Lesson #038, Rhythm and Counting I

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Lesson #038, Rhythm and Counting I

Hi Everyone,

First let me say that if you cant play train 45 or John Henry at this time in your playing.... DONT WORRY ABOUT IT! You will be able to play those tunes in time. As a matter of fact, I believe in time you will be able to play anything you want on the banjo. Good things take a little time, and I think its worth the effort for all the good times that lay ahead in playing the Five string Banjo.

I'd like to start this series in rythm and timing and talk about cherry pie and the bass fiddle, or the bull fiddle. A lot of Bluegrass tunes and songs are played in 4/4 time. This 4/4 is called a time signature. The top number represents the number of beats per measure and the bottom number represents the type of note.

In 4/4 time, 4 beats fit into a measure. They fit evenly into a measure. We can count these beats many ways. We can count with our voice or in our head or we can use our feet or foot to tap along with these beats. Lets count to four now...

1 2 3 4

The D underneath the 1 and the 3 represents a Down beat.
The O underneath the 2 and the 4 represents an Off beat.

When your foot hits the floor.... thats 1
When your foot comes off the floor.... thats 2
Back down on the floor is .........3
Back off the floor is ..........4

So those are the four beats we are going to be dealing with, keeping a steady motion or beat with our foot. After you learn this and start to play a bit, you wont be counting at all, but you will be tapping your foot along unconsciously to whatever tune or song you happen to be playing.

Rock On,


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In 2009, at the age of 60, I decided to learn to play the 5-string banjo. I searched the internet for lessons and struck gold when I found David Cavage's free banjo lessons at Musicmoose.org. His video hosting site revver.com was having some serious problems at the time so I downloaded as many of the lessons as I could whenever they became available. Revver.com stopped operating shortly afterwards and, sadly, Musicmoose.org is no more. I contacted David early 2020 and he told me he no longer had the original master videos and feared they may have been lost forever. This amazing course of free banjo lessons, from absolute beginner to advanced player, is too good to be forgotten, so this is my attempt to get David's work back out there again so that he can teach, inspire and spread the joy of banjo pickin' to more generations of budding musicians, just like he did with me. I've rounded up all the Moose stuff I could find and put it here, so start pickin' and enjoy!-------MooseHerder.