Lesson 7: You Are My Sunshine

Posted November 2, 2007

A song is a sequence of tones, a melody.  In itself, a song is neither simple nor difficult.  It's the arrangement on the banjo which might be simplistic or advanced.  This lesson brings some of both.

"You Are My Sunshine" is a tune my family sang on long car trips when I was a kid.  We only knew the chorus and first verse.  I learned the other verses recently from the "O Brother, Where Art Thou" collection.  I have played the song with great audience participation from elementary schools to nursing homes.

Listen to my studio band and hear three different banjo solos.


Listen to the band: "You Are My Sunshine"

Here's a typical band arrangement:  Intro rhythm lick, basic banjo solo, vocal chorus, banjo high solo, verse 1, banjo low variation, verse 2, basic solo repeated, vocal chorus, tag lick.

Three banjo solos, each expressing the melody in a different way.  The basic solo simply picks out the tune and connects the phrases with mostly forward rolls.  This is the version presented in The Banjo Experience, Unit Two, Lesson Two.   If you are an advanced player, you can probably pick this one out by ear.  If you need help, or you are helping others learn, then by all means, see the free sample offer below.

Hear all the variations and the vocal

Sunshine: Basic Solo.  Send for free sample!

No tab posted for this one.  "You Are My Sunshine" is presented in The Banjo Experience, my complete course in PowerPoint.  See the "General Store" page for information.  Send me a postal address and you will receive a FREE SAMPLE DISC of four lessons from the 35 lesson course.  The sample disc includes the "Sunshine" basic solo with exercises detailing all the phrases. 

Check out the General Store

Sunshine High: Up the Neck

Here we take it up the neck.  Hey, where's that pickup lick I hear on the audio?  I put that in the final measure at the repeat so the tablature would fit in 4 lines and would not require scrolling on your computer screen.  On the left hand, the 8 and 9 are fingered with 1 and 3, and the 11 and 10 are 4th finger. 

Play Along:   Tempo 80   Tempo 136

Sunshine Variation

Now we have a more elaborate expression of the basic melody.  Again, the pickup lick is at the end.  In the second C measure, the pull-off lick is picked TIMI.  Watch for the syncopated kick on 3rd string leading into the C phrase.  I marked it with an accent symbol. 

Play Along:  Tempo 80 Tempo 136

Everyone who plays banjo is both student and teacher.  You are self-taught?  Hey, then you're a teacher with one student: yourself!  If you are a beginner just getting it together on "Cripple Creek" you will inspire others to try also.  Hey, if she can do it, maybe I can too!  Practice diligently, enjoy your art, and above all: Share.  Play for others and let your banjo create a musical world around you. 

I hope these arrangements enrich your playing and stimulate ideas of your own. 

Good Luck Pickin'!

Edward T Wing

Pick'n'Grin, Knoxville, Tennessee