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Banjo Hangout - Music Theory Forum Feed

Banjo Hangout - Music Theory Forum Feed

Published: Fri, 29 Dec 2017 19:11:00 CST

Last Build Date: Fri, 29 Dec 2017 19:11:00 CST



Fri, 29 Dec 2017 19:11:06 CST

Is 4/4 timing at 120 bmp the same as 2/4 timing at 60 bpm?

Forming Chords

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 12:27:44 CST

When I am thinking about how particular extended chords are made up, I don't think in terms of, for example, forming the chords by taking the 1,3, 5th and 7th note based on the root. What I do is think about the key I am playing in and then think about the notes in that scale. For instance, If I want to play an extended Am chord (Am7) in the key of G...I take the 2, 4, 6 and 8th notes of the scale to make it. For a D9 chord I would take the 5, 7, 9(2), 11(4) and 13(6). I believe that in thinking this way it is much easier to form unfamiliar chords than memorizing "flat this" or "sharp that". It also makes it easier to see how chords are formed in the harmonic minor scale and melodic minor scales where we get different chords from such as augmented, full diminished, and alt chords, among others. Now tell me how wrong I am.

Music Theory books ?

Sat, 9 Dec 2017 19:16:17 CST

Can anyone recommend any books on "Music Theory" for total newbies who know nothing about music or how to read music.

Someone (some video) suggested I learn at least the basics on Music theory before anything,said it would be very helpful .

I don't want anything too complicated,as I just want to learn the Banjo for personal enjoyment.


Am I screwing myself by playing in alternate tunings?

Tue, 5 Dec 2017 17:41:22 CST

Howdy all! I'm not sure whether to ask this question here or somewhere else, but here goes. I started "playing" banjo about a year ago, and I typically use clawhammer/ flailing, err I mean frailing... At any rate, I play around in standard tuning, but the musical sounds I am going for (dark Appalachian, english, Irish, and Scottish ballads, with middle eastern stuff and blues) seem to fit so much better in Sawmill, and Triple C. Am I screwing my future self by learning to play in alternate tunings?

Tabulature Feedback

Tue, 5 Dec 2017 14:00:22 CST

Hey all!

I've been picking the banjo for about two years now, and I've just uploaded my very first tabulature, which also is my very first banjo arrangement, apart for stuff I've written myself.
I would LOVE to get some feedback on it, to help develop both my arrangement skills and my tabulature skills.

The song is "I'm A Believer" by The Monkees, and I hope you'll like the arrangement.

If you feel like giving me some feedback, I would be ever grateful.
Thanks a bunch.

/Nils Larsson

Tuning, Key or Chord

Fri, 1 Dec 2017 10:07:39 CST

What's the difference between a Key and a Tuning? Aren't these terms used interchangeably? How about a Modal tuning? 

*and how do names of chords fit in there?

Why Is It Called a G Lick

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 05:18:55 CST

A quick, basic and probably silly question: Why is the infamous G Lick (pictured below) called a G Lick? Is it because it only contains notes that are in the G Major scale?



Changing Keys or not?

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 12:52:14 CST

When you're playing a tune and you take it around the horn, are you changing keys or staying in the same key? As in, Sweet Georgia Brown Don't Let Your Deal Go Down, etc...

The unspoken other two chords

Sat, 11 Nov 2017 14:02:27 CST

I have read that there are 3 main major chord shapes in banjo playing and that one can find a major scale under each chord shape. As far as it goes this is fine. But what about the "holes" between these chord forms? There, one finds another 2 more difficult -to- finger chord shapes and so ,seldom used. But, handy to know as there too you can find another two scale patterns, thereby covering the whole fingerboard. Am I on the right track Is this applicable to banjo playing? I ask as a long time guitarist who uses 5 chords to locate the various scale positions on the guitar neck .

Help needed! Trying to transpose something that uses a capo

Fri, 3 Nov 2017 11:06:29 CST

Hey there!

I am a super beginner at Banjo, & only proficient at guitar. I used to be in a band in which I was the singer & wrote songs, and a friend of mine wrote banjo parts for some of them. They've moved on and now I find that I can't play/perform most of the songs that I wrote!

