When you think of bluegrass banjo, you probably first think about a player jamming during their break in the song. But, in reality, those players spend 90% of their time backing up for the other players. Bluegrass banjo stars like JD Crowe, Earl Scruggs, and Sonny Osborne are just as famous for their backup playing as they are for their soloing. Being an excellent backup player brings you a lot of value, and you’ll likely become an essential part of the band.
In his course, Bluegrass Banjo Backup, Ned Luberecki gives you the tools to start vamping and backing up the band like a pro.
Here are eight video bluegrass banjo lessons from the course. For the full course, check out Ned Luberecki’s Bluegrass Banjo Backup on TrueFire!
Bluegrass Banjo Backup – Syncopated Two Position Vamping – Demonstration
In this style of vamping, you’ll syncopate the rhythm of the second chord position. This creates a more complex rhythm lick and keeps the banjo from playing exactly the same thing as the mandolin in a jam or band setting.
Bluegrass Banjo Backup – Syncopated Two Position Vamping – Playalong
Now, play along with this standard G, C and D chord progression using the new syncopated vamping style.
Bluegrass Banjo Backup – 6th and 7th Chord Fill – Demonstration
Here, we’ll learn a classic Scruggs style backup lick that requires fretting the 5th string with the thumb. By repositioning your thumb, you can play either a 6th chord or a 7th chord.
Bluegrass Banjo Backup – 6th and 7th Chord Fill – Playalong
Now, let’s try the 6th and 7th chord fills with this standard G, C & D chord progression.
Bluegrass Banjo Backup – “Six White Horses” Lick – Demonstration
This lick gets its name from the Flatt and Scruggs recording of the song, “Six White Horses”. Furthermore, it is the lick that Earl uses to kick off the song. It makes a great mid-tempo backup lick. And, since it’s a closed position lick, it can be used anywhere on the neck.
Bluegrass Banjo Backup – C Licks for Rolling Backup – Demonstration
These are some licks to use over a C chord with rolling style backup. Once again, if you have a few other favorite C licks, try working them in with the Ultimate Forward Roll.
Bluegrass Banjo Backup – Faded Love Exercise 1 – Playalong
Use what you’ve learned for triplet tremolo, walk-ups and walk-downs and passing tones to play over the chord progression to “Faded Love”.
Bluegrass Banjo Backup – Fast 3/4 Time – Playalong
Here’s a standard G, C & D chord progression with a few examples of 3/4 time backup licks. Once you’re comfortable with these, try mixing them up and playing along with the jam track.
Digging these free bluegrass banjo lessons? Check out Ned Luberecki’s full course, Bluegrass Banjo Backup.