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Banjo Lessons: “Tom Dooley” by Pete Seeger

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[MUSIC]
Tom Dooley was one of the tunes
that was instrumental in making the folk
movement of the late 50s a really,
really popular thing, and it was done by
the Kingston Trio,
they're the gentlemen that had the big hit
on it.
But, Frank Proffitt, a gentleman named
Frank Proffitt,
is probably the guy that brought it to the
fore, and Frank Proffitt used to make his
beautiful homemade banjos with a wooden
rim and I'm not sure, some sort of a skin
head on the inside, and these Proffitt
banjos were very popular for a while.
Anyway, I was watching this YouTube video
of Pete Seeger playing Tom Dooley
at the Newport Folk Festival, I believe it
was, and he mentions that it was in
the style of Frank Proffitt, which seems
like it's a two finger style.
So, I'm gonna be doing this, just using
the thumb, and middle finger,
cuz it seems a little more natural for
bluegrass players to do it that way,
just thumb and middle through the whole
thing, and it goes like this.
[MUSIC]
It's a very simple and yet beautiful
arrangement of the tune, and Pete, for
me is just one of the greatest banjo
players who ever lived.
He's often underrated, underrated because
he did a lot of strumming and
people think that's just so simple, which
it's not really,
because to do great strumming is a very
important thing to be able to do.
And with his basic strum, but he was an
amazing banjo player, and
this is just another example of the depth
of his playing.
He could do jazz tunes, he could do
classical music,
he would do something like this in the
style of Frank Proffitt,
he was just a repository of amazing,
amazing banjo tunes and techniques.
And again, as I mentioned, this is a more
of a two-finger style.
In fact, it's completely a two-finger
style, and I'll just take it measure by
measure, and he's alternating, many times,
quarter notes and eighth notes.
[MUSIC]
So
it at times almost has that claw hammer
rhythm.
[MUSIC]
Like right there.
[MUSIC]
The quarter note and
those two eighth notes give you that kinda
claw hammer feel.
[MUSIC]
So, open fourth, open fifth and first.
[MUSIC]
And then quarter note on the second fret
of the fourth, I'm using the middle for
that, and the open third.
[MUSIC]
And then measure two.
[MUSIC]
I'm sorry.
[MUSIC]
It just lets it flow there.
So it's the two to four slide.
I'm sliding up with the middle finger.
[MUSIC]
It's two eighth notes.
[MUSIC]
And then fifth, first, and
keep it there on the fourth fret of the
third string.
[MUSIC]
Hit that fourth fret, open first,
open fifth, open first.
So it's
[MUSIC]
And now more eighth notes in
the third measure.
[MUSIC]
Because it's
the same melody as the first measure,
except instead of going.
[MUSIC]
He's going.
[MUSIC]
He's just turning it into more of rolling,
it's not a roll, but it has that kind of a
feel to it, all eighth notes.
[MUSIC]
So open fourth, open first, open fifth,
open first, and then, second fret of the
fourth through the middle, open first,
open third, open first.
So the first three measures are.
[MUSIC]
Now
the last measure of line one, the fourth
measure.
[MUSIC]
Again, this claw hammer rhythm,
the middle of the second fret of the
third, and then fifth.
[MUSIC]
And that's a quarter note.
[MUSIC]
And then fifth tries to repeat.
[MUSIC]
And then measure five.
[MUSIC]
Two ham, two eighth note hammer-on.
[MUSIC]
Zero to two in the fourth string.
[MUSIC]
Fifth, first, third, quarter note,
fifth, first.
[MUSIC]
And then measures sixth, I particularly
like because you have a hammer-on
[MUSIC]
And a slide.
[MUSIC]
It's a really nice touch.
Zero of the two on the third string.
[MUSIC]
Fifth, first to the four slide, fifth,
first.
So you hammer-on to the middle, and then
you slide with the middle.
[MUSIC]
And then three quarter notes, two, zero,
two on the third string, and the fourth
string, with the middle finger.
[MUSIC]
Quarter notes, and then fifth and
first is eighth notes, and then.
[MUSIC]
And
there you have the eighth measure the same
as the fourth measure, quarter note,
fifth, first, quarter note, fifth, first.
So that's one time through it, and let me
play that again,
starting at the very beginning.
[MUSIC]
And then slight variations in the second
half starting with measure nine you have.
[MUSIC]
And
that's exactly the same as measure one.
[MUSIC]
Now,
instead of having a busier, not busier,
that's really the wrong word, but
a more florid, second measure where it's
all eighth notes.
[MUSIC]
In this case, in measure ten he's going.
[MUSIC]
The slide, to the flip in first, and
then the quarter note in the third string,
fifth first, so.
[MUSIC]
Once again.
[MUSIC]
And now measure 11.
[MUSIC]
Open fourth,
fifth first, second fret of the fourth,
open third, and for the D chord.
[MUSIC]
Same as measure four.
[MUSIC]
Exactly the same thing,
and then measure 13.
[MUSIC]
Once again.
[MUSIC]
The slide and
then quarter notes three of them.
[MUSIC]
Open first, and
this is just all thumb right there and
then middle on the first.
[MUSIC]
Open third, hammer, third,
hammer on the fourth.
[MUSIC]
Okay, so
I'm gonna play this one more time.
Again, this is just a really nice, kind of
Zen, simple,
but beautiful, and deep arrangement of Tom
Dooley.
Again, this is Pete Seeger's fix on it,
working with the Frank Proffitt style.
So, here we go.
[MUSIC]
Frank Proffitt's Tom
Dooley by Pete Seeger.
[MUSIC]