One of my favorites I have the chords for, but it's only on the Banjo and uses a capo on the 3rd fret. I'm hoping someone might be kind enough to help me figure out what chords these would translate to, so I can try to learn my song on the guitar for now (It surely sounds best on the banjo though!)

Again, this has a capo on the 3rd fret, & the following chords are used:

Am, C, G, Dm, E-E7, F, E

I don't have a firm grasp on what a capo does to the chord- I understand that if it's the third fret, each note that makes up the chord should be 3 half-steps higher, right? But I don't know how to then figure out what chords those notes would form. I would love any help in understanding how to do this, and/or just telling me what each of those chords would translate to. Thank you so much <3

How to make a transition from 3/4 to 4/4?

Fri, 20 Oct 2017 17:01:05 CST

How to make a transition in one composition from 3/4 to 4/4? Rhythmically and melodically. What are the techniques? I give an example how I did it rude:

I somewhere read that when switching from 3/4 to 4/4, you can multiply the tempo by 1.5.

Unusual meter--where do the bar lines go?

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 14:53:33 CST

In Elizabeth Mitchell's "Little Bird, Little Bird":

The A part has four lines with an unusual meter.  The first three lines have 9 quarter notes each.  The last line has 8 quarter notes.

I've attached the tab for the A part's melody.  I've marked where I hear the emphasis.

What would you use for the time signature(s)?  Where would you put the bar lines?


Name for vocal harmonies

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 14:53:13 CST

If three harmony singers are singing the notes of a sings the root which is the melody and last note  of the song  another sings the third  and another sings the fifth.How would these be called out in academic or orchestral literature.I know folk tends to call it tenor or baritone etc.but those seem to simply denote ranges not vocal parts.

Thanks Tom

New practical music theory book for folk musicians

Tue, 12 Sep 2017 06:47:32 CST

Hello fellow banjo-heads! I'm guessing many of you know of (or have used) Wayne Erbsen's music instruction books 'for the Complete Ignoramus'- we have something else in the works that I think y'all may be interested in, or maybe you have ideas/feedback. I work with Wayne at Native Ground (and I'm his daughter), and we have a new book in the works: Music Theory for the Complete Ignoramus. It's being co-written by Marc Farris and Wayne Erbsen.
The idea behind it is to have a book geared towards folk/traditional musicians teaching the 'must-know' theory that is most useful when you are playing, presented in a fun and un-intimidating fashion. I don't know about y'all, but whenever I open up a traditional music theory book I just about have a panic attack, and drop it like a hot potato. I think I'm not alone in wishing a book like this one existed! I'm super excited about how this book is coming together- it's saying something when you can read 30 pages in one sitting of music theory and be giggling with amusement half the time. 

So, here is my reason for posting: fellow ignormuses (or at least those who are an ignoramus in the music theory department), what is it about music theory that bamboozles you the most? Is there something in particular that you'd hope to get out of a book like this? I think we have most everything we need in there, but we want to make sure we aren't missing something you want! Also, if you'd like to be on the mailing list to be alerted when it comes out, please let me know. 


Question about measures

Thu, 24 Aug 2017 04:41:56 CST

I'm having a hard time understanding something, and this may not be the right forum. I've heard other banjo instructors say that a measure doesn't have 8 notes, so we have to make them add up to 8 to fit nicely in the measure (if I'm even saying that right). Can anyone explain why this is the case? When would I see this? I'm assuming it's because they're all eigth notes in the measure, but how does that change with a quarter note in the same measure? Now you have 6 in the measure? 

So, writing this may have made a lightbulb come on -

quarter eighth eighth eighth eighth eighth eighth - Count 1 2 and 3 and 4 and (8 counts?)

quarter quarter eighth eighth eight eight - Count 1 2 3 and 4 and (8 counts)

quarter quarter eighth eighth quarter - Count 1 2 3 and 4 ( 8 counts)

Am I even on the right track?

CAGED theory for banjo

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 11:45:39 CST

does anyone know a good resource for learning the CAGED system for banjo?

google didn't help at all.


