Jazz Banjo Books

Progressive Banjo

An Interview with Ryan Cavanaugh - page 4

In your online lessons on musicmoose.org, you mention a 3 finger single string playing technique. Do you use the 3-finger single string technique more than the 2-finger?

I get that question a lot and I'd have to say yes. My picking is always changing up. I try not to play the same thing twice. It is hard for other banjo players to comprehend this, but I'm just picking as needed. I want to be able to think of a phrase and execute it on the fly, without thinking about it. Of course I have my own licks, but I am always striving to build on them and make them different.

Is your Crossfire electric banjo set up any special way?

I have modified my Crossfire in many ways. First off, I'm not to hip to the "batty" geometric edges, so i had it sanded smooth like a strat body. Looks cooler that way. I have had adjustable mounts made for the pickups. They're spring mounted, so they move with the head. I have felt between the head and pickup, but an looking for something more springy, that wont flatten out over time. My neck has been set and fretted by the Gadow electric guitar company to give me great action with a 5/8 bridge. I also had a custom steel bridge made by my father. It picks up better, stays in tune, and sounds more like a banjo on the bridge pickup. Also gives me more sustain for the neck pickup. I plan on marketing it in the future.

What gauge strings do you use?

I use light gauge strings. Martin/vega on the acoustic and GHS or D'Addario on the electric.

What effects do you use on your electric banjo?

For live stuff I use a Boss GT-6 processor for my electric, running that through a Roland Jazz Chorus amp. I run the amp flat, so it's acting as a monitor, EQing everything through my pedal board. For recording I use Guitar Rig on my mac. I use tube preamp modeling, with some chorus and reverb; vintage overdrive, as well as different amp modeling presets for color. I'm always looking for excuses to use the ring modulator. When I use the bridge pickup position, for authentic banjo tone, I have a completely different bank of presets, EQ'd for different environments. I worked with Bill Evans s sound man for the best results and now I get great banjo tone out of the electric as well. I only travel with the electric. It's great.

Who are your biggest musical influences?

My biggest musical influences. Then and now. Lets do it that way in chronological order.

Then: Earl, John McEuen, Bill Keith, Rex McGee, John Boulding, Tony Trischka, Bela Fleck, Tony Rice, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Tom Marino, Charlie Parker, Django Reinhardt.

Now: John McLaughlin, Bill Evans, Christian Howes, Herbie Hancock, Bert Ligon, Kurt Rosenwinkel, John Coltrane, Pat Martino.

I've learned a little bit from each and every one of these guys. A couple songs at least, bits of solos, theory etc....

Did your parents and family support your decision to be a banjo player?

Did my family support my career? hmmmmm. My dad was a banjo player back in the day and he supports my decision 100%. My mother drove me all over NC and VA when I was a kid, but scorned me later in life when I didn't use my college degree. My grandfather thinks I'm nuts. hahahaha.

Ryan Cavanaugh Website
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