Friday, December 10, 2010

Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer----Transcribed

This here is old arrangement for Rudolph which I've just got around to transcribing.

It's in the key of C.

Here's the tab...

And here's the video...

Also, if you want to download the tabledit tab file (you'll need a free viewer which you can get from their website) you can find it HERE. *Ben commented that measures 21 and 22 were played differently than written. Here are those two measures closer to the way they are played in the video... Measures 20-21

Thursday, November 4, 2010

13 Days of Halloween (partXI)

OK, this is obviously one of those better late than never things (few days past Halloween and all) but here is part 11: Loch Lavan Castle...

It's a traditional fiddle tune in Am which I find to be dark and mysterious.

The A section is mostly single string and the B section mostly melodic style.

Will try and get parts 12 and 13 up right quick.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Halloween Posts

As some of you might have noticed at Halloween I ended up with 10 posts instead of 13.

Sorry about that.

I will get the last 3 up soon. I did get a little video for the minor key Devil's Dream...

Friday, October 29, 2010

13 Days of Halloween (part X)

One of my favourite all time movies...Ghostbusters.

Here's the main riff bluegrass style...

And here's a larger arrangement...

The arrangement here covers the riff, a repeated A section, a repeated B section and then the riff again to close it. Not the whole whole song but enough for a solo banjo version not to wear out it's welcome.

What a great movie this was; great concept, great story, great characters, ghosts, Bill Murray...doesn't get any better.

13 Days of Halloween (part IX)

Here is Jacob and Chris Russell's minor key arrangement of Devil's Dream...

This one is tough on the banjo. I tried to keep the arrangement note for note while using as much melodic and as little single string as possible and this is what you get.

I use the left hand thumb ALOT in this one.

I like the minor key Devil's Dream alot. Standard Devil's Dream doesn't quite live uo it's title...feels like the devil's dreaming of peppermint patties and rainbow coloured unicorns. This one feels like he's dreaming real devil-like.

13 Days of Halloween (part IIX)

Here's a little bit of classic Halloween fare: the Monster Mash...

Pretty straightforward. You can grab the lyrics from a lyric sight and voila.

I'm behind schedule so will put a few more up tonight.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

13 days of Helloween (partVII)

Anyone remember a movie about a big fish that eats skinny dippers? This is the central riff from the Jaws theme by John Williams.

This is just the core of it and is super simple: a minor 2nd interval (distance from one fret to the very next fret).

This leads to the question of what makes scary music or rather what makes some music scary?

Minor keys will of course give a darker tone to things than major keys and most of the Halloween tunes I've included so far are in minor keys. Also certain intervals create an uncomfortable amount of dissonance and tension which leads to overall eerieness. The two most dissonant intervals (in my opinion) are the minor 2nd (as used in Jaws and Psycho) and the augmented 5th (tritone).

Here is an example in tablature of a minor 2nd...

And here is an augmented 5th (tritone)...

Try playing around with those and see what you think.

Part VIII coming very soon...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

13 Days of Halloween (part VI)

To switch things up a bit I thought I would include a scary metal guitar riff. This is the main riff from the song South of Heaven by the band Slayer.

Here is the main riff...

And here is the harmony if you have a banjo friend...

8 more to go...

Monday, October 25, 2010

13 Days of Halloween (part V)

This is a quick one:the 'Who dunnit?' riff.

We've all heard this one before, usually in the form of cheesy parody.

A character makes a striking revelation like "..but Johnny was with her in the garden just before her hedgeclipping accident!!". Then the riff comes in; "daaa da da da DAAAAAA".

Here's a video snippet...

And here's the tab...

13 Days of Halloween (part IV)

Day 4 brings us to the dramatic surf tinged theme song to the 6o's Batman tv show as written by Neal Hefti.

Like Mountain King in the last post this one is basically the melody set in what seemed the most logical banjo key without alot of additive arranging.

The key here is E. The oringinal is in Eb so if you want to get right to the source key tune down a half step from standard G (gb Db Gb Bb Db).

I've always liked this tune and we have a Batman in our family this Halloween so I thought I'd break it out.

You can play it either plucking entirely with the thumb or alternating thumb/index.

Here's the tab...

As with Mountain King I'll put a video up in the next day or so.

9 more to go...

Friday, October 22, 2010

13 Days of Halloween (part III)

Today's tune is the old Edvard Grieg chestnut In the Hall of the Mountain King.

I stuck it in the key of D minor as that seems to make best use of the banjos low range (such as it is).

