Cripple Creek Banjo Lesson
If you have looked at any beginning banjo material you have almost certainly seen some version of Cripple Creek. It is in the Earl Scruggs 5-String Banjo book (highly recommended) and though I had been playing for a while when I learned it, it was one of the first tunes that I learned that actually sounded like banjo music. There are probably a thousand banjo lessons online with different peoples take on the tune but I thought I would add mine anyway. Most of my students get hung up on the the same little details so I am going to break it up into parts and give you short sections with specific tips so that we can then put is all together.
The Kick Off
The song has a pickup note that hits on the 4th beat, so when you count it in you will count “1 2 3” and play the pickup on 4. Careful not to short the pickup or rush the slide.
Next you get a forward roll over a quick C major chord. Make note of the eighth notes on the C chord. First two measures together:
The slide from 2 to 4 on the 3rd string comes up over and over in this song. Use your 2nd finger for the slide and bring the whole hand with you, don’t just try and send one finger on a solo mission. As you slide you are doing an alternating roll so the right thumb plays the 2nd fret and as you slide to the 4th you will play the 2nd string with index.
The Hammer-on and Pull-off
The entire passage below should be played with the 2nd finger. The pull-off is embedded in an alternating roll followed by a hammer-on kicking a forward roll. The most important thing here is to make sure that the Pull-off and Hammer-on are crisp sounding and well timed.
Putting it together
The road map to this song is not that difficult but I do find that many of my students struggle with it. For that reason I wanted to be sure to lay it out in as specific terms as possible. Since part A kicks off on beat 4 you have to be ready for that slide when you are coming around to repeat the section. On the second pass you can just play the second ending to connect to the B section.
Likewise on the second pass of the B part you have to be ready on beat 4 if you want to return to part A so use the second ending when repeating to the top.
There is more than one way to end a tune for sure. I think this is a good one for people who are learning Cripple Creek for the first time.