Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Dave Hum On How He Makes His Own Banjo Backing Tracks

In his own words, here's how Dave makes his own backing tracks...
The album “TRAVELLING LIGHT” is a culmination of 15 years passing. When I have had spare time between teaching, learning, busking and making videos of 5 string banjo tunes , I have recorded original compositions which have more of a unique contemporary approach.

I arrange and play all the instruments and program the beats myself - The software i use is Reason for the midi samples such as basslines, loops and effects - which lets me export as WAV files into a program called Sonar for the audio recordings - i then combine the results in Sonar - to record the actual instruments i use a Zoom H2 straight into my laptop which makes the whole process easy as it has it's own soundcard which Sonar recognises.

I enjoy many styles of music and feel that the banjo is capable of being more than a bluegrass, Celtic, ragtime or classic style instrument. Essentially, a lot of the techniques used in the Travelling Light album on the banjo are the same as the aforementioned but by giving the banjo, and mandolin for that matter, more of a contemporary rhythm and backing so to speak i think they can be used to play most styles of music if sympathetic to the emotion of the tune. —Dave Hum (from his website)
Here's the newer Zoom H2 model. There are also more advanced models of the Zoom unit, reasonably priced, that have guitar inputs. It appears that Dave recorded his musical instruments live, and not directly into the recorder. A lot of people are fascinated with Dave Hum and his banjo music, myself included. I had read in the Banjo Hangout Online (BHO) forum that Dave made his backing tracks using Reason software, so in my ignorance I went and tried it for free for 30 days at their website.

It turns out that Dave only used Reason for his MIDI portion of his recordings, and nothing else. In fact, Dave recorded his instruments with a Zoom H2 personal recorder into his laptop, using Sonar software. I'm sure a lot of people have been frustrated trying to figure out how to use Reason (now called Cakewalk) to make Dave Hum's style of backing tracks. Now you know the whole story!

By the way, the word “travelling” is not spelled wrong by Dave, in England they spell certain words different than in the United States. For example: “Arkansas Traveller”. I am very thankful to Dave and his family for sharing this information with others. I pray for Dave's family often, as I know that is what he would want, and am glad that God made Dave Hum!

Dave Hum's Picking Style

Dave Hum takes charge of his banjos. When I first learned how to drive a car as a 17 year old teenager, an older friend of mine took me out to a big empty parking lot in Chicago, after it had snowed. He instructed me to drive ahead and then slam on the brakes to go into a skid. He had me intentionally doing 360 degree spins in the snow, sliding and getting a feel for the car. That did more to help me learn how to drive than anything else, because I learned to control the vehicle, and not to let the vehicle control me!

Likewise, I think of that often as a good illustration of learning to play the banjo. Dave picks the strings with a strong grip, determination, mastering his instruments, and it is heard in his eloquent majestic performances. I really love when Dave rides up and down that 1st string while doing triplets, which you can hear a lot in Mason's Apron. When he finishes there is a loud applause from all onlookers, paying tribute to a master banjo player!

On November 1, 2020, Dave Hum posted the following explanation in the Banjo Hangout of why he doesn't rest his finger in the banjo head as do most other players...
Banjo players often comment that I don't rest one or two fingers on the drum head, so I thought I'd let anyone else who is curious know the reason why.
Since 1990 I played resting my pinky on the head for stability - however - in October 2009 I came down with septacemia and was diagnosed with multiple myeloma which is a form of blood and bone cancer - I lost the tip of my index finger on my picking hand and my fingers are left permanently curled so I can't rest my pinky and play comfortably in this position without the picks getting caught up in the strings - the webbing between my fingers has risen which restricts movement and the nerve endings in my fingers are damaged so I have areas of numbness.

I realised then that the only way forward was to learn a new technique that still enabled me to play wearing fingerpicks and to be able to use the 3 main styles of playing that I employed i.e. 3 finger style (Earl Scruggs) - Alternating Thumb and Index or Middle (Bill Keith - Melodic) - and single string style (Don Reno).

After trying different approaches I settled on having a floating hand (like a guitarist) and sometimes resting the thumb base of my palm above the bridge for support as this is the technique I use when I'm playing up the neck and I taped the fingerpicks to my index and middle fingers to stop them falling off. Taping them also enabled me to fashion the index fingerpick so it stuck out more than usual to compensate for the loss of the tip on my index finger - It took me almost a year to feel comfortable with this new technique and get the speed and timing back - but so far so good! Nowadays I don't need the tape as I put velcro inside my picks and this holds them on. More recently I have had some tumours showing up and one was in my skull - thankfully some radiotherapy zapped it away but it has affected my eyesight and I now have to wear an eye paych from now on as I only have the use of one eye,

I have included some pics here in the photo section of my Banjo Hangout homepage that shows my right hand with the picks on - and also a splint that was made for me by a hand physio team at hospital to try to stop my fingers curling into a fist.