The basic melody is written here. Played as written it can be used as a quote to bridge two songs or as an additional sacry but somewhat humerous section in atune.

It could also be worked up much more than this. Think of this as raw material to do with as you wish.

Here is the tab....

And I will get a video up soon.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

13 Days of Halloween (part II)

This second Halloween piece is really short. So short in fact that some might find it downright lame.

On the upside it is very easy to play, very unsettling and instantly recognisable.

It is the main motif of the Psycho theme played on the 1st and 5th strings.

I've used this one at Halloween gigs before and it is guaranteed to get a reaction (that reaction may be a chuckle) and can be used as an impromptu intro to another song or as colour commentary wheile another band member addresses the audience.

The video will be up soon but for now here's the tab...

More tomorrow...

13 Days of Halloween (part I)

Greetings all and sorry it's been so long since my last post.

Anyways I figured in the spirit of the season I would put together a string of posts, each containing a large or small bit of frighting ghoolish banjo. I call it the 13 days of Halloween.

Alot of these posts will be short and feature only a measure or two of terrifying music but for the first post I am going a little long. This is The Funeral March for a Marrionette AKA the theme song for Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

I won't go into too much detail on the ins and outs of playing this one but will answer any questions anyone has.

Without further adieu; here is the video...

And here is the tablature...

Be sure to come back tomorrow same bat time, same bat station for part II of the Halloween banjo bunch.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tennessee Waltz in D tuning

Thought I might do a post on D tuning.

For those unfamilliar with D tuning it is when your banjo is tuned to an open D chord (standard tuning, g D G B D, is an open G chord).

There are 2 common open D tunings: a D F# A D and f# D F# A D The two D tunings are actually the same for all strings except the 5th. The 5th can be tuned up (or capoed) to an A or tuned down to an F#. For this particular arrangement I tune the 5th string to A.

I like D tuning for alot of reasons. Having the root note of the chord on the lowest note of the lowest string is somehow very satisfying to me and certain melodies come out easier/ nicer in the D tuning.

On the downside if you are more familliar with G tuning (almost all bluegrass players are) the D tuning can feel counterintuitive and cumbersome. I find that in some ways the lack of easy familliarity with D tuning can act as a catylyst for creative playing--the old standby licks aren't as readily available so you are put in a position where you are forced to develop a modified toolkit and/or modified vocabulary.

The arrangement I'll show in this post is 'Tennesse Waltz'. I find the melody fits well in D tuning and overall the song possesses a certain timeless beauty.

Here's the tab...

And here's a video...

Hope that is helpful to some.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Banjo ------------------> Guitar Transmogrifier: How to Easily Convert Any Banjo Tune for Performance on the Guitar

Yes, just like the title says.

Well, actually it's not really EASY easy (crowd disperses). The concepts may take a while to fully soak in but once you have the trick you will be able to convert banjo to guitar relatively quickly and painlessly.

There are a number of tunings we could use to get the guitar prepped for banjo duty (open G would seem the obvious choice) but for this particular method we will use open D tuning. Open D tuning involves tuning your guitar from low to high D A D F# A D.

Once you have your guitar in D tuning you are ready to begin.

The idea is this; think of your guitar's 5th, 4th, 3rd and 2nd strings (A D F# A) as being relative to the 4th, 3rd, 2nd and 1st strings (D G B D) on your banjo (in standard G tuning). Then think of the 1st string of your guitar as being relative to the high 5th string of the banjo.

Making sense? Here is a tab example of the transmogrification in action.

The first 2 measure of Cripple Creek in banjo tab...

And those same 2 measures converted for open D tuned guitar...

How's that? The idea is essentially treating these strings on the guitar

like these strings on the banjo

And then treating the 1st string on the guitar like the 5th sting on the jo.

For a full song example lets try a little of the old Blackberry Blossom.

Here is a standard melodic style banjo version...

And here it is converted for open D tuned guitar (added some harmonic strums but otherwise transferred directly from banjo)...

Here is a vid of that Blackberry Blossom arrangement on guitar...

Soothing, ringing stuff (a little string noise but what the hay).

You may have noticed that the 6th string on the guitar is not used at all. This is simply because thus far we have only been transferring directly from banjo and the 5 string banjo has 5 strings. If you want to make use of the low string for whatever purpose (probably to provide some harmony/ bass) it is right there waiting to be used. This method allows you to transfer banjo arrangements directly to guitar but once you have done that you can alter them for their new environment as you see fit.

