Saturday, April 11, 2009

Lesson #054, The X & Y Position and Vamping on the Banjo for Backup

Hi All,

I'm going to be teaching a series on Vamping in the next six lessons. Vamping is a very important technique used on the banjo as well on many different instruments in Bluegrass and in other genres of music as well.

As far as I know, Vamping was created by Bill Monroe in the Bluegrass genre. He would play the Vamp or sometimes called the chop on the Mandolin to great effect within the sounds of Bluegrass. He would chop or vamp the strings on the off beats of 2 and 4 to create contrast within the other instruments around him.

Contrast in any kind of Music creates wonderful sounds of opposition. When I say opposition I mean just that. The opposition he created in Bluegrass was mostly opposing the Bass. The Bass is playing on the downbeats of 1 and 3 so he filled up the measure with opposing vamps on the offbeats of 2 and 4. There are many ways to create contrasts in Bluegrass and In backin up other musicians. I am going to talk about backing up other musicians and singers in future lessons, but lets continue now with three basic ways to Vamp on the Banjo.

Vamping is going to be used in mostly in your backup, although later on we can incorporate those sounds into our soloing as well. Vamping on the Banjo is a combination of rhythm and percussion. There are many, many things that can be done with rhythm and percussion and I know that the possibilities have barely been touched upon to the evolution of playing the five string banjo to this day.

I also want to talk about the x and y position on the Banjo. The x position is the standard place on the Banjos head where you have been anchoring your fingers to the head. We can create different tones in our playing by sliding our right hand positions on the banjo. As we move our right hands closer to the neck, the tones become more mellow. The opposite holds true as we move our hand back towards the bridge. The tones become sharper. We will explore many different things with the x and y positions. It will help to bring out great expression on the Banjo.

Vamp On,


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