Schoolhouse

Lesson 1. Earl Scruggs fill licks

Posted August 25 2007

 

In this lesson, we will look at a few variants of the famous Earl Scruggs fill lick, the one written on the banjo picture at the top of the page, the one that plays when you enter this site. 

Much more than simple touches of flash to ornament a phrase, these licks model a METHOD of study:  Learning banjo is mostly programming reflex sequences.  Accurate repetition is the key.  Each correct repetition strengthens the mental imprint; each error scatters and weakens it.  So, I use TWO learning strategies:

1.    Chop it up into little pieces.

2.    Slow it way down.

Remember, it's not how long you practice -- it's how many repetitions you get in a row without a miss.  With this in mind, pick the tabs below.  There are audio links for each phrase which play SLOW, MEDIUM, and FAST.  Keep it slow until you can get four repetitions in a row without a miss, then speed up.  The fast speed is 80 beats per minute in cut time, what you would normally consider medium tempo for bluegrass.

In the next lesson, we'll look at some intro licks.

Edward T Wing

Pick'n'Grin, Knoxville, Tennessee

Here's the traditional Earl Scruggs fill lick followed by a forward roll.  This uses the typical Scruggs TIMI sequence in the middle with index picking the slide.

Slow

Medium

Fast

This variation uses two quarter notes followed by a reverse roll.  I use this one often to mark the end of a verse.

Slow

Medium

Fast

This one switched TIMI to the bottom 3 strings with thumb picking the slide.  Notice there are no 5th strings in the first measure.

Slow

Medium

Fast

Double-thumb and a forward roll with pull-offs make this fill lick different from typical Scruggs style,  but suggests that anything is possible!

Slow

Medium

Fast