Up the Neck

Let’s begin to explore the world of playing banjo solos up the neck. In this section, I would like to get you familiar with some associations from what you already know in the lower register of the banjo to things that you can play in the higher register that correspond. By this more simplistic approach we can learn the big picture. If you took the time to understand and learn the technique of how to transpose what you already know to the next octave, you could do this on your own. This would save a lot of memorizing and learning from tab and I would have done my job, which is to help you teach yourself and expand what you learn. It is really very simple once you grasp the comparisons and how to do what you do down the neck and move it up the neck. One of the most important things that will help in accomplishing this is to know the names of the notes up the neck. If you do not know the notes in the lower register yet, you better start there. In Chapter 3: The Left Hand, I have quite a few scales that should help you to learn the notes. Basically, what you are doing when you take what you know in the lower register and play it up the neck is moving those notes to the next higher octave. An octave means playing the same note but at a higher or lower pitch. A practical explanation would be that at every twelve frets up or down the chromatic scale the note names start over (chromatic, meaning playing a note at each fret). Here is an example:

table goes here

After twelve one fret or chromatic steps, you are at the note G again.

One of the biggest obstacles to becoming proficient in playing up the neck is compensating for the fact that you do not have the luxury of using open strings the way you do down the neck. This will take extra attention, time, practice, and determination on your part. Focus on increasing your skill ability in these chord positions and techniques and you will get there a lot faster.

One of the best ways to teach this is to show how one lick down the neck has a corresponding lick or technique up the neck in the next octave to serve the same purpose as I mentioned above. I will use tablature examples, along with some text, to show you these comparisons.

First, let’s use the following examples to learn and compare and make associations with things done down and up the neck.

When playing up the neck, it often works well to move your right hand away from the bridge some. Depending on how far you go will effect the tone. Experiment with the X and Y positions (pictured in Chapter 9: Rhythm, Chords, and Playing Backup). In the space between the X and Y position, try to find a sweet spot that has the best tone for these up-the-neck licks. When you practice these, play the down the neck version by the bridge and then experiment moving away from the bridge for the up-the-neck examples.