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Banjo Lessons: “Jesse James” Double Banjos (with Bill Evans)

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Three, four.
[MUSIC]
Howdy folks.
We are having too much fun here.
This is Bill Evans, my good buddy, from
all the way out in California.
>> Hi Tony and hello to all you artist
works banjo masters, and students.
>> [LAUGH] We were going to do some other
things and while Bill was here I thought,
wait let's do some double banjo things cuz
I had a request sometime ago from a few
people to do some double banjos and
I though what better occasion then right
now.
And what can be more fun than two banjos?
>> That's true.
>> It's true.
>> You go back in time, you've got Sonny
Osborne and
Benny Birchfield that did a bunch.
And Don Reno and Bobby Thompson, Don Reno
and Eddie Adcock.
>> And of course, Tony Trischka and Pete
Wernick?
>> There you go.
>> Some of the first recordings
I heard as a wee lad back in the 1970's.
There you go.
And Marshall Brickman and Eric Weisberg.
>> That's right.
>> And so on and so forth.
So we're going to dissect a little bit of
Jessie James.
Just a great standard banjo tune right now
that that Sonny Osborne did on
an MGM recoding way back probably in the
late 50's early 60's, something like that.
And what's a good way to start would you
say, Bill?
What do ya wanna start with?
>> Well, I think, first of all, and I
played the melody and
you played the harmony.
>> That's correct.
>> And
we did take a little bit of time to figure
out what we were gonna do.
We both knew the song going in.
And we had the melody in our head.
And we have been playing it on banjo for,
you know, many years.
But when you end up working at a double
banjo arrangement,
you have to really be careful to come up
with something that the other player.
That's you in this case and you've got the
hard job.
Tony has the hard job of working up the
harmony.
I need to play something that's simple
enough both in the right hand and
the left hand, so that you can pick it up
pretty easily.
And, and come up with a good sounding
harmony.
And I think that with double banjos we're
trying to get
as many harmony notes as we possibly can,
with a song like this at least.
But, but if, if we don't get every note
and harmony, that's okay.
>> I can speak from personal experience.
[LAUGH].
>> Having done this double banjo album for
Rounder Records and Bill Emerson,
sent me a recording of something he wanted
to play.
And I worked out every single note in
harmony.
If he hit the fifth string, I'd hit the
first string.
And and I, we got together to record it
and
I started playing what I'd come up with.
And it was, it just was so stiff and
stilted because it didn't flow because I
wasn't using the standard rolls and
I realized, get the important notes and if
you double some of the non melody notes,
be it a fifth string or a first string,
it's not a big deal, it's fine.
So that's what we've done here.
>> Yeah, and, you know, even if you're
playing just a regular banjo arrangement
of this, not counting for double banjos,
you got a melody note.
[MUSIC]
And then you have all those role notes.
>> Right.
>> And so
it's those melody notes that we're really
trying to get in harmony.
And then, as we worked the part out
shortly before we went live on the air
we came up with the idea of keeping the
role patterns fairly intelligible.
Not anything complex.
So using some forward rolls.
[MUSIC]
And lots of pinch patterns.
Pinch patterns are great because they
allow you to catch your breath.
>> Yep.
>> And and we went into the chorus.
[MUSIC]
With the Foggy Mountain Break Down roll.
To me that speaks the syllables of the
song a little bit.
[MUSIC]
If you know that I'm gonna play that roll,
you know how the, you know, you know how
that roll goes, I think.
>> Yeah. [LAUGH] >> And so, so, you know,
we got that worked out.
So, so really to make the right hand work
out with double banjo arrangements,
you know, keep the rolls simple.
Throw a lot of pinches in there.
Don't get, don't get too fancy.
>> Yeah.
>> Now but you've got the hard part here.
You did the,
you carried most of the burden here in
thinking up the the, the harmony part.
So how did you find those notes?
>> We, ll, maybe.
Why don't you play the melody first.
>> Yeah.
>> Want do you play the whole melody.
>> Okay.
>> Not too fast so
they can hear what that is.
>> Sure.
>> And then I'll talk about the harmony.
>> So, three, four.
[MUSIC]
It's C, yeah there we go.
[MUSIC]
Forward roll.
[MUSIC]
More pinches.
[MUSIC]
Here's the Foggy Mountain breakdown roll.
[MUSIC]
Forward roll.
[MUSIC].
>> Great.
>> Yeah.
>> So, that's the melody.
So, when you want to do a harmony part,
generally what you're going to be
doing is, you're going to be working the
interval of the third.
Now, we started with this.
[MUSIC]
Which is just, it's an Earl thing.
When he starts foggy mountain breakdown he
goes.
[MUSIC]
It's basically just saying, hi, I'm here,
we're going to play this, it's in G.
Watch out.
[SOUND]
>> I call that the ontological pinch.
[SOUND]
>> It's the ontological pitch.
[LAUGH] Okay.
>> I am.
I am.
[SOUND] [LAUGH].
>> We're proclaiming ourselves here.
>> Yes, yes.
>> And then the tune starts.
>> Yeah.
>> So the way Bill's starting.
[MUSIC]
So he has those two notes to lead in.
Before the downbeat of the full first
measure.
And so if you start, hit the fourth string
and the third string and
you're in G then I hit the third and the
second strings.
Now right there you've got harmony.
It's that easy to start with.
Then it gets a little more complicated
after that.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
So, because one.
[MUSIC]
So if you start one, two, three.
[MUSIC]
Let's see.
[MUSIC]
We'll these are in thirds,
that's a third this is not but,
this is, the first note I'm playing, the G
and then the B, the third and the second.
String it's a fourth' cuz do, re, one,
two, three, four.
That's a fourth, and then this is a third.
One, two, three.
[MUSIC]
That's a third, the interval of a third.
So it's a little more stark with that one,
but generally,
the harmony will be in thirds.
So bills starting with-
[MUSIC]
He sliding like that.
So, I'm sliding.
So, starting on the second fret is where
the slide comes.
[MUSIC]
One, two, three.
So I go to the third above that.
[MUSIC].
And you slide up.
I go to one, two, three, when he's going
two, to four.
I'm not gonna do this with every note cuz
this would be a half
hour lesson otherwise.
But just to give you the idea.
[MUSIC]
So he's do, he's doing this
[MUSIC]
And I'm going-
[MUSIC]
And as he's pulling off,
that two to two pull of, I'm going-
[MUSIC]
You get that.
Action right there.
[MUSIC]
I'm pulling off three to one.
Pulling off ring to index.
[SOUND] And then.
[MUSIC]
Ends on that third string.
So what do I hit?
I hit the second string.
[MUSIC]
Which is a third, above the third string.
[MUSIC]
G goes to D.
[MUSIC]
One, two, three.
So my opening gap it is instead of hitting
pinch there, I'm up here.
[MUSIC]
Ninth fret of the first,
eighth fret of the second.
[MUSIC]
And I just kind of slide down a little bit
just for no other reason than it's kind of
finessefull.
[MUSIC]
And
then he's doing forward rolls I believe.
[MUSIC]
Right?
[MUSIC]
So I'm going.
[MUSIC].
>> And what we're doing there is, we're
doubling just the melody note, because our
outside notes are the same, we're both
playing the open first and open fifth.
>> Right, we're not really harmonizing
anything.
>> Yeah.
[CROSSTALK].
[MUSIC]
>> And then going.
[MUSIC]
>> Yeah, so the only.
[SOUND] If I've got this straight.
>> Yes.
>> The only note that's in harmony though.
[MUSIC]
Is that melody note.
The outside notes are the same.
>> Correct.
>> Cuz we're playing the same roll.
>> Exactly.
>> Got it.
All right.
>> So you're doubling those notes.
>> Yeah.
>> Which is fine as long as the melody is
jumping out at you in harmony.
[MUSIC]
>> So.
>> I've never had an audience member come
up to me during a break when I'm, when I'm
playing some fantastic double banjo piece
with you or somebody else, and say oh.
Not every note was in harmony.
>> And complaining.
No.
>> No.
>> That just doesn't happen.
>> Well, ya know, we hear the melody note.
And as long as that is in harmony, the
note that would be sung.
>> Right.
>> Then you're gonna be fine.
>> Right.
>> Yeah.
>> Exactly.
So we got.
[MUSIC]
Sorry
[MUSIC]
And I'm matching Bill cuz he's going.
[MUSIC]
So you want to match the pinches and
rolls as much as you can.
[MUSIC]
So I'm going.
[MUSIC]
And then he's going.
[MUSIC]
And I'm going.
[MUSIC]
Those forward rolls again.
And then, that's harmonizing with what
Bill just played.
See, three, four.
[MUSIC]
No, and then the ending is, three four.
Cuz he's going.
[MUSIC]
>> Mm-hm.
>> And this, that's such a common lick.
If you remember this, when you're getting
together with your banjo buddies,
you'll already know that lick, the harmony
for that lick.
Yeah.
>> Three, four.
[MUSIC]
And then the D seventh
[MUSIC]
And you're letting go of
the fourth string I think.
[MUSIC]
>> Yeah.
>> It was a separation of notes.
>> Yeah.
>> So you'll do the same thing here on
the sec, on the third string.
[MUSIC]
>> I'm not sure I did that when
we recorded it but thanks for reminding
me, sounds much better that way, punchier.
>> Three, four.
[MUSIC]
>> Yeah, I don't think I did.
>> Yeah, separation of notes.
>> That's fine, yeah.
>> And then,.
[MUSIC]
That standardized lick and
I'm doing the harmony.
