Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

New Songs All The Time

You know the amazing thing about Bluegrass, Newgrass, Spacegrass, Hippiegrass, etc is that it seems one can always find “new” songs that one has personally never heard. Unlike most other genres of music we have “heard it” but with our style of playing we get to find new stuff daily.

I had heard this one before maybe Del Mc, maybe others but failed to listen until I heard this original…is haunting a pure soul in my mind, they can’t produce this type of music in Nashville or anywhere else; it only comes from the home front in the hills.

Just thought I’d share as this song really mesmerizes me.


That’s good stuff man. I could listen to that all day. I’m learnin’ that one.

Marty Stuart cut a version as did McCoury.

There is also my version of a banjo break to this in one of the banjo threads on this forum.

Great version. The character Mags Bennett did a great job on this song near the end of the second season of the tv show “Justified.” I am pretty sure this is what the actress was listening to for inspiration.

That’s pretty good stuff. Nice laid back song with kind of an old school sound. That’s a great one to jam with. Thanks!

Hey guys, I was wondering if you could use this lick over the G and D at the end of the verses?

After the chord progression G, F, G, C then I’m hitting the bass note on the G and going into this lick:

At the end of this lick I’m just doing a g-lick and it seems to match what the song is doing. The only time I’ve seen this lick, it seems to be over a G chord, but it doesn’t sound out of place when doing it over a G and D. Hope that makes sense.

Mike, if you see this, I borrowed your sawing on the strings ending and did some sawing on it. :slight_smile: Hope you don’t mind.

It’ll work fine. Notice the notes in the last part of the lick are all in the D scale.

You can also switch and do the slide 2-3 (or hammer-on) and it will add a slightly bluesier feel to the D.

— Begin quote from "TNTaylor414"

Mike, if you see this, I borrowed your sawing on the strings ending and did some sawing on it. :slight_smile: Hope you don’t mind.

— End quote

I am glad you used it. It makes me feel a bit useful (and it looks like a good choice there… nice job). I wish I could claim it, but I was just copying Professor Rice. Maybe we should call him and ask his permission :slight_smile:

Thanks guys

Fiddlewood- I’ve been using the pull-off from 3-2, I’ll try it out the other way around. Thanks!

Mike- You are full of useful info man. I’ve learned a lot from your posts.


If you are working on some breaks/lead passages/fills I’d be interested in hearing them/seeing what you came up with on the tab for this song.

This song and “Rider” that we are working on has that F major in it and I sometimes have a hard time emphasizing that majoring out of G…however as much as Tony Rice likes using the G major Pentatonic with the blue notes added in (F shows up in it) we could probably gank a lot from him as he damn near put a patent on the that scale for bluegrass.
I have a few chops for this song that I will share with ya as soon as I can get them up but would be interested in seeing what you come up with if you make your own licks up.


I’m not really making anything up…yet. I’m just trying to use some of the licks I’ve picked up from Ben and others along the way. It seems like the speed of this song is just about perfect for me to try to come up with some licks and do some experimenting. I can hear what is going on and certain parts are starting to sound like licks I have stored away in the memory somewhere.

I was wanting to come up with something for “I Know You Rider” but the speed of the song kind of stiffles my creative process at this point. All I could come up with were some pretty lame chord based hammer-ons and pull-offs, definately didn’t add much.

I’m pretty embarrassed to admit that I don’t know any scales at this point. This is the first type of music that I’ve ever played that actually made me think I can create my own stuff off of it and it’s making me want to learn more about scales and theory. Everything I play now I have to be spoon fed and I’m wanting to break out of that and create my own sound. This music is definately inspiring me!

That’s good that it’s inspiring you!

Now I will say that it’s bad that you are not familiar with scales and the theory! You gotta get started on that! Start with the G major scale and work on “intervals” as you learn the scale.

A good song suggestion would be to learn Dueling banjos as it goes right up and down the major scale…I am sure that is where that song started at; someone simply practicing the major scale…play it out of G and play the guitar part then switch to the open G string and play the second (banjo) part there (the open G string is an octave higher than playing your 3rd fret 6th string G) and you will be learning most of the scale through 2 octaves.

You will be amazed as this will start training your ear to hear the notes…something I am lacking in and working hard on. Seems I can always “hear” what I could put in a song as far as lead breaks go and fills, but my limited technique in the art of flat picking doesn’t let me go there…so I am working on being able to play as fast as I can “think”.

For your reference on other pickers…take for example “rider”…that is rehearsed stuff. None of us pulled the stuff we play on there “out of the air”…the 3 of us will tell you that just for the break their were hours spent on working it out and to be put under the gun and have to work something out as far as fills or a lead break is the best practice I think one can get. After doing this 20-30 times one they can start “winging” lead breaks in a jam setting.