I hope by sharing this info it will give inspiration and hope to any other banjo pickers out there who may be experiencing the similar difficultys that I have come up against.

I have a 2 Albums of popular bluegrass and celtic tunes available on CD at http://www.davehum.com

Or if you would like to download an album or individual tunes in MP3 format click here http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/DaveHum

I am also now offering a FREE download of my third album which is quite different from the traditional approach.

The album "TRAVELLING LIGHT" is a culmination of 15 years as when I have had spare time between learning, busking and videoing 5 string banjo tunes I have recorded original compositions which have more of a unique contemporary approach.

Thanks for all the support from BHO members.

Dave Hum

Facebook Page : http://www.facebook.com/davehum.banjoplayer2

I needed to remove the link in Dave's preceding quote to his jukebox page, because after his death some ungodly people linked it to a smut website. That is so wicked when ungodly people hijack the website of decent God-fearing people. I did report the matter to a Moderator in the forum.

I have studied Dave's picking closely and he is incredibly skilled at single note playing. I believe this carries over from his skills on the mandolin. I bought a mandolin just for that purpose, so I could learn to play single notes better. The proper technique to pick the mandolin is up, down, up, down, up, down on single note progressions. Dave does that a lot on the banjo, like on Arkansas Traveller and also in Arkansas Traveller 2 (which you can see very well in these awesome videos).

I actually watched a video today, where Peter Seeger (1919-2014) said that when he first taught banjo back in the 1960's, he taught his students chords. But today he said that he did it wrong! He said that now he teaches his students to first focus on playing single strings. The chords will automatically come later. I fully agree with Peter. Dave Hum is masterful at single string playing. I went to read up on Pete Seeger, when I read that Dave Hum studied from his courses and admired him as a musician. If Dave learned from him, then so should I.





Dave Hum (1966-2012)

Course Number One By Jay Buckey

I love Jay Buckey's music and sure miss him! Jay produced some of the BEST banjo tabs and quality backing tracks. Here is the complete course #1...

If you e-mail me (kingjamesbible77 at gmail dot com), I'll gladly send you all 1-11 courses for banjo (including backing tracks) using WeTransfer. The compressed file size is about 1.5 GB. I just need your e-mail, so I know where to send the download link that I'll create at WeTransfer. I am glad to do this to help other banjo enthusiasts like me. Music makes the world a better place!

Monday, April 18, 2022

You Can Make Dave Hum Style Backing Tracks

I fell in love with Dave Hum's music the first time I heard him perform on YouTube in 2018! I literally cried when I heard the second part of The Ballad Of Jed Clampett, the way Dave plays eloquent triplets all up the neck. I had never heard a banjo played like that before, and he touched my heart musically that day. I said to myself in my heart: “That's it! That is exactly how I want to play the banjo!” It was Dave Hum that rekindled a burning passion in my soul to get back into my banjo playing. I had purchased a Gold Tone banjo 25 years earlier, when I lived in Chicago, but in the early 1990's there was no internet. Since I didn't have any musical mentors, I lost interest. But all that has changed today with the invention of the internet!

All of the following backing tracks are my humble attempt to recreate Dave Hum's awesome tracks. I simply imported Dave's backing tracks into MixCraft Pro 9 one at a time (to use it as a template to build my track upon). I first lay down a MIDI kick drum and tambourine, and then play my bass guitar along. At first my bass lines were not timed and articulated well, and so once I laid down the correct bass lines by studying and following Dave, and then turned off Dave's playing and went back to play along with just my kickdrum beats, so I could get the best timing for a good backing track. As you can tell, I still need to work on my bass technique. God willing, as I get better at my knowledge and skills, if I can improve these tracks, I will replace them with better versions. So if you like what you hear, make sure to download them, because they might be replaced if I think I have produced something better. Without further ado, enjoy! ...
Dave Hum was a seasoned journeyman musician, a jack of all crafts so-to-speak. He played banjo, guitar, mandolin, bongos and percussion, bass, double bass, harmonica and probably anything else he picked up! I am not professionally skilled, but I am good in general with stringed instruments. At age 55 I am learning more now than ever before, trying my best to recreate Dave Hum's inspirational backing tracks. I want to freely share all my progress with other banjo enthusiasts, and this blog is where to look for new stuff. I just uploaded Jay Buckey's Course #1 to freely share. I miss Jay, he is an inspiration like Dave.

I made all of the Dave Hum style backing tracks on my own. I started using a cheap $399 Hofner bass from China. I also went to Guitar Center locally and picked up a $299 Gretsch mini bass. I prefer the Gretsch bass for my backing tracks, because the Hofner has a string bass essence to it, which isn't what I want for Dave Hum's tracks. So I am using the Gretsch now. I used the Gretsch for Sailor's Hornpipe, Gaspe Reel and others. The different tone variation is subtle, but noticeable.

