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Banjo Lessons: “Heavy Traffic Ahead”

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[MUSIC]
And then, measure six.
I love this sound.
It's really funky.
And this, this is actually creating a C
ninth chord.
I'm not sure if Earl was thinking about
that exact technical thing at the time,
theoretical thing, but if you play this
and
this is where you started, against a G,
but
here you are in C doing the exact same
position, except three pinches in a row.
And if you play a C chord bottom part of
this F position C chord is the,
your C note and your E note, the tonic and
the third.
Now if you add the ring on the eleventh
fret of the second string,
that's the seventh note of a C, B-flat.
But you're on the eleventh fret of the
second string and this note here,
the D note of the twelfth fret of the
first is the ninth note of the C scale.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven,
eight, nine.
So when you take that ninth and the
flatted seventh.
It creates a C ninth chord which is a
really beautiful color so, you go.
Against the C chord anyway, which is what
he's doing here,
he's playing it against a C, is giving you
a C ninth chord, a very you know,
sophisticated thing for banjo playing in
1946.
Very jazzy stuff.
So, you're coming out of measure five.
[MUSIC]
So
actually as I'm doing this, I do have the
ring at the ninth fret of the first and
the index at the, even though I'm not
playing it in measure five, and
the index at the eighth fret of the
second.
And then, I just slide that whole position
up to the eleventh fret of the second,
index just slides up and the ring just
slide up, both of those
just slide up to the eleventh fret of the
second and twelfth fret of the first.
So two quarter notes, and then an eighth
note, and he jumps back to the index at
the eighth fret of the second, middle at
the ninth fret of the third.
The fifth string, so.
You're pinching with the index in middle,
in the right hand.
[NOISE] Index, thumb, thumb, repeat.
Exactly, and now you're done here and you,
you're going back to G now and you're in
your Sally Goodin position.
[NOISE] So that, those are measures eight
and nine, or
the, all of eight and part of nine.
So, you're at the eighth fret of the
second and
then the pinky goes to the eleventh fret
of the second.
So you keep the index down, you,
again you're staying in your Sally Goodin
position.
And I'm going index in the right hand,
index, index, index.
And then bring the index, bring the middle
finger
down at the ninth fret of the third
string, sorry.
[NOISE] And then measure nine, [NOISE]
still in the Sally Goodin
position on the first two strings at the
eighth fret of the second.
[NOISE] Twice with the index.
And then the middle comes down to the
ninth fret of the third and
the rings meanwhile, it's just sitting in
position at the ninth fret of the first,
even though you're not playing it.
[NOISE] And so here's the syncopation.
[MUSIC]
So, this is going from nine into ten.
Da, measure nine into measure ten.
[NOISE] So, as I do that, jump to the
middle of
the twelfth fret of the first string.
You could use the ring also I think middle
puts you in a slightly better position.
Shift to the middle quickly at the twelfth
fret of the first.
[MUSIC]
So you have that little syncopation.
So it's the twelfth fret at the first with
the middle.
Thumb on the fifth string.
And now, the D chord, measure ten.
[NOISE] All quarter notes.
Which just gives you a mo, a moment to
breathe.
Pinky at the fifteenth fret of the first,
pinky at the fourteenth fret of the first.
Just bring it down to the middle with the
twelfth fret of the first,
ring at the fourteenth fret of the first.
Hold the pinky there and add the index.
This is measure eleventh [NOISE] that's
measure eleventh.
So, [NOISE] index at the eleventh fret of
the second,
pinky's at the, is remaining at the
fourteenth fret of the first.
And the way I'm fingering this is a little
bit tricky, but it's index, middle,
thumb, middle.
It's a Foggy Mountain Breakdown move right
there.
Index on the second, middle on the first,
thumb on the second, middle on the first.
And then I come down to the thumb at the
11, and
then jump to the eight eighth fret of the
second, hit that with the index and
then bri, bring the middle down to the
ninth fret of the third string.
Hit that twice with the thumb.
[NOISE] And then measure 12, you're at the
eighth
fret of the second, with the index in both
hands.
And then just slide the index up to the
eleventh fret and
you're back at this C ninth position, but
now again against a G chord.
So, the eleventh fret of the second with
the index,
eleventh fret of the second with the
index.
Ring at the 12th fret of the first.
And then jump quickly down to the eighth
fret of
the second [NOISE] in the middle of the
ninth fret of
the third string [NOISE] and then measure
13.
So eighth fret at second, again, measure
13.
Hit it twice with the index and then the
middle down to the ninth fret of
the third, and hit that twice [NOISE] with
the thumb, thumb, thumb.
So index, index, thumb, thumb, index.
And, at that point, you go right
back into it for the second break.
So from this part, let's take it from the
D chord, measure nine, measure ten.
[MUSIC]
So, I'm sorry.
[MUSIC]
So,
once again from D, the D chord measure
ten.
[MUSIC]
And then you go right back into it again.
So measure ten leads.
It's finished off with the first two notes
of measure one,
the 12th fret of the first and the fifth
fret of the fifth.
So, let's take it from measure 12.
[MUSIC]
And you're back into it again.
Okay, now the second break is gonna be
exactly the same as the first except,
for measures five through eight.
So, I'll just play it.
I'm not gonna explain it cuz it's exactly
the same, up to measure five.
[NOISE] So one, two, three, four, one,
two, three.
[MUSIC]
Okay now,
measure five, instead of being [NOISE]
instead of ending at the fifth string,
it's, just stop at the ninth fret of the
third string.