Also don’t let tempo scare you, for the most part my lead break in rider is played at “half the speed” and likewise Larry’s. Just because it’s a song at 250 bpm does not mean you have to fill it up with 250 notes or pick strokes. Cut it in half to 125 and then add notes on top of that if you can and wahlah you have changed how much stuff you have to cram into 1 minute!

Any time you have a question don’t hesitate in asking. I only really got serious about learning scales and theory 3 years ago or, so I am not that far ahead of you but feel I can explain them fairly well.


Thanks for taking the time Oldhat!

I think trying to play lead over what someone is singing is easier for me to pick out what it sounds like (melody?). If I was to attempt to play a lead on your “Rider” song, I would first try to play the notes that sound like what you are singing?

So you start out on the G chord. I’m thinking if I had all the notes on the fretboard in front of me that you can play over a G chord (up to the first 5 frets), I think I could do it. Same thing for the C and F, if I had all the notes in front of me, I think I could whittle something out. I look at a basic G major scale and something is telling me there are tons more notes you can play over a G chord. I know you can find those notes all over the fretboard though. Maybe those are just tones that are available? See, I’m so green at this, I’ve always kept my mouth shut. :blush:

I was reading a thread in the guitar section where Ben says he is coming up with something like that (all the notes available in a key), IF I understand him correctly.

Is that considered a short cut? Seeing notes on the fretboard that are applicable to certain chords and creating something off of that without memorizing scales? Surely the memorizing would come with time.

Sorry about the rambling…HAHA!

Shawn, Yes, figure the melody out first. The rest is just embellishment using, notes that belong to a corresponding scale.

Some of the best advice I ever got was from an old fiddle player I was standing next to in a jam. I was getting all goofed up trying to think scales, melody, tempo, technique,and he tells me “just play what you feel”. This really threw me, as it is the same first lesson I teach to good musicians who are trying to get going on a second instrument (I’ve only ever taught friends who have asked me for help)

I’ve taught friends how to improve their approach to improvising or writing parts on an instrument by asking them to play emotions. I get some awful dumbfounded looks as first when I suggest they make their instrument convey grief, anger, happiness, sadness, fear, loathing, etc.

It is an exercise meant to free you from the rigidity of memorizing stuff and help you learn to create from another, totally different perspective…mood.

Scales are good to learn but, You hit it right on the head when you mentioned playing from positions (that happen to be in the scale). this is used by the greatest percentage of player I know.

Thanks fiddlewood!

That’s basically all I’m doing is playing what the song feels like to me. I know there are boundries to what I can and can’t play in a given chord but I don’t know what they are yet, exactly. I seems like if you are playing what you feel/hear you are going to line up with the key you are playing in, but my ears are somewhat lacking enough to be sure what I’m playing is right. It would be nice to KNOW what I’m playing is right and would expidite the process by knowing the “laws”.

Yes you could do that, but it would be “quicker” to learn what notes “not to hit” verses the ones to hit as there are less of them!

Like if you are majoring in “G” do not hit: G# (sharp) at any cost, the rest can be played to some extent but some only like to be played as “Grace Notes” or better stated as “transition notes” such as a quick slide off of to a more desirable note in the scale. Now the importance to learn scales is that some songs will have a “major sound”…Black Berry Blossum has a nice “major sound to it” and is based a lot from the major scale…it’s damn near walking down the major scale in the main riff of the song…you may hear it as being “cool” but if you heard it after you learned your major scale you would say “hell they are just walking down the major scale in 4 notes sequences that is easy enough”.

I read that thread where Ben talked about coming up with something on what notes to play out of G…however I will say that he more than likely will encourage you to learn the different scales as this is the minimum you can get by with in music. Now I am not saying that you have to learn all 5 positions of each scale that are typical, but man you gotta learn at least 2 positions for each scale ( G major, G pentatonic, G Blues Scale, and G minor pentatonic. Now the “penta” scales are in the major scale already…penta means “5” so there are only 5 notes in the scale…so if you learn the major all you have to do is take out 2 notes and you now have the pentatonic scale. The “blues” scale only adds in a couple diff notes to give it that “blue” sound…they actually call them “Blue Notes”…i.e “playing the blues”.

I guess what I am trying to say is that it sounds a lot more difficult then it really is, it’s the initial effort that one has to put forth to say “damn it I am gonna learn some of this”, then once they get their head wrapped around the theory then it’s pretty easy, but it takes that initial effort.

IF you can sing you can learn the major scale…start with the G note and find your “Doe-Rae-Me-Fa-So-La-Ti and Doe” that is the major scale.

On Rider:

If you listen to my lead I am really focusing on playing the melody (what you would hum or sing). Now I only get off that melody on a few notes. So it’s about setting down and working through it note by note…finding it on the guitar! Now your voice will leave spaces between notes, could be for 3 beats to finish the measure so instead of resting with your guitar like you are with your voice (No singing for the last few beats of the measure) simply fill it up with some cool notes to make the transition until the melody pops back up again.

