How to play Foggy Mountain Breakdown on Banjo

In these videos we show you everything you need to know to learn how to play Foggy Mountain Breakdown on the banjo. Enjoy the step-step instructions on how to play this legendary song.

“Foggy Mountain Breakdown” is a famous bluegrass instrumental, that was written by Earl Scruggs and first recorded on December 11, 1949.

Check out our free resource of Banjo Tabs before you get started and learn how to read banjo tabs.

Video Text:

let’s work on some Foggy Mountain

breakdown like the title of the video

says this is the way I play it I went

back to the 1949 original version and

actually slowed it down to half speed in

media player recorded that and then

slowed that down to half speed in order

to get to slow enough where I could

listen to it but it’s pretty much the

way I played in my whole life anyway so

and it’s the way that I teach it so

there are some prerequisites one would

be that you have already worked on your

open string roles and I devoted an

entire video to what I call the foggy

mountain roll which is on the right-hand

the two which where you drop your thumb

to the second string at least that’s the

way I do it so I’ve seen guys do it

before we run the index finger there

twice my right hand is much faster at

dropping my thumb to the second string

so either way you do it it’s two one two

five two five that’s what I call the

foggy mountain roll and there’s no one

that I call that I named after Earl

Scruggs because he used it so much in

all this playing the one that the licked

it goes like that the right hand roll is

three one five three

three four I’ll just call that the

Scruggs role on my open string rolls

video so hopefully you’ve been over both

of those roles the what I call the

Scruggs role

three one five three one three four one

and also had been over a ford reverse

roll and what happens in Foggy Mountain

breakdown instead of the regular one on

the page that goes three two one five

one two three one this Ford roaster all

starts on the fourth string it was four

like so that would be our E minor chord

when we get to that and let’s see I

think that’s about it there’s there’s

one forward roll forward roll sequence

where you get you do the Foggy Mountain

roll followed by five three one instead

of a five to one that’ll be for our pull

off so but at any rate I’ve got the song

kind of broken up into into component

parts really and I’ve named each one of

the links and they’re just they are

named what I named them so in this video

because it’s my video so there you go

but it helps my students to be able to

keep everything in sequence because

Foggy Mountain breakdown is not a really

highly melodic tune it’s just more or

less one lick followed by another lick

so I’ve just taken the licks and

separated and separated them out and

named them like the first double hammer


with the left hand if you haven’t worked

on the hammer yet going from your index

finger to your second finger I’m going

from the second fret to the third fret

like so you haven’t got that down you

need work on that just just all by

itself anyway so the hammer here with

the index on the right hand and then

hammer it again and both of those are 2

1 2 all the strings and then 5 1 5 is

the open open strings

this goes have 1 5 so that’s the the

double hammer foggy mountain lick the

very first lick in the song and I do

realize that a lot of it is there’s a

hammer not followed by a first string

and then another hammer that is followed

by first string but there were also

times when he followed both of them with

the first string just like that so I’ve

chosen just to make that the default

lick for my version of his own so that’s

the double hammer lick and then you do

that twice in the beginning of the song

so 2 1 5 2 1 5 and do it again

now when you’re doing it of course there

won’t be any space in between the lakes

they’ll just keep going right on ahead

it’s eighth notes I’m just separating

him out too to show you the individual

licks the third one starts with a double

hammer and then goes to a pull off on

the third string and this is a pull off

from the third fret to the second fret

and what I do is I have my hammer on the

second string yes I have two fingers

down because I leave my index finger on

there I’m going to move both fingers

across at the same time and that gives

me two fingers on the third string and

what I do I just do my pull off three

one that’s my pull off

that’s my index fingers still on there

I’ll leave it on there because I the

next note I play the fifth string and

then I take my index finger off for the

open third string so it’s five

and what I’m trying to do is leave my

index finger on there as long as I can

to let because I have a b-flat and a and

a G and will let let that a ring for as

long as it’ll go take my finger off ah

play the open G so that’s the pull off


5 3 with the pull off so so far you’ve

got the double hammer lik twice

thirdly it’s love double hammer with the


and gone on the third string with your

index finger of your right hand is the

open third string

okay the next lick I’m going to play I

call the just a filler lick because it’s

just an open open string lick just to

fill in the rest of that measure before

I get to my E minor sequence so is and

it goes five three one its thumb index

middle index the right hand it’s just

open strings that takes me down to the

fourth string first fret I’m going to

use my second finger here because I’m

gonna slide it on up and build my E

minor chord here it’s an E minor hole

and my second fingers on the second fret

of the fourth string my ring finger

third finger is on the first string

second fret so both are on the second

fret and it probably if you’re not used

to this court it probably wouldn’t hurt

for you to take some time and just play

open strings put both fingers down play

that E minor chord open like so

is to work on the left hand on that so

what I’m doing is after my feeling like

