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Banjo Lessons: JD Back-Up

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[MUSIC]
I want to talk about J.D.
Crowe's Back-up right now.
J.D. is the real king of back-up, as is
Earl.
J.D.'s back-ups may be even a little more
involved than what Earl does.
Not better, just, just different.
And J.D. Crowe just comes up with the
stuff.
It just kind of pours out of his head into
his fingers and out to us and
we're all the richer for it.
I got ahold of a tape where someone had
recorded just J.D. Crowe's banjo.
It was with a Bluegrass album band back in
the 80s and they put a mic on J.D.
Crowe's mic.
So mostly what you can hear is just J.D.'s
banjo and
all the other instruments are just kind of
muffled in the background.
So it's really easy to transcribe and get
very accurate.
Transcriptions of what J.D.'s playing.
So I did this with a Flat and Scruggs tune
called We Can't be Darlings Anymore.
And you don't need to know that tune, it's
just G, C, D chord progression.
And there are a lot of great licks in here
that you can take and
nab and just throw into other
improvisation.
Not improvisations, but other back-ups.
And there was a lot of improvisation in
back-up too.
And this is what J.D.'s doing here.
He's obviously just making this up.
He didn't write this down and then play
it, note for note.
He's using certain licks that he's used in
other places, but
everything's kinda very free.
So, let me just play through this and then
I'll dissect it for you.
[MUSIC]
So there's oceanic amounts of information
in that, just one time through that tune.
So he starts off with this.
[MUSIC]
And this is the standard backup you get.
This is higher level PhD style back-up, I
should mention that in the first place.
[MUSIC]
And
he's kinda going from this position to
this position.
He starts with a fifth fret of the fourth
string.
You're doing the F position G here.
[MUSIC]
Damping it, and
then slide up to the next inversion of G.
[MUSIC]
Between the seventh and
ninth fret with the pinky on the ninth
fret of the first.
[MUSIC]
Middle on the eight fret of the second.
[MUSIC]
Index on the seventh fret of the third.
[MUSIC]
Ring on the ninth fret of the fourth.
[MUSIC]
But once it gets up here,
hits the fourth string.
[MUSIC]
Second string.
[MUSIC]
And then pinches the first and third.
[MUSIC]
And he damps that.
[MUSIC]
So it's one,
two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.
And for eight I'm assuming he's using his
index finger for this,
which is kind of weird to bring it over to
the fourth string, but.
[MUSIC]
He hits that forth string and
he slides the ring down to the fifth fret
[MUSIC]
to go back to this.
So it goes.
[MUSIC]
Back-up.
[MUSIC]
This time, he does a forward roll.
[MUSIC]
And then, and this is something that J.D.
Crowe does a lot, as does Earl.
They, they switch to the next chord one
note early, one eighth note early.
So he's going.
[MUSIC]
He's playing
already going to the C chord one note
early, so the second measure he's here.
[MUSIC]
Forward roll.
And for the last eighth note like one,
two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.
He's already switched to his F position C
chord and you just move the ring and
index, I'm sorry.
Ring finger on the fourth string and pinky
on the first string up to
the tenth fret of the first two strings
and invert the index and
middle, so you have your F
[MUSIC]
position C chord.
[SOUND] So
the pinky's at the tenth fret of the first
index of the eighth fret of the second.
[MUSIC]
Middle on the ninth fret of the third,
ring on the tenth fret of the fourth and
you've got.
[MUSIC]
Now when he gets here.
[MUSIC]
This is the standard, really great,
Scruggs lick.
[MUSIC]
And you can do it.
[MUSIC]
Anywhere.
[MUSIC]
Moves all over the neck, but
he's doing it in C.
[MUSIC]
And this is something a lot of people do,
this way they go.
[MUSIC]
Thumb, index.
Thumb, index.
But it really goes this way.
It goes, thumb, thumb, index, index.
So you're doubling the thumb on the third
string and index on the second string,
which is really, you're not supposed to do
that, but it makes for a funkier sound.
[MUSIC]
Swingier sound as opposed to.
[MUSIC]
Now Alan Munde, I've seen
do this recently and he goes thumb, index,
thumb, index, and it works for him.
So it's not to say you have to do it that
way, but
if you're already doing it that way just
for argument's sake try.
[MUSIC]
Thumb, thumb, index.
And what you're doing here is you've got
the ring on the tenth fret of the first
of the fourth.
Sorry.
[MUSIC]
Middle on the tenth fret of the first.
[MUSIC]
And then you bring the index,
you keep the pinky
[MUSIC]
down on the tenth fret of
the first string.
But let go of everything else and go to
the index on the eighth fret of the third.
[MUSIC]
Middle on the ninth fret of the third.
[MUSIC]
And then with the index over to eighth
fret of the second, and the ring into the
tenth fret of the second.
And that's index, index in the right hand.