Also, if you want to keep things in their original banjo key you can use the capo. If something is uncapoed on banjo then capoing on the 5th fret of the guitar will make it make it match. If you are capoed on the 2nd fret on banjo then capo 7th fret on guitar.

Hope that proves helpful/ fun for some people. It may be a bit of a headful to get down at first so take your time and as always don't hesitate to write me with any questions.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Killer Endings - part 1

Someone suggested I do a post on endings so here it is.

I titled this 'Killer Endings - part 1' because really there is a whole galaxy of great endings to be discovered out there and I will post more periodically.

The ones I'll cover in this post are tag endings and to be more specific they are 'shave and a haircut' tag endings. "What is this 'shave and a haircut' thing" you ask? It is a short rhythmic pattern sometimes used when knocking on a door. Here it is in doorknock form...

You hear this rhythm very often in tags for bluegrass tunes. I will start out with a few of the most common examples.

Exhibit A is the first ending most banjo players learn.

Example 1

The second example is very similar to the first only dropped down an octave.

Example 2

The third example is a very slight melodic twist on the last one.

Example 3

The next ending is a longer tag that will be familliar to anyone who's seen Deliverance. It begins with 2 shave and a haircuts and finishes it off with some alternating thumb chord action.

Example 4

The next few examples are a little further from the beaten path. Example 5 varies things up with a standard opening leading to a small flurry of natural harmonics. (If you are not familliar with how to play natural harmonics I will explain them in detail in a later post but essentially they are bell like tones created by touching (but not pressing down as you would to fret) the string above the indicated fret.

Example 5

The 6th example is one I use on a tune I wrote called 'The Crowchild Ramble'.

Example 6

This next one is a bit of a fingerbuster. It begins with notes generated from a diminished chords and then finishes rather conventionally (shave and a haircut MarkII).

Example 7

The 8th and final example begins with a series of diminished triplets. They look difficult but once you get the left hand figured out it is quite like moving this left hand shape...
...and rolling over it.

Example 8

That's it for endings for now. Let me know if there are any questions and be sure to check back for the next post which will deal with transmogrification as it applies to banjo music.

See you then.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cripple Creek Harmony

For this post I thought I might cover a little close banjo harmony.

Twin banjos can sound great and there are a multitude of angles you can approach the harmonizing from. The most common, and the one I'll be using today, is to have one banjo play the straight melody and the other harmonize it in thirds.

A third is the distance from 1 note on a major scale to the note after the next note up the scale. This means if you were playing in the key of G (which is not uncommon on the banjo) and the melody note was a G you would play the note 2 letters up the scale for your harmony note(a B note in this case). For an A note the harmony would be a C and for a B note the harmony would be a D.

Make sense? I will make a future post explaining the thirds harmony more fully but to get right into playing it and hearing what it's all about let's try harmonizing some Cripple Creek.

Most banjo players know a version of Cripple Creek. This here is a fairly standard version...

And here is the harmony part...

Here is a video of the harmony played slow, medium and faster...

If you already know Cripple Creek play along with the video and hear the harmony jump out. This is a great tune to have a harmony part for as most banjo players know it and it tends to come up alot at jams. It works nice if you throw it in on the last pass of the tune to finish everything off...just make sure you aren't playing over anyone elses big solo or otherwise stepping on toes. Until next time.


Thought I would add a video of two banjos playing the harmony in response to a BHO request so I convinced my student Doug to help me out. Thank you Doug. Here it is...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

'O Canada'

I have had a few people ask me for tab on this one so I figured I'd make a post out of it. This is the Canadian national anthem played in 3 finger style.

There are alot of Scruggs licks in here but also some twists. Have a listen here and then I'll explain things a bit...

And here is the tab...

You can also download the tabledit file here (you will need to install tabledit software to read it)

The very beginning of the tune can be played in loose time. It serves as an introduction of the melody and is played with a combination of full chords and 2 part harmony. The 4 finger voices can be played by strumming with the thumb pick.

After the very brief introduction it kicks in to the fun stuff. Most of the first section is made up of standard rolls and licks. It kicks off with a descending lick leading to the B melody note. This is followed by some fairly routine bluegrass picking intended to bring out the melody. Measures 13-14 offer a little bit of contrary motion in the harmony (higher part ascends while lower part descends) which I pick with index and middle finger pinches.

