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Banjo Lessons: “Long Journey Home” Developing Solos (with Bill Evans)

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Let's pick something.
>> Let's do so.
>> How about Two Dollar Bill, otherwise
known as?
>> The Long Journey Home.
>> Kick her off.
Sounded like Long Journey Home to me.
>> There it is.
>> Yeah.
>> All right, do you want to just play it
once and sing it?
And then we're gonna talk about how, you
might turn this in to a solo.
If you didn't know this song but might be
knew, maybe knew the melody,
what would you do with it?
>> Right.
>> So
maybe just one time through singing it, so
they can get an idea what the melody is.
>> Yeah, and also pick up the chord
progression as we go, too.
Those are the two essential things that
you need to know,
before you work up a solo, the chord
progression and the melody.
And we're gonna do it in the key of, G-
>> Surprising us.
>> Okay?
All right.
All right, here we go.
One, two, three, four
>> There it is.
>> Yeah.
>> All right, so
maybe it's best to work on the chords
>> Okay.
>> Just to get a sense of what that is.
So the chords in this case, and let's just
talk, this is ear training, basically.
Although, you can watch a lot of stuff on
video now,
on YouTube and that sort of thing.
And watch, actually, watching the guitar
player's probably your best bet.
If you don't play guitar, learn a few
chords, learn G,
C, and D and maybe an F, and, you know,
learn, learn some chords, an A chord.
So you can watch and see what the guitar
player is doing.
And that's a good way to get started
feeling things out, terms of the chords.
So, for the chords, we've got
>> G.
>> More G.
>> C.
Back to G.
>> To D.
>> Back to G.
>> Next step might be, play some simple
roll patterns,
maybe not singing at the same or maybe do
sing if you can, that would be.
Now those simple chord
simple roll patterns you're talking about,
what are you doing there?
>> Well, all right, I did an alternating
I did the happy rolls, Tony and
then I did the, the forward reverse.
If I was kind of feeling more determined,
I could have done a forward but boy that's
really hard to sing along with it is-
>> Because it's syncopated.
>> Yeah, yeah, the interesting thing about
that exercise is that,
if you're thinking about what you're
playing and, and listening to what you're,
you know, what you're playing, you might
find a melody note in there as you go.
[LAUGH] You know.
And so it's a nice thing to do.
>> A, and it kept coming up there, right
>> Yeah, it did, didn't it?
>> So, that's just kind of a gu, a good
way to get through the chords and just-
>> Yeah.
>> kinda get comfortable with what
the chords are.
And then, you could just find the melody
notes by themselves.
>> Yeah.
Now, a lot of these notes are in
the chords, that you're playing, a lot of
which is G.
That's just an open G chord.
That's not,
second fret of the fourth string, and then
that is.
Second string,
the second fret of the third string, which
is not in the chord.
But that is the open third two doll, not,
yes it is now you go to a C-chord, Both
those notes are in the C-chord.
Fourth string, second fret, open third,
second fret of the fourth.
Back to G, and there's that note that's in
the G-chord, the open G-chord and
this just repeats.
Lot of notes in the G-chord.
And those notes are all in the G-chord.
I'm, second string, first, second.
And then a little bluesy, kind of two,
three slide to the second fret of the
third string.
So a lot of Bluegrass tunes a lot of the
time, the melody's fairly simple and
is right.
Actually part of the chord that you're
playing, not every note, obviously,
but as you can just see, a lot of the
notes are there.
>> Yeah, and, you know, the version that
you have in your head is a little
bit different than the version that I have
in my head you know, I find that,
that, that one singer to the other might,
might have their own ways of singing the
last lines a lot of times.
But you go with what's ever in your head,
there isn't an established version of
And, and you know, finding those melody
we could call this Kingston Trio Banjo
just, you know, it's like Tom Dooley.
It's a great ear training exercise and
you know, as you said, that the melodies,
the, the, the notes and
the melody will often times match the
So, you learn the chord progression first.