The pinky still is planted here on the
tenth fret of the first string.
[MUSIC]
As you hammer on, hit that first string.
[MUSIC]
Thumb, middle, thumb,
thumb, index, index, thumb, middle, thumb.
That's a quarter note that begins the next
measure of C.
And then he goes quarter note.
[MUSIC]
Pinch on the first two
strings,
[MUSIC]
a forward roll.
[MUSIC]
And
then
[MUSIC]
he slides up.
Again, one note early to the D chord.
[MUSIC]
This is the fourth measure of the lick.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
And
then he slides up, again one note early,
to the D chord.
[MUSIC]
This is the fourth measure of the lick or
of the back-up I should say.
[MUSIC]
And he slides up, hitting the third and
first string.
Again, one eighth note early he's already
in D.
And now he's planted in D.
[MUSIC]
It's your F position up two frets.
[MUSIC]
And here he goes.
[MUSIC]
I'm sorry.
[MUSIC]
So he's going.
He's here in F position D chord.
Quarter note on the fourth string.
[MUSIC]
And then hits the first string,
forward roll.
[MUSIC]
Another forward roll but as he does this.
Second forward roll.
[MUSIC]
Collapses the index across the first two
strings into a bar.
[MUSIC]
To give a D seventh.
[MUSIC]
Like this D seventh, but up here.
[MUSIC]
So.
[MUSIC]
Into the bar.
Another forward roll.
[MUSIC]
So it's fourth.
[MUSIC]
First.
[MUSIC]
Third.
[MUSIC]
Second.
[MUSIC]
First.
I'm sorry.
Once again.
Fourth.
[MUSIC]
First. [MUSIC]
Third.
[MUSIC]
Second.
[MUSIC]
First.
[MUSIC] Third. [MUSIC]
Second.
[MUSIC] First. [MUSIC]
Third.
[MUSIC] Second. [MUSIC]
First.
[MUSIC]
And he does a little tied note there and
then goes to the third string.
[MUSIC]
And then goes to the fourth string.
[MUSIC]
And slides down to the ninth
fret,
[MUSIC]
where he adds the pinky on the ninth fret
of the first string,
which is taking him back
[MUSIC]
to this D position G.
So he's going.
[MUSIC]
Again,
now he's going back to the G chord one
note early.
He's already down here.
[MUSIC]
Essentially,
in this D position G and he does this.
Again, just the pinky is planted at the
moment.
[MUSIC]
So
[MUSIC]
he hits the fifth string and
the third string.
[MUSIC]
And
then he hammers on seventh to ninth on the
fourth string.
[MUSIC]
Quick hammer on two sixteen notes.
[MUSIC]
First string.
And then he has, I think he's fretting the
first three strings at the ninth.
[MUSIC] Eighth. [MUSIC]
And seventh frets of the first.
[MUSIC] Second. [MUSIC]
And third strings respectively.
Pulls-off nine to seven on the third
string or the ring on the left hand.
[MUSIC]
Hits the second string and
then brings the ring over to the ninth
fret of the fourth string.
And then hits the third string,
[MUSIC]
which is at the seventh fret with
his thumb.
So he doubles the thumb.
[MUSIC]
And then,
hits a quarter note on the second string,
which is just sitting at the eighth fret.
You're still basically, fretting these
first three strings at the D position
G chord between the seventh and ninth
frets.
[MUSIC]
Quarter note, bring the ring on the ninth
fret of the third nn open, not open frets,
but the ninth fret of the first.
[MUSIC]
Fifth.
[MUSIC] Third. [MUSIC]
It's really.
[MUSIC]
So it's index.
[MUSIC]
Thumb.
[MUSIC]
Middle.
[MUSIC]
Thumb.
[MUSIC]
Index.
And then he brings the ring to the ninth
fret of the fourth string.
[MUSIC]
Hits that with a thumb and
slides it down to the fifth fret.
[MUSIC]
And
rings the pinky on the fifth fret of the
first string.
So he's, in the next, he's not going to a
different chord, but
he's in the next position of G.
Again, one note early.
So.
[MUSIC]
And as soon as he gets down there,
he goes back-up.
Again, he goes.
[MUSIC]
I'm sorry.
[MUSIC]
I'm sorry this is what it is.
[MUSIC]
So you're in your
[MUSIC]
F position G here and you hit the four,
but you're really, at this point, just
[MUSIC]
hitting the fifth fret of the fourth
string quarter note.
[MUSIC]
Slide five to nine and
you're up in your D position here.
[MUSIC]
G.
[MUSIC]
Hit the first string and then.
[MUSIC]
And I think it's going thumb.
[MUSIC]
Index.
[MUSIC]
Thumb.
[MUSIC]
Thumb.
[MUSIC]
Thumb.
[MUSIC] Thumb. [MUSIC]
Index.