I am using $149 MixCraft Pro 9 software for the kickdrums, crash cymbal and tambourines. I just bought some different hand percussion instruments (shaker, tambourine, Christmas bells) from a local music store, to try and recreate some of Dave's immaculate backing tracks. I admittedly am not Dave Hum, nor am I trying to be. I simply humbly want to keep his music and spirit alive, and help freely provide his much sought after backing tracks (to the best of my limited abilities...lol). Hey, I'm having fun, which is the whole idea, right.

To be honest, I am not a great mandolin player. I can play it slow, but Dave Hum honed his skills over the years and could play authentically fast. I'm still working to increase my speed. So on The Merry Blacksmith, I recorded my mandolin at half speed, and then increased the tempo to double after I recorded it, to match Dave's playing. Hey, it works for making my backing track...lol. I thought that was pretty cool.

I encourage other banjo pickers to learn the mandolin too. If you listen to The Merry Blacksmith from HIS ALBUM, you can hear Dave Hum picking THE SAME notes on the banjo as the mandolin. I'll guarantee you that he likely learned those songs on the mandolin first. The reason I know is because NO ONE plays the banjo like Dave Hum, and that is because he often plays the banjo like a mandolin (i.e., single note stuff, using up/down picking)!!! Try it and you'll see what I mean.

I often pray for Dave Hum's family in England: Mel (wife), River and Perri (daughters), thankful for the music that Dave gave the world to cherish. Their third daughter, Ashlea, went to Heaven in 2002 from Cystic Fibrosis. I regularly drive around with Dave's banjo music blasting in my car with the windows down, and people respond favorably all the time, loving what they hear. Dave Hum's music is happy music!!! The world needs a lot more of that.

Dave was a big fan of Pete Seeger (1919-2014), an original member of The Kingston Trio, who had the words written on his banjo: “This instrument surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.” What a great truth! The banjo is indeed a happy instrument that soothes the savage beast. ...


Banjo Artist, Peter Seeger (1919-2014)

Pete Seeger invented the long banjo neck. To accommodate his baritone voice in the famous Kingston Trio group, he literally cut and put two banjo necks together to add a few inches of length to the neck, and in so doing made music history! Today, Deering and other banjos companies sell long neck banjos, which are still quite popular, tuned three half steps lower to E instead of standard G. Long neck players capo the third fret to play it as a standard G tuned banjo.

God willing I hope to make more MP3 backing tracks for many of Dave's songs, and I will gladly share them all for free with all of you. It is 320 kbps quality. I'll post them in this blog. Music makes the world a better place! I love sharing with others. I hope you like them. I also included a second track with Dave Hum playing the original song, so you can hear how I used his original song to pattern my backing tracks. 

In the song Whiskey Before Breakfast (with Dave Hum), the static in the recording is from the MP3 of Dave Hum. I don't know how that got in there.

Also, I am learning how to make backing tracks, so bear with me. I am studying Dave's backing tracks, they are the BEST! I bought an inexpensive Hofner bass from Guitar Center...


My New Hofner Bass (I love the flat-wound strings & hollow body)

I've read online that the Hofner bass (the same that Paul McCartney has used his entire career) has more of a string bass sound to it. It sure does! You can hear it in my backing tracks. I am not a professional bass player, so I really don't know if this is the best bass to use, but I'd say that it does have a nice bass tone. I love that the Hofner bass is hollow inside and super light. Mine came with flat-wound strings, which is highly recommend by the artists who play them.

Dave Hum used “Sonar software to make his backing tracks. Sonar was a digital audio workstation created by the former Boston, Massachusetts-based music production software company “Cakewalk.” It was acquired by Singaporean music company BandLab Technologies and renamed “Cakewalk by BandLab. Guess what my fine non-feathered banjo friends, CAKEWALK IS NOW FREE! Wow, how cool is that? Here is what it says on their website:
Cakewalk is 100% free. Cakewalk is the next generation of SONAR. Your SONAR projects are fully compatible with Cakewalk. Regular updates delivering significant stability, performance enhancements, and new features, plus compatibility with future Windows updates. SOURCE
I am not familiar with Cakewalk, but I downloaded it to try it, and I became frustrated trying to figure how to use it. So I uninstalled it from my computer. I'm sticking with MixCraft. I just wish the software came with more sounds. I used Mixcraft Pro 9 software to make all these backing tracks, which I really like and have used to record my music for several years now. The software is inexpensive compared to Ableton. MixCraft Pro is only $149 and worth every penny! I recently downloaded trial versions of Ableton and FL Studio, both of which are confusing for newbies like me, and frustrating to learn in my humble opinion. MixCraft is largely self-explanatory and makes sense how they laid everything out right in front of you to see. When I right-mouse-click on a track in MixCraft, I get a menu; but in FL (Fruity Loops) Studio, right-mouse-clicking deletes your track! I hate that! So I uninstalled FL Studio too.

