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The Forward Roll

The forward roll is probably the most commonly used pattern of all in bluegrass banjo. Many times this will be the first roll that is taught to beginners. To me it always seemed a little more difficult than the mixed roll and that’s why I saved it for Level 2.

The example below consists of four measures, with the forward roll pattern being the same in each of the four measures. Notice that on the count of 1 your thumb will come down and play the 3rd string, but on the two subsequent times in each measure that the 3rd string is played it will be played with your index finger. As always, the 5th string is played with the thumb and the 1st string is played with the middle finger.

The forward roll will vary in that different strings will be played depending on the melody of the song, but it is always characterized by the TIM (Thumb - Index - Middle) pattern.

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The next exercise again uses our example song, “Goodnight, Ladies.” This time the entire song is played using the forward roll. The strings that are played vary according to the melody of the song.

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