Notes on Reno Style, 2009-05

I’ve not written on my own progress with Reno style lately and I should.

I found a nice series of informative articles on playing Reno style in Banjo Newsletter by Jason Skinner, the last of which just completed in the May, 2009 issue. For one thing, I’ve always used the terms ‘Reno style’ and ‘Single String’ interchangably, which isn’t as precise as it should be. Of course, Don Reno played single string style, but he also did so many other interesting techniques that went beyond simply playing two or more fingers on the same string sequentially.

As I’ve mentioned before, starting to learn single string style means having to start all over again; at least it did for me. I started playing at about 4 notes per second. I’m up to about 8 notes per second now if I’m really warmed up. That’s almost as fast as Earl Scruggs playing ‘Cripple Creek’ on the Flatt & Scruggs Carnegie Hall recording. But it’s still a good deal slower than a lot of recordings I’ve heard of single string playing. I wonder how Eddie Adcock and Don Reno were able to go so fast!

I know – it’s the very same thing I tell my Scruggs and melodic style students: practice!

One variation I need to explore is using all three fingers on a single string. Rather than going TITITI, try TITMTITM on the same string. That introduces an extra finger into the process and, I suspect, will increase speed as well. But it’s starting all over again, once again.

Nevermind – it will be an interesting experiment, and well worth it to gain some new right (and left) -hand skills.

Besides, playing three fingers on the same string isn’t unheard of; think about Irish fiddle music. Often, you’ll hear a triplet being played on the same string. To do this requires all three fingers.

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About Phill Gibson

I'm from Huntsville, Alabama where I work as a Systems Engineer and part-time banjo and mandolin instructor. I've been playing various instruments since my teen years. I started mandolin at about age 17 and banjo at 20. I love just about all kinds of music. In terms of banjo styles, I play Scruggs and melodic and am working on becoming more advanced with single string. I'm also working on 4-finger banjo, which is way off the beaten path. I would like to see more jazz techniques integrated into bluegrass situations; counterpoint, especially. So long-term, that's what I'm doing. I'm also very keen on astronomy, ATM (amateur telescope making), birding, christian homeschooling, martial arts, organic gardening and about 30 other distracting hobbies to a (mercifully) lesser extent.
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