I don't get anything for promoting MixCraft, I just love their software and want to help other musicians spend more time making music than reading owner's manuals. MixCraft allows you to easily insert MIDI or audio tracks to record. For the MIDI (or Virtual Instrument) track, MixCraft Pro comes with limited but useful free instruments. All I needed and used to make my tracks is a kickdrum, tambourine and a crash cymbal for one song. I am trying to follow exactly what Dave did. The percussion sounds I used already come with MixCraft, and there are plenty more (piano, bass, drum kits, synthesizer, brass, et cetera). Mind you, it's all MIDI. MixCraft does also come with real instrument audio loops, but I haven't found much use for them for making Dave Hum style backing tracks. You can also download VST plugins, which I am still learning how to use.


How To Use 'MixCraft Pro'

When you open MixCraft for the first time, create a new song under “File.”

First, insert a new Audio Track on track one, and then import a Dave Hum MP3 song. To add the song, just right mouse click on the empty track and select "Add Sound File." Then choose your song.

Second, lay down your percussion beats. Go to track two, a MIDI track, and click on the piano symbol to the left of the word “mute.” When the window opens you can select which instrument group you want. Select the “Percussion - Drum Kit” to the left, and then in the right window I used “Dance.” In here you are selecting your group of instruments. Close the window.

Third, Go to the track that you want to make your drums (in this case the first track) and DOUBLE-CLICK with your mouse on the track area. This will install some tracks for you. I usually need to widen the window with my mouse, so I can expand the new track over a few bars. I like MixCraft because it is very user friendly. 

Fourth, double-click on the new track you just made, which will open the Piano Roll Window down at the bottom of your screen. In here you can select which instrument you want, from the main group you selected already. The list is to the left, and you can scroll down through them, and hear them as you scroll. In the piano or step mode (which ever you prefer), you can enter in where the beats will occur. Once you make a song or two, it will become very easy to make more songs, because then you'll know exactly what to do. I am not great at explaining things, so I recommend doing what I did to learn... search Google! There's lots of YouTube videos and helps to work with MixCraft.

Fifth, and MOST IMPOPRTANTLY, you need to match up your song's tempo with Dave Hum's backing track. It is easy to do. Here is a helpful website to find the tempo of your song. It is accurate, but not precise. For example: It correctly showed me that Dave's song, Whiskey Before Breakfast is 107 BPM, but it was a bit off, so I fine tuned it by looking at the beats. They lined up perfectly when I adjusted the Session Volume in MixCraft to 107.03 BPM. I knew the tempo originally was off, because my kick drum matched Dave's kick drum at the beginning of the backing track, but it was pa-thumping at the end when I listened to it (i.e., out of sequence beats). I looked at the beats in my drum tract, as I watched the sound wave form in Dave's song, comparing them as the song played. Your ear is your best tool. You'll know everything is done right when it sounds right! I am committed to making exact replicas of Dave Hum's backing tracts, to the best of my ability. God willing, as time goes on and I get better, I will redo these tracts and make them even better if I can.

You can download all of Dave's YouTube videos as MP3's with this free nifty website. I believe the standard quality on YouTube is 128 kbps, because when I tried to download Dave's songs as 320 kbps, it defaulted to 128 kbps (which is still CD quality, very nice). Use this helpful program to download Dave Hum's videos as MP4 videos. I have 235 of his songs that I downloaded.

Just watch you kick drum beats as Dave is playing, and keep adjusting your tempo until they match. Again, your ears are the best tool you have! I make sure that my kick drum track is right under Dave's song, so I can watch them closely as the beats move. You want your kick drum to match Dave's beats.

Sixth, to make things easier for you, go up to "View" and in the dropdown menu select "Snap" and then "1/64 note." This will also you to fine-tune your song. If you don't do this, you won't be able to adjust your tracks minutely for timing. I always do this in every song. This is stuff they don't teach you on the internet, not that I have found at least.

Also, you'll likely want to turn off your metronome, which by default is "on" when playing back tracks. The metronome controls are 2 squares to the left of your tempo box at the bottom of your top screen. As I do, use the internet if you have any questions about how to use MixCraft, it is very helpful. And of course, you are welcome to email me for help if you'd like. If you just hold your mouse cursor over any particular function within MixCraft, a small message will appear, to tell you what it does, which is very helpful.

If you do decide to go with MixCraft, I will be glad to send you the original MixCraft files, so you can manipulate them and adjust the backing tracks to your preference. Some people may like the kick drum at a lower volume. You can individually adjust the kick drum, tambourine or other percussion on a single track by simply clicking on the track, which will open the Piano Roll Window below. In here you can right mouse click on any particular note that you've already entered, and select "note velocity." This will allow you to set the volume of that particular note. You will need to do this for each note if you desire to change it's volume. To change it's time, simply select "note length." I love MixCraft!

