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Lesson 2a: Forward Rolls

Edited by Paul Race for Creek Don't Rise?

Editor's Note: Between 1999 and 2004, Mitchel "Mickey" Cochran posted an extensive collection of free musical instrument lessons on his web page. Sadly, we lost Mickey in 2011. After e-mailing surviving family members for permission to repost some of Mickey's most popular materials, we have begun restoring them to host on these pages. (Please see the Introduction page for more information on that effort.)

This is Mickey's description of some banjo rolls (picking patterns) that are frequently used in Bluegrass. - Paul

Lesson 2a: Forward Rolls

By Mickey Cochran

Notes on Forward Roll Studies: Within the roll patterns, in the 4 studies below, you'll find the more common 5-string banjo rolls. The forward roll has been used for more of a diving tone within bluegrass contexts. One of the more popular pieces which used the forward roll to good effect is "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" by Earl Scruggs (this pattern is demonstrated in Forward Roll Study #4 below).

These roll patterns can be applied within most any 4/4 context...after learning the rolls below, we will then apply these very same patterns to chord progressions in our next lessons...The following exercises involve only the right hand, your picking hand, and does not require any fretting whatsoever (notice there are only "0"s indicated on the tablature). This is to ensure that we're focusing on the banjo right-hand roll pattern only (or if you're left-handed, on the picking hand not the fretting hand)...once we're comfortable with this pattern, we will then be moving on to applying this very same pattern to chordal studies.

Notice the string names to the left of each line in the tablature stave of the Forward Roll Study #1 below. Picture these lines as the strings on your banjo. The very top line is the bottom string of your banjo (the first string D). The bottom line is the top string of your banjo (the 5th string high G). The numbers on each line represent where the string is to be played. For instance, a "0" on the top line means to play the D string open. A "2" on the top line means to play the D string at the 2nd fret. In the following exercises, all strings are played open...notice that the only number on the tablature is the numeral "0". These studies are all played in the open position, without fretting, so that the focus will be on the picking ensure that you're not distracted with having to work both hands at the same time.

There are 4 beats to each measure; measures are divided up by vertical lines. Notice that each measure, in the below exercises, consists of eight notes...for each measure count out four beats as if you're keeping the rhythm by clapping your hands or tapping your foot. For a total of eight notes, simply count 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &...which will then encompass all of the notes...after learning to count out the 4 beats, you will eventually be able to play intuitively and keep an even tempo without counting.

Note: Keep in mind that you're trying to keep these notes played evenly without faltering. There are no pauses between the notes. Start off slowly and keep the timing even.

For proper right-hand picking, follow the "T", "I" and "M" symbols above the tablature of each study...

    Thumb = T
    First Finger = I
    Second Finger = M

Practice these rolls repetitively. Our goal is to first gain a strong right hand before we attempt to add our left hand chords. We will learn a couple of more right hand rolls in the upcoming lessons.

Copyright ?1999-2004 Mickey Cochran


Mickey's instructions are as valid today as when he wrote and recorded them years ago. Here's hoping that you find them just as helpful as his original followers did back when he was interacting on a daily basis with his them.

Please contact us if you're hitting any brick walls and we'll try to help you get therough them.

Best of luck, all, enjoy your music, and support the arts.

Paul Race

And when you're ready to move on, click here to go to the next part of this online lesson.

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All text and any illustrations and/or videos within the white box above are copyright 1999-2004 by Mitchell Cochran. All other materials, illustrations, and content on this web page, including the text reformatting and illustration restoration within the white box are copyrighted ? 2016 by Paul D. Race. All rights reserved.
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