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Dancing In The Hog Trough
Fire Ball Mail up-the-neck break
Down To The River To Pray
Foggy Mountain Breakdown
Based on the 1949 recording by Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs & the Foggy Mountain Boys, here's a down-the-neck break that has all of the key ingredients of the Flatt & Scruggs original. Tune your banjo up a fret to match the old Mercury record:
Banjo Tab: Foggy Mountain Breakdown
Bugle Call Rag
This video demonstrates three breaks plus the ending to Bugle Call Rag from the 1960 album "Foggy Mountain Banjo" by Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs & the Foggy Mountain Boys. Includes the unique lick that starts the tune's 3rd break:
Banjo Tab: Bugle Call Rag
Based on the classic 1960 recording on the album "Foggy Mountain Banjo" by Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs & the Foggy Mountain Boys, here's the intro, ending, and first break for Cripple Creek. Tune up to match the pitch of the original Columbia recording and get your bass player to play the bass line like Jake Tullock!
Banjo Tab: Cripple Creek
Born With A Hammer In My Hand
This song kicks off the self-titled album by Blue Highway on Ricky Skaggs' Ceili Music label. We recorded this song and most of the album at Quad Studios in Nashville.
The chord progression is:
1 5 1 1
1 1 4 4
1 1 1 1
1 5 1 1
Licks to look for: the timing of the notes on the C chord in the Kickoff and the triple hammer-ons on the C chord in the Break.
Banjo Tab: Born With A Hammer In My Hand
Rhonda Vincent included this song on her 2001 release "The Storm Still Rages". I first heard the song (recorded 1963) on the album "Voices In Bluegrass" by the Osborne Brothers.
This video lesson covers all three banjo solos that I played on Bluegrass Express. The song is played in the Key of F with no capo.
Banjo Tab: Bluegrass Express
It Rains Everywhere I Go
This song appears on the Lynn Morris album "Mama's Hand". I played banjo on part of that album and Lynn played banjo on two of her original instrumental tunes Dancing In The Hog Trough (played 3-finger Scruggs style) and Old Rip (played clawhammer style).
When we first started rehearsing this song, which is in the Key of B, I put my capo on the 4th fret, but the high pitch of the banjo and the rolls I was playing just weren't a good fit. I remembered that Tony Furtado used a low, open B tuning on his banjo tune Tyson's Dream when he and I and Tony Trischka toured with the Rounder Banjo Extravaganza. That tuning was perfect for It Rains Everywhere I Go. Thank you, Tony Furtado!
Banjo Tab: It Rains Everywhere I Go
The two breaks in this banjo lesson are transcribed from my playing on the Grammy-nominated "At The Old Schoolhouse" live album by the Johnson Mountain Boys recorded February 20, 1988 in Lucketts, VA.
Unwanted Love was written by Don Reno and recorded by Don Reno & Red Smiley. A studio version by the Johnson Mountain Boys appears on their 7th album for Rounder, "Requests".
See the up-tempo live performance version on YouTube. Unwanted Love follows the same chord progression as the familiar Blue Ridge Cabin Home.
Banjo Tab: Unwanted Love
Rocky Top - played in C position
Why learn to play Rocky Top in C position? Singers sometimes pitch the song in the Key of C, D or E. Playing the song with a capo at the 7th or 9th frets is not practical.
Rocky Top was recorded in 1967 by the Osborne Brothers, with Sonny Osborne on banjo. Sonny's breaks and backup on that recording and on tapes of live Osborne Brothers shows recorded since that time are the definitive banjo sound for "Rocky Top".
Playing in the C position will allow you to play in the Keys of C or D or E with the capo going no higher than the 4th fret.
Banjo Tab: Rocky Top in C position
Whose Shoulder Will You Cry On
Here's an up-the-neck break for Whose Shoulder Will You Cry On played in the Key of G. I first heard the song performed by Del McCoury & the Dixie Pals on their live radio show on WHVR, Hanover PA, in 1969.
While this video demonstrates the song in the Key of G, several bluegrass singers including Del McCoury, Dan Tyminski and Danny Paisley pitch the song in the Key of B.