For my bass, I first about 30 minutes jamming along with Dave Hum, on whatever particular song I want to record. Then when I feel ready, I recorded my audio tract into MixCraft. I usually step record the parts. I am not a great bass player. You can even copy and paste bass parts to save time if you want, but I didn't do that.

You will need a computer interface with a male XLR input. I bought a Focusrite interface from Amazon.com (I bought this package). These are high quality computer interfaces, not cheap garbage.

I knew that the Rumble Studio 40 (which has a digital screen) comes with a USB output, but the Rumble 40 doesn't (which costs $240). The local music store didn't carry the Rumble Studio 40 (which costs $400). But I needed a bass amp so I bought the 40 watt Rumble anyway. In hindsight, I wouldn't recommend the Rumble Studio 40 anyway, because if you read the reviews online, many buyers have had problems with the amp's digital electronics.

I don't recommend the 25 watt Rumble amp for a couple reasons:
  1. I used to have a Fender Rumble 25 bass amp and it lacks volume.
  2. The Rumble 25 doesn't come with an overdrive, but the Rumble 40 does, which you'll want for playing live if you ever need it, or want to crank it up at home.
  3. Best of all, the Rumble 40 DOES have a female XLR output (for any standard microphone cable). The XLR output also has a Ground Life switch to reduce static. You CAN use this output for recording. Yes, the cheaper Rumble 40 for $240 DOES have an output to record! Just plug a male microphone cable into the back of the amp, and then plug the other female end into your Focusrite (or whatever). Of course, you could always mike your amp, which is what Dave Hum did, but I prefer to go direct. Perhaps some other time I'll try miking the amp, to see if it improves the sound of my bass. I just need to purchase a mike. But to be honest, I am really happy so far with the quality sound of the bass going direct. So why make things harder than they need to be? I just want to play THE BANJO!!!
So if you want to make your own backing tracks like I am doing, you will need:
  1. A bass guitar (cheap is fine, today's inexpensive basses sound MUCH better than the ones decades ago). My Hofner only cost me $399 from Guitar Center. It sounds great. I DID have to tighten the the truss rod a bit, because the strings were a bit farther away from the neck than I wanted. Remember: The truss rod counters the strings pulling on the neck. So if you look at it that way, you'll understand which way to tighten the rod to get what you want. Righty-tighty, lefty-loosie! That is, turning the truss rod clockwise will bring the strings closer to the instrument's neck. AND ALSO, if you buy a Hofner, make sure to take a Philip's screwdriver and tighten the little side screws on each of the two pickups, which will bring the pickups closer to the strings, significantly increasing your volume. But any bass will do. I don't like Jazz basses, they have a funk sound. A P-bass or PJ bass would be my choice.
  2. You'll need a computer. You'll need a way to record your bass guitar into your computer. I am simply using one of my USB ports to record. That is all you need on your computer. My laptop has FOUR processors, which is why I bought it. I used to have a laptop with only TWO processors, and I had to wait all the time for things to process. I have an Intel Core 7 chip. I purchased a gaming computer, not to play games, but because I knew it would handle anything else if it could play video games. So if you ever buy a computer, love yourself and buy something with FOUR processors, or something comparable. Read online for comparisons and reviews. You'll be glad that you did.
  3. You'll need an interface to connect your bass (or any electric instrument) to your computer. I am running out of my Rumble 40's XLR jack in the back, and into a Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Generation interface (that's their fancy words). Truthfully, any cheap interface would do. I bought a Lexicon Alpha several years ago for $40, which seems to work just fine. This time I went with the Focusrite because of the hype right now...lol. It's the best everyone is saying! I downloaded the drivers for it from Focusrite's website.
  4. You'll need software to make your backing tracks. I love MixCraft Pro and that is all I use. Once you get setup, you can also record an acoustic guitar, or mandolin, et cetera, if you want it. But the thing that I love about Dave Hum's backing tracks, which is really hard to find anywhere else, is that he keeps it SIMPLE (just percussion and bass). His tracks have a driving energy to them, because of the way Dave made them. I hope to get good at making backing tracks. Right now I am just getting started. As Dave always said: “So many songs, so little time!” Also, MixCraft allows you to mixdown whatever you make to WAVE or MP3 files (and some other audio formats). And once you buy MixCraft, you have lifetime support for your product. When newer versions are released, you get deep discounts to upgrade. I just upgraded from version 6 Pro, to 9 Pro, for only $39.
Of course, you'll need a guitar cord. The XLR cable came with my Focusrite, because I purchased the package from Amazon. I don't use a pick when I play bass, just my thumb and fingers. Do get some FAST-FRET in a can, which protects your strings and makes playing easier. Your fingers slide better. Make sure to get a shoulder strap for your bass, so you can focus on playing with your hands, rather than trying to hold the bass up too. That's about it. If anyone has any questions, you're welcome to email me at the address in the top right corner.

