Progress to Scruggs-Style Banjo Songs

As you gain confidence playing licks on your banjo and combining them to create longer phrases, you eventually want to use the licks you know to create and enhance the melodies of songs. The following two tunes show you just how you can do this.

“Everyday Breakdown”

Because this song is made up of a number of essential two-measure phrases commonly used for the G, C, and D chords, “Everyday Breakdown” can get you started in your quest to create longer phrases and play entire songs by combining licks.

Many bluegrass banjo solos begin with a short, characteristic phrase that propels you into the main melody. These phrases are called kickoffs. “Everyday Breakdown,” which you can see in this tab, uses a three-note kickoff that also works with “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.”

Playing “Everyday Breakdown,” original composition by Bill Evans.
Playing “Everyday Breakdown,” original composition by Bill Evans.

You can listen to this tune in the audio clip "Everyday Breakdown" Bluegrass Banjo with Guitar and Mandolin Accompaniment and on the video clip Bluegrass Banjo: "Everyday Breakdown".

“Shortening Bread”

Take a look at this arrangement of a melody that Earl Scruggs played often on radio and television broadcasts in the 1950s and '60s. “Shortening Bread” is the familiar melody you may have first heard as a child (“Mama's little baby loves shortening, shortening/Mama's little baby loves shortening bread”).

Sometimes trying to capture the melody of a song in the simplest and most elegant way possible is best — something that Earl Scruggs seemed to do with ease just about all the time. This audio track tries to continue in Scruggs's footsteps with an arrangement of “Shortening Bread,” shown in this tab.

Playing “Shortening Bread.”
Playing “Shortening Bread.”

You can listen to this tune in the audio clip "Shortening Bread" Bluegrass Banjo with Guitar and Mandolin Accompaniment .

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