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August Issue
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Twang 101: Forward and Backward Rolls

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Twang 101: Forward and Backward Rolls
This month we're going to look at forward and backward rolls. These rolls allow for more efficiency in your picking and a fuller sound. Country guitarists have adapted rolls in order to imitate banjo players. We will be using this technique mostly with diatonic thirds as these intervals will correspond to the chord we're playing over. You probably already use thirds in your soloing as it is, so by adding an approach note to the interval and an open string on top a whole new vocabulary will open up to you.

Fig. 1 is the forward roll using the interval of a third and an open string. Unfortunately, this stuff is key sensitive. You have to make sure the open string fits into the key you're playing in. In this example, we are playing in the key of D major. So, the open E will sound fine. Assuming you’re using a flat pick, the first note of the roll is played with the pick followed by the middle and ring finger. Make sure the middle and ring fingers have an equally strong attack. Keep your fingers close together and don't let them flail about. Download example audio...




Fig. 2 is adding an approach note to the third using two hammer-ons. I'll then play the open 1st string with my ring finger and roll forward though the three strings. This is a classic pattern on banjo that incorporates the forward roll. Download example audio...




Fig. 3 is an etude over a common progression. I'll keep the same forward roll pattern in my picking hand for the whole exercise. Download example audio...




Fig. 4 Is the backwards roll. I’m going to use the same interval and the same key as the previous example. I'm going to start by plucking the open 1st string with my middle finger. Then I'll use an upstroke on the 2nd string and a downstroke on the 3rd string. This is the only way to make the backwards roll sound strong and even. It's a little tougher than the forward roll but with a little repetition you'll find yourself using it all the time. Download example audio...




Fig. 5 is adding an approach note to the third with a hammer-on. Then I play an upstroke on the 2nd string followed by a downstroke on the 3rd string. I end with the backwards roll. Download example audio...




Fig. 6 Here is the same etude from Figure 3 played with the backwards roll pattern. Download example audio...



Jason Loughlin has performed with Amos Lee, Rachael Yamagata, James Burton, Mike Viola, Nellie Mckay, Phil Roy, Marshall Crenshaw, Sara Bareillies, Lesley Gore, Ben Arnold and John Francis to name a few. Jason lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn performing and teaching. Look out for his new record, Peach Crate, due out in February. For other info be sure to check his website jasonloughlin.com

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