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Old Time Fingerpicking
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Banjo Lessons: “Nine Pound Hammer” Improv

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Nine Pound Hammer, one of the all time
great tunes in the blues and Blue Grass
tradition, old time country music.
And, I want to use this as a tool to
approaching improv in a certain way.
Cause improvising is one of the main
things we want to be working on.
In addition to all these oceans of
tablature we have in
the world,alot on this site, books, DVDs
and what not.
I want you to really start thinking about
coming out of yourself and
out of your own experience and for
this particular exercise we're going to be
using blue grass licks.
And plugging in different licks in
different places so
you can see there's not just one way to
play a tune.
First, let me just quickly describe nine
pound hammer here.
And then, we'll kind of change things
around inside it.
I'm really playing the syllables on this.
Right from that very beginning.
From that very beginning, instead of
Which is what a lot of people do.
I'm doing a single string thing on
the fourth string.
[SOUND] And then.
i'm doing a slide tot he second, another
slide to the second.
A three to two pull off to the first
And then you go to the C chord,
hit the open third and then
Come down.
That's the c chord.
Here's the c.
quarter note on the third, we'll repeat
the c here.
Hammer on into forward roll zero to two on
the first string.
Hammering on open in the middle.
Forward roll fifth second first.
[SOUND] And then fifth set in the next
major is fifth, second, add the pinky on
the third fret of the third string and you
can bend it just a little bit.
[SOUND] Forward roll, open third, second
fret of the fourth, open first.
So the whole first part is.
Now you're back to G.
Quarter note on the fourth string.
Fifth, third, first, fifth, third, first.
First, hard to say.
And then alternating thumb, all open.
And then the second fret of the fourth.
And let go as soon as we hit that.
This is for my size.
So two
On the second fret of the fourth string.
Let go as you
Open third string, let it down again.
Let go as you hit the first string,
alternating thumb.
Thumb, index, thumb,
first to get that separation of notes by
letting go.
Even though it's easier just
to keep it down.
Doesn't sound nearly as classy as going.
And then.
That tag.
[SOUND] Ending.
Quarter note on the fifth string.
On third string,
hit the fifth string quarter note.
Instead of going second
fret of the first string.
I heard Earl Scruggs do this on the Grand
Ole Opry with
Bill Monroe on a TV broadcast.
Where it instead of getting those notes,
he does this.
[SOUND] He takes the top part of your F
position G chord.
Pinky on the fifth fret of the first
index on the third fret of the second.
Holds that position but
adds the ring on the fifth fret of the
And gets the melody note instead of on
the first string on the second string he
is where he gets it.
But pinches it with the first string at
the fifth fret, which gives this really
nice strong sound.
And then the three to two pull off.
While you grow so, how you grow, so
you're doing two forward rolls.
The first forward roll has a two to three
And that second
forward roll has a three to two pull off
like that.
Third, first, thumb, middle.
And then.
It's an alternating thumb.
And then another alternating thumb.
Hit the second, fourth, first, and then
add the pinky again as,
as you go into a forward roll.
Forward backward roll actually.
[SOUND] Again, a little bend.
I'm sorry.
I've got that open here.
And then open first string quarter note.
Two forward rolls.
Five, three,
one another two alternating thumbs.
Let go each time for that separation of
one more time it's, slow it down one and
two and three.
Okay, and there should be a practice.
Track up in, I think it's in, it's going
to be in the key of A.
So, you'll have to capo up two frets to
play along with it but,
you'll have someone to play along with
when you want to play this.
Okay, now, here's what I want to do.
In terms on improv, that's one way to play
the tune and
it's just an arrangement I came up with
playing the syllables.
There are a lot of different ways of
approaching this cause the way I'm doing
this for starters I'm going.
By hitting that third string dead on.
What you could also do is,
And this is the first measure after
the tune itself.
It replaces measure two right here instead
of just open like that.
I'm going to hit the third string quarter
note, and then re emphasize it.
The two to five slide on
the fourth string.
[SOUND] [SOUND] Into a forward roll.
that's one thing you could do.
Suddenly you have an improvisation.
This is a different way of playing it.
Or and then after that.
And then you just keep going to the third
measure and play it as is in the original
Or you could replace the second and third
measures, which is what comes next here,
by going
Instead of hitting the third string and
then re-emphasizing there, start with a
slide on the fourth string
you're just doing a lot of forward rolls.
With a slide on that third string and
a pull off.
And then you go to the C chord on
the fourth measure.
Like that.
Okay, now you could also, instead of going
for the C chord.
You could do this,
you could replace measures four and five
by going.
Starting on the third string.
Hammer on.
I'm sorry.
Kind of a pretty sound so
you start the same way.
Quarter note on the third forward roll.
Zero to two on the fourth string.
Now, instead of hitting the two,
you're gonna bring the pinky to the third
fret of the first string.
Back to the two, backward roll.
Quarter note two forward rolls.
Add the pinky, let go of the pinky and do
a forward backward roll.
open first.
And then you're back to measure six where
you're hitting a quarter note on the
fourth string.
Then we can change measures
six and seven.
After the C chord, instead of going.
You can go.
And do that.
So, let's do it from the C chord.
instead of what we have for measures six
and seven, you're going to go.
And then back to this.
Or, and let's start from the beginning so
you can hear how that sounds.
Now for measure eight instead of going.
You could do something that Don Reno has
done, and Ralph Stanley,
very subtle thing for this lick.
Instead of going back to the open third,
you just do two forward rolls.
Third, first, first forward roll the way,
the way you usually do it, but
instead of going to the open third you go
back to the fifth string and you do a pull
off two to zero on the fourth string,
hitting it with the index finger.
[SOUND] First string.
It's a really subtle little change but
it's just another little thing you could
And here's something else you could do for
measures six and seven leading into it.
Well, instead of what you've got there
right now, you could go.
we'll start from the beginning and plug
this new thing into six and seven.
So, what you have,
you have the four string quarter note, two
to three hammered on.
Forward roll and
here's the Foggy Man breakdown roll again,
but over on the third string.
Pull off.
I'm sorry.
So, these are just a many,
many different things that you can do and
you could have all these thrown in or
some, not all of them cuz there's some
super imposed ones.
But you could do two or three or only one
there's a lot of variations just with
these elements you hear, and
these are just some of the things you can
Theres really an infinite number of things
you can do.
You can go.
I'm just kind of free associating here,
but those are some ideas of things you can
do there.
So hopefully this will kind of nudge you
in the direction of improvising,
just giving you the idea that there are
these other ways of doing things.
And with every single tune that is on
this website there are other things you
can do with them.
It's not just done one way.
Okay, I hope you put this to use.