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It’s a Song of the Week 2-for-1! 🙂
I’ve spoken before about the odd separation that exists between the worlds of bluegrass and old-time banjos. Each has its own jamming traditions, and it’s uncommon for banjoists to crossover from one to the other.
In my opinion, this has almost everything to do with tradition and little to do with a lack of musical alignment. I say this as someone who began his banjo life in the world of bluegrass.
In some ways, this has become a self perpetuating cycle. The lack of clawhammerists in bluegrass jams may be taken to mean your presence would be unwelcome.
With rare exception, I don’t find that to be the case. In fact, most bluegrass enthusiasts appreciate the change of pace, and in my experience are intrigued by the clawhammer sound.
So, if you find yourself with an interest in attending a bluegrass jam (or maybe that’s all that’s available around you), by all means go for it. If you’re totally new to that “scene,” here or some tips for an optimal experience:
1. Understand the bluegrass jam structure. Unlike old time jams where folks play in unison, musicians in a bluegrass jam take turns playing lead “breaks,” or solos. And while one person solos, the others play backup (since the guitar and/or bass tends to form the backbone of bluegrass backup, banjoists can also just stay quiet during other solos).
2. Learn some popular bluegrass jam songs, like today’s selection. In the coming weeks, I’ll be covering some more good crossover songs.
3. Practice playing “backup.” Since traditional backup isn’t a standard part of old time jamming, it’s something clawhammerists may or may not have spent much time on. Although it’s pretty easy to get up to speed knowing just a few chord shapes and understanding typical chord progressions (this material is covered extensively inside the Breakthrough Banjo course)
I’ve even created some backup jam tracks for this week’s tune if you’d like to get some practice jamming in a bluegrass setting. Read below for details…
Long Journey Home
gDGBD tuning, Brainjo level 3
Bonus Tune! “Long Journey Home,” Fingerstyle Version (plus a new Fingerstyle course!)
As mentioned, this is a “2 for 1” tune of the week.
On March 21, I’ll be launching the long awaited Breakthrough Banjo course for fingerstyle banjo (based again on the Brainjo Method). The course will cover all the up-picking styles (3-finger bluegrass, old-time 2 and 3 finger, etc.).
(RELATED: I have a special opportunity for Founding Members who register before the launch date. Click here to learn more about becoming a Founding Member of the Fingerstyle Banjo course.)
Like the Breakthrough Banjo course for clawhammer, it will include “The Vault,” an expanding library of songs with tabs, tune tutorials, and jam tracks. You can see a sample of these by clicking the link below, and you can use the jam track to practice this week’s song:
Notes on the Tab
In this arrangement, I’ve tabbed out the part I play in the banjo “solo,” as well as the vocal backup I play on the banjo while singing.
Notes in parentheses are “skip” notes – to learn more about skips and syncopated skips, check out my video lesson on the subject.
For more on reading tabs in general, check out this complete guide to reading banjo tabs.
PRIOR SONG OF THE WEEK EPISODES
- Episode 1: “Ain’t Gonna Work Tomorrow”
- Episode 2: “Gumtree Canoe”
- Episode 3: “Crawdad Hole”
- Episode 4: “Oh Susanna”
- Episode 5: “Freight Train”
- Episode 6: “Grandfather’s Clock”
- Episode 7: “Hop High Lulu”
- Episode 8: “Been All Around This World”
- Episode 9: “I’ll Fly Away”
- Episode 10: “Leaving Home”
- Episode 11: “Poor Orphan Child”
- Episode 12: “Mr. Tambourine Man”
- Episode 13: “Swanee River”
- Episode 14: “Big Sciota”
- Episode 15: “Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms”
- Episode 16: “Darling Corey”
- Episode 17: “Battle Hymn of the Republic”
- Episode 18: “America the Beautiful”
- Episode 19: “Bury Me Beneath the Willow”
- Episode 20: “Way Out There”
- Episode 21: “New Slang”
- Episode 22: “I Saw the Light”
- Episode 23: “Amazing Grace”
- Episode 24: “Blowin’ in the Wind”
- Episode 25: “Yankee Doodle”
- Episode 26: “Budapest”
- Episode 27: “Wildwood Flower”
- Episode 28: “Paradise”
- Episode 29: “Mountain Dew”
- Episode 30: “Blue Tail Fly”
- Episode 31: “Otto Wood”
- Episode 32: “Down on the Corner”
- Episode 33: “City of New Orleans”
- Episode 34: “Big Rock Candy Mountains”
- Episode 35: “Come to the Bower”
- Episode 36: “Old Kentucky Home”
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.
Click here for a current list of all the clawhammer songs and tunes currently available inside of The Vault