After you've kicked off the tune on the banjo with a traditional down-the-neck break, be ready for a second solo with the up-the-neck break shown here:
Banjo Tab: Whose Shoulder Will You Cry On
Worried Man Blues
This version of Worried Man Blues uses the chord progression as heard on the Flatt & Scruggs album "Songs Of The Famous Carter Family".
The chord chart for this break is:
G G G G
C C G G
D D G G
Listen to an mp3 sample of the Flatt & Scruggs recording here. The lick in Measures 9 - 12 can also be used in the last line of My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains.
We Can't Be Darlings
Released by Flatt & Scruggs in 1951, We Can't Be Darlings Anymore is a medium tempo vocal number. If you get the chance to take two solos on this song, try this up-the-neck break for your second one:
Down In The Valley
Here's an up-the-neck break for Down In The Valley played in the Key of G. Flatt & Scruggs recorded the song in the Key of F with the title Hear The Wind Blow on the Columbia album "Folk Songs Of Our Land". The break moves horizontally up and down the neck on the first two strings:
Up The Neck Scruggs Licks
+ Foggy Mountain Special
I had a request for some up-the-neck Scruggs licks including Earl's break to Foggy Mountain Special from a live Flatt & Scruggs TV Show. In addition to that banjo break, you'll find 3 up-the-neck licks including one from Earl's Breakdown:
Box Elder Beetles
Here's the intro and 1st break for Box Elder Beetles, a tune I wrote and recorded on the Adams County Banjo CD:
Little Cabin Home On The
Here's an up-the-neck break for Little Cabin Home On The Hill. If you're jamming on the tune, this will make a good second break - or - make up your own break - combine one half of a down-the-neck break with one half of this high break:
My Rose Of Old Kentucky
Here's an up-the-neck break for My Rose Of Old Kentucky, a bluegrass standard from the Bill Monroe catalog. Whenever you see Vince Gill perform in a bluegrass setting, you're sure to hear this song:
Before I Met You
Here's an up-the-neck break for Before I Met You, a popular vocal number from the Flatt & Scruggs repertoire. On their recording, the fiddle and banjo split the breaks. If you're jamming with friends and don't happen to have a fiddler, try substituting this banjo break:
Love Please Come Home
Here's an up-the-neck break for Love Please Come Home, a song my dad learned from a Reno & Smiley record. I got the idea for this break from seeing Del McCoury with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band:
Old Home Place
Here's an up-the-neck break for Old Home Place, based on the Rounder 0044 album by J.D. Crowe & the New South. This break replaces the guitar/dobro split-break that leads to the final vocal chorus:
Blue Ridge Cabin Home
Here's an up-the-neck break for Blue Ridge Cabin Home that's based on Earl Scruggs' down-the-neck playing on the Flatt & Scruggs recording on Columbia Records:
Blue Ridge Cabin Home
Here's Blue Ridge Cabin Home played at the Practice Tempo of 58 bpm:
Practice Tempo = 58 beats per minute. The tab is divided into 8 lines. Part A has 4 lines and Part B has 4 lines. Note that lines 6, 7 and 8 are identical to lines 2, 3 and 4 with the exception of the D lick in measures 16 and 32. Remember, this is just one way that this song can be played. Use this exercise to help you make up your own way of playing the song:
Jesse James (backup)
Practice Tempo = 58 beats per minute. Use the 2-finger chord which is based on the full 4-finger D-position, as shown in the video: 2nd fret 3rd string + 3rd fret 2nd string. This 2-finger chord gives you the root and 5 notes only - so there is no 3rd. Remember, this is just one way that the backup for this song can be played. Use this exercise to help you make up your own way of playing the backup for this song:
Harry Potter music on the
Tom Adams - banjo, based on "Hedwig's Theme" by John Williams:
Up-the-neck break played in the Key of G:
Your Cheatin' Heart
Up-the-neck break played in the Key of G:
I Saw The Light
Up-the-neck break from the album Right Hand Man by Tom Adams:
MP3 available from Amazon.com
Down The Road
Up-the-neck break played in the Key of G. Based on the banjo playing style of Earl Scruggs:
Little Darlin', Pal Of
Up-the-neck break played in the Key of G. Based on the down-the-neck break played by Earl Scruggs on Foggy Mountain Banjo: