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Rockin' the Country with Joe Don Rooney: Drawing Inspiration from a Folk/Bluegrass Instrument, and How I Play “Banjo”

These videos are bonus content related to the January 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now, or in our online store.

This month, I’d like to talk about how the banjo has informed my guitar style and inspired the music of Rascal Flatts.

As a guitarist who grew up exploring a wide variety of musical styles, I have always been inspired by the sounds of other stringed instruments, such as the pedal steel, fiddle, mandolin and banjo, and the ways such instruments foster, due to their different tunings, distinctly non-guitar-like ways of playing melodies or chords.

I’m especially intrigued by the five-string banjo because of its bright tone and percussive quality and the way it naturally lends itself to playing rolling, syncopated arpeggio patterns, like those prominently featured in bluegrass music. Great banjo players, like the innovative and technically brilliant Béla Fleck, have shown the world what’s possible with the instrument and how, in the right hands, it can be used to play a lot more than just traditional folk- and bluegrass-style licks, as his highly eclectic, progressive style showcases.