Monthly Archives: March 2017

Lick of the Day #3

Back in the 1980’s I got my mitts on a copy of Tony Trischka’s book, Melodic Banjo.

I had no interest in the melodic bluegrass movement. It was clear even by the mid 80’s that bluegrass banjo players almost always end up playing jazz. Jazz is the great elephant graveyard of bluegrass banjo. Start with Scruggs, move on to melodic and end up at jazz. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Anyway, what I was looking for in the book was a better understanding of how melodic players use scales. I read through the book and started exploring the songs. After experimenting with a few tab files I came across a cool lick. The challenge now was to take the three finger material and play it with frailing technique. After a bit of trial and error I came up with this little exercise.

Lick of the Day #3

The first three measures are double thumbing at the fifth fret. In a move you see a lot in melodic bluegrass, the lick stays in one place, getting a lot of notes with minimal movement.

The tricky thing here is keeping a flowing rhythm through the entire lick. Try practicing your basic frailing strum for a bit. Then flow through this lick and back to basic frailing.

If playing this at the fifth fret feels wonky move the lick to a different C chord.

Lick #3 - the easy one

I still have my copy of Melodic Banjo. All tattered and full of handwritten notes in the margins. I never used the book for three-finger playing as intended. It did help me come up with ways to approach the material with frailing.

Lick Ingredients

  • Basic frailing
  • Double thumbing
  • Basic chord forms

Where else can you apply one or more of these techniques?

Send any questions to Send us video and audio files to share!

Lick of the Day #2

lick of the day #2

Today’s lick is a lot of fun. We are playing the basic frailing strum and adding a phantom hammer.

I tend to play this lick crisply. Not so fast that it all becomes a blur, but quick enough to keep things light and snappy.

We start by playing a basic frailing strum. As we strike the third string we play a phantom hammer on the third string at the second fret. We keep this pattern going as we move to a C chord in the second measure.

The count for both measures is 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &.

The timing and volume of the phantom hammer is essential to making this lick work. You should be able to get almost as much volume from the phantom hammer as you do with the strike – and making that happen is a blend of technique and setup.

Technique: Hammer the string with enough force to make the string vibrate from the fret to the bridge and maintain constant pressure to keep the string ringing. This takes practice.

Setup: Make sure your banjo is strung with light gauge strings, check head tension and don’t stuff your pot.

Beyond the tab, I like to play with my dynamics on this lick by playing the strike and phantom hammer loudly and cutting back on the volume for the strum.

Lick Ingredients

  • The basic frailing strum
  • The C chord
  • Phantom hammers
  • Dynamics

Where else can you apply one or more of these techniques?

Send any questions to Send us video and audio files to share!

Lick of the Day #1

lick 3-29-17

I posted a couple of licks to the Daily Frailer’s group on Facebook yesterday. Then it hit me that this would be a fun feature for the blog.

Today’s lick starts out with a basic frailing pattern with two changes. First we replace the strums with rests. Then we add in a bend release on third string at the second fret.

The way I play this is fairly simple. When I am playing the first quarter note strike on the first string I bend the third string. When the time comes I strike the bend third string and gently release the bend while keeping pressure on the string so that it continues to ring.

The bend – release is a quarter note. So, in spite of the rests and bends the count is: 1 2 & 3 4 &.

The next tricky part is in the third measure. We start with a full chord hammer. That is fairly easy. On the third and fourth beats of the measure we are still holding the C chord, but out middle finger has moved from the fourth string second fret to the third string. We pull off creating two eight notes – and then we hammer back to the fourth string (that’s a phantom hammer). We play the phantom hammer as a quarter note.

The count for the third measure is: 1 & 2 & 3 & 4

I don’t recommend playing this one tentatively. It’s a fast lick, so dive into it and let yourself make a few mistakes. Listen to Earl Scruggs playing songs like Shucking The Corn for inspiration.

Will a little practice this lick can give you a cool bluegrass D-tuner effect without investing in a set of D-Tuners.

Once you can play this lick forget the tab and start looking for ways to use the elements of this lick in new ways.

Lick Ingredients

  • Basic frailing strum
  • Rests
  • Pre-Bend
  • Bend-Release
  • Full Chord Hammer
  • Phantom Hammer
  • Quarter note hammer

Where else can you use one or more of these techniques?