Also, I have ALL of Jay Buckey's 11 banjo courses, including backing tracks. I'll gladly send them via “WeTransfer to you (as long as WeTransfer is still free) if you email me for them, so I'll have your email to send them. The files are 1.5 GB in size. I am sad that Jay suddenly vanished off the internet, and his awesome website. I only regret that I didn't get all his dobro, bass, mandolin and fiddle courses when they were available. I think Jay passed away. I emailed him, but he didn't reply. Jay always replied. So I think he is up in Heaven now. I sure appreciate all the backing tracks that he made, which are awesome!

I just want to encourage and help other banjo enthusiasts, like me. I'll never sell anything, it is all free! I have an old neck injury. I developed Stenosis and Radiculopathy over time, which causes me tremendous pain, nerve burning, neck pain and both arms feeling inflated with air. But I thank God I can still pick the banjo! Amen. So be patient with me. If I make any new backing tracks, I will upload them to this blog. I'm going to make a “Dave Hum Style Backing Tracks column on my main webpage, and list new tracks there too.

There is a very helpful effect that comes with MixCraft called “iZotope Mastering Essentials,” which allows you to adjust the overall sound of your final mix, or each individual instrument. In MixCraft you can apply effects to one track, or to all tracks at the same time. I always add the iZotope effect when I am done, which brightens the entire track.

I also add an “Acoustica Compressor,” which lowers any high spikes, and boosts any lows. There are a few dozen helpful effects (delays, reverb, chorus, phaser, distortion, et cetera) that you can add.

In 2016, I bought the whole bundle of Band-In-A-Box from PG Music. About every 5 years I like to upgrade to get the whole bundle, to save money, rather than upgrade each year. So today I upgraded for $299 to get their whole bundle (including all the Real Tracks and Real Drums). If I hadn't been a former customer, it would have cost me $899. I am going to do my best to also recreate Dave's Backing tracks with Band-In-A-Box. They have some great folk stuff now to work with. I found a great style for Mason's Apron (an Irish jig). Plus, I can record my bass into BB to combine BB with my own real recordings. So God willing I'll see what I can do. Whatever backing tracks I can make, I will freely share in this blog with everyone as MP3's.

Also, I am open to helpful suggestions from other musicians, if you have any advice to improve my backing tracks. I am always learning and improving my musical knowledge and skills, which is fun to meet the challenge. So many songs, so little time! I am a member of the Banjo Hangout. Just look for: David J. Stewart. My former user name was BanjoFret12, but when I put my name in there I think it superseded my original nickname, which is fine. Dave Hum also used his real name. So you can contact me either through my blog's e-mail or banjo hangout.

God bless you friends and keep making happy music for the people in your life with the banjo!

Friday, April 1, 2022

Banjo Players Should Learn To Play Mandolin

Like most people who start playing banjo, I combed the internet for everything I could find pertaining to the banjo. Specifically, I sought all the backing track that I could find. But I learned something the hard way, meaning that it took me years to discover it. That something is that there is a ton of resources available for folk music, mandolin, dobro and fiddle. Since I was only interested in the banjo, I didn't even think to search the internet for these other resources.

For example: I found an awesome website recently called: https://www.mandolessons.com

I had never seen that website in all the years I played the banjo, and searched the internet for banjo tracks to play along with. Lo and behold, I found 157 folk song backing tracks. In fact, since Dave Hum is my favorite banjo artist, I really wanted backing tracks for Dave's 235 songs on YouTube, so I could work at learning them. At Mandolessons.com you'll find backing tracks for Mason's Apron, Maid Behind The Bar, Devil's Dream and other Dave Hum favorites.

By the way, if you haven't done so already, I highly encourage you to download and install the 4K YouTube to MP3 program. With this freeware program, you can download ALL of Dave Hum's YouTube videos as MP3. You can download the whole bunch at once, instead of one at a time, which would take forever. I have all of Dave's MP3's on my computer now.

Also, if you didn't know, you can go to “Settings” on any YouTube video to slow it down. There's a “Custom” option in the speed control, where you can actually select any speed. This took is invaluable to learn Dave Hum's picking licks. You can slow the song down to 1/4th it's normal speed, to study what Dave is doing. 

I don't know about you, but I am a born-again Christian and I love Southern Gospel and Bluegrass Music. One of my favorite singing families is The Rochester Family. At their website you can order, not only their many albums, but SOUNDTRACKS for a dozen of their albums. Although the soundtracks are mainly intended for singers, they are excellent for playing along to learn many popular songs of the faith. Also, there is another family, not related that I know of, called: The Brady Rochester Family. They also sell their albums if you are interested. You can learn a lot from listening to their banjo, dobro, bass and mandolin parts.

I made this blog for banjo enthusiasts like me, but specifically Dave Hum fans like me. It is my earnest desire in the future, God willing, to spend more time with the banjo to study and hopefully recreate some Dave Hum style backing tracks. Wouldn't it be great if we had Dave Hum's backing tracks today? I only wish! If you listen carefully to Dave's tracks, he uses a tambourine in many of them, which gives his tracks a driving beat and energy. Also, he normally only uses a bass and some simple percussion, nothing over-the-top.

