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Beginner Banjo Lesson - The Alternating Thumb Roll [Banjo]

By Bennett Sullivan on Oct 13, 2017


Calling all beginner banjo pickers! This lesson will give you a great starting place for practicing an essential Scruggs style roll and then show you how to work in your first slur - a slide.

The banjo (and every other instrument) is all about timing so playing along with the music while also working with the metronome will set you on the path to rhythmic glory. Here's a guide to getting started learning this lick:

(Tip: Make your browser window smaller to enlarge the tab. It sounds counter-intuitive but it will help you see the slurs.)

  1. Set the tempo slow (60 bpm works great!) and listen to the lick 3-4 times in a row. By the 3rd time through, sing along with the lick. Yes, it might sound silly at first but this is the most important part! This will get the music in you faster, which will allow for quicker memorization.
  2. Notice the letters underneath the tab. These are your right and fingerings. Use these to guide you through the first 4 notes: Thumb, index, thumb, middle. Don't forget to sing along! Practice with no playback to get in the groove. Once you've done this several times and you're feeling good, now it's time to play along with the app.
  3. Push the play button and hold on! This may be a bit challenging at first but like anything, with practice it will become a piece of cake. If you don't feel 100% comfortable playing this with the recording, DON'T MOVE ON. Slow it down a bit and alternate between playing by yourself and playing with the app.
  4. Okay! You've gone through steps 1-3 and mastered your first roll. Congrats! Let's get into the fun part. Use the lick switcher in the top right corner of the tab to switch to the first Scruggs lick. This lick features the slide.
  5. Just like step 1, listen to the recording of the new lick and do your best to memorize what it sounds like. Once you can sing the melody without anything playing along, then move onto learning the notes on your instrument.
  6. A combination of playing with and without the app is a good approach for quick memorization. Here's a possible time break down: 3-5 minutes without. 3-5 minutes with.
  7. This process should be repeated for any melody you're learning, regardless of how simple or detailed. The melody is king and when you get it in your ears then you can replicate that sound on your instrument. Have fun!


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