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PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2005 7:43 am 
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I've had a helluva time getting the hang of tenor banjo melody picking. Apart from not being able to decide how, if at all, to anchor my right hand (so much conflicting advice!), I can't get a comfortable pick position for playing triplets and tremelo.

I've just about got the idea that reels on banjo and mando are best approached with fairly strict DUDU DUDU alternate picking (at least while you're beginning) and that jigs should mostly go DUD DUD (again, until one is experienced enough to break the rules where appropriate), in fact I got my head around that when I started mando a while back... My problem is holding the pick itself - a prob on banjo that I don't have on guitar or mando.

I use thin picks on all my instruments - I prefer the sharper tone. I hold my picks in a relaxed grip (no prob after 30+ years playing guitar), but on banjo the blasted things rotate in my grip while I'm playing. I think it's because of the angle at which one holds a tenor banjo.

The other thing, actually it's the main thing, is trying to find the best way to angle the pick to the strings for triplets and tremelo so it doesn't get snagged and stall the flow of notes.

Any advice?

PS: I've noted the points in toasty's "Plectrum / Flat Pickers tricks" thread, which was what prompted this one...

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And whether the blood be highland, lowland or no.
And whether the skin be black or white as the snow.
Of kith and of kin we are one, be it right, be it wrong.
As long as our hearts beat true to the lilt of a song.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2005 4:01 pm 
I can't say for sure exactly what one should or should not do when playing Tenor Banjo but I do recall from Sully's Banjo Book that triplets should always begin with an U and if you have to do a double U go get there, then so be it. Oddly and strangely related, Jango R is said to have been as good doing only U as doing U/D picking.

That reminds me of another lesson it took me a long time to get down from Sully, crossing the strings sounds far far far better if when going down towards the floor for example you create both the passing pick and landing one into Ds. Sounds nuts but if you listen to Dubliners recordings you'll notice the strange sycopation in some of their tunes, and thats it right there. OC the same applies to comming up the strings, ie UU not U cross and D as seems more logical.

I suppose the idea is never jump a string unless you absolutely have to.

Heres a simple crossing towards the Bass from the Treble of a Tenor Banjo
E strng 4u3d2u1u and could be also done as 4u3d2d1u
A strng 4u and so on.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2005 4:26 pm 
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Ah, you see, that's where things get sticky. Sully might recommend UDU for your triplets, but I've seen more sources say to play DUD with another D for the note folowing the triplet. Watching Barney in the Dubs, that seems to be what he does much of the time. See what I mean about conflicting opinions?

Listening to Dubliners recordings? I live off them every day, for banjo and whistle! :D

As for string skipping and cross picking, luckily I have those skills from guitar, so no prob there.

As I say, it's largely pick position for the triplets and trems that has me wobbling...

Django on guitar was a unique case. He could do things with one and a half hands that I'll never do with two. If he made a mistake he'd often do it again to make it seem intentional! Genius, and another regular listen for me!

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As long as our hearts beat true to the lilt of a song.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2005 12:16 pm 
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Ah, you see, that's where things get sticky. Sully might recommend UDU for your triplets, but I've seen more sources say to play DUD with another D for the note folowing the triplet.


I've never heard of anybody doing all their triplets UDU. The only circumstance I can think of where you'd want to do that is in a jig: DUD DUD D-UDU DUD etc. I usually do triplets in jigs on the front of the beat though, so I go DUD-U.

A DUD triplet substitutes for two eighth notes played DU, so part of the skill in playing them lies in how you recover your picking pattern afterwards. Jigs are no problem -- whether you play DUD-U or D-UDU, you're nicely poised for the downstroke on the next beat. In reels and hornpipes I play the two eighths following a DUD triplet with two upstrokes, which maybe isn't the best technique, but I noticed Robin Bullock does the same thing, so I'm ok with it. I think whatever way you make it work is the way you should make it work.

I use Dunlop Tortex .50 picks on the banjo, but for melody playing on zouk and guitar I like something a bit beefier, usually Dunlop nylon .80 since I've got a bunch of them knocking around. My favorite mandolin pick is the Dunlop JD 204, which everybody else I know hates, but I love the tone I get with it. Whatever I'm using, I get the best tone if I lead with the outer edge of the pick (if the neck of the instrument is pointing upwards a bit, my pick is roughly parallel to the floor). A cool thing to do if your pick is slipping around is to punch a hole in it with a hole punch -- that gives you a little more traction.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2005 7:57 pm 
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I used to have trouble with rotating picks. I tried scratching them and drilling small holes in them to get more friction, but that never seemed to do much good.

Someone recently mentioned that Doc Watson uses spit to glue his in place.

You might find the Kradl pick worth trying. Take a look at http://kradldirect.com/product1.asp?CustomerID=58430&ACBSessionID=5idtjGd5lV87HRCemrRc&SID=5&Product_ID=188.