I'm really surprised that some musicians haven't already recreated them yet. I'm trying. I don't have the skills on bass. I am mainly a pedal steel guitar player...lol. Banjo comes in second for me. I had learned to play the banjo somewhat in the early 1990's, but living in Chicago where there were no Bluegrass venues, I lost interest. There was no internet yet back then. In 2017 my daughter took an interest in the banjo, so I bought her one. She rekindled my interest in the banjo, which led me to Dave Hum and I fell in love with the instrument because of him.

I am learning bass now, just so I can try to make some Dave Hum style tracks to freely share with others. I am good with stringed instruments. The strings on a 4-string bass are tuned the SAME as the four bottom strings on any guitar. That makes it easy to learn and play bass, if you've already played guitar for many years (which I have for the past 40 years). I can already play bass, I just need to develop my skills. For making Dave Hum style backing tracks, the parts are fairly simple. One day at a time. Dave Hum played electric bass, double bass, harmonica, bongos, classic and bluegrass guitar, mandolin, keyboard and of course the banjo. All of those skills came together to help him on the banjo. I am using MixCraft recording software, which is a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). Mixcraft is easy to use.

The best way to learn any musical instrument is to first familiarize yourself well with the genre of music you want to play. For example: I love Hawaiian steel guitar, so I made a website to help steel guitar enthusiasts. On my website you'll find several hundred Hawaiian songs with steel guitar. That is how we learn. That is what Dave Hum did. Dave's favorite statement was: “So many songs, so little time!” He wasn't kidding! I have playing pedal steel guitar for the past 30 years and am good at it. I took up learning Hawaiian steel guitar since 2006, which is a style, not a guitar.

Dave Hum created his own banjo style of playing, which I absolutely love! I honestly think a lot of banjo players get board after a few years of playing the same old Earl Scruggs Bluegrass style. Dave was creative and broke the mold, going his own way musically. I love his work on the Double C Tuning. It is a happy tuning, and easy to play. You can find free Double C tuning banjo chord charts online. Dave often picks chords on his banjo, which I've noticed most players avoid. As a pedal steel guitar player, I understand the great value of learning the skill of pick blocking, which Dave Hum had mastered on the banjo. You can see his pick blocking skills at work in The Ballad Of Jed Clampett (time: 48 to 1:02 seconds). Wow! ...

The Ballad Of Jed Clampett (by Dave Hum)

I highly recommend if you play the banjo, that you also buy a mandolin and familiarize with it. Dave Hum does a lot of single note work on his banjo, which he learned by playing the mandolin and guitar. If nothing else, now you know that you can also search for folk music, mandolin backing tracks, dobro stuff and other helpful resources. Also, search for Irish reels, jigs, hornpipes and other traditional songs, which will help you learn this type of music, which most banjo players love. By the way, if you didn't know, Dave Hum's family still sell his albums and tablature at his website: https://www.davehum.co.uk

I felt sick recently, when I saw that Jay Buckey's website is totally gone. Please say it ain't so! Thankfully, I bought and downloaded everything he offered for the banjo, and I cherish those resources. But I am kicking myself so much, that I didn't also buy all of his stuff for mandolin, fiddle and bass. It was the best, bar none! I don't know if Jay died, but I haven't been able to find anything online. I emailed Jay, but he didn't reply. I think he passed away likely.

I just bought an inexpensive $199 Ibanez M510E mandolin, which is electric, so I can record with it. It's the best you'll get for a decent price, which includes a truss rod. I've been watching YouTube videos for the mandolessons.com website. The guy's name is Baron Collins-Hill. He recommends, for an affordable nice mid-priced banjo, either the Kentucky KM-150 or the Eastman 350. Both the Kentucky and Eastman mandolins are ALL made in China. But I've read that their quality is very good. I found a simple guitar track on his website for Whiskey Before Breakfast. One of the first tracks I hope to make in Dave Hum style is Whiskey Before Breakfast. I haven't found any backing tracks like Dave's, with just a driving bass and percussion. You could always buy a Clark Mandolin for $6,000 from Boise, Idaho! When you consider all the work and preparation that is required to make any musical instrument, you can appreciate being able to buy affordable musical instruments from China.

I mainly wanted to write this blog to encourage other banjo enthusiast to also pursue resources online for the mandolin, ukulele, dobro, Celtic folk music and other related instruments, because there is a lot of helpful stuff out there if we look for it. And even better, learn to play the mandolin and perhaps other instruments, as Dave Hum did. God bless!

Friday, May 21, 2021

5 String Banjo Instruction [1967] - Earl Scruggs

 


5 String Banjo Instruction Album [1967] - Earl Scruggs

Dave Hum's Sound Is In His Hands, Not The Banjo!

