Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

The Bluegrass Groove!

@BanjoBen and all !

I think this is a very difficult question, but let me ask it anyway.

2-3 years ago, I have transcribed and learned “Gold Rush” (Bill Monroe: Blue Grass 1959-1969 [BEAR FAMILY RECORDS]), and I wanted to record that and send it as a Video Swap.

But then I decided to go back to the original recording to listen if my playing was more or less the same as the banjoplayer on that record (I don’t know his name, sorry)

I was in for A SHOCK !!!

Sure, I played more or less the same notes, but what he played was completely DIFFERENT ! He had the groove, the bluegrass groove ! You know, those old bluegrass bands, when they play, it’s always as if there’s a train passing by at high speed : “chookedooke-chookedooke-chookedooke…”.

Compared to this, my playing is anemic and monotone…

So I know what to do : find and absorbe that bluegrass groove !

The $1,000,000 question is : HOW ?

Of course, I know that listening to those old recordings over and over again is a key factor, but are there techniques or exercises I can do to make that bluegrass groove my own ?

Again, I think this is a difficult question, but I hope you may have some pointers !!!

Thanks !

All the best


I know what you’re talking about. I’m not sure if there’s a way to learn it other than time and practice. You have to feel it.

By chance have you tabbed it out in TablEdit? If so, there’s a setting you can change to give it more of a swing feel than straight notes. Maybe that’s one way to practice it so you’re playing with that groove? Just a thought.

Also, if you’re playing it at the same speed as the recording, definitely play along with it. If you’re not up to that speed yet, you can use an app like Audacity to slow it down to a speed you can play.

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Great Question @Erwin1 waiting patiently for @BanjoBen 's reply

It is a combination of dynamics and where you play against the center of the beat…as well as where the other musicians play against, or on it, that creates a particular groove.

Listen closely…is the banjo playing exactly on, or slightly behind or ahead of the beat as compared to the bass, mandolin and guitar? Note: the mando may be a touch ahead or behind as well…example: Monroe, expecially in later years has a tendency to chop slightly behind the center of the beat (back of the bubble)
also: what notes is he emphasizing dynamically? Using a dominant One beat gives a straighter feel whereas emphasis on others may give a more syncopated feel in sections…

It takes practice hearing and listening for these things, but is great ear training.

I believe Vic Jordan played the banjo on that cut…

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Well, here’s my tuppence, I’ve found that I groove a lot better when playing with a rhythm track, or other people (unfortunately the latter is rare) cuz playing solo you don’t have that reference point for the beat. $0.02

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You can hear what I just mentioned pretty early in this video, a notice how it sounds good, and then the band starts the rhythm and then it grooves

Ps. I hijacked this vid from a recent thread


I can’t find this particular recording on YouTube but I think I can guess what you mean. More than likely the banjo has a syncopated gallop to it, a swing is what I sometimes call it. If you were to really slow it down you would hear that the eighth notes are weighted so that one is slightly longer than the next one. I address it here:



I listened closely all the way through, trying to catch this “groove” , and not sure I did.

But, during the mando solo, the banjo player was vamping.

Right after that, I believe I heard him accenting on the “and of beat 1”…eg. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and.

Is this is what is being spoken about?

If not, what should I trying to hear? This is very intriguing.

Hi Jack,
Yes, that is one of the things…cool you heard it!
That is dynamics…differing volumes.
Russ is generally emphasizing the 2&4 a lot during early backup…then when he takes a break the power is on the 1 &3 mostly…listen to just that section before the bano break and into the first time through his break and you can hear the change…

The timing thing takes much more practice to hear but it is a great exercise to try to listen for it.

I’m actually dissecting Mikes’ fiddle breaks off the above video the last couple days and learning tons of stuff from it. Seems like it takes forever, but it is so worth the time spent…!