Getting Your Roll In Time With the Music
One of the most difficult things for beginning and intermediate banjo players to understand is how to get their rolls in time with the music. Itís actually very simple when you understand one thing:
In 4/4 time, the music is accented on the 1st and 3rd beats, with a slightly heavier accent on the first beat.
The bass typically plays on the 1st and 3rd beats. These are called the "down" beats.
The mandolin and guitar typically strum on the 2nd and 4th beats. These are called the "up" beats.
The banjo typically plays eighth notes; that is, there are eight equally spaced notes in a measure. Therefore, the down beats fall on the first and fifth notes of an eight note roll pattern. The first note should get the most emphasis; and the fifth note should get almost the same amount of emphasis.
A metronome or drum machine does not get out of time!
Putting the Concept into Action
Get a metronome or drum machine or some rhythm device where you can clearly hear the down beats of a measure.
Select a song or exercise for which you have tablature. Note the down beats in the tablature. (If you canít remember which ones, use a highlighter or some other way to make them stand out.)
Set your rhythm device at a relatively slow speed between 50 and 90 beats per minute (bpm).
First, play along with the rhythm device so that every other note you play is simultaneous with a click (beat). You are actually playing at half of the speed stated by the bpm. Emphasize every first and fifth note of an eight note roll pattern.
When you are comfortable with the roll/song, speed the rhythm device up by 2-6 bpm. Keep doing this until you can double the speed that you started with.
Slow the rhythm device down to your beginning speed and play every fifth note with a click/beat. You should be playing at the same speed that you did in step 5, except the rhythm device is only clicking half as fast. Make sure that your first and fifth notes are accented; they should synchronize with the beats of the rhythm device.
Play any roll using any combination of strings in time, up to the limit of your physical capability.