fret to first, second fret
of the first against the G-chord.
And then back to the A7 chord barring
across the first three strings of
the second fret with the index pinky on
the fifth fret of the force, fourth.
But I'm doing a little suspension added
Do, re, mi, fa on the second string third
I'm playing the inside strings
And then the low part of the D chord.
Inside strings and then up to the G.
Position G.
Five, four, three for the forth, third,
second strings.
Ring, middle and index.
And a G-minor.
Fifth fret of the fourth, third fret of
the third, index.
You're borrowing the first three strings
of the third fret, basically.
Back there, and then.
Let's see.
So there you're going
into the chorus, basically.
Rather than just doing D, G,
I'm sorry, D, G, A, D, I'm going.
I have a D with the suspension, meaning
doh, ray, mi, fa, one, two, three, four.
Adding the fourth note to the start of the
first three strings, which is a D-chord.
Add the middle on the eighth fret of the
So start with that, and then turn it into
a G-chord by just adding.
And the pinky on the 9th fret of the
Move it up two frets to the A chord and
now you're beginning the chorus.
And I'm just strumming that so you can get
the low D string and it's 11, 10, and 12.
Double index, pinky for the D chord,
D position D chord and then
You could just go to melody.
It goes to a G there.
But rather than just have the G and then
have the pinky go up like that, I just
find that really poignant, that sound.
So, you're basically fretting the seventh
fret of third string and you've got
the pinky on the 11th fret of the first,
ring on the tenth fret of the second.
And then bring those down two frets so you
have A.
G chord with a pinky, ring, index.
I know this is a big stretch.
This may be difficult for some of you but.
And then, lift off the pinky and
I've still got the ring at the 8th fret of
the second string.
And then you resolve back to this.
So, you have the suspended D, back to the
G, and then.
That D, that D, and that D.
We've already done that before.
And then repeat.
And up here you've got the 12,
12 and 11 [SOUND]
And then back to this.
And then the,
the E seventh.
Okay, so
now you're down at the A chord bar, the
second fret, hitting the second,
third and fourth strings cuz the melody
note is on the second string.
then hit three times on the seventh fret
of the first string.
Just middle, three times.
If they're quarter notes and.
You're taking this D chord moving
it up here.
Up an octave between the 14th and
16th frets, so you have.
3rd, 2nd, 1st string.
14, 15.
And 16.
Index, middle, and ring.
4th string.
then the pinkie goes to the 14th fret of
First string.
Next measure, which is 27.
It's a G chord but
with a melody up here on the fourteenth
fret of the first string.
Goes off to G.
G, this, the position G.
Seven, eight, nine.
Index, middle pinky.
Up to the 12th fret the bar position, but
I'm using the pinky, ring,
and middle, cuz I, you're here, and then
the pinky just slides up.
And then slide that all the way back, all
the way down to D.
To this regular old D on the first three
And then rather than going just the low D.
I am playing the low D
But I'm adding the pinky on the fourth
fret of the fourth string which gives you
a B minor.
And then it resolves to G.
And then this same thing we did before to
D and those two melody notes.
Pinky, pinky, seven, five on the first
And that G with a four, two on top of it,
and then the.
Suspended A7.
Let go of the middle finger.
To D.
And then G.
G minor which was already done.
You can just end on D.
So, one thing I haven't mentioned yet is
the idea of sliding between
positions because it just gives us added
dimension to everything.
Especially if you're, you don't want to be
real close to the bridge.
You want to be a little bit away, if not
around here somewhere.
Because, it'll bring these slides out.
In other words, as you start, if you go,
You take that whole chord, hit it, and
just slide it up.
As opposed to going.
Cuz as I'm teaching it to you,
I'm just showing you the basic chord
But as you actually are playing it.
And then you, once you're in this G,
you're back to the D.
And you can, you can slide that down to
Just like kind of the index just on the
third string.
You can kind of slide down.
Anyway, there are certain places in the
tune where you can do it.
Pay attention to the way I play it.
But especially, that's really a nice place
to do that.
Slide from that D up to that G to the
barred D.
just kinda slide down on the third
to there.
And there are other spots too.
Just pay attention to that as a way to add
a little more flavor to what
you're doing here.
So here's Danny Boy, one more time.
Danny Boy.