What works for me is to glue a strip of 1/4" or wider rubber band across the pick, using contact cement. I use scissors to cut the rubber to fit. After gluing, if it's a bit off, I use an Xacto knife to trim it.

The contact cement makes the rubber band a bit tacky, so it sort of sticks to my thumb. After a few months, the rubber band will start hardening, so I scrape it off and do a new one.

I've been doing this for several years, and have not yet developed thumb cancer. :thumbsup:

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2005 8:02 pm 
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you might want to look at Gorilla Snot
http://www.gorillasnot.com/
for slipping picks.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2005 8:10 pm 
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Ro3b wrote:
I've never heard of anybody doing all their triplets UDU.
<snip>
In reels and hornpipes I play the two eighths following a DUD triplet with two upstrokes, which maybe isn't the best technique, but I noticed Robin Bullock does the same thing, so I'm ok with it. I think whatever way you make it work is the way you should make it work.


as usual, great advice from Ro3b.

having spent perhaps an inadvertant amount of time practicing Monroe-style downstrokes, i usually aim to play trips DUD-D DU DU but don't necessarily always pull it off... the point being i'm likely to put extra downstrokes in there rather than upstrokes but then agin a lissen ta too muchathat bloograss myoozic....

however you do it, no substitute for time spent with the instrument and workin it out.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 30, 2005 2:57 am 
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Thanks guys :) that's the stuff.

Ro3b, what you say about picking patterns makes perfect sense and, I'm relieved to say, ties in with what I've been practicing.

That pick angle thing: in my desperation I've been playing some of the time in the way you describe, with the outside edge leading, but equally I've been doing the opposite and tipping the instrument neck down closer to the horizontal and leading with the other edge of the pick. I find on banjo I get a more cutting, clean tone that way. No idea why...

I'll concentrate on doing it just the way you describe for a while and see if I can settle into that. I just wasn't sure if there was a consensus on the best way to angle the pick, or if different players just did their own thing.

As for the pick grip, I have some Ibanez guitar picks which have like a sandpaper style grip and some more of the same brand with a kind of dimpled grip. Both are really pretty good as far as avoiding rotation and slippage go, but the only ones I can get pf those are thick ones which thud more than twang, and I really do prefer the more flexible light gauges.

I appreciate all the advice and info. :)

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And whether the blood be highland, lowland or no.
And whether the skin be black or white as the snow.
Of kith and of kin we are one, be it right, be it wrong.
As long as our hearts beat true to the lilt of a song.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 30, 2005 4:16 pm 
Sorry Buddhu you seem a nice chap and I wouldn't want to rock your boat but I must disaggree.

The reason why most tutors insist on sole U playing and sole D playing is to develop timing seperately in the two different string attacks, SO when playing it does make a BIG difference if you simply revert out of one to the other, and in U/D picking for crossing strings to accomodate the direction, you create a unique and personal signature.

Next I think Sully was greatly influenced by picking Pavees he knew and got his settings from there, so his ideas on triplets are prehaps dated. Hey what do I know. Still I notice his setting of 'The Gander At The Pratee Hole' is very very comical - because of the way the picking is set out.

Don't mention Mc Kenna to me - I only ever listened to Luke R.I P.

:0)


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2005 6:08 pm 
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toasty wrote:
...Don't mention Mc Kenna to me - I only ever listened to Luke R.I P....


Dude, you just lost me, irretrievably, by dissing a hero who MADE Irish tenor banjo. Most of your post is in direct conflict with advice given by every tenor banjo or mando player I ever heard of (except Sully, who, with all due respect, seems to be a majority of one...).

As for MR McKenna, maybe his reels don't swing as much as those of many players, but without Barney there would be very few GDAE banjo players these days. If he decides to play the beats straight then that's his business.

If you listened to Luke then you listened to a fine singer and an unrivalled scholar in the field. However, what banjo Luke did play was 5 string, not tenor.

No offence, but I'll take my lead from the mighty Barney McKenna rather than from yourself. No disrespect intended.

And I don't intend to pursue this as a debate.

Have a nice day.

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And whether the blood be highland, lowland or no.
And whether the skin be black or white as the snow.
Of kith and of kin we are one, be it right, be it wrong.
As long as our hearts beat true to the lilt of a song.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 17, 2005 7:14 pm 
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Hey Budduh;

My experience, for what it's worth, is that if you want to develop quick triplets you will need to tighten your grip on those thin picks. Use picks which are very elastic and snap back quickly (like Dunlop Tortex 0.5mm - the red ones) and not ones that take time to spring back (like the grey Dunlops). In using a loose grip the pick is rotating in/with your fingers and consequently it is out of position for the next note. This is why it's slipping around and stalling and snagging. Unfortunately this will only get worse with increased speed.

