Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Banjo, how it sounds in the movies

I have wondered about this ever since I started playing banjo, that classic rolling banjo sound in a movie sound score, would that just be like the rolling fiddle tune backup? But its just a continuous roll.
Second part of my question, how do you roll without stopping?


I’m not sure about the movie soundtrack question…
As far as rolling without stopping, the best method I’ve found is to roll, and then not stop. :grin:


You are wise beyond your years. :grin:


Give us an example of a movie with what you are referring to in it


Most recent example is the chase scene in Quigley down under


This the one

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Sounds like a square roll to me for most of it, with a couple others maybe added


It seems to me the movie back-up banjo is not too much different than playing back-up for any song. Now movie scores have their own purposes, and generally it’s not to give you a song you can sing in the shower. Each instrument is chosen to express a feeling, so the French horns sound big & spacious, while the banjo rolls tell you it’s rural.
The key, major or minor, tells you if the situation if friendly or fearsome.
The tempo tells you if it’s exciting or laid back.
Movie soundtracks tell more of the story than you realize. Try watching an exciting cop show or tense drama to the soundtrack of “Leave It To Beaver.”
All the action is still the same, but now it’s funny.

To roll without stopping, yes…keep rolling & don’t stop, but change chords. Try three rolls in a row in open G, then make a C chord while still rolling. It’s harder than chewing gum & walking down the street, but not much. Suddenly it sounds like your music is going somewhere and not simply reaching the end of the roll.

There really isn’t a lot of melody in a movie score. Try whistling the music to “Hunt for Red October” or even this Quigley song. It ain’t pleasant!

And as a historical footnote, the banjo became popular (again) following the 1967 release of “Bonnie & Clyde,” with the Flatt & Scruggs 1949 version of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” used throughout the film. It gave the film an air of olde tyme authenticity, according to the critics. Yeah, right.
Bonnie & Clyde had been dead & buried for 15 years before Earl ever wrote the song!


I agree, maybe a better example of what I’m trying to refer to is the backing of east bound and down. But you get it thanks.


And yes that’s it


My advice would be to learn the roll just like you were learning a break. Practice the heck out of it. Start slow and build speed. It will come eventually. :slightly_smiling_face: Happy picking



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Hi Jesse

Here is a tab tef file example of a continuous rolling pattern. Normally you would add, slides, hammer-ons, pull offs, fret strings and add escape licks to add colour but in theory you could play this as backup to any tune in the key of G and it shouldn’t really clash.

Continuous Roll Framework.tef (1.6 KB)

Also a good way to practice playing a forward roll pattern.

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Hey @Hillbilly_picker I posted an example of some continuous rolling backup in the Video Swap section; check it out and see if it helps you. :+1:

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Hey Great! Thanks.