Chris Eldridge

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Banks of the Ohio

Crosspicking and the Backward Roll

There is a great crosspicking variation called a backward roll that I stole from my dad, Ben Eldridge, who plays banjo. Banjo typically is played using a forward roll, where you use thumb, index, middle, thumb, index, middle, etc with the notes going low to high. The backward roll just flips the forward roll around to middle, index, thumb, middle, index, thumb, etc.

The backward roll has a great sound, that pitch-wise tends to move from high to low. A great example can be heard in the Earl Scruggs tune Home Sweet Home. Of course, we're using a flatpick but the basic high to low pattern of the backward roll stays intact.

We're going to use it this week to play a variation on the melody of Banks of the Ohio. I think this is a very pretty variation and I hope you enjoy playing it!





Topics and/or subjects covered in this lesson:
Chris Eldridge
Bill Monroe
Banks of the Ohio
Doc Watson
Joan Baez

Print Print Chords & Tab

Loop 0:00 Introduction to the Backward Roll

Loop 2:34 How To Use the Backward Roll to Play the Melody of Banks of the Ohio

Loop 17:52 Slow Practice Loop


Download the Sheet Music PDF


Loop 18:34 Closing Thoughts and Outro





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Torgeir Jorem
Torgeir Jorem Dec 31, 2018

hello Chris and happy new year! I've just finished one year on SJ and have just renewed for a year more. Really feel this is helping, especially with right hand-teqhnique which has been a main focus for me this year.

Here is banks of ohio, thanks for a beautiful crosspicking arrangement.


Asbjørn Jan 01, 2019

Beautiful, Torgeir! That guitar of yours keep sounding better and better! Happy new year! 

Bryn Jan 03, 2019

Totally agree with Enslah here...beautifully played, and that guitar of yours has wonderful tone!

Torgeir Jorem
Torgeir Jorem Jan 03, 2019

Thank you Bryn and Enslah!

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Jan 06, 2019

Beautiful! Sounding absolutely beautiful Torgeir! 👏

JasonH Jan 07, 2019

Beaufitul picking Torgeir!

James Macklin
James Macklin Mar 25, 2017

 Hi Chris, I've been working hard on this and I'm still struggling a bit, but here's what I've got. There's a little bit of everything--forward roll, backward roll, and Carter-style. Just a forewarning--I play an Ab instead of a low C in the 3rd phrase. I'm at the tail end of my Spring Break and one of the things on my list has been to upload something since I haven't done it in so long. 

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Mar 27, 2017

James, great to see you on here! This rendition is great and very musical! I really appreciate how over the course of the tune it was slowly building dynamically until the last Carter-style version which was so open and big. Really nice. I also dug your embellishments. 

The main thing I would work on here is execution, and I think you can already do it. Here's what I would suggest: try slowing it down a bit, maybe 10-20 bpms. You'll notice that I took it a bit slower on the intro for the backwards roll lesson. Go even slower than that. Then at the slower tempo, really commit to playing it with much musicality and nuance as you can. You don't have to find new nuances to put in, but really make sure that you are getting in everything that you were going for in terms of musicality and nuance in the video that you submitted above. Imagine that you are performing it for people. Once you can do it to your satisfaction that way, keep playing it like that at the slower tempo every day for a week. Then bring it back up to tempo slowly, always keeping the focus on the musicality and not the technique. 

Kip Marchetti
Kip Marchetti Feb 06, 2016

Can I go off topic for a second - not sure its appropriate but I just watched a video on Youtube where Chris is picking a song that I think is called Let Him Go On Mama? Anway, the first half is picking - no singing - is that part of the song that he sings in the 2nd half of the video? I really don't think it is but cool deal all the way around.

Too thick to navigate - too thin to plow.

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Feb 06, 2016

Hey Kip, I believe the video in question was a medley of a fiddle tune called "Whistlin' Rufus" into a John Hartford song called "Let Him Go On, Mama."

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