Send any questions to Send us video and audio files to share!

The Basics

Dear Old Dad and I have talked quite a bit about learning to play simple backups and chord progressions. In this clip from a 2006 interview, Pete Seeger explains that his ability to play solid backup and feel chord changes helped him forge a musical bond with Woody Guthrie.

Play simply. Sing. Work on chord progressions and learn some music theory. It will prepare you for wonderful musical adventures!

If you want to learn a bit about music theoru check out A Book of Five Strings available right here at


My friend Bill sent me a link to this cool clip. Peter Pringle singing the opening lines to the Epic of Gilgamesh in ancient Sumerian and playing a long-neck, three-string, Sumerian lute known as a “gish-gu-di”.

Read all about it here:

If you are unfamiliar with the Epic of Gilgamesh you can read the story on several web sites.

Peter Pringle’s web site is hard to navigate, but he has some cool music on his YouTube Channel. He doesn’t limit himself to ancient music. Here he is playing Vulcan harp and theremin. Talk about a wide range of music!

Good Bad Movie Moment: Blue Monkey

I love running across a vintage cheesy monster movie for the first time. Today I was luckily unlucky enough to stumble across a really weird Canadian flick from 1987 called Blue Monkey.

This film has nothing to do with monkeys, nothing to do with the color blue and the true heroes of the film are a pair of drunken old ladies and a group of unsupervised children with leukemia.

Signs of the 80’s include smoking in hospitals, Joe Flaherty being painfully unfunny, John Vernon being very John Vernon-ish, doctors saying medical gibberish, a laser laboratory in a Civil War era mental hospital, a pointless government conspiracy, child endangerment and several unfortunate haircuts.

It’s rated R for violence inflicted on a ketchup-smeared department store mannequin by a guy in a rubber praying mantis suit.

I give it four out of five John Vernons.

John Vernon John Vernon John VernonJohn Vernon John Vernon

Keys to the Highway Episode One

Patrick and Dear Old Dad are folk musicians and the world’s foremost experts on their own opinions.

In the first episode of this folk music podcast, the duo looks back over the last twenty years of teaching folk music on the Internet. They also discuss recent events and offer a few hints on upcoming projects.

Download this episode in other formats.

We will start the RSS feed for this show next week.

The Daily Frail Episode 27

Play and sing Waterloo with Dear Old Dad.

Download audio file in alternate formats from

Daily Frail Home | The Daily Frail Podcast Feed

4/4 Time – Key of G

G                              D
Waterloo  Waterloo  where will you meet your Waterloo
      G                      C
Every puppy has his day everybody has to pay 
     G           D               G
Everybody has to meet his Waterloo
verse 1:
G                     C       G
Now ole Adam was the first in history 
                      A           D
With an apple he was tempted and deceived
         G               C
Just for spite the devil made him take a bite
            G             D           G
And that's where ole Adam met his Waterloo

verse 2:
G                  C          G
Little General  Napoleon of France 
                      A                  D
Tried to conquer  the world but lost his pants
       G             C          G
Met defeat known as Bonaparte's retreat 
                           D          G
And that's where Napoleon met his Waterloo

verse 3: 
G                   C                G
Now a feller who's darling proved untrue 
                     A         D
Took her life but he lost his too
        G                C
Now he swings where the little birdie sings
            G                D          G
And that's where Tom Dooley met his Waterloo


The Daily Frail Episode 26

Play and sing Eastbound and Down with Dear Old Dad .

Download audio file in alternate formats from

Daily Frail Home | The Daily Frail Podcast Feed

Eastbound and Down
4/4 Time Key of G

G                                  Em
East bound and down, loaded up and truckin'

C                    D                Em  
We're gonna do what they say can't be done

            G                                  Em
We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there

C                  D                G
I'm eastbound just watch ol' Bandit run

(verse 1)
Keep your foot hard on the pedal. Son, never mind them brakes

C                          D               Em
Let it all hang out ‘cause we got a run to make

Em                                          C
The boys are thirsty in Atlanta and there's beer in Texarkana

And we'll bring it back no matter what it takes

(verse 2)
'Ol Smokey's got them ears on and he's hot on your trail

C              D                   Em
He ain't gonna rest 'til you're in jail

So you got to dodge 'im and you got to duck  'im

You got to keep that diesel truckin'

Just put that hammer down and give it hell