In an previous post, I introduced some banjo rolls that used the middle finger more. This post puts the middle finger in the spotlight, and will force you to pay closer attention to the notes played by that finger. To get started, check out this post - http://banjoblogger.com/right-hand-middle-finger-exercises/
My first post used rolls that started with the thumb; as you know by now, it is easier to get a strong note using your thumb. This time we’ll start the roll with our middle finger and and end with the thumb. In a typical bluegrass song the strong notes are the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th eighth notes, and it just so happens that these are the notes played by your middle finger in this roll. A lot of people refer to this roll as the Osborne Roll, named after the man who popularized it. This technique is a tricky one to master, but with a little concentration and close attention to each and every note, you will be using these rolls with confidence in no time.
One of the first people to use this particular banjo roll was Sonny Osborne, of Osborne Brothers Fame. As the story goes, Sonny developed this roll to accommodate the picking pattern in the song “Old Joe Clark” which allowed him to play a pattern closer to the fiddle’s part. Enough talk – let’s get started. The first exercise uses open strings to give you an easier start – try to get all of the notes as even as you can. Once you are comfortable with the middle finger’s new role, try to accent the middle finger notes. Keep working at this one and you will be surprised how much of a difference it can make to your playing. Press PLAY to listen to it: [audio:Osborne Roll.mp3] SONNY OSBORNE
This next exercise gets your left hand a little more involved. Listen : [audio:Osborne Roll 1.mp3]
Here’s a measure of “Old Joe Clark”, using the Osborne roll. Now your left hand is right in the middle of it – practice this exercise until you can play it smoothly. Give it a listen: [audio:Osborne Roll 2.mp3]
If you put in the time to learn this versatile banjo roll well, it will open the door to a whole new banjo world. One final note – be sure to practice carefully, pay attention to the details.