Harmonica key for modal (i.e. sawmill/mountain minor) tunes (repost)

Tue, 11 Jul 2017 21:19:42 CST

Hello friends.  I, like many of you I'm sure, love the sound of modal tuning songs; to my ears, they have a sort of peculiar charm to them.  The only modal tuning I'm familiar with is 'G modal,' aka "mountain minor" or "sawmill" tuning, and only a couple of songs in that tuning: "The Cuckoo," one of my personal favorites, and "Cluck Old Hen."  I have a three part question: 

1) What key of harmonica goes well with G modal, if any?  Please consider non-standard harmonica tunings (minor, melody maker, etc.) as well.  If none suit it well, is there some alternate tuning that would, in theory, play nice with modal-tuned banjo?

2) Are there other modal-tunings aside from sawmill, and if so, how do they compare in regards to both aesthetic charm and playability?

3) What are some of your favorite modal songs?  (I'm always looking to expand my repertoire)



Interval question

Wed, 5 Jul 2017 18:54:42 CST

I have just started reading up on some music theory on the Music Theroy net site and am having trouble working this one out.    I see it as the interval quantity is 3 (d-f) and the half steps between are 2 so I make it a Diminished 3rd but the answer they gave is a Major 2nd.   Where am I going wrong?




minor pentatonic licks - a question

Sat, 1 Jul 2017 13:10:09 CST

I have been watching a BHO members pentatonic theory videos on Youtube.  I also just bought Geoff Hohwald's Pentatonic Improvisation book/DVD.  Geoffs book teaches improvisation using minor pentatonic licks - no major pentatonic or blues techniques.  I have learned quite a bit but with learning questions arise.  So I will be posting my questions here. '

I have learned that pentatonic licks can be "plugged in" to a scruggs style version of a tune.  Now here is my question.  Should the minor pentatonic lick be proceeded and/or followed by simpler scruggs style licks ?  Will avoiding fancier licks make the minor pentatonic lick stand out more ?  My guess and ear tell me that it makes the minor pentatonic lick more "ear catching".

Any hints/suggestions as to the use of minor pentatonic licks will be appreciated.  The material in Geoff Hohwald's instructional will be a big help, and won't take all that long to learn.  


Music Theory Made Really Easy: Secret decoder ring!

Tue, 30 May 2017 21:50:47 CST

I don't know how I've gotten along for 60-something years without one of these!

"Music Theory Made Really Easy" book

Tue, 7 Mar 2017 18:14:17 CST

I'm almost finished with a new music theory book called "Music Theory Made Really Easy." Tell me if the following preface and TOC would catch your attention enough to make you want to look further:

Be honest and blunt. My goal is to share the real-life, hands-on experiences I have had with many students over the past 20 years. I think it has lots of helpful insights, but I could be wrong. (image)


Common Misconceptions Regarding "Modes"

Wed, 2 Jul 2014 16:57:01 CST

The purpose of this writing is to clear up common misconceptions regarding "modes." When people are learning about Old Time and Bluegrass music they hear the term "modes" and of course they want to understand what they are. Modes are simply scales.  And up to about the year 1800 most musicians did not think in terms of major or minor scales.  They thought in terms of the modes.  The trouble begins when we in the modern world try to walk backwards and understand the modes relative to our major and minor scales.  My advice to you is "Don't go there."  Rather just understand the modes unto themselves with no comparison to major or minor scales or modern key signatures. So, in Western Music a scale is simply a pattern of 8 pitches that take us from a starting pitch to one octave higher. But, there are an assortment of patterns using 8 pitches that would get us from the starting pitch to one octave higher.  These patterns consist of Whole Tones (which is the distance of two frets on a banjo) and Semi Tones (which is a distance of just one fret). Here are the Modes.  The symbol "T" represents a Whole Tone.  The symbol "s" represents a Semi Tone. Ionian T-T-s-T-T-T-s Dorian T-s-T-T-T-s-T Phrygian s-T-T-T-s-T-T Lydian T-T-T-s-T-T-s Mixolydian T-T-s-T-T-s-T Aeolian T-s-T-T-s-T-T Locrian s-T-T-s-T-T-T   So, when we encounter a tune that uses one of the above patterns, we say that it is in that particular mode. Now, you will hear people say things like "Well C-Major is the same thing as G-Mixolydian."  Ah, but it is NOT!  You see Ionian and Mixolydian are NOT the same pattern!  Don't start counting sharps and flats.  That way leads to madness. Just accept the patterns of the modes as they are.  Don't compare them to anything!  It does not matter which note the mode starts on . . . it is the pattern that matters. Accept that and you will be miles ahead! [...]