Go ahead and fret that full chord, when
it's time to do that in the song.
And then chances are really good that,
that first melody note that you're gonna
need on the downbeat of a new chord is
gonna be within that chord.
This gets us in to talking about scales.
Which is a huge topic.
But I, I wanted to pass along something
that I discovered that might be profound.
Who knows, so maybe I'll focus in on this
[LAUGH] You know, we can think of scales
And, if you were to play that on the banjo
just in simple position,
you would get something that looks and
sounds like this.
Okay, and you can,
you know, you know what that sounds like
and I'm not gonna go over all of that.
But uh,but what I wanna say is that, if
Play all the notes of a G chord.
All the notes of a C chord.
All the notes of a D7 chord.
And then if you know this D major chord
and this G chord.
Those are all the notes that you need in a
that comprise a G major scale.
We're not thinking of the, of them
linearly, going up and down a scale.
But the notes that you need for
lots of these Bluegrass melodies that use
the major scale.
And boy, that's a lot of tunes,
they're gonna be found right there in the
C-chord or the D chord.
So even if you're getting a passing tone.
are really good it's gonna be that second
Note that we would use for the C chord.
>> Right.
>> You know, so
you don't need to kinda go.
You know, and get.
>> Yup.
>> The Schoenberg version
of long Journey Home.
But it's just gonna be right within,
within those chords.
That makes it easier, to find those melody
>> Why don't we just go through that once
for the folks?
>> The Schoenberg version?
>> No, no.
Not the
>> Oh, okay.
>> The other, the other version.
>> All right. Yeah, all right.
So, well the way I'm hearing it, is.
This is all of G chord.
>> Yeah, but that,
>> Oh.
>> Okay, that's in your C chord.
>> Yeah, yeah,
>> And
then that note's in your D7 chord.
>> Sure
Right, right.
>> And D seventh.
Right, right.
>> D seventh.
>> You don't fret the whole chord but
>> No, no, but
just you know,.
>> Pull that
individual note.
>> Just in the
>> Right, but now.
>> And that's right there in the C chord.
>> Right.
Now I hear that last line.
>> Yeah.
>> It's still the same deal.
>> Same deal.
>> Yeah.
>> Okay, good.
So now you've found the melody notes.
You've got the chords.
What do you do from here?
And you've played some rolls also.
One thing to remember,
when I first started working with people
and teaching them how to find,
do this very thing, how to find a melody
Put this together and come up with your
own solo.
I was, and this was many years ago I would
cuz you always wanna keep the flow going.
>> I know.
And, and you can't breathe.
There's no room to breathe for goodness
Now some people, like Bobby Thompson,
a lot of his playing involves just steady
stream of notes.
And he had the best.
One of the best right hands ever.
I mean, his timing was just impeccable.
And you just hear it and you get
goosebumps, cuz his timing is so amazing.
But anyway, he would just roll forever.
J.D. Crowe, on some occasions, something
on Jimmy Martin's instrumental album.
I can't remember which one it is.
But it's just all rolling, every time.
So, some of the best banjo players just
roll forever without any pauses,but.
I think it is nice to take breaths and
that's something,
early on when I was starting to analyse
what Earl Scruggs was doing.
He played a lot of chord notes.
It doesn't always have to flow.
And that makes it easier for you when
you're doing this, so
you don't have to think, okay, I gotta
have a roll going all the time.
In other words, instead of going.
You can just have two quarter
notes to start.
And then the, you can have a filler of
the fifth and first strings
I would do a pull-off there.
again, you're thinking about the
syllables, trying to think of what,
what are the words, you're playing the
I'm doing a two, just a pull of by itself.
You might not want to do that.
But, money, ba, da.
>> Yeah.
>> And those two forward rolls.
Money, ba, da.
So a quarter note on the third string and
then two forward rolls.
Ba, da.
And then, I'll, why don't you take over
from here.
>> Well.
