Wöyh! is a Finnish group known for their absurd progressive rock who just released their 3rd album titled KRTKRTK. When I was asked to play on this album, I didn’t know what to expect except exciting experience (what a beautiful language) and a challenge that would stretch the boundaries of my banjo technique. The song was recorded in May in Hollola at Petrax studio. It's an old farm house turned into a top-notch recording studio, which you can see on this video. I think you can hear the laid-back atmosphere on the recording, too. So here it is. Hope you like it!
I talked about the bliss of getting to challenge yourself in weird real life situations in one of my earlier posts about the Kraftwerk - gig and this definitely goes to the same category! The arrangement turned out to utilise all the three basic flavours of banjo technique (Scruggs style, single string and melodic style). So, it’s sweet like a trio ice cream (but which flavour goes with each style?).
I’m not going to go through every little detail, but you can find the music for the whole song at the end of this post. Here are some thoughts on my favourite parts of the song.
The tune starts in G major (definitely vanilla) and even though the melody is not your everyday bluegrass I got the A-part under my fingers surprisingly fast. Even the arpeggios outside G major are working out for the melodic style. Just one open string is often enough for the position shift so crucial for moving around the neck and maintaining the legato sound of the melodic style. Here for example you can find the open g- and d-strings used throughout Gmaj7-, Cmaj7-, Bbmaj7- and Abmaj7-arpeggios. Don’t you just love it when the arrangements fall in their place like that?
Another cool melodic style passage giving me great satisfaction is this whole tone scale passage before the second A-part. It took me a while to figure this one out. But while doing this I got so excited about the sound that I started playing old bluegrass tunes with whole tone scale. (I should make another post about those as they turned out pretty cool).
When I started learning this I had a demo with some midi instrument playing the melody pretty much the way it is here. I liked the fact that the composition was taking me away from the traditional stuff. On the other hand I still wanted to give it just a little banjo flavour with a couple of Scruggsy licks. The first one was very basic forward roll played as fast as possible in the context.
The second Scruggsy lick I threw in the middle of this part with sporty double stop pinches. I really like how it’s giving momentum towards the repetition.
Single String Style
The third flavour, single string style, is the one that I only use when nothing else is working. Single string style has a sound that’s more even, kinda like a flatpicked guitar, hence not having as much of an exotic appeal for a musician with a background in guitar music. Nevertheless, it does have it’s moments. A good example is this chromatic ear bender part which I started with melodic style but had to soon switch to single string style. Chromatic stuff is possible with melodic style when playing higher when you get you use your thumb on the 5th string. I actually worked this part out octave higher like that, but that part never got used because the lower sound was preferred.