Now, this sol, this second solo, again,
I'm taking most of what Earl played in
1946.
But I'm adding this business
which Earl plays on Foggy Mountain Special
from the 50s.
It's just a variation so you have a
different thing to play, so
it's not the same thing over and over
again.
So, it's Earl-sanctioned if you will, but
it's just a slight variation on what
you've already got here.
So let's take measure five.
Instead of hitting the fifth string, like
I say,
you stay on the ninth fret of the third
string.
Sorry, now I take the ring, since I'm
already there at the ninth fret
of the first string with the ring, even
though I'm not hitting that note.
It, it's just sitting there in that Sally
Goodin position.
So I, from the downbeat of measure six, I
just slide all the way up.
Try not to overshoot it, [LAUGH] jump all
the way up to the seventeenth fret.
And you're gonna do two full measures of
just, five, six, seven, eight, one, two,
three, four, five, six, seven, eight, and
you're just alternating thumb and
index on the right hand.
So you start with a big slide from nine to
seventeen.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven,
eight.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven,
eight.
One.
So, you're all the way up here.
[NOISE] And I go from there, so, one, two,
three, four, five,
six, seven, eight, one, two, three, four,
five, six,
seven, eight, one, that's a quarter note.
And then the middle comes down to the
twelfth fret of the first string.
[NOISE] Now I hit that with a thumb in the
right hand.
And then I go to the thumb again as I hit
the fourteenth
fret of the first string with the pinky.
Back to the twelfth fret of the second.
[NOISE] So I do this and
then I slide 11 to 12 on
the second string by itself.
And i'm here at, so twelfth fret,
fourteenth fret.
Back to the 12th fret.
Thumb, thumb, index and then I slide 11 to
12 like I say with the index.
And I let go of the middle and just have
the index down sliding 11 to 12.
And then, [NOISE] and then you're back to
the tablature at measure nine.
And then the rest is the same as the
tablature.
[MUSIC]
So for that measure 13,
last time after the second break, you're
in the Sally Goodin position basically,
hit the eighth fret of the second twice.
Index, index, middle of ninth fret of the
third,
hit that twice, and then the eighth fret
of the second.
And so you're gonna hit the second string
twice, index, index, middle twice,
at the eleventh, ninth fret of the third
string.
Back to the eighth fret of the second
twice.
So, [NOISE] and then I hit the ninth fret
of the third string with the thumb of
the right hand and the middle of the left
hand.
And just slide it all the way down, and
then hit the first string after that.
[NOISE] Okay, that's the whole thing.
It's quite a mouthful.
But this is a really important lesson
here.
Th, this, this is such a template for many
of Earl's bluesy things.
And he would use it over and over again,
but
with his subtle variations which is what's
so cool about it.
So let me play this all the way through
one more time, slow,
and then up the tempo.
One, two, three, four, one, two, three.
[MUSIC]
And then, the next solo would start right
there.
[MUSIC]
And then,
you could just do a little back up like
that.
So, and then up to tempo one more time.
[MUSIC]
I did a little variation, instead of at
the end.
That's something that Earl does sometimes,
where he's at the ninth fret of the second
and
the eighth, I'm sorry, ninth fret of the
first then the eighth fret of the second.
This would be instead of measure 12, you
could go.
[NOISE] So instead of going to all the
labor of jumping up three frets,
you can just stay here at the eighth and
ninth frets, and get that really
molar-rattling sound of the pinky at the
eleventh fret of the second
while you've got the ninth fret of the
first and the eighth fret of the second.
These are half step apart, so you get that
really jangly feeling.
Okay, well there's Heavy Traffic Ahead,
which is again,
the same thing as Foggy Mountain Special,
basically, with slight variations.
And so, I think, like I said, it's a very
important lesson,
important to have this under your fingers
for playing bluegrass.
It's a good spinoff for getting in some of
these backups licks like I was saying.
[NOISE] You know, you just hear this stuff
all the time, and
once you have this under your fingers, you
can just kind of dissect it and
take certain sections out, or you'll
certainly know the positions.
When you hear Earl doing this sort of
thing,
and Earl did infinite variations on this
whole thing here.
So use your ears and
just see if you can figure out what he's
doing when you're listening to his backup.
And a lot of what you've got here is
there, so, hope you enjoy it.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
Okay,
this is Scott Nygaard joining me here on
the guitar.
And we are going to play a little bit of
Heavy Traffic Ahead.
It's a Bill Monroe blues tune.
This was recorded live on the Grand Ole
Opry.
And this particular version by Bill, and
that was when he had Earl Scruggs and
Lester Flatt playing with him, the Glory
Band.
This is from September 16,
1946, an acetate, live on the Grand Ole
Opry, a very rare recording.
I transcribed Earl's solo and it's just so
much fun.
And, this became the template for
tunes like Foggy Mountain Special, and
Earl would just play all sorts of tunes.
When he was playing a blues tune, he would
use this as his base,
basically jumping off point, I guess you
could say.
So, here comes a little bit of Heavy
Traffic Ahead.
One, two, one, two, three.
[MUSIC]
One thing I just want to mention,
as you're playing this when you get up to
this part.
[MUSIC]
Rather than just keeping it down,
keeping those fingers down with the 11th
fret of the second string, and
the ring on the 12th fret of the first.
Rather than just going, let go each time.
[MUSIC]
Gives you a little bit of separation of
notes, which is so important on the banjo.
[MUSIC]
Now we're
gonna do the slow version of Heavy Traffic
Ahead.
One, two, one, two, three.
[MUSIC]