[MUSIC]
So [MUSIC] slide, hit the third string.
[MUSIC]
And you're going nine to seven.
Ring to index.
Thumb [MUSIC] index, then the ring goes to
the ninth fret of the fourth string.
[MUSIC]
Thumb.
[MUSIC] Thumb. [MUSIC]
Index.
[MUSIC]
Fourth.
[MUSIC]
Third.
[MUSIC]
Second string.
[MUSIC]
Here's the next measure.
[MUSIC]
And this time,
he just stays on G before going back to
the C chord.
So index,
[MUSIC]
quarter note and
you're still in the D position on the
first three strings.
Bring the ring to the ninth fret of the
third.
[MUSIC]
Thumb.
[MUSIC]
Middle on the first string and
then let go of the ring and you've got the
seventh fret of the third string.
[MUSIC]
Thumb.
[MUSIC]
Index.
[MUSIC]
Ring on the ninth fret of
the fourth string.
[MUSIC]
Ninth fret on the first string.
This whole thing is.
[MUSIC]
It's all this D position with the index
going
[MUSIC]
from the third to the fourth string at
the seventh fret and the ring going
[MUSIC]
between
the
[MUSIC]
third string, ninth fret and
the fourth string, ninth fret.
So.
[MUSIC]
And then you go back-up to the C.
[MUSIC]
So
[MUSIC]
you play C chord.
Again, you're moving away from the bridge
when you do this.
You don't want to be,
[MUSIC]
you don't wanna be there,
you want to be
[MUSIC]
anywhere around in here,
just not right up on the bridge.
[MUSIC]
So
quarter note on the fourth string
[MUSIC]
and wrap the thumb around the fifth string
at the eighth fret.
[MUSIC]
Quarter note on the fourth.
[MUSIC]
First forward roll.
[MUSIC]
Forward roll.
[MUSIC]
Forward roll.
[MUSIC]
Fifth.
[MUSIC]
Third.
[MUSIC]
And
then you slide from tenth to twelve
[MUSIC]
up to the twelve fret of the fourth and
add, the pinky just slides up to the
twelve fret of the first string.
Again, anticipating the D chord one note
early, one eighth note early.
[MUSIC]
And then the D chord starts with.
[MUSIC]
So this is kind of what you did before.
[MUSIC]
Quarter note, then the first string.
[MUSIC]
In measure five,
this is what you were doing.
[MUSIC]
The forward rolls going in
to the barred first two strings at the
tenth fret giving you the D seven.
So.
[MUSIC]
There's that little pause for
that tied note in there.
You want to make sure you've got that in
there.
[MUSIC]
And he's, he stays on that ten there.
[MUSIC]
And
now this is the ending of the tune and he
does this.
[MUSIC]
This is an Earl ending.
It's a very cool thing.
He hits the fifth string,
[MUSIC]
quarter note.
[MUSIC]
And then slides five to eight on
the second string
[MUSIC]
with the middle finger.
[MUSIC]
Hits it again and
then as the ring on the ninth fret of the
third string.
[MUSIC]
And
then he bends the eighth fret of the third
string, for some reason, I can't fathom.
But Earl does it this way and it's cool,
but it's just weird.
[MUSIC]
And then.
[MUSIC]
Nine.
[MUSIC]
Seven on the third string.
[MUSIC]
Seventh fret of the second string.
So index.
[MUSIC]
Index.
[MUSIC]
Index ring.
[MUSIC]
Index.
[MUSIC]
Middle.
[MUSIC]
And I think you would be going thumb.
[MUSIC]
Index.
[MUSIC]
Thumb.
[MUSIC]
Index.
[MUSIC]
Or thumb, thumb.
[MUSIC] Index. [MUSIC]
Thumb.
[MUSIC]
Thumb.
So let me play the whole thing slowly.
This is a real finger full to handle all
this.
So, one and two and.
[MUSIC]
Little more up to tempo.
[MUSIC]
One, two, three and four and.
[MUSIC]
All right.
Good luck with that.
And again, you can just pluck out certain
licks wherever you want them.
[MUSIC]
that's a real pluckable lick, as is this.
[MUSIC]
All that kind of stuff,
you can just plug in all sorts of things
or.
[MUSIC]
And
we already have some of these licks, some
of the other lessons on improvisation, but
this is real upper level stuff here.
Like I say, you don't have to memorize
this whole thing and play every bit of
this, but just take out some of the licks
you like, you know, this business.
[MUSIC]
You could do that.
Again, this.
[MUSIC]
Or any of this.
[MUSIC]
Kind of stuff around in here.
Just grab, you know, one or two measures
and
throw them in your other improv in your
other back-ups.
Which again can be very improvisatory in
nature as this was, I'm sure.
All right.
So I hope you enjoy, We Can't Be Darlings
Anymore.
All that back-up
[MUSIC]