This post was going to be easy, or so I thought, the top ten banjo songs – simple, get a pen and start writing them down. What makes them the top ten? Is it the most requested song, the most recognized, my favorite?, I don’t know. This list is a combination of two criteria : Number One – It has to be a good banjo song -Players and listeners alike have an appreciation for these songs. Number Two – How well is the song known. This list has to have songs that are familiar to most people. This top ten is a solid list of songs that are appreciated by listeners and at the same time,are fun to perform as a banjo player. Go to a bluegrass jam, you’ll hear a few from this list.
Enough criteria and justification: Here it is Banjoblogger’s Top Ten Bluegrass Banjo Songs:
- Foggy Mountain Breakdown – People love to hear this one.
- Cripple Creek – Defines the banjo sound to some people.
- Ballad of Jed Clampett - Brought bluegrass to a wider audience.
- Clinch Mountain Backstep – Ralph Stanley – Cool and fun to play.
- Wildwood Flower – Listeners favorite.
- Flint Hill Special – Players favorite.
- Blackberry Blossom – Melodic style is neat on this song.
- Lonesome Road Blues – Bill Monroe version is amazing.
- Will the Circle Be Unbroken – Good sing-a-long.
- I’ll fly away – Everyone knows this song.
There it is – My Top Ten. I’m sure there ‘s a few songs that should have been on the list and a couple that some of you would take off, but this is the best I can do. Oh, by the way, Please help support the Banjoblogger and buy me a beer – check out the left sidebar. Thanks for visiting Banjoblogger.com, Happy New Year 2008.
I bet every musician has been asked to play some Christmas music, but how many songs do you actually know? I realized that I knew almost one verse of ten different Christmas songs and that’s about it. My friend Dave asked me if I would join him and play a small Christmas Concert at a group home. The residents of this group home have developmental disabilities and look forward to this day every year, so how could I say no. This concert was a yearly tradition for a very good friend who recently passed away, he always had time for music and the people who appreciated it. Ken Hartt, I hope we made you proud – We miss you.
Dave and I got together and tried a few songs, after an hour or so, we felt we were as ready as we were going to be. We chose a few standards like “Silent Night”, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “Jingle Bells” and gave them a bit of bluegrass flair. Dave plays mandolin and of course I’ve got the banjo covered, also joining us were guitarists, Brian and Robyne. Our band gave them about a half an hour of music and it felt good to be able to make people so happy. Brian, Dave and I play together in a bluegrass band, so we thought that it was only fitting to play a couple of bluegrass tunes as well.
The opening banjo lick of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” grabbed everyone’s attention and soon the kitchen became a dance floor and the sound of hands clapping filled the air. A few more songs and a room full of smiles and our job was done – This one is for you Ken.
Please take some time out and play for people who can’t get out to see live music – in group homes, seniors homes, hospitals or wherever you can make a difference. Well I’d better get ready for Christmas myself – Merry Christmas from the Banjoblogger.
I think every banjo player has heard the song “Foggy Mountain Breakdown”, this song defines bluegrass music to a lot of folks. The opening part of this song is one of the best known banjo licks in the world – bar none. The movie “Bonnie and Clyde”, released in 1967 brought this song to a wide audience when it was featured in the movie’s car chase scenes. Written by Earl Scruggs and recorded by Flatt & Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys in 1949, this song catches the attention of a lot of potential banjo players
The five string banjo is tuned to a G chord, which makes it easy to play in the key of G. All those great `banjo licks` – slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs, etc. need the open G tuning of the banjo. If we have to play in the key of A, the most common way is to use a capo. Place your capo on the second fret and retune your fifth string to an A, now you are tuned to an open A. Most people have a sliding fifth string capo or spikes installed, which makes it much easier to retune the fifth string.
Here is a Shubb fifth string Capo and a standard Shubb capo, just so you know what I`m talking about.
Who invented the three finger picking style for the five string banjo? Most people would say Earl Scruggs, although he was not the first person to play that style. What makes Earl Scruggs stand out is that he not only played with three fingers but he had a different approach to the banjo. Scruggs-style banjo is more than just a three finger finger picking style – it is a unique aproach to playing the banjo.
In the area of North Carolina that Earl grew up in, the banjo was being picked with three fingers by many banjo players. Earl became very proficient and began playing at dances, developing and perfecting his banjo technique. Soon people were talking about Earl’s banjo playing and his reputation started to grow.
Earl Scruggs and Marty Stuart
The G major scale is: G A B C D E F# G. You can figure out the G major scale by first writing out the the G chromatic scale and then using the pattern; whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step and half step. To help remember the pattern for major scales let’s shorten it to: W W H W W W H. The following diagram starts with the chromatic scale and picks the major scale out using the -W- W- -H- -W- -W- -W- -H- pattern.
I hope I don’t scare you away by mentioning music theory, but knowing a little theory will help you a lot. If you remember the next group of words, you already know a little bit of theory – do – re – me – fa – sol – la – ti – do. This a major scale; in the key of C - these notes are C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C.
The following scale is the C chromatic scale : C – C#/Db – D – D#/Eb – E – F -F#/Gb – G – G#/Ab – A -A#/Bb – B. The interval between the notes is known as a half-step or semitone and a whole step is equal to two half-steps. Notice that there is an extra note between each note of the major scale except between E and F, and B and C, these notes are known as flats (b) or sharps (#). All that a sharp means, is that the note was raised a half-step; a flat is lowered by a half step. Depending on where you start, you can describe the same note as flat or a sharp, for example C# and Db are the same note.