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It’s quite possible that, were it not for Bill Monroe, I’d have never found the banjo.
For those that don’t know the backstory, back in 1939, Monroe formed the band the “Blue Grass Boys.” His vision was to create a more commercially viable form of southern mountain music. Kentucky, where Monroe was from, is known as the “bluegrass state.”
But it wasn’t until Bill connected with now legendary banjoist Earl Scruggs and his iconic banjo picking that things really took off, and the style we all know as “bluegrass” took full form.
Earl’s driving and syncopated banjo style also fueled a banjo renaissance, the momentum of which has carried into present day.
Those bluegrass banjo sounds were the ones that, growing up, first stoked my interest (which would ultimately turn to infatuation) in the instrument.
Bill Monroe penned a number of original tunes that are a now fixtures in the bluegrass canon, and “Big Sandy River” is one of those.
It was recently requested by Breakthrough Banjo member Caroline M. I’m pretty sure I’d played it previously Scruggs style, but had yet to tackle it clawhammer. Worked out just fine (as most traditional bluegrass tunes do)!
In most renditions of this tune (including ones played by Bill himself), the melody for the A part is typically played with relatively minimal variation, while the B part is more or less a chord progression over which the player adds his or her own interpretations.
So feel free to interpretate!
Big Sandy River
aEAC#E tuning, Brainjo level 3-4
Notes on the Tab
Notes in parentheses are “skip” notes. To learn more about these, check out my video lesson on the subject.
For more on reading tabs in general, check out this complete guide to reading banjo tabs.
Level 2 arrangements and video demos for the Tune (and Song!) of the Week tunes are now available as part of the Breakthrough Banjo course. Learn more about it here.