One of my favorite people and musicians in the humble loving man, Dave Hum. Dave uses his 1992 ESS Gibson in nearly all of his YouTube videos, but as you will see in this awesome song, “The Arkansas Traveller (3),” he is using his ODE banjo. Dave's beautiful sound comes from using proper picking TECHNIQUE, not from using any particular banjo brand.

If there ever was a mountain man, it was our banjo buddy Dave Hum. I love the guy, and if you've ever heard him perform on the banjo, then you love him too! I marvel as I watch his hundreds of YouTube videos, seeing how curious people passing by admire the man's musical skills dearly. That is the incredible power of music friends. Music is a language that transcends all barriers, languages, cultures and ethnicities. The courageous shepherd boy David, with his stringed harp on which he was skillful, soothed the evil spirit which came upon King Saul to afflict him. David's inspiring music helped to calm the storm.

I have always marveled how ten different musicians can sit down behind a pedal steel guitar, and yet none of them will sound exactly the same. And in the case of pedal steel guitar, the differences can be drastic. The sound is in THE MAN, or THE WOMAN (there are some great female steel pickers in Europe). The sound is in your hands dear banjo enthusiast, and not as much in your banjo. Albeit, the brand of banjo you use, and whether it's set up properly, can make all the difference in the world. So please don't think I'm diminishing the quality of purchasing and maintaining a nice professional level banjo. It's definitely worth the money and you should save up an buy a used Gibson (they don't make new ones any more), Huber or Stelling! Those would be my top 3 choices to buy a banjo.

In 2009, I gladly paid $3,000 for my (black Formica, single neck, S-10, 4 x 5, Rittenberry) pedal steel guitar. The “S” stands for a singe neck. The “10” in S-10 refers to the instrument's 10 strings. My pedal steel guitar came with 4 pedals and 5 knee levers. I have never counted all the parts on a pedal steel guitar, but I'm going to guess there's probably about 300 parts total. The complicated changer mechanism, where all the magic takes place, must contain a couple hundreds parts by itself (e.g., return springs, hex nuts, pull-rods, adjustment screws, half-stops, rods and clips. And yet, a banjo, having just a small fraction of the parts needed to assemble one in comparison to a pedal steel guitar, costs about the same. In fact, a high end banjo will cost you TWICE more the prove as a steel guitar!

Lloyd Green (born 1937) once said that there are about 50 different things that go into guitar TONE. I fully agree with him. Lloyd better than anyone would know about tone, since he is famously known as “Mr. Nashville.” What a beautiful title! What a splendid honor! Chances are very good that if you've heard some older country music from the 1970's and 1980's on the radio lately, it was Lloyd playing on steel guitar. Lloyd plays on all the Johnny Paycheck's records. Lloyd played on all of Don William's recordings. 

So Lloyd knows good tone, and his is always unmatchable. I don't know about you guys and gals, but my Recording King (Elite-85 with a hard rock maple neck, made in China) banjo doesn't stay in turn very well. That 4th D string loves to wander. And since I put the pricey original "Keith D Tuners" on pegs 2 and 3 (so I could play "My Grandfather's Clock" like this), it's even more of a nightmare trying to keep the thing in tune. I love how John Kuhn outdid himself on that song. GREAT JOB! He plays very tastefully. 

One of the things that draws so many fans (including myself) to Dave Hums banjo artistry, is that he doesn't just limit himself to traditional Bluegrass style and licks, he gets much more creative. The idea behind making music on ANY instrument is to hopefully connect with the audience. Jerry Byrd (1920-2005), in his timeless autobiography called: "On The Wings Of Music," says in the book that when he performs on stage, he only looks for one person sitting on the front row, and he plays the entire concert for that one person, Jerry does this to make it personal, because music is personal. Jerry says he's making love to the person with the music! I have also heard Lloyd Green says that he does the same thing, “making love” to his musical instrument. A musician may perform the most exceptional he has ever played his instrument, but it will not move the audience if the tone is lacking. Good tone is an art!

I've said all that to emphasize that Dave Hum's exceptional banjo tone comes mostly from his hands. He does play through an $1,100 amplifier made in Europe. But all the state of the art equipment doesn't make someone sound professional, unless you've got the years of experience to go with it. Many young people today are looking for a gimmick, a shortcut, but there are no shortcuts to hard work and practicing. The way you get great at playing the banjo is to miss a lot of TV and video games...lol. Seriously, we all have 20 hours in a day. Wise people spend their time learning a hobby, cooking recipes, making things, studying and doing something constructive. Playing the banjo is a very wise and commendable ontaking in my humble opinion as a Christian, which will bring a lifetime of rewarding fulfillment (both to the enthusiast and to those around you). Music makes the world a better place!

5 String Banjo Instruction [1967] - Earl Scruggs

  5 String Banjo Instruction Album [1967] - Earl Scruggs