five three one four the Bell has me back

here on the first fret of the fourth

string and I played it with my thumb and

then I slide to the second fret and

while I’m doing that I’m putting my

third finger down because that’s the

next note that I play so I go a fourth

string slide from the first fret to the

second fret and then the first string is

on the second fret open to open three

okay now those are all quarter notes so

my count is one two one two three four

there’s no Antony of that because

they’re all quarter notes they’re all

and they all get an equal value okay

nice even quarter notes and then my next

like I’m going to play and this is all

part of the E minor sequence and it

consists of two parts the first is the

slow part

okay the second half of the e-minor

sequence is starts with a where I’m at

already now all I’m going to do is

hammer on the fourth string out there

with my second finger and do that for

reverse role I was talking about four

two one five one two four one starting

with the hammer


okay just like that now so far I’ve

gotten a double hammer again


slow D minor fast

okay now my next lick is is taken from

the like I said from the original 49

recording or Earl Scruggs changed it

over the years to did some different

licks but this is the one that I’ve

chosen because I’m just sort of an

originalist I guess it may not be the

easiest one to play but it can go really

fast you know if you’re working with

some so if you look at the Scruggs role

on my open open string rolls sheet the

one that goes three one five three one

three four one and hopefully you’ve

worked on this the third note of it 3 1

the fourth note I’m sorry 3 1 5 is my

slide from 2 to 3 and that’s my index

finger of my right hand because that’s

where it falls in that role one is open

now go back to the open third string my

index finger again and I’ve moved moving

my finger over to the fourth string

second fret and then back to the one

that’s that whole lick the open strings

are three one five one three four with

the slide and the other note one side


fredita so that whole lick I call it the

Scruggs G run there’s lots of times

Scruggs would play it on the banjo while

Lester Flatt was playing the G run on

the guitar it kind of course bonded with

the G run on the guitar that’s one that

can be a little bit a little bit

challenging because it comes right back

with the index finger this index middle


that’s one you can just work on

individually just as a lick I think I’ve

got it in another one of my videos – one

with just banjo licks

if you get pretty fast so so far we’re

down to the double hands third Lake is a

double hammer killer

slow e-minor

scrubs Jia

now we start repeating stuff I’m going

to do the filler lick again 5 3 1 3 back

to the e minor D minor

not two of the G runs here that brings

me down to my D sequence getting close

to the end of the song now I’m gonna hit

the open D string that’s a quarter note

some count lon

and hammer there I usually drop my thumb

for that just because I like the feel of

it so what’s happening there is I’m

hitting the open fourth string I’m doing

the hammer on the second string E and

just like I did above but it’s just a

single hammer this time so do my D

single hammer this time instead of doing

open string rolls I’m leaving my finger

on that D there third fret of the second


so do five two five and now my next lick

I’ve done before as well it’s the double

hammer with a pull off again okay now

the last lick is going to be the Scruggs

G run one more time except this time I’m

going to start it with my right hand

with my index finger instead of my thumb

the other once I start with my thumb I’m


this time I’m going to start it with the

index yeah that’s more

okay because I’ve just played the fifth

string and I’m in the middle of a

forward roll so that make that

necessitates the use of my index finger

for starting that roll this time open

fourth string hammer double hammer with


there’s there’s the fifth string now I’m

gonna do three okay same role as before

the other ones with this it goes

everything else is the same okay and

then I do the three pitch and a to the

very end and I’m done I’ve done the

whole song so if I call out these licks

you know hopefully you’ll be able to to

play them as I call them out because by

now you would have worked on each

individual lick until they get to be

more more natural and more familiar to

you so when I say double hammer


a minor slow

emoji la filler again II minor slow


my best

coming down to the deep

she run at the end start with the

sorry 2 3 pinch to pinch to the end and

that’s the whole song and you just put

it you learn the component parts of it

first and get to work 50 times the

hardest ones that I’ve experienced with

my students has been to pull off mainly

because people want to pull off too

early and you don’t want to do that you

want to do the pull off leave that

finger on for as long as you can before

you get the string so that lifting your

finger off and playing the open g string

or almost simultaneous so that’s that’s

one of the hard ones

let me see edit it and the Scruggs Jiro

just mainly because the right hand roll

is a little bit different and then

timing on the hammer on for the E minor

so again the E minor is worked out as an

individual chord this is the way I

always work Accords

I played the core and let’s play the

open songs and put the cord back on all

the strings put the core back

that goes back to the fourth string four

to one five one four okay so let’s take

it from the top again

double hammer

minor slow



remember that last GE run starts with

the index finger so you can practice

those individually you can practice

practicing with the index finger

so you got it three times with your


you got once with your index finger

and that makes it all a lot easier to

memorize I think so here we go from the

top one two ready go

anyway have fun hope this helps

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