If you’re thinking that the free tabs look a little sparse, you’re right! What I’ve provided you is just the bare bones skeleton of the melody.
Why did I do that, and where are the rolls?
As you know, bluegrass banjo plays the melody using rolls, which consist of 4 or 8 note patterns that are repeated over and over.
Virtually every single bluegrass banjo method out there teaches you a tune with the rolls already incorporated into the melody. That is a BIG MISTAKE.
Because you need to be able to figure out how to add the rolls yourself, instead of memorizing some complicated arrangement found in a book or (gasp) on the internet.
How do you add the rolls yourself?
Start with the simplest roll, which is called “the pinch.” To play the pinch, merely pluck together the 1st and 5th strings at the same time.
Where do you add the pinch?
First, look at the tab of “Pig in a Pen.” In the first measure, there’s two melody notes: the second string open or unfretted and the third string open, or unfretted. Each of these notes has a vertical line protruding up, or hanging down. That tells you each of these notes get one beat (or one foot tap – down and up). Those are your melody notes. After each of these melody note, play a pinch (or 1st and 5th string plucked together with your thumb and middle finger).
You’ll see these melody notes throughout “Pig in a Pen.” Play a pinch after each one of those.
At the beginning of measure 2, you’ll see a two notes tied together with little lines. There’s no pinch there. Instead, play those notes quickly with your right thumb. Each of those two notes gets a half a beat. Your foot will go DOWN on the first note, and UP and the second note. In other words, those are two eighth notes.
Using a combination of pinches and single notes you can play not only the tunes I’ve tabbed out for you, but thousands of bluegrass songs of your own choice. Then instead of using only the pinch, you can add a variety of other rolls, thus creating your own arrangements. Not only that, you can easily play it different each time by substituting different rolls.
All of this may sound confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. I cover all this stuff in my book Bluegrass Banjo for the Complete Ignoramus! This book teaches twenty-three bluegrass tunes, all in my simple tab. With each song, I go through it step by step, saying which simple rolls you can use to dress up your tune. You should try it. It really works! In fact, I’ll offer you this guarantee. If you try the book and either don’t like it, or it doesn’t work for you, send it back, and I’ll send you back your money. Fair enough?
NEWS FLASH! Wayne’s newest book is just back from the printer! Bluegrass Jamming on Banjo will teach you to make 31 bluegrass jam standards your own. You’ll learn how to combine these bluegrass tunes with with simple rolls, play back-up, fills, and how fit seamlessly into the jam of your dreams.
Thanks so much.