If you can hold the pick really tight at right angles to the string and try to get the pick to bend and do the work rather than your grip rotating and doing the work, you will end up with crisp triplets and much less snagging and slipping. I know that after years of using your existing grip this may be easier said than done, but it's well worth giving it a go.

Slipping picks are always a problem with speed and perspiration. A couple of tricks that work include sanding the grip part with rough sandpaper or gluing on some sand.

As for the DUD DUD debate, I reckon that the reason for the conflicting advice is that everyone learned their own way to do it and everyone naturally thinks that their way is the best. Being completely unbiased I, in fact, know that my way is the best! :lol:

I use DUD UDU or UDU DUD for jigs and DU DU DU DU or UD UD UD UD for reels, whatever works best for that part of the tune. In fact what I do is play ...UDUDUDUDUDUDU... regardless of the time signature. This means that if I add in an extra triplet in a certain part it has a knock-on effect on all my subsequent strokes. I reckon you need to be flexible in order to have room to put in rhythmic ornamentation on the fly as you feel like it. Don't get into the habit of doing all your triplets DUD as many beginners do, as it limits your options when you speed up. Jumping over strings takes time no matter how fast you do it.

The only benefit I can see in using DUD DUD for jigs and DU DU DU DU for reels is that if you have a stronger downstroke (common in beginners in particular) you emphasise the right beats natutrally starting off (beats 1 and 4 in jigs, 1 and 5 in reels). But I believe it is important to be able to emphasise a beat using the upstroke if necessary at any time, so that negates this benefit.

I have to concur on King Barney. There are probably more technically adept players around today but they probably wouldn't be anywhere near as good without Barney's groundbreaking development.

Good luck with the playing.

Ciaran


Last edited by CiaranOC on Tue Oct 18, 2005 9:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 17, 2005 8:32 pm 
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I used to use DUD UDU for jigs and had a terrible time with them. After reading what Brother Steve had to say about the proper lilt in jigs, I tried switching to DUD DUD, and it really improved my jig pickin', as well as making them sound more jig-like (instead of like a cheap Bluegrass imitation). I can play them up to twice as fast and odd string crossings no longer bother me.

For 2/4 and 4/4, I stick with strict DUDU DUDU. I even use it for most guitar crosspicking, though I use McReynolds-style DUU in a few spots.

I drag my (right hand) middle and little fingers lightly, and they tend to touch the first string when I'm picking on the third string and higher. On banjo and mandolin, I generally have to do a little sanding to remove sharp corners and edges from the bridge.

buddhu, have you looked at Chris Smith's general picking exercises at http://coyotebanjo.com/music-42.html and triplets exercises at http://coyotebanjo.com/music-57.html?

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 17, 2005 11:56 pm 
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Mike;

How do you play a triplet at the start of a jig bar? Is it DUD_D D_U_D or DUD_U D_U_D?


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2005 3:40 am 
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Thanks guys.

Ciaran: I've been doing my jigs based on DUD DUD because I actually do notice a marked difference to how it accents the notes. I think being a bodhran player too :oops: made that a bit hard to take on board, as I tent to drum based on DUD UDU in jigs! :D

Mike: doh! I saw that picking article a while back when he posted a link to the site... and promptly forgot all about it! I'll work my way through all that and see how it works out.

Actually, the picking patterns are coming MUCH easier now, and the jigs aren't too awkward once you get that double downstroke sorted. The same goes for coming out of a triplet.

I think the fact that I'm practicing both banjo and mandolin most days is hammering the stuff home ;)

I have 'Swallows Tail' and 'Maid Behind the Bar' down pretty good, and 'The Swallows Nest' (thought I'd work on a jig I know well!) and 'Chief O'Neill's hornpipe'. The reels and the jig are even picking up pace nicely :)

'Fermoy Lasses' and 'Kid on the Mountain' next, I think. Or maybe 'Longford Collector'.

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And whether the blood be highland, lowland or no.
And whether the skin be black or white as the snow.
Of kith and of kin we are one, be it right, be it wrong.
As long as our hearts beat true to the lilt of a song.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2005 9:37 pm 
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Good to hear things are coming on well using the DUD DUD system Budduh. As I said, everyone has their own system that they will resolutely defend as the best, because it works for them. The same thing applies when it comes to the debate on what fingers should be used on what fret. At the end of the day it's whatever works best for you. As long as there is some professional player using the same technique as you, you can be fairly sure that you won't find yourself limited by that technique down the road and have to learn a more effective technique from scratch.

For what it's worth, I'd go for The Kid on The Mountain next for some slip-jig practice, it's got a nice triplet opportunity in the 1st bar (or every 4 bars after) and it's also a beautiful tune. Must say I like the Longford Collector too, nice triplet in the 2nd bar, good session tune...........

Enjoy .....:)


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