Or as-
>> What we're, what we're about to play
and I bet we both play something the same,
almost the same way.
It might be something like,.
Or, you know, something along that lines.
And that points to the next step for me.
After you found that bare bones melody,
you can think of how a singer might sing
You know, scooping up to notes, moving
down to notes.
And this is where our slides and
hammer-ons and pull offs can come in.
And then that's gonna lead into, you know,
some licks that we might already know.
Or, or, ways to play rolls more easily.
So for instance, any time, the melody
note, and
especially if it's a main melody note,
falls on an open third string.
You could play a fourth string slide up to
>> Yeah.
>> Okay, like.
In this case,
where at the point of the melody.
That melody's the second string open,
but we wouldn't really sing it right up to
We would go
So you can.
[SOUND] Slide up.
And then that plays right into this lick.
Similarly, if the melody happens to
go on the first string, we can play a two
to three hammer-on on the second string.
So for instance,
a song like Sitting On Top of the World,
it was in the Spring, is the melody.
And on the banjo we play.
So, and,
if we even need to go up to a G note.
[SOUND] Like Fireball Mail.
that's one great way to think about
slides, hammer-ons, and pull-offs.
Very often we're gonna use those
techniques, well, against a G chord, yeah,
well, against all the chords too but.
But you can really use those to enhance
those open strings.
So we've got.
We've got.
Now, if I wanted to really simplify this,
I could get a lot of mileage out of that
one lick right here at this, in this point
of the song.
Maybe leading into the C a little bit.
>> Sure, from the fourth string, the
>> Now.
Yeah, yeah,
now that was like as simple as possible,
you know.
Maybe that's a little bit too much room
to breath.
So if I wanted to through a little bit
more in there I could go.
We could hit.
>> That's a, you want to describe what
that is that you're,
the way that you're filling that space as
opposed to the pinches, the quarter notes.
>> Well, I'm thinking about it as I go.
And so the first time, I just kept the
roll going the whole time.
>> Yeah.
>> So you have the-
>> Kinda like Ralph Stanley.
>> Yeah.
So you have the third string,
first string, and two forward rolls.
>> Yeah, I love that roll.
>> Fifth, third, first.
Fifth, third, first.
>> Yeah, it's
>> Right.
>> Love that roll.
>> Instead of doing
>> Right.
Melody note is the G.
>> Right.
>> At that point.
Cuz we've got.
keep the roll going like Ralph Stanley if
you want.
Or you could go, like J.D might go.
>> Right.
>> Which is third, first, fifth, third,
first fifth, pinch on the first and-
>> Yeah, exactly.
>> Third of the index and middle.
>> Or, you could let it breath right on
the front end and go.
Right, the quarter note [CROSSTALK].
>> And, you know, one of those is gonna
sound better than the other, but
they all sound good.
>> Yeah.
>> One might serve the melody better.
But as you're playing, you just, you know,
let it happen.
>> Yeah.
>> Yeah.
next we're getting in to the C chord, now.
All right, so that melody.
And right back to the G, right?
>> Right.
>> Yeah.
>> And
many times when I play a C chord I'll just
this is one of those bluegrass
conventions, bluegrass shorthands.
Where you're not playing the full C.
You could.
it keeps the genus underlying things to
have that open first string.
It's a very pruny kind of a sound, too.
It's basically a C with an added 9th note,
which is D.
It is do, re, mi.
It's the second note of the scale.
But if you add your low C.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven,
eight, nine.
It's the 9th note of the scale.
So I am just let, flowing through this.
Doing two alternating thumb rolls, but.
by doing that you're getting all the
melody notes.
So I'm doing a.
Zero to two hammer on.
I'm playing the C note in the first
string, zero to two.
Hitting the thumb on the 4th, index on the
second, and then thumb on the 3rd,
middle on the first, as the first
alternating thumb roll.
And then the second alternating thumb roll
is, 5th, 3rd, 4th, first.
