Home Forums Banjo Banjo Lesson Discussion Will The Circle Be Unbroken (Backup) Beginner Banjo

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    • #80445

      This is the discussion topic for the lesson Will The Circle Be Unbroken (Backup) Beginner Banjo. Please leave your comments or any questions you might have about the lesson here!

    • #80674

      Just starting to go through this lesson. Love it…I really want to learn this stuff well enough to just do it without having to think about it.

      First thing that came to mind was at the end of measures 18 and 20, where you drop the bottom note of the chord triads for G and C, right after the eighth note rest. Any reason for dropping the bottom of the triad and just keeping the top two notes?

      • #80716


        Glad you enjoyed the lesson. I’ll be doing more of these in the future. Good question.

        The main reason I did that was to make the right hand picking pattern easier. To grab all three notes of the triad (thumb, index, middle) after the 8th note rest you’d have to do a quick double-thumb to play the note on beat 4 of measures 18 and 20. You could probably make it work but it wouldn’t sound quite as smooth to my ear. You could try it and see how quickly you’d have to move your thumb to play on the and of beat 3 and on beat 4.

        You’ve already played the full triad on beat 2 of those measures as well so that also factored in to my thought process. You’ll probably hear plenty of the chord already and I was really thinking more rhythmically here than harmonically.

        If you have any more questions let me know!


    • #80738

      I just downloaded this lesson and started playing it. I looked for a track without the singing which is covers over the banjo and is difficult for me, as a beginner, to follow along with.
      Did I miss the lesson where you go over each measure slower? I know it’s a lot of work for you to video two versions but this is more of an intermediate level lesson in my opinion.

      • #80743


        I can e-mail you a track with just the banjo if that will help you. There’s only one speed of practice track for this lesson because Clint only sang the tune at one speed.

        I do walk through the lesson slowly in the video.

        Otherwise hopefully the track with just banjo will help you hear the parts better. I think you’ll be able to get it with a little practice!

        If you have any more questions along the way just let me know.


    • #100393

      Hello Mike,

      First of all, you are doing great work with this website! It’s great for us non-Americans to have access to at least a “virtual” teacher. I also find the Guided Learning very usefull as before, I would scavange material from left and right, but the techniques and skills were not in context of the bigger picture.

      My questions are a bit more general and not necessarily to this song, but I will use it as example. I have recently (~ 1 month) started learning backup, overall I have been practicing since May 2019. I used to play the piano (classical) when I was young (5 years up to 12-13) and it’s the first time I play anything at all after many years.

      I still am not sure I fully understand the way I need to be thinking when it comes to banjo and especially backup. I have bought two books of Wayne Erbsen and while one of them is more focused on backup I am still unsure.

      My questions are as follows :
      *) If you are in a jam with random people and they play a song you don’t know. Are you expected to be able to play backup like in this example? Can you do it? After how many years of practice? This question is hypothetical, as I don’t know of any people to jam with, but I would still like to know how.
      *) If you play this type of backup. Are you expected to be able to sing (assuming you can sing). Or in the case the banjo player sings, he/she resorts to vamping? Or it is a matter of level of skill more?
      *) I try to practice at least 1H per day, more on weekends and on occasion in the week not at all. Assuming I am the least talented person on the planet, given your experience, how many years until I will be able to play like you.
      *) How can I learn to play other types of songs, that are not bluegrass on the banjo? I am Greek, so I have some friends you play that type of music. How can I go about starting to learn to play Greek folk music on the banjo? Or is it blasphemy 😀 ?
      * Is there a pattern of finding the base melody of a song, provided I have the tabs? In this case I am mainly speaking about bluegrass, but I assume you could bluegrassify other genre if you know the base melody.

      I have more questions, but I risk you seeing it as a mountain and not replying.
      Keep releasing information.


      • #100462

        Thanks for your questions. Let me try and answer.

        1. Yes, you could improvise a backup like this with practice over time. The goal of these backup tabs is to give you basic ideas you can use in lots of songs. So I recommend taking your favorite backup licks from this tab and trying to apply them to other songs you know.

        2. No, this backup would be difficult to play and sing at the same time. I’d probably recommend simplifying it quite a bit if you were going to sing the song as well. This type of backup works best if someone else is singing (which is why you don’t see a lot of singing banjo players).

        3. It’s hard to predict how long it will take for you to make progress as everyone is different. If you’re working on new things for 1 hr a day, you’ll definitely see improvement. The most important thing is having fun which is the biggest predictor of whether of not you’ll keep playing.

        4. You can play any type of music on the banjo. You could look up the chords to a Greek folk song and find them on your banjo or learn the melody play the notes. I’d start with the chords and try doing some basic rolls, after that see if you can find the melody notes.

        5. No there’s no set pattern for finding the melody in a bluegrass song because every arrangement is different. Some stay closer to the melody and some venture further away from the melody. The melody is usually found in the chord tones (the notes that make up the chord you’re playing). Knowing those notes (G,B,D for a G chord) is the best way to start finding the melody to a song.

        Good luck.


    • #100594

      Thanks Mike! This was very helpfull 😀

    • #107144

      I’m really glad to see you have multiple backup lessons posted. I have been learning for a few years but just recently started going to a weekly jam and realize how important it is to be able to improvise backup. I have been doing a lot of straight vamping (like a mandolin) and continuous forward or square rolls at the jams and that is getting old. Is there a particular order to the lessons or suggested curriculum to most efficiently learn to improvise backup? Also, is there a lesson with insight as to how to back up a song with BPM beyond my range?

      • #107395


        Stay tuned, I have a lot more backup lessons planned.

        You can check out the Guided Learning and there’s a backup section. That will show my recommended way to work through the backup lessons.

        My go-to for songs that are close to my speed limit is vamping or very simple rolls. As the song gets faster, you’ll have to simplify your playing if you want to keep up.

        Also, at faster speeds I usually use “less” fingers for chords. So instead of doing full 4 finger chords, I may just do 2 fingers or 3 fingers. At higher speeds, taking time to put down unnecessary fingers will slow you down.

        The best way to increase your speed is slowly through practice. I recommend using the Amazing Slow Downer or my Soundslice player I offer.

        You can check out the lesson I did “Ten Tips To Improve Your Speed” if you want some of my tips to play faster.

        If you have any other questions let me know.


    • #151947
      Daniel Castillo

      I was also hoping to find a track with just banjo. Any chance you’d be able to send that to me as well?

      • #156866

        Sure. I can e-mail you a banjo-only track. I will do that right now. Thanks.

        – Mike

    • #212501
      Matthew Thomas

      Hey mike,

      Do you have the tabs for the backup?

      • #229403

        Yes the tabs are on the lesson page exactly as I played it at the beginning of the video.

        – Mike

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