There are not too many musical instruments around that Americans feel a stronger connection with than the banjo. This instrument was originally brought to America by Africans during the slave trade. Since then it has undergone a lot of change and development so it is now one on the most uniquely American instruments of all.
The sound of the banjo is unique. When you think of banjo playing, you probably imagine a lively atmosphere of happy people, with the banjo player leading the pack. The instrument can indeed liven up a room with its joyful sound. The banjo can also soothe you with a warmer, softer sound. It is a versatile instrument that can put you in whatever mood you desire when played correctly. If you decide that it is the bluegrass style you want to really dive into, you should also learn more about banjo rolls offered by reputable banjo schools like Joff Lowson’s Banjo Academy.
The banjo is used in many different types of music, but it is essential for Bluegrass. Bluegrass has always been connected to country music, in fact they were very similar a long time ago. In the 1940s most country music used acoustic instruments such as the fiddle, acoustic guitar and double bass, and Bluegrass started off as a new type of country music. While other types of music became more and more electrified, Bluegrass stayed true to its acoustic roots. In recent times the influence of Bluegrass has come back into the mainstream with acts like Mumford and Sons using a lot of Bluegrass influence. You even hear banjo parts in heavy metal songs these days!
Bluegrass does not use drums, so the banjo is responsible for keeping the rhythm. This is done by playing rolls.
Banjo roll patterns
Roll patterns are a succession of sixteenth notes repeatedly picked using your thumb, forefinger, and middle finger. This is done by one hand, normally the right unless the player is left handed. Every consecutive note is played with a different finger on a different string. You pluck every note of a given chord quickly, one at a time, rather than play them all together as you would strumming a guitar.
These patterns produce broken chords or arpeggios. Through these rolls, you produce a unique sound that is one of the most distinctive aspects of Bluegrass music. It’s also the main banjo sound that has found its way into other genres of music.
There are various roll patterns that can be altered and combined in different ways to complement the song, but eventually it always goes back to some basic ideas. The essential banjo rolls to learn include the square roll, forward roll, backward roll, and the mixed roll which is also called the forward-backward roll.
The banjo is a fun instrument to learn and master. The banjo’s versatility is what makes it maintain its popularity among people who want to learn how to play an instrument. It is also a great way to meet and play with other people. As you work on learning how to play your banjo, work on your banjo rolls too, and get into the bluegrass music you always wanted.