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Old Time Fingerpicking
Classic Style Banjo
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Banjo Lessons: “Red Haired Boy” Version 1

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This is a magnificent version of Red
Haired Boy by Bill Keith.
I was at a Banjo enclave [LAUGH] in 19,
right, right around 1994 and I just
asked Bill to play his version of Red
Haired Boy, cuz I never heard him do it.
And I've found historically going back
into the 60s that any fiddle tune that
Bill Keith arranged and
played would be just about as good as it
could get on the Banjo.
It just has these wonderfully iconic
versions of like Devil's Dream,
Sailor's Hornpipe, Salt Creek Blackberry
Blossom on and on and on rowing oak.
And I never heard him play red haired boy,
so I wanted to see what he did.
This is a somewhat involved thing.
There are some repetitions through out.
What you could do potentially is just take
1A and 1B and then double those,
if you don't wanna try to memorize all the
little ins and outs.
I mean, there are the, like I said, there
are some repetitions, but
this is just a fantastic version of this.
And I just finished transcribing it before
I came out here to film it and
I'm just really thrilled to be able to
have you learn it.
So the first four measures [NOISE] come
from the ground.
These are called potatoes.
They may seem odd.
But this business here.
They're just an introduction.
They have nothing to do with the melody of
of red haired boy.
And I think some folks around New York
City, maybe Jody Stecher or Pete Wernick
or Steve Arkin, some of these folks from
the New York City area back in the 60s.
This a rumor anyway, that they came up
with the term potatoes.
It's basically imitating the sound of the
fiddle doing the shuffle to start off
a fiddle tune.
And then you start the tune.
But on the Banjo, for some reason, they're
called potatoes.
And it's a very simple thing, but it's
really cool what he does here.
He goes.
It kind of builds as he goes along.
It's kind of like Earl Scruggs version of
Farewell Blues where.
starts off with a simple thing like that
[NOISE] and
then he pinches on the first two strings
instead of a single note.
And then [NOISE] then speeds it up.
Not speeds it up, but it has more notes
going on.
So this, it's a building thing and I kind
of look at this as the same thing.
In the sense that he's doing a,
I'm not sure if he's hammering on or
I, I choose to slide, four to five on the
fourth string [NOISE] and
then the third string open.
[SOUND] We're going into a forward roll.
[SOUND] Open third, fifth first on the
second measure.
[SOUND] Instead of just the open third
[NOISE] there's a pinch on the first and
third, just giving things a little more
And then the third measure he go, ha,
adds more notes and does a forward
backward roll.
And then [NOISE] kind of there,
that's where the intensity doesn't stop,
but it, it doesn't build up from there,
but he repeats the second measure.
[SOUND] And this is a really great
prototypical thing to do for
any G fiddle tuner.
If you're capping up two frets and have an
A fiddle tune you want to do,
you can start with this.
he starts in measure 5, starts playing the
actual tune.
melodics with quarter notes is basically
what's going on here.
It goes quarter note on the fourth.
A little melodic lick.
[SOUND] Quarter note on the third and then
a little melodic.
[SOUND] And I use the middle for this next
And I use the middle for this next
Just notes out of the G scale melodically.
getting off each note so there's a nice
separation of notes.
So here's measure,
it's going into measure seven.
[SOUND] Zero, five on the second and
thirds strings.
[SOUND] And let go of that five as soon as
you hit the first string.
Three quarter notes, first third, third.
[SOUND] Middle on the fifth fret of the
I don't always do this myself but good
fingering would be.
[SOUND] To the pinky on the seventh fret
of the fourth, open third.
[SOUND] Index down on the third fret of
the fourth string.
And now this time instead of going, you
does a slide.
[SOUND] Four to five to the 3rd string
quarter note and then.
there's a little repetition from the line
before and then.
Quarter note on the first and
the melody really goes.
But instead of just going.
he goes
It is a foggy mountain break down roll.
Seven to 8 hammer on.
[SOUND] On the second string using the
index and
then the middle on the open first.
And then bring the thumb across.
I don't know this for sure.
But I imagine he's bringing the thumb
For the second hammer on.
And then we'll click a little melodic
[SOUND] Fifth fret of the second, fifth
string, fifth fret of the second,
backward roll to the second fret of the
third string, quarter note.
Pinch the first and the third strings with
your thumb and middle.
Fifth, first.
So up to that point you have.
Now the second A part begins.
And he goes.
[SOUND] He goes.
That's a real fiddly kind of thing to do.
So he pinches the fourth,
hits the fourth string and pinches the
first and third strings of the index and
middle in the right hand.
[SOUND] And it's a tight note over to the
next eighth note.
So you have.
Is the sound of it.
So [NOISE] index on the fourth fret of the
fourth open third.
Pinky on the seventh fret of the fourth.
