Lick of the Day #14

Rubbing your head and patting your stomach – only with banjos!


Braille-friendly banjo tab.

Here is a short sound file with Yours Truly playing today’s lick.

Download MP3.

The count for this exercise is a little tricky. Your striking hand is playing 1 2& 3 4& but your picking hand is adding a hammer and a pull so your audience is hearing 1& 2& 3& 4&.

Let’s walk through it step-by-step:

  1. Simultaneously strike the open third string and hammering on the open first string at the second fret.
  2. Strum-thumb.
  3. Simultaneously strike the open fourth string and pulling-off from the first string second fret.
  4. Strum-thumb

Thirty some odd years ago when I realized I could create one note with my picking hand and a second note with my fretting hand I just about went crazy. It was so easy to think of frailing as strike,strum-thumb and now the rhythmic and melodic possibility apple cart was upturned.

You can hear licks like this in the playing of Buell Kazee, but I never ran across the idea in any banjo book. When I started sharing the concept online I needed a name for the concept. It was 1999 and nobody was willing to admit the new Star Wars movie sucked. It was Phantom Menace this and Phantom Menace that, so I called these fretting-hand notes Phantom notes and called the concept Phantom Effects.

Getting good volume from the pull-off is easy. Just snap your finger off the string and the banjo will ring.

The hammer-on is more difficult. You must bring your finger into contact with the string hard enough to make the banjo ring, and then maintain pressure to keep the string vibrating. You can do it if your practice.