How To Make Use of Scales

Fri, 20 Nov 2009 01:46:11 CST

I've been taking scales more seriously of late. I don't know why, but I avoided them like the plague for years. Since I recently started playing a little clawhammer style, I've been using scales to get used to my right hand position in space and time. But it dawned on me today that I don't know what I should do with all of these scales. Should I memorize them -- if not the names of the notes, at least their individual progressions (as frets and sound)? As a permanently novice player, how deep into scales should my knowledge go in order that I might play a little old time or bluegrass with other people someday? I guess all this breaks down into a simple question: what do I do with scales? In high school band, I remember learning scales but I think I must've thought it was just so I could learn to read music and memorize finger positions on that danged saxophone. Btw, it's probably linked to on BHO already, but this scales page is the best I've seen in terms of breadth and quality of image files (he uses very clear, very printable PNGs) and covers banjo, guitar, and mandolin: [url][/url] (fixed)

Beginning Banjo Theory 101

Thu, 11 Jan 2007 16:42:58 CST

Several people have asked if I would post my Beginning Banjo Theory lessons somewhere easy to access (so they wouldn't have to contact me off line).  NOTE:  Booklet is no longer available, it was lost in a computer crash.   Below is the only copy of the lessons. Here's the entire booklet -- feel free to copy and use it as you wish.   I now have a copy of the e-book which was lost in a computer crash.  It is now an attachment at the bottom of this page.   Feel free to download. Everyone cringes at the words "Music Theory", but this is mainly banjo related and very important to learning how to play. VOL. 1, #1 BLUEGRASS MUSIC THEORY 101 What is a scale? A scale is an ascending and descending, ordered collection of notes that spans an interval of an octave. (Say that again in English) A scale is a group of notes spanning 7 notes and the beginning note again an octave higher. Example: G Scale: G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G (octave) All major scales are made up of 7 notes ranging from A to G. The D scale begins on D and goes as follows: D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D. What is an octave? An octave encompasses all notes from a given note to its next repetition. (What did she just say?) An octave is 8 notes starting on C and ending on C. Example: C Scale: C D E F G A B C (octave) A scale is made of up whole steps and half steps. In the G Major scale you have the following steps: whole step, whole step , half step , whole step, whole step , whole step, half step. (This is supposed to mean something to me?) Hang on, it will. Example: Let's take the 3rd string on the banjo — open G. Let's walk down that string and see what happens. Open G 1st fret G# 2nd fret A 3rd fret A# 4th fret B 5th fret C 6th fret C# 7th fret D 8th fret D# 9th fret E 10th fret F 11th fret F# 12th fret G (octave) ------------------------------------------------------- ------------------------------------------------------- 1--2--3--4--5--6--7--8--9--10--11-12-------- ------------------------------------------------------- ------------------------------------------------------- Each Fret is a HALF STEP on your banjo. To make a G scale on the 3rd string, you fret as follows: open, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11 & 12. Try it on your banjo, it works. (notice that there are 2 frets between each note EXCEPT B) and C and F# and G — this is why you need to know the whole and half steps. There are NO sharps and flats between B and C and E and F. ------------------------------------------- ------------------------------------------- 0--2--4--5--7--8--11--12------------ ------------------------------------------- ------------------------------------------- Why do you need to know this? As you learn songs, you need to know what notes to play in what scale or key. If you are playing a song in the key of G, you normally start out in G and then as the song progresses, you may go to a D or a C. You need to know the G, D and C scales so you'll know which notes to play and better yet, which notes NOT to play. When you start playing chromatic or melodic, this information is invaluable. Try this and see how it works for you: Take the 1st string of your banjo, it's the D string. Go down the string fretting each fret and see how it sounds. You've got [...]