Open second,
fifth fret of the third, just kinda.
Do, re, me, fa, so, la.
You're just going up a scale.
Landing on the fifth
fret of the third string as a quarter note
and then, [NOISE] instead of going.
[SOUND] Just melodic, just make it
slightly noti, notier.
Just a backward roll [NOISE] this is
measure 15.
And then rather than hitting the third
string twice, it goes.
Goes to the fourth string.
Third quarter note, fourth quarter note.
[SOUND] Middle on the fifth fret of the
third, open second, pinky.
[SOUND] And then instead of hitting the
third fret twice.
He goes two, three on the fourth string.
Fifth, first.
And then quarter note and that slide that
he did earlier.
Four to five then quarter note on the
Open second,
fifth fret of the third and then.
He's done that before.
And then, instead of going [NOISE] or.
He, he goes that way.
He takes that seventh fret of the second
string and chokes it.
Almost up to that melody note,
up to that G note at the fifth fret of the
first string.
Does it as a quarter note.
That's a quarter.
Quarter, quarter, quarter, [SOUND]
Backward roll.
And then.
[SOUND] Sorry.
[SOUND] That's measure 20.
now he has a two note lead into the B
And, I'll play the whole B part one time.
[NOISE] You just don't play that much
of the b part, that's the first half of
the b part.
So, there's a two note lead-in and then
measure 21, he's going [NOISE].
And I love this.
[NOISE] He goes, cuz the melody is
usually, [NOISE] just going back to
the third fret of the first string, but in
this case, he goes [NOISE].
It's not it's an Osborne roll.
FIrst second fifth.
I'm sorry, first second first fifth.
Index of the third fret of the first.
Ring at the fifth fret of the second.
then rather than just hitting the third
fret at the first string,
which I've done for many years and never
quite satisfied with it.
He went.
Just moved the ring up one fret to get
that same f note.
Then hitting it with the first string.
[SOUND] As a pinch.
Just makes it much punchier if you're
gonna kind of accent that note.
Instead of that.
Then he jumps back down to the ring down
to the fifth fret of the second.
And I go to the middle finger there.
then this is pretty much what you've
already done and this...
And here's the same idea, that choking
7th fret of the second string, but in this
case, he's just hanging the first string.
The thing about
Red Haired Boy and a number of probably
many Celtic tunes.
Many Irish tunes is the first two measures
of the A section and
the B section are different, but all the
rest is virtually the same.
Again, he's doing some slight variations
here and there, but basically,
you'll see a lot of material repeated
Now we're at the second b part measure 29.
The tune lead in from measure 28.
There's that six fret of the second and
open first again.
now he does a little scale pattern thing
So, open first, forward roll,
fifth fret of the third.
Let go of that as soon as you play it.
Don't make it too clipped, but
let it ring as you're about to hit the
second string and let go.
Forward roll and then fifth fret again,
bringing it back down.
Open second.
And let go of that fifth fret on the third
string again.
that seventh fret of the fourth I'm using
the pinky.
Let go of that.
And then the last part.
[SOUND] Open second, pinky on the seventh
fret of the fourth.
Forward roll.
Third first.
[SOUND] And then a quick single string
[SOUND] Two zero on the third string.
Three two on the fourth.
Thumb, index, thumb, index and then the
final hurrah for the last line.
[SOUND] Sorry.
In this case, he does a two to five slide.
[NOISE] And this is a little different
I've heard this variation before.
It's really nice.
[NOISE] So he goes, open, first, fifth
fret on the second,
fifth, let go of the middle, add the pinky
on the seventh fret of the first.
Fifth fret on the second, let go with the
Fifth on the fifth fret of the third, I'm
middle on the fifth fret of the third
Which becomes a forward roll.
Open second and then.
With a backward roll.
So first.
Second fret of the third.
Fourth fret of the fourth.
Part, partial D chord.
And then actually middle.
And index on the first and third string is
Fifth first.
I'll play this whole thing a little bit
Not way slowly because it's so long.
And then I'll play it up to tempo.
One, two, one two three and.
Okay, and just a little faster.
One, two, three, and.
It's such an incredible tune.
It's been a standard of the blue grass
banjo repertoire for
way back into the 60s for sure.
And again, I just recorded Bill Monroe
sitting in his room playing this, and
this, he just did this off the top of his
He doesn't have an exact arrangement.
He has, you know, certain ideas that keep
but you can see he just has these fine
tuned little changes that he does.
They just come out spontaneously, I'm
So, it's just and it really,
it's an impressive version of the tune,
and we owe so much to Bill Keith,
an incalculable debt for everything he's
done for the banjo starting back
in the early 60s when he was developing
his version of the melodic style and
getting it out there with Bill Monroe and
the Grand Ole' Opry in March of 1963.
So, thank you, Bill Keith for Red Haired