5th, 3rd, 4th, first.
It goes, you dollar bill.
>> I.
>> I was.
>> Oh, and okay, well the, I always look
at back in the days when there were not
digital films it, and, when you went to
the movies,
but there was a film strip going by, I
would always compare this to the roll.
In other words when you have a vi, when
you're playing a note on the violin,
you can just let it stay, two dollar bill,
and just hold that note.
On the banjo you can't, you know, just
So you want to keep the.
At this point there's a space.
you wanna keep emphasizing that note, in
my opinion.
You could do.
Quarter note.
Two forward rolls,
and it's legal to do this but.
Just do forward rolls, 5th,
3rd, 1st, 5th, 3rd, 1st, but the melody's
still on the 4th string.
Two dollar bills, so you have a couple of
One is to go.
4th quarter note,
pinch on the outside strings.
And then pinch again on the 4th string.
Two dollar bills.
Or you could do a Ralph Stanley kind of
which is a very macho sort of thing to do,
getting that index.
In on the 4th string.
Quarter note, and
then two forward rolls, 5th, 4th, 1st,
5th, 4th, 1st.
And Ralph does that sort of thing not
>> Yeah, yeah.
>> Or you could go.
There are a lot of varieties of things you
can do there, but if you want that note to
kinda hang out there.
what I was gonna say about the film
strips, is the film goes by and
they're separate, distinct photos, but
they go by quickly and
you have the illusion of motion, smooth
motion, and the same thing with this.
It's the melody note.
Now you're hitting the 5th string, which
is not the melody.
But then, index hits the melody on the 4th
string, and
then the 1st string which, again, is not
the melody.
but you keep hearing that 4th string
And it gives you that illusion of a
sustained note.
>> Yeah,
this happens all the time in bluegrass
If you know Fireball Mail.
That, that, you know, one phrase after
It's, it's, you know, it's not, the melody
to Fireball Mail isn't.
[LAUGH] You know.
Yeah it's, it's, we here, or will the
circle, it's not.
It's just.
And we're culturally con, you know,
conditioned to hear that as, as a
sustained note.
Otherwise we wouldn't be in business.
We'd be [LAUGH].
>> We'd be playing the Acarina.
>> Yeah.
>> Which isn't such a bad [CROSSTALK].
>> Okay, continuing so?
>> It's a bluegrass song.
>> Is there an artist works track for
>> Excuse me, perhaps we can help.
>> No, no, okay.
>> All right.
Continuing so.
>> Or
whatever you're gonna do there and then
we're continuing.
>> And now we can play for that 3rd
what we played in the first phrase.
>> Cuz it's the same melody.
>> But.
It's also kinda cool to maybe throw
something else in.
>> Go ahead.
>> So, you know.
Which is-
>> Yeah.
>> Getting away from the melody, you know?
Unless it might be Dudley Connell singing
I could imagine Dudley.
Kinda going for that.
So that's just, you know, suggesting the
>> And what the heck are you doing there?
>> I don't know.
I just did like.
I think I first did that at, in some
version of Cripple Creek.
>> Two-zero pull-off on the first string.
>> Yeah, and then a fifth string for a
little, little space.
then a Cripple Creek slide with an
alternating thumb.
That's where, I think I'm hearing.
In my head.
>> Yeah.
>> You know, something like that.
And then just.
Filling in the gaps with with roll notes.
>> Right.
>> All right, and then, my way.
>> Do it your way.
So we've go the G chord.
To the D chord.
We got fill in lick there at the end,
so that's taken care of.
You know,
one of the great things, I love studying
the, the, the breaks that Earl Scruggs and
J.D. Crowe and Sonny Osborne took to vocal
>> Yeah.
>> Because when, and they're out there.
You can find the tablets or you can, you
know, listen yourself and you can.
Slow them down, and, you know, you don't
even have to transcribe them,
just listen all the time.
And you pick up things, you know, from,
from hearing them play.
