Bluegrass banjo backup with Ron Block, Kristin Scott Benson, and Bill Evans

Most everyone who has studied bluegrass banjo will say that one of the most demanding aspects of mastering the style is learning the many ways to back up a vocalist or another instrumentalist in a band setting. Earl Scruggs, of course, showed the way as he did in nearly everything you learn on the banjo, and new players are known to agonize about what to play when, and how to fill the role of the banjo in a band or jam, without doing too much and getting in the way.

Bill Evans is hosting an all-day bluegrass banjo backup workshop online on October 17, with assistance from two banjo greats. Ron Block and Kristin Scott Benson will join Bill for more than three and a half hours of instruction about this subject using Zoom, and registrants will have access to the session videos after the workshop concludes. The material covered is suggested for students at an intermediate to advanced level.

Ron is well known for his years with Alison Krauss & Union Station, plus his many contributions to other recordings and his own. Kristin has likewise been a leading banjo professional for many years, starting with The Larry Stephenson Band and for the past 12 years with The Grascals. Evans is himself a noted teacher and performer, serving on the faculty of major banjo workshops and camps every year.

All three will hold individual sessions with students covering bluegrass banjo backup, on their specific topics of choice, running consecutively from noon to 6:00 p.m. (EST). Kristin will lead off using the Flatt & Scruggs classic, He Took Your Place, to demonstrate first position roll backup, up the neck backup, and some signature Earl Scruggs approaches. Bill will follow continuing on those themes, but specifically for playing in the keys of C and D. He will then discuss fiddle tune backup using jam standards Sally Goodin’, Soldier’s Joy, Blackberry Blossom, and Whiskey Before Breakfast as examples. Ron takes the third leg to cover his individual approach to play backup in a band environment, but particularly with regard to his familiar recordings with AKUS.

Those registered for the workshop will receive study materials in tablature, and will have the ability to pose their own questions during Q&A periods with each instructor.

The fee to attend this workshop is $80, and can be submitted by PayPal, Venmo, Zelle, or check. For more details, or to register, contact Bill Evans by email. When the sessions have concluded, a private YouTube link will be provided to registrants to access these lessons after the fact.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.