Banjo Tablatures and Bluegrass Information

Difference between Melodic and Chromatic
by Terry Tipton

Melodic playing is a note for note melody based style as opposed to Scruggs style where the rolls are syncopated in a sense which doesn't always allow you to play on the melody. Melodic's works a lot like a fiddle player or flatpicker that stays right on the melody. With Melodic playing you generally play a note on one string and get the next note on a another which differs from playing the melody in a single string style where you can get as many notes in a row on the same string as you need.

If anyone is interested in learning the Melodic style, learning how to play strings in groups of two in the 5th fret area where everything comes together will help you more than anything. This seems to be becoming a lost art. Many Melodic players today try to play everything farther down the neck. The New Dimensions/Deliverance album that we have been discussing today will give you a good idea what I mean by playing in the 5th fret area..

The technique however is alive in Reso Land though some of these players don't come close to understanding the concept of this. If you get on the wrong set of strings or even reverse the order in some cases you are playing in a different chord and will not match the backup chords you are playing it against even if you are in the right fret... U.P.

Chromatic's on the other hand are generally thought of as a run based style and you often just use them to dress up a tune. The dictionary definitions of Chromatic that I've read generally refer to using complete scales, flats and sharps included which amount to 13 notes and in a Chromatic run you can go forward, reverse, (ascending/descending) or you can ascend for a few notes then descend then switch up again doing whatever it takes to complete the intended run.

For example, there is a run Courtney Johnson used with NGR that is a complete ascending Chromatic B scale with some notes in reverse order on the end. It's the equivalent of hitting your B second open and playing every note up to the 12 fret then reversing and playing back to the 8th fret and ending the run with a stock ending that works with many Chromatic runs and possible a few Melodic ones as well. But again, the notes are not being played all in a row on the same string. There are fingering positions that accomplish this and you're playing each note on a different string than the preceding one.

There is a an ascending/descending run based on the same positions that would take a lot longer to explain so I'll skip that for now. If anyone wants to know ask me off list. I tabbed it out for someone a while back and have it saved on my computer.

Regardless of the direction or composition of the run, one of the most important things is to always complete what you start. The principle holds true with Melodic playing as well as Scruggs style. Chromatic's is a much maligned style and for good reason. Aside from using Chromatic runs where they don't obviously fit well, many players start runs not knowing how to finish them and the run falls apart. As I said above the same is true of Melodic's as well. It's best to not just start playing the first Chromatic or Melodic run or passage you learn until you get to understand the principals that make it work and how to end runs properly.

There are ways to make a transition into Scruggs style to finish up a run but this is rather tricky too. Ben Eldridge (sp) is very good at this. He uses abbreviated versions of many of the same runs Courtney Johnson played and finishes them out in Scruggs style. Sometimes these come off more tastefully and people don't get bored with them so easily.

Terry Tipton

Terry Tipton and Ed Bolton, Co Owners Banjo's And Bluegrass
"If it aint got a Banjo in it, it ain't Bluegrass"

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