And there's a lick that,
that Earl used in I'll Never Shed Another
Tear that might work here.
So, I'm on my, on my-
And again,
that doesn't quite fit exactly the rhythm
that the singer would sing.
The melody but you don't have to do that,
you know, you,
you're really suggesting it in a banjo
I always would try to make it sound good
on the banjo rather than trying to get
every single melody note.
So now we've got, so that third phrase.
>> Now can you just grab that, lick you
just played?
>> Yeah, well that's, that, that, we'll
call that
the I'll never shed another tear lick.
And forward roll.
Sometimes it's great to,
to separate hands with these licks like
you would if you were learning piano.
The lick itself.
The roll itself it gonna be
a forward roll that starts on the second
I like to start with my thumb with a lick
like this, two, one, five, three, one,
with the index finger moving to the third
That's the roll.
Could do one of those pinches there if I
wanted to, and then a hammer on.
Pull off.
Or you just keep the roll going.
my idea of the banjo lick is determining
what I'm singing.
>> Well, [LAUGH]
>> Which could
>> Why not?
>> Which is, which is
fine too.
>> We're so
banjocentric here.
>> Yeah.
And now we've got long
journey home.
>> I'm playing the syllables in that
>> Yeah.
And that's a-
The chord right there is a D but, and
that's sort of all G stuff but it works.
>> It works somehow.
>> Yeah, yeah, it does.
>> As Earl has proven time and time again.
>> Yeah.
>> He'll go, he'll go early to chords,
late to chords, and play Gs over Ds and,
which he does a lot in John Hardy.
His version with Doc Watson.
>> Yeah.
>> [INAUDIBLE] Scruggs with Doc Watson.
oh, oh my long journey home.
Since I'm doing the Cripple Creek, Boil
Them Cabbage Down slide with
the alternating thumb, two to three slide
on the third, open second, fifth, first.
So that alternating thumb slide.
And then.
Which is another alternating thumb.
Two to three slide to the open second.
Three to two pull off to the first string.
Open four.
>> Uh-huh, yeah.
>> My long journey home.
>> Yeah.
>> Or, no not that.
And then the standard tag like.
>> Yeah, yeah.
So the whole solo.
You have this in your head better than I
>> I'm not sure I do.
>> Try it.
>> But let's try it.
>> Go ahead.
Take it.
It'll change
every time too,
you know.
Let's do it a different way.
You could also just put licks in
that you know.
Now I'm forgetting the song.
So if you use those licks you have to be
careful where you are.
>> Right.
>> Yeah.
>> But that's improvising.
>> Yeah.
>> Now you're improvising.
>> Yeah.
>> By using this.
Two to three.
Cripple Creek or Boiling Cabbage Down
Slide or the Foggy Mountain Breakdown.
Which works against all chords, basically.
>> Yeah.
>> Even the B-chord.
Well, maybe not a B-chord.
But it works against a G and a D.
>> Yeah. Yeah. >> And so on, and so forth.
So that's getting off into another realm.
But I think we've covered this well enough
for the time being.
>> You know, working up breaks to, to
vocal tunes,
you spend your whole life, you know,
perfecting that and making it better.
And, and that's, the joy of it is,
is that there's always something new to
discover and have fun with.
>> Oh, absolutely.
>> Yeah.
>> And it helps to really learn a lot of
Earl Scruggs or JD Crowe solos, or
Ralph Stanley, depending on what you
And, or all of them.
But the more you learn the, their
you starting learning these licks like the
Foggy Brown, Mountain Breakdown.
Like, or this, that's all coming from Earl
>> Yeah.
>> Although, earlier than Earl,
probably, also.
But still, Earl codified these licks.
So once you know those licks, you can just
kind of chunk them in there.
But anyway that's-
>> Cool.
>> That's one approach to one tune.
And thank you Bill Evans.
>> Hey, thank you Tony.
>> Very much.
Once again.
>> Get to work.