The forward roll is a roll pattern commonly found in the Bluegrass canon and is one of the more simple rolls. This lesson teaches the right hand picking pattern and puts it straight to use playing the Bluegrass tune "Boil Them Cabbage Down." This is a roll you'll definitely want to master and this lesson is a fun musical way to get comfortable with the pattern.
- Alright, we've been talking about the alternating thumb roll. Now we're going to talk about the forward roll. This is another finger pattern. We're not talking about tumbling like you might have done in high school or junior high school. The forward roll is, the pattern is thumb, index, middle, and it can be on any strings; it doesn't matter. It could be on the third, second, first strings. Fourth, second, first.
Fifth, second, first. Or the middle can come into the third string, fifth, third, first. It doesn't really matter. And Earl Scruggs has put forward rolls to great use in his playing; it's a very driving kind of sound. When you stack them back to back, it sounds like this. I'll just work on the first three strings for the moment. Three, two, one. Just repeating. With very even time, try not to pause.
Now bring your thumb over to the fourth string. Now the thumb and the fifth string. Alright, now for practical purposes, rather than, at least at the moment, rather than just stringing these together, let's have eight notes.
And what you're going to do is you're going to start with the second string, with your index finger. I should mention when you're playing bluegrass, the middle finger in these rolling styles, the Scruggs style is always going to be on the first string. With the rarest, rarest of exceptions, it might once in a very long while come over to the second string, but virtually everything you're going to be dealing with in Scruggs style, his rolling style, which is what we're going to be playing for a while now, is just going to be middle finger on the first string. The index will go back and forth between the second and third strings.
And in some people's style like Ralph Stanley, he used to have his index finger coming into the fourth string, and the thumb will cover everything from the fifth string to the fourth, to the third, to the second. But for right now, we're just going to have the middle finger on the first string, index on the second, thumb on the fifth. That's all you have to worry about. So now what we're going to do, we're going to start with two notes, which is just a partial forward roll, and I guess it's, I'm not sure who named it a forward roll, but I guess the forward roll just had to get you moving forward, you're going Kind of in that direction.
So what you're going to do, you're starting with just two notes, which is two thirds of a forward roll, if you want to look at it that way, minus the first note. Index on the second string, middle on the first string, That's how you start, with just those two notes, then you do a forward roll from the fifth string, fifth, second, first, fifth, second, first. And you'll do two of those forward rolls, so the whole thing will be eight notes. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.
So let's do those a few times in a row. Three, and, four, and Do it again. Second. Okay. Now, let's apply this to a tune called "Boil Them Cabbage Down". This is a tune, from what I can tell, it's an African-American tune dating from probably the 1800s, maybe even earlier, but apparently, well, let me sing it for you first.
And I'll just sing it while I'm strumming, it's ♫ Boil them cabbage down, boys, ♫ turn them hoecakes brown. ♫ The only song that I can sing is ♫ boil them cabbage down. And so again, we're using G, C and D7th for this song. ♫ G, G, C, C, G, G, D7th These are not the lyrics. ♫ C, C, G, D7th, G. Now, the lyrics are boil them cabbage down, boys, turn them hoecakes brown.
Now a hoecake, apparently, in the Antebellum South and maybe the North also, but when the slaves were on the plantations, they would be out on the field, and they would be cooking up corn cakes, basically. And they would cook them on hoe. They would take cornmeal, put it together, and put it on the hoe, and the hoe would be angled like this, and they'd put it in toward the fire, and that would be their lunch. And so that was what a hoecake was. The only song that I can sing is Boil Them Cabbage Down. But the tune has moved into the old time bluegrass fields, and so here it is, with just the G, C and D7th chords.
Now, if you remember on "This Little Light of Mine", rather than the full C, we had the ring finger up. We just had the index and middle down. For this tune, For "Boil Them Cabbage Down", let's just fret the first two strings, just that much of the C chord. You don't need to worry about the fourth string. Bluegrass shorthand, so the ring will be on the first string, second fret. The index will be on the second string, first fret. So, here it is, just using this one roll through the whole thing, and it will be one measure of G.
One of C. One of G. And now one of D7th. G. C. G. Okay, let me slow that down one more time. Three, and, four, and.
Note: This course was recorded and produced by ArtistWorks. We are honored to host this training in our library.
- Holding the banjo
- Tuning a banjo
- Positioning the right and left hands
- Reading tablature
- Finger picking
- Thumb rolling
- Practicing rolls and chords
- Playing classic bluegrass tunes