Friday, November 22, 2013

Time in a Bottle

I love Jim Croce.  I love his rough and tumble ballads of violence, ego and vice ( a la 'Bad Leroy Brown' and 'Don't Mess Around with Jim') and I even love his soft, candlelit sentimental numbers ('Operator', I Got a Name').

Time in a Bottle is probably Jim's best known tune.  The original was recorded with two fingerpicked acoustic guitars (Jim and his sideman Maury Muehleisen) and can't really be improved upon.  I arranged it for solo banjo and really enjoy playing it.

Here is the video...

And here is the tablature...

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Foggy Mountain Breakdown - Variations

********************************UPDATE (July 19th)*********************************

So I came in third in the Banjo Hangout's 'Foggy Mountain Breakdown Challenge'.  You can check out the top 3 at

Was alot of fun.  Thanks to everyone who competed and voted.

I had someone request the tab for my arrangement so I've written it out  for anyone interested.  You can download it from my tablature archive here (it's in tabledit format.  If you don't have tabledit you can download the viewer at


I did a few posts offering some variations on Earl Scruggs' 'Foggy Mountain Breakdown' but never really showed the individual variations back to back.

Here I've recorded some variations on the previous variations thrown together and performed with guitar accompaniment provided by fellow Tishomingo String Bander Chris Russell.

Here it is...

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

After the Gold Rush

Came up with this little arrangement of one of my favourite Neil Young melodies.  It's played in the original key of D in standard tuning with the 5th string spiked to an A.

Here is the video...

And here is the tablature (click to enlarge)...

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Elsinore Rag

This is a new tune of mine that covers a range of techniques.  It begins in the key of G with a swelling arpeggio motif in the A section that leads to some low range single string in the B.  From there we modulate to the key of C for a section and then it's back to the key of G and a recap of the A section before finishing off with a long winded descending line (I recommend a TIM or TMI right hand pattern) and a faux-classical resolution.

Here is the video...

And here is the tablature...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Tishomingo String Band (my band) to Play Regular Sunday Nights at the Portside Pub in Gastown, Vancouver

This is a bit of a celebratory/ promotional post that will only be of interest to readers living in, or planning to visit, the Vancouver area (Canada).  Our band will be playing Sunday nights from roughly 9:00-midnight at the Portside Pub in Gastown (7 Alexander).

It is a little late on a Sunday for most but if you feel like being bleary eyed at work Monday morning is a small price to pay for an evening of fun we will do our best to make sure you are not disappointed.

Here is a clip from Sunday before last at Portside.  Our mandolin player was unable to attend that night but we made do.  Thanks to my mom for the stellar camerawork!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Foggy Mountain Breakdown - Variation III

For this variation on good ol' Foggy Mountain we journey to the upper reaches of the fretboard.  Most of the playing is out of the G and E minor chord voicings up the neck with a few distractions thrown in (such as the chromatically descending fourths in measures 3-4).

The end of this variation features a barrage of triplet pulloffs.  All of the pulloffs descent from 3rd fret to 2nd fret to the open string.  If you have yet to encounter these types of pulls before I suggest spending some time with the metronome working on only one string and when you feel comfortable try it with string switching.

Without further adieu, here is the video of the variation played slow...

And here is the tablature (click to enlarge)...


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Exploring Foggy Mountain Breakdown Part II - Single String Break

For the second break I thought I would try some single string and just to make things fun I threw in a quote from AC/DC's 'Thunderstruck' (over the D chord).

I use mostly thumb/index/thumb/middle for my single string playing as it feels a little more solid and a little more like playing a role but straight thumb/index alternation is all good if you prefer.

Here is the video of the variation played slow...

And here is the tablature (click to enlarge)

NEXT:  Exploring Foggy Mountain Breakdown Part III 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Exploring Foggy Mountain Breakdown- Part I

Foggy Mountain Breakdown.  It's the most popular tune from the father of bluegrass banjo (Earl Scruggs).  I love playing Foggy Mountain as much as the next guy and thought I would try a series of posts exploring variations.  The original is pretty much untouchable so I'm not suggesting anything I have come up with is an improvement, simply tapping into the old imagination to mix things up a little.

The first variation is fairly similar in melody to the up the neck choke break Scruggs takes only played an octave lover with hammers in place of chokes.  There is a little pedal steel inspired bending over the E minor chord and then a honky tonk piano inspired lick over the D chord.

Here is a video of it played slow...

And here is the tab (click to enlarge)...

I figure at the end of this series I'll record a video of all of the variations back to back at a decent tempo.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Adventures in Solo Banjo Part 1 - Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head

Fooling around with an old 'Songs of the Sixties' book and came up with this arrangement of Hal David and Burt Bacharach's 'Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head'.  This tune was used as the theme for the Newman/ Redford classic 'Buth Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' and was a huge hit for B.J. Thomas in 1969.

My arrangement is in the original key of F and there are a few things to watch out for.

For the strumming in the intro I use my ring finger and thumb nail (not the thumb pick) to get a softer tone.

The syncopation may require a little effort to nail.  If it seems difficult in places try counting out the rhythm for those measures at a slower speed before integrating it back in.

For a warmer sound I pick closer to neck position than I do for most bluegrass playing although I encourage you to experiment and see what works best for you on your instrument.

Here is the video...

Here is the tablature (click to enlarge)...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Old Joe Clark - Key of F

Here's a little stab of Old Joe Clark rooted down in the mighty key of F.  Tempo is kind of slow and loping, more of a low down feel.  I like alot of the licks that seem to present themselves in the key of F and the high G string adding the 9th adds a certain ethereal quality at times.

Here's the video...

And here's the tablature (click to enlarge)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Blackberry Blossom Banjo Harmony

Came up with a little Blackberry Blossom banjo harmony I thought I might share with my faithful readers...

    It's a fairly straightforward harmony, mostly parrallel 3rds, but I think it does the trick of harmonizing with a standard melodic arrangement nicely.  

    If you have tabledit (the viewer is a free download from you can view the tablature here in tabledit form where, among other things, you can hear the two parts together with robotic MIDI Sounds.Will try and post a video of the harmony as soon as I can wrangle up a willing 2nd banjo.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Mr. Banjo

Being both a banjo fanatic and comic book lover I was delighted this week to discover a minor DC Comics character from the 1940s whose schtick, and possibly his superpower, was playing the banjo.  Behold him in all of his glory...

Turns out he was a villain (nobody's perfect).  Here's a bio I found for him on

"One of Captain Marvel's recurring villains from the early issues of Captain Marvel Adventures in the 1940s, Kurt Filpots worked as an agent for the Axis powers during World War II. Dressed as a stout man in a shaggy green suit and straw hat who carried around an old banjo with him, Filpots delivered secrets in the form of musical notes. Although evil, Mr. Banjo would go up against Captain Marvel with nothing more than a banjo."


Next step is to find an old Captain Marvel comic with Mr. Banjo in it.  Let the search begin...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Tishomingo Boogie

Here's a little clip of the Tishomingo String Band from about 6 months ago that is now up.  I always enjoy the back and forth between the banjo and guitar at the end of this one...