Sunday, November 14, 2010

Foggy Mountain Breakdown

A fellow named Mike let me know that folks at banjohangout.com have been using the backing tracks. I recorded today's tracks hoping they will be useful to the banjo readers I didn't know I had.

This song came up at a jam session a few days ago, and it was blazing fast. I remember thinking at the time that it was probably too fast, but then I got home and listened to Earl Scruggs. It turns out Earl done it very fast, about 310 bpm.

That's a problematically fast tempo for me as a guitarist. It's tough to even strum rhythm at that tempo, much less take a guitar break.

The bluegrass band I played with in Oklahoma did this song sometimes, and while it wasn't quite as fast as Earl's version it was still pretty peppy. I came up with a guitar break that I since let languish, but it was devised especially to be easy to play at very fast tempos while still sounding good. I'm gonna try to remember it and tab it out and post it here.

Recording these rhythm tracks led me to a realization--playing fast rhythm is really good for loosening up your wrist, and will very noticeably increase your comfort in playing faster leads. I'm going to add it to my practice routine now to strum some fast-tempo songs after I get warmed up. (Foggy Mountain Breakdown and Hallelujah I'm Ready and Black Mountain Rag come to mind.)

Anyway, here's the tracks:

16 comments:

  1. Nice job, Dave. I can't thank you enough for posting all your fantastic backup! I found your blog though a post on the banjo hangout.

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  2. You're sure welcome, Nick. I'm glad you're enjoying them.

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  3. hey! im that fellow named mike!

    It is even better for banjo players or any bluegrass musician now! fiddle tunes (esp in D) are tough for beginner banjo pickers. Bill Cheetam and Foggy Mtn Breakdown are tunes that most beginner/intermediate can work out a simple break for and play along with you at a slow tempo.

    its really great you do this. id been searching for something like this for a while now. people who might never get out and play with other people
    can find a real source of joy here, not to mention the improvement in timing and dynamics you can also achieve.

    i love playing fiddle tunes (st annes reel, Whiskey before breakfast) at the slowest tempo here. even though i usually play them much faster at jams, slowing them down really lets you focus on getting the best tone from each note and also lets you hear the simple beauty of some of these melodies.

    again, thanks so much. youre effort does not go unappreciated.

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  4. I'm glad you're getting use out of them, Mike. I do the same thing--often I'll practice a single break four times through at the slowest tempo and focus on tone and musicality. It seems like it helps.

    And thanks for the encouraging words.

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  5. This is neat. Sure would like a little slower version too. Hint Hint??

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  6. Thanks. I am planning to go back to some of these rhythm tracks (including this one) and record some slower tempos, but it may be a couple of months before I complete doing that. It *is* on the list, but the next couple of months will be pretty busy for me.

    Some of the newer songs have tempos going down to 150 bpm--you might give those a try until I get the others done.

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  7. Dave, I play dobro, and don't have many people to actually play with in my area, this is a great tool, to get faster, and more accurate with my playing, thanks, this is great fun...

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  8. Glad you're getting use out of them.

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  9. This is so helpful for me as a newer banjo player. This is my first real chance to work out the timing with other instruments without any dirty looks for others! I really want to thank you for all this work you've put into this site and the help that it is!

    Darrick

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  10. I appreciate the kind words, Darrick. I'm glad you're getting use out of them.

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  11. Hi Dave
    Just breezed in from the Banjo Hangout. Just like to say a great big thankyou for making these back up tracks avialable to all. I don't have anyone to practice with on a regular basis and as a novice banjo picker these back up tracks are fantastic. Much appreciated

    Tam_Zeb (at) Yahoo (dot) co (dot) uk

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  12. Thanks, Tam Zeb. My pleasure.

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  13. The problem with this backing track is that it was created in 2/4 timing, Foggy Mountain Breakdown is actually 4/4 timing, with the correct tempo being 160 bpm. The problem is that even though this track is ok'ish to practice to the 2/4 timing put's the accents all wrong and throws the feel of the riffs "out". So if your using this and having problems playing it then this is definitely adding to your difficulty! Kenty,,,,,

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  14. Nope. His recording is correct.

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  15. Dueling Banjos is a bit conspicuous by its absence...!
    Thought it was a great favourite with Banjo people.
    Steve UK

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  16. This is a very useful page. I seem to remember the Scruggs book shows this in 2/4 timing and I would say your strumming is ideal to play with. Working with people using 4/4 over this is hard and removes the BOOM-chick-BOOM-chick sound that the bass emphasises etc. in most decent recordings.

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