It's another good lick to remember for
future reference cuz it keeps coming up.
[MUSIC]
So that's.
And now in the Foggy Mountain Breakdown
roll that begins.
>> I'm playing.
>> The chorus.
.
[MUSIC]
Note the hammer on, so I'm going.
Note the hammer on, so I'm going.
right bills starting on the second string
so I start a third above that which is
the second fret of the first string, E
[SOUND] That's the third.
Do re, it's the one two three.
[MUSIC]
That's the third above there.
But rather than getting to here.
Where I kind of run out of other strings
to pick on for
the Foggy Mountain Breakdown roll, I take
that.
[SOUND] Note and move it up here.
[SOUND] To the fifth fret of the second
string
[MUSIC]
Three, four.
[MUSIC]
And then he's going, doing that.
So I'm going.
[MUSIC]
And then.
[MUSIC]
>> I'm sorry.
>> Yeah.
Keep going.
[MUSIC]
>> Now you're back to the,
from here on out it's exactly the same.
>> Yeah.
>> As what you did in the verse.
This is the chorus.
So really you only have.
[MUSIC]
Just those four measures are different.
And then you'll just go back to-
[MUSIC]
We have,
this is not all written out nice and neat
right now.
So I gotta look through my scrawls one,
two, three, four, five.
Well it's really, it's the, it's really
the fifth measure if you don't count this
[MUSIC]
>> [LAUGH].
>> It's the, it's the fifth measure here
at the beginning, and
you just go through to the end.
>> Anything you say.
>> Whatever I say.
[LAUGH]
>> I don't know how to read tablature.
>> Right.
[LAUGH] Right, the volumes you've written.
>> It's all the same, you're right.
And you know, many melodies, that happens
in lots of melodies you know,
when you're learning a song, whether it's
a fiddle tune or, or, or
a you know, Flat and Scruggs vocal tune.
You learn the first line and good chance
that that first phrase or
the whole first line's gonna come up
again.
>> Right-
>> So.
>> There's a lot of repetition.
Lot of Irish fiddle tunes do that.
The first, sometimes the b part,
just the first two or four measures are
different then it just goes back
to the rest of the A section.
So this is like that but anyway,
so that's, that's basically it without
getting into
really long ex explanations, but I think
looking at the tablature.
And what you can do with this is record
yourself playing the melody.
If you don't have a banjo buddy to play
this with, record yourself
playing the melody and then learn the
harmony, and just play it with yourself.
>> Yeah.
>> Or, you know, start with the harmony
and play the melody.
However you want to do it.
>> And if you get the idea to, to try this
in a jam session pretty impromptu and
you don't have time to plan it out, long
as it's okay with the other banjo player,
you know, just go for it.
You're, you're gonna get enough of it
right to impress everybody,
including yourself.
And have a good time which is the most
important thing.
>> Right.
>> Now you know, theoretically,
one could play harmony to just about
anything, but if you're gonna try this for
a melodic tune.
It's harder, right?
>> A lot of tunes you want to get every
note in harmony.
>> That's harder.
>> Pretty much every note.
So that's, that's a whole other can of
worms that you're not going to open today.
[MUSIC]
>> Yeah.
>> But yeah, that's a good point.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
So why don't we play this one more time?
>> Right.
>> So, Jesse James.
>> One, two, three, four.
[MUSIC]
We didn't discuss the ending but the.
[MUSIC]
>> Yeah,
and this is a standard ending that's used
in vocal tunes.
So you might play fill in like.
[MUSIC]
And then I'm doing a pinch.
[MUSIC]
2nd fret another pinch.
[MUSIC]
Sometimes Earl or JD or
Sonny would do a pull off here.
[MUSIC]
And then 4th fret,
4th string and then a pinch.
[MUSIC]
I think we played it.
Just now.
A little simpler than that.
[MUSIC]
>> Right.
>> Yeah, and then if you want to.
[MUSIC]
[CROSSTALK].
>> How do we, how do we do?
It's amazing.
>> I know.
>> It sounds like we're out of tune.
[LAUGH].
>> On purpose.
[MUSIC]
>> Push the head.
With this hand and then push forward.
>> Yeah.
Push down [CROSSTALK].
>> That's how I do it.
>> With your, I use my ring finger.
>> Yeah.
>> ANd then push the neck forward.
[MUSIC]
It's some weird esthetic,
out of tune on purpose.
>> Practice and drive your loved ones
crazy.
>> Exactly.
>> Yeah.
>> And don't break the head when you push
too hard.
[LAUGH].
>> Don't do that.
>> No, don't.
Let's do it one more time a little bit up
the tempo.
>> Okay.
>> All right?
>> All right, all right.
So about, let's see, one, two, three,
four.
[MUSIC]
>> All right, Jesse James.
Thank you, Bill Evans.
>> Thank you, Mr. Trischka.
>> That was fun.
[MUSIC]