Measures 24-40 are played higher up the neck. This section switches things up with a chord melody device. Essentially I am using standard closed shape major chord voicings ('D-shape','F-shape' and straight barre) to play the melody while the right hand keeps mostly to an alternating thumb pattern. I bring the right hand closer to the neck for this section for a deeper, mellower tone. Switching the right hand position also serves to break things up so when it returns to the more straight ahead down the neck stuff the snap and twang jump right out.

The last section of the tune returns to good old down the neck picking and finishes off with a little quote from the Bob and Doug Mackenzie movie 'Stange Brew' in measures 62-64 (ooo roo coo coo coo coo coo coooo..) and then tags it off in measure 65 with a bit of a backward roll driven finisher. Then the 5th fret harmonic just so everyone knows it's done.

Have fun with this and as always let me know if you've go questions.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Extended Kickoffs

Howdy there.

As promised this post will focus on extended kickoffs.

The extended kickoffs I'm talking about are the 4 or so measure ones where the banjo leads the way and the rest of the musicians wait to break in when it is clearly time (usually indicated by some standard leading tones as seen in the short kickoffs).

The first one I'm going to put out uses an old standby lick that anyone who's ever played Cripple Creek should be familliar with.

It plays this lick 4 times then breaks off to another standard Scruggs lick.

Here's what it looks like (you may want to click on it to view it big and clear):

You can follow it up a couple ways to go into the tune. Extended Kickoff 1a adds leading tones to get you to a G note (open 3rd string) for melodies beginning on G. The leading tones will be familliar from the short kickoff post.

Extended Kickoff 1b ends with leading tones that bring you to a D note (open 1st string) for melodies beginning on D.

The leading tones at the end should be familliar from the short kickoff post. In fact just about all of the short kickoffs can be grafted on as endings to this extended kickoff. Play around with it.

The second extended kickoff begins up the neck and works its way back. Here it is:

Again, you can graft leading tones on at the end to pull you into the melody of whatever song you are playing. These next 2 examples do that;

That's really just the tip of the iceburg as far as kickoffs go. My advice is to go right now and listen to some recordings. See if you hear some of the things we've done here turning up and what sorts of variations are happening.

Also try grafting these kickoffs on any and all of your favourite tunes and see what you come up with.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Kickin' it Off Part 1- Short Kickoffs

Being as this is my first post here aside from the brief introduction I thought it might be appropriate to tackle kickoffs; how a tune is begun.

How many ways can a tune be begat? Alot. So many that this first post will only cover the quick kickoffs (1 measure or less) and I will follow it up with a post on longer kickoffs.

It has been said that the most important parts of any song, story or performance are the beginning and the end. The beginning is where an audience will form its first impression (what is this? do I like it?) and the ending is where all things are tied up and judgement is passed (was that good? did it stink?). Obviously the body is extremely important as well but I have found that a glorious middle section (the 95% between the intro and ending) coupled with an unclear and unappealing intro and ending usually won't fly where a mediocre middle section with a stunner of a kickoff and a great big 'bring down the house' kind of ending often will. If everything is happening then look out!

Most short kickoffs can be accurately described as a handful of notes leading to the the first melody note (the first pitch sung in the case of a non-instrumental). It is therefore important to know what the first melody note is as that is the note the kickoff will lead to. Most tunes begin on the 'I' chord (the G chord in the key of G) and most melodies begin on one of the 3 notes in that chord (for the G chord the 3 notes are G, B, and D, which are the open notes on your 3rd 2nd and 1st strings respectively). For all the examples in this post I will stick with the good old key of G.

So without further adieu here are some kickoffs in G. Kickoff #1 is very standard and leads to a G melody note.

Sound familiar? This next one is almost identical but the replacement of the E note with an F gives little grittier sound.

Kickoff #3 leads to the G melody note from above.

Kickoff #4 is a little more difficult; it contains the low notes from Kickoff #1 but adds a high harmony part. A little bit of contrary motion (one part rises, one part descends) going on here.

Kickoffs #1-4 all led to a G melody note but for kickoffs #5-7 we'll try leading to a B melody note.

These last 4 kick off to a D melody note.

Kickoff #11 is a series of hammered triplets.

Here is a video summary of all the kickoffs :

So there you have a few kickoffs to get things started. Hope some of you enjoyed that/ got something out of it. My blog will cover alot of banjo related things and sometimes the lesson style posts may seem either too advanced and too basic for any paticular individual. If you have any questions or feedback just shoot me an email or post a comment.

Up next: extended kickoffs...