When a chord change is coming up…land on the same note as the chord…so if you are going from G-C in the chord progression then right when the chord changes to C hit a C note in your lead…then when going back to G hit a G note at the same time the rhythm shifts to G…now build around this with other notes.

As mentioned I am no expert and am only starting out in my desire to become an efficient musician. I have never had any resources to ask about “theory” or scales, but I told myself “self you have got to learn this” so i mostly read stuff on the internet and watched Youtube lessons…is how I found this site. I still today kick myself in the butt for not starting on scales 20 years ago!

Lots of good info there Oldhat.

I can’t sing a lick and have no idea if I’m even siging in the right key. Hearing you guys talk about singing tenor is all foreign to me. So, the doe-rae-me etc., are these all just the tones that you find in the scale? I watched Ben’s chord inversion lesson and he goes into that some.

You mentioned learning the various G scales. Will I be able to play lead over C and D chords by learning those scales? I guess my question is, are those scales for chords or keys? I don’t know the difference. HAHA! I mean, I understand when someone says playing out of the key of G or C and the capo and I, VI and V chords etc. and when you are capoed up 3 frets you may be playing a G shape but it’s not a G chord. Yeah, I’m rambling again.

I’m so green I don’t even know how to ask what I’m thinking. I feel my brain cramping up already. i just need to get my hands on it and maybe a light bulb will turn on. I’m going to do some digging for the scales you mention and report back.

SO when one says “We are majoring out of G”…well in the “G major scale” here are your choices or better stated what chords you should expect:

G, A minor, B minor, C, D, Eminor, Fsharp Diminished. Those are the chords that make up the G major Scale. The “tones” that make up the scale are Simply : G-A-B-C-D-E-F#. That there my friend is the G major scale, those 7 notes…that’s it…which happens to be the "Doe-Rae-Me-Fa-S0-La-T and Doe (g) again.

Now onto your question about playing lead over C and D…well a typical country/bluegrass/folk song will most likely be a 1-4-5 progression and if in G that means we are going to be playing the G chord, then C Chord and the D chord…you’ve seen that progression a million times. Well since those chords are all within the G major scale then yes you can play the notes of the G major scale all you want over those chords/that progression. The major scale with have a “major sound”…you will get used to it. The pentatonic will have a “bluesier” type feel to it, after hearing the scale repeated over and over again you will notice the different “feels” and “atmosphere” a certain scale will create in a song…comes with time.

When we say “intervals” that means the sound of one note going to another…So start with your G note on the 6th string 3rd fret…play it then play the A note on the 6th string 5th fret…now think of a song or melody that you might recognize that start with those 2 notes…well if you play them pretty fast it and over and over it may sound like the theme to teh scary part of “jaws” or you may say "hey that sounds like the first 2 notes of “Brown eyed girl”…you have just memorized and interval of a “2nd” that means you are going from the first note of the G major scale to the 2nd note (A) in the G major scale…sounds distinct and is gonna sound the same on any note you decide to start off with first then play the next note in the major scale above it. Now go from G to the 3rd note of the G major scale (just those 2 notes G to B) well think of some melody or something you have heard that starts with those 2 notes in that order…play them “fast”…1-3 -1-3-1-3…sounds like that funky sirens they use in foreign countries…can you hear it? Now just play those 2 notes without repeating them over and over…now you can hear the interval of what it sounds like going from 1 note to the “3rd degree of the major scale”…In essence since we are in G major what it sounds like to go from G-B…Start with G and go to each note in the G scale from G and try to come up with a sound or melody you are familiar with based on those two notes…now you are training your ear to “hear” and recognize “intervals”…now when you set down and listen to a lead break you can start identifying the next notes in the break by what interval you hear.

Hope I have not confused you!


TN, It is possible to play G scale over a song in the key of G, but you will find that the pentatonic scale is more suited to finding the melody if you want to play it over all three chords.

Another option is to play the scale that corresponds with the chord that is being played at the time hence, when the dhord moves to C choose notes form the C scale and so on.

Pentatonic scale only sounds more blues-like when using a blues scale (dropping the 3rd, 5th, or 7th note of the Major scale down one fret (flatting the note). Flatting the 3rd & 7th are done most often and used very frequently in many types of music we hear daily.

— Begin quote from "Oldhat"

if you are majoring in “G” do not hit: G# (sharp) at any cost

— End quote

Love it! That’s the kind of advice I need. Clear and to the point.

It kind of reminds me of one night at a group lesson, we were introducing hammer-ons and pull-offs. One of my buddies shared some very direct instruction. He said with an intense and serious look, “Whatever you all do, DON’T be pulling off your G-strings!” It took a while for some to get the joke, but we eventually all got there.

Jesse and Dave, nice posts. That’s good stuff.