Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Discuss the Banjo lesson: Waypoints- Learning the Banjo Neck- C Chord

Hi @BanjoBen This is a great group of lessons I wish I had access to 10 years ago. Partial chords are such an important part of learning Scruggs style and it’s so important to know where the chords are positioned on the fingerboard.

For the beginner student these lessons make it so easy to understand and drive home the message. I recall struggling to figure out how to finger these shapes as a banjo rookie working from TAB books and less informative video lessons. The countless queries I asked on the BHO for some guidance on this topic and the misleading advice I received which held back my progress.

Just a quick query on the descending Scale notes. Measure 19, 16th Fret sounds dissonant to my ear, 15th Fret sounds better as a transitional note. Was this a typo ?

If not a typo can you explain the theory why the 15th sounds better ?:star_struck:

Sure, great question! I do talk about this in the video somewhere, but I’m using the G major scale to walk between these C chord waypoints, because we’re approaching this lesson from the aspect of playing a C chord in a song in the key of G. The 16th fret is an F#, which is contained in the G scale. In the lesson, I point out that if that bothers you, you’re welcome to play the 15th fret and it would be fine to do so when in the key of G as well.

Essentially, I don’t want you to think of this lesson as being in the key of C (though it works great for that!), but rather a song in the key of G with a bunch of C chord measures in a row.

There are some songs that have the freedom to hang on certain chords for an indiscriminate amount of time, songs like Freeborn Man and others, where the band hangs on a certain chord till the singer signals the change when they come back in. This exercise mimics something like that, though anytime you’re over a C chord for 1, 2, or more measures there are pieces that you can use.


It’s probably that I’m easily amused… but the 31st measure that sounds like the banjo G lick played in C just makes me smile. It never occurred to me to even try that.

I’m enjoying these waypoint lessons so much!

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Careful @Mark_Rocka we still have to work thru the waypoints for D, E, F, A and B to complete the musical alphabet. More tags to come

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I’m ready for D! Then, hopefully we’ll start digging in to building our own licks around the waypoints. Ben, if you’re reading this, here’s my request for what I’d enjoy in future waypoint lessons:

First, we pick a waypoint. Next, we build some cool licks around the waypoint. Then, we dive in to theory about WHY these licks sound so good. I’m envisioning licks that incorporate lots of notes outside the major scale, which is what really tasty banjo playing tends to have, and lots of discussion about those notes, like when to use a flatted 5th and why it sounds good in some places and not others.

As an example, @archbancop’s last 2 verses in his Will the Circle Be Unbroken contest entry had some “out of the scale” notes in them, flatted 3rds, flatted 5ths, 7ths, etc. I think they sound great, and I’d love to learn how to incorporate them in to the waypoints so I can play them on the fly… and when and why to use each one.

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Great suggestion @Mark_Rocka I’ve yet to go back over the Waypoints lesson in C struggled to get my head round some of those scales and licks, it’s weird how some tunes flow naturally and we struggle with others, it was the same for Will the Circle Advanced section I still stumble thru it. Been working on the UTN Bag-o-licks this week and just love the Scruggs lick combo’s Discuss the Banjo lesson: Bag O' Licks- Up the Neck


Great suggestion!

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Even more than the occasional notes that are outside the major key, I dig how masters use these notes to pull into the major key’s NEXT chord.

You know what I mean?

Those notes that are ear-benders that transition into the next chord change - either to resolve back into the mayor key or tease more with no major notes with that next chord… only finally to resolve.

Studying those ideas and changes can be so fun they make you smile and shake your head uncontrollably when studied or heard.

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I know exactly what you mean. Those transition notes are what I expect to hear when listening to a good banjo picker. They add so much flavor to the overall experience. Additionally, I like it when a flatted 3rd or flatted 5th is used to get your ear begging for resolution. It’s something I’d really like to master.

I think that’s where Ben is eventually going with these waypoint lessons.

@Mark_Rocka Alan Munde seems to favour a Flatted 7th note when doing transitions. He uses it quite a lot on his DVDs. Make an F shape G Chord then bar first two strings at the 3rd fret with the Index finger lifting the pinkie off the 1st string

Try this progression [ G ] [ G + Flatted 7th][ C ] [ C + Flatted 7th ][ D ] [D + Flatted 7th] [G] [G]

Not sure how to do this out of the D position, maybe that’s something @BanjoBen might care to add when he comes to creating the Waypoint’s Lesson in D.

How about some 4ths then we can do some oriental stuff.

Here’s you some Indian-Themed Dueling Banjos

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I love this Rance :sunglasses::sunglasses:


I think the flat 7th just works so well because going from a I chord (G maj. in the key of G, the flat 7th is F instead of F#) to a IV chord (C maj. in the key of G), the flat 7th is transitioning to be only a 1/2 step away as the 4th note in the scale… pulling the ear to expect the major 3rd (E) of that IV chord (C, E, G).

Similar to a suspended note… but in the middle of a chord change.

Sorry if this is overload analysis to describe something that just “sounds cool” - but it fascinates me.


You got it, Will. That’s the exact theory of the 7th transition. You’re literally leading the listener to the 3 of the next chord. Now I wonder if there are other transitions (like leading to the 1 or the 5 note of the pending chord) that work well. WHY DO I HAVE TO BE AT WORK!?!?!

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The same reason I am at work… to pay for my new Mandolin - of course!

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I am at work too but AT lunch… as opposed to those who say I am OUT TO LUNCH! :rofl:


At my previous job, where I sat at the same desk every day, I kept a little half sized classical guitar that I’d play with during my breaks. I don’t think they’d appreciate a banjo. :stuck_out_tongue:

Maybe @Mr_G can answer this @Mark_Rocka

I am sure I might think of some if I wasn’t at work… but it would take a bit of time to lay it out.

The other dynamic is in the notation and theory, I might know a way to illustrate a possible transition or two… but would it sound OK stylistically on the ole Banjer - is another manner.

With only 3 years under my belt, I don’t have those traditional Banjer nuances to apply.

Example: When it comes to theory, I normally think of piano - but I don’t think I could have EVER come up with the G-Lick turn-around that Earl so brilliantly applied.

I will have to be much more comfortable with Banjer technique to do that… and even still, I am not even suggesting that I could be mentioned in the same sentence with the MASTER.

I was just trying to illustrate a point…

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