Bluegrass banjo players can’t live by G alone, no matter how much they may wish this were true! It’s now time to look at ten great‐sounding licks based around the C chord, which is the chord you’ll often encounter just after you play a G lick in a song (and sometimes — as in the songs “This Land Is Your Land” and “John Hardy” — the C chord is the first chord you’ll play).
As you try each of the following C licks, fret the full chord first before you play the lick.
Check out the following ten C licks:
C lick 1
This one‐measure lick is used in “Cabin in Caroline,” among many other songs. It works perfectly for a melody that moves down to the open fourth‐string D note that begins the measure two G chord lick.
C lick 2
Lick 2 is a memorable phrase first heard in Earl Scruggs’s “Flint Hill Special.” Note that it combines two four‐note phrases in measure one, which are then reversed in order in measure two. Your fretting‐hand middle finger has a lot of work to do as it moves back and forth between the third and fourth strings. Keep your index and ring fingers fretting the rest of the C chord on the second and first strings, and you’ll have this lick sounding great in no time!
C lick 3
Lick 3 uses an alternating thumb followed by a forward roll, with the fretting‐hand middle finger moving from the third to the fourth strings. You’ll hear this lick in “Blue Ridge Cabin Home,” among other tunes.
C lick 4
Here’s a great lick that works for down‐the‐neck backup, as well as in solos. Note that you’ll lift off the C chord with the fretting hand for the last four notes of measure one, but then immediately fret the C chord again at the beginning of measure two.
C lick 5
The forward‐reverse roll is a great pattern to use when you need to play melody notes that move between the third and fourth strings, as is the case with this C lick. You’ll use licks like this for the C chord in songs like “Long Journey Home” and “Worried Man Blues.”
C lick 6
This forward‐roll‐based pattern is used in “John Hardy.” In measure two, fret the third fret, first string with your pinky finger while also continuing to fret the rest of the C chord. All you then have to do to complete the lick is lift up the pinky at the end of the second measure to play the last first string at the second fret.
C lick 7
Forward‐roll‐based licks add drive to both your solo and backup playing. Here’s a great C lick that works well as an all‐purpose C chord down‐the‐neck roll pattern backup lick. When you need to fill two measures of C space, call up lick 7!
C lick 8
A variation on lick 7, lick 8 is designed to lead you nicely back to a G chord as you shift to a D7 fretted position briefly in the last four notes of the lick’s second measure.
C lick 9
It’s time to use the Foggy Mountain roll with a C lick that uses two different C‐chord positions. As you shift to the C chord at the fifth fret at measure two, take note of the fingering indications above the tab staff for smooth sailing between these chords.
C lick 10
You’re going to love this lick! It’s a classic C7 phrase that Earl Scruggs played in “Bugle Call Rag,” among other tunes. You’re mixing backward and forward roll segments to create some incredible excitement with lick 10. Play this as much as you like until you’re banished to the garage to practice.