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Banjo Lessons: “Last Chance”

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[MUSIC]
That was a tune called Last Chance,
recorded by Hobart Smith.
It's an amazing old time musician who I
described in Chinquapin Pie.
And, he plays it very fast, actually.
I prefer it a little bit slower.
He wrote the tune apparently, and it's in
this crazy tuning, an F tuning.
I'm gonna start with G and then explain
the tuning to you.
So, first string stays a D.
Second string goes from B up to C.
Then the third string goes down a whole
step from G to F.
[MUSIC]
Fourth string stays at D.
And the fifth string goes down from G to
F.
[MUSIC]
So you have, and
octave up between the third and fifth
strings.
[MUSIC]
Both F notes and the first and
fourth strings, D, and then you have C on
the second string.
[MUSIC]
So
now, I'll break down Last Chance bit by
bit.
It's not that hard to play.
There's no dropped thumb.
There are no funny pull-offs where you
don't expect them,
although there are pull-offs and there are
hammer-ons.
It's just, gives you this amazing sound.
And I learned from this, this from the
playing of a woman named Suzanne Thomas
who used to play with the Hotmud Family
out in Ohio, I believe it was.
And, I was playing this, she was showing
this to me in this room at this Elkins,
West Virgina Augusta Heritage Workshop.
W, we were just sitting around playing and
she showed me this tune, cuz she played it
and I said I gotta learn that.
And as we were playing it, in walks Jody
Stecher.
He's a wonderful old time and bluegrass
musician.
He plays with Peter Rowan, sometimes, from
San Francisco.
And then, Mark Shass came in who plays
bass and
claw hammer banjo and clogs great.
And after awhile,
like the four, the four of us were just
sitting around playing this tune.
And you start getting into a trance state
with some of
these great old time fiddle tunes.
You'll just play them for ten minutes.
And we did it with Last Chance.
And it's a great way to learn a tune also.
Just play it over and over again.
So this, basically, is Suzanne Thomas'
version of it but
it's very close to Hubbard Smith's
version, except like I say,
he plays it really quickly.
And I like to really dig into the notes
and, and
just hear the beauty of these notes slowed
down a little bit.
So I'll play the A part first.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
So you start with the strumming
on the first.
I wrote down three strings cuz you gotta
write something down in the tablature but
it's really could be the first two,
the first three, first four, just whatever
your hand does.
Hammering-on zero to three very even
eighth note.
And then strum down to the fifth string.
And then, I'm hitting the first two
strings.
But it could be the first three strings or
the first string, even.
By itself depe, if you want a little more
clarity.
And then strum fifth.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
And then the second measure is.
[MUSIC]
Three-zero pull-off and
I'm using the ring on the, on the left
hand.
[MUSIC]
Second string the index comes in, or
middle depending on which finger you're
using to hit down.
[MUSIC]
Strum fifth.
And then a hammer-on
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
First two strings approximately,
with a hammer-on zero to five,
[MUSIC]
And then hit that five,
zero on the first and fifth strings,
respectively.
[MUSIC]
Quarter note, and
then I just slide the ring up two frets to
the seventh fret of the first string,.
[MUSIC]
And ten to the fifth fret and
then the three, zero, pull off.
Even eighth notes.
It's consecutive string.
[MUSIC]
And then hammer-on again.
[MUSIC]
And then the last two measures are.
[MUSIC]
[NOISE] So
it's getting pretty cool right here.
It's a two to three hammer on, on the
third string.
Strum the first two strings, there abouts.
[NOISE] It can be the first three strings
if you want, [NOISE] to the fifth string.
And then two zero pull off with the index.
[NOISE] Fourth, strum.
[MUSIC]
Fourth, once again
[MUSIC]
Fourth, strum, fourth, strum fifth.
You know, I'm giving you all these exact,
you know, hit the first three strings and,
and there's a lot of room for playing
around with this.
In fact, this is probably not exactly how
Suzanne showed it to me and
it's evolved to this over time.
So, you can, you know, it's a little bit
loose.
This is just a blueprint again for
getting you in the ballpark of how to play
this tune.
Part B goes like this.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
Now you may notice something a little
strange in that, it feels a little
foreshortened as you come from this
first B part going into the second B part.
And that's because you have one measure of
two-four time.
So, it's four-four till you get to this
one measure where you turn around and
go back to the B part.
And this is known as a crooked tune
because of that.
Crooked is where you have like an extra
beat or a beat's dropped out where it's
not, it doesn't line up exactly where
everything is two-four time
to the entire thing or four-four time
depending on how you want to look at it.
Ralph Stanley's
Clinch Mountain Back Step has that sort of
thing.
There's one measure where it's just one
beat instead of two beats in
the b part of that.
So it's the same thing here.
The same idea.
So it's like one and two.
And one and two.
And one and two.
And one and two.
And one, two.
And one and two.
And one and two.
And one and one.
One and two.
So right there.
Just on that first b part.
It's just one beat there.
One one and, and then it goes right back
into it again.
So it feels a little foreshortened.
And I love this kinda stuff.
These quirky little things that go on in
old time music a lot of the time.
So the b part.
Hammering-on two to three.
Strum fifth.
Pull off two zero on the third.
Strum fifth.
[MUSIC] And then just. [MUSIC]
Index, index, or
again, middle if you use the middle
finger.
Index, index, pull-off, open third.
And then hammer, strum fifth, pull-off,
strum fifth, fourth strum fifth, pull-off,
three-zero on the first string.
[MUSIC]
Second string.
[MUSIC]
And then continuing,
[MUSIC]
Hammer, strum fifth, pull-off,
strum fifth, first, second, three two pull
off, open third,
and then fourth string quarter note with
the index.
Strum fifth.
[NOISE] Just one quarter note, strum
fifth, and
then you go right back tot he b part
again.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
And the second ending, you skip the first
and go to the second is, fourth, strum
fifth, fourth, strum fifth.
Now that I've taught you how to play Last
Chance,
here it is first slowly, and then up to
tempo.
One, two, three, and.
[MUSIC] [MUSIC] [MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
Okay, so one more time, up the tempo.
One, two, three, four.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
I like hitting the harmonics
at the very end.
Just the twelfth fret.
Let it go.
Just kind of brush down.
Seventh fret.
Fifth fret.
So you can really hear that tuning.
Okay, there's Last Chance.
I hope you enjoy this tune as much as I do
[MUSIC]