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In my practicing/learning his version of "Dixie", I've got a question about his right hand finger technique in a certain part of the song. You can hear what I'm inquiring about in his 1905 recorded version "Turkey in the Straw Medley". During the intro to Dixie, he starts off in standard C tuning, and is playing in the low C chord position, then to the middle C position, then moves to an F at the 9th/10th frets, then high C up at the 12th fret. If somebody was singing the song, it would be right at the part where the words would be "Look away, look away..look away....Dixie Land. The banjo picking at the first "Look Away"...there is a 3 finger pinch of 3rd, 2nd, and 1st strings, followed by a rapid succession..maybe what is called a triplet?....3rd string, second, first, then first again...all while holding the high C chord. My question is....is he strumming those 3 strings with thumb or index very quickly...or is he picking them out individually very quickly with thumb, index, middle?
It's a triplet followed by another note or by all three notes played at once as a chord. Call it a quadruplet or diddly-bum or twiddly bits or whatever. Separate fingers as you describe is what he's doing. When this is done with the back of the nail of the index finger by a clawhammer player and the 4th note is played on the open 5th string with the thumb it is sometimes called "The Galax Lick" for obscure reasons better not gone into here. It all the same rhythm. Any mnemonic device will do: gimme the cash!, over and out, outa da way!, Freddie Van Eps!, Billy the Kid, etc