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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: clawhammer versus 3 finger picking?


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billybop - Posted - 02/22/2012:  19:26:10



Which style is the easiest to learn, clawhammer or bluegrass 3 finger picking?



If I have an open back 5 string would either style be about the same, according to my ability and preference?


banjoholic - Posted - 02/22/2012:  20:13:48



The one that you enjoy listening to more. Passion and motivation matter most.


bd - Posted - 02/22/2012:  20:18:33



Alas, what's easier is dependent on who the picker is. Clawhammer was easier for me but won't necessarily be for you. As to your second question. It's your banjo pick it any way you please. Ain't no rules in this game.


Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 02/22/2012:  20:46:07



Clawhammer is not necessarily easier than old time two finger and three finger picking (which are fingerpicking styles that are generally less complex than buegrass) - but, in my opinion, it is definitely easier to start playing recognizable, and satisfyingly complete sounding tunes using clawhammer than using bluegrass picking (which is inherently more complex than old time picking, though it is clearly an outgrowth of old time picking). Also, clawhammer is a more satisfying style to play solo than is bluegrass, since the very essence of bluegrass is ensemble playing. So taking into account whether you will be playing alone, or in the context of a group of musicians is also something to take into consideration.



Bear in mind that I'm talking here about starting out. You are likely to get further more quickly with clawhammer than with bluegrass picking, but ultimately, all styles of playing are relatively equally easy or difficult (depending on whether you are an optimist or a pessimist) once you move to more advanced playing.



But there is really no reason to think of banjo as divided between bluegrass and clawhammer. There are a whole host of other ways to play this instrument, that you can easily spend a lifetime exploring.



There are no hard and fast rules of what can be played on which banjo, though openbacks are usually seen as more suited to clawhammer than resonator banjos, and bluegrass pretty much demands a resonator for the volume needed in a band context.


howseth - Posted - 02/22/2012:  21:53:46


I started out with an open back and a clawhammer picking approach. Over time I melded up-picking into my down-picking style. Eventually, I added a single metal fingerpick to my index finger - it both claws and up-picks in each tune. I still play an open back banjo. There are more than 2 ways to skin/play a banjo.

billybop - Posted - 02/22/2012:  21:54:41


It's obvious I'm just starting out so I'll keep asking questions, OK?
From the little I know about either style it seems to me that with clawhammer the melody comes from the many chord changes as apposed to the different rolls in picking.
I'm having more success and find it more interesting with changing chords than accenting the melody with my right picking fingers.
However, I'd like to learn both styles but not sure it's a good idea to study them both at the same time.
What do y'all think?
Hey, I feel I can say y'all, since I lived in South Texas for two years and is one of my favorite States.

TX2AK - Posted - 02/23/2012:  00:01:59


I wouldn't start with both styles, the feel is totally different. I agree that you will play recognizable tunes faster with clawhammer or old time 2 or 3 finger picking - but I think that is always true. Even masterful bluegrass pickers don't usually play in a way that makes the tune super recognizable. Like said above, bluegrass banjo isn't as good on its own - in my opinion, and many others. For solo playing, I found old time much better - but to be fair, I enjoy listening to old time more than bluegrass, so there's an obvious bias there.

I started with bluegrass, Scruggs' book, and switched when I discovered both my taste and how much more fun it was to play OT solo.

That being said, bluegrass is EVERYWHERE, and nowadays, people think BG when they think banjo. There's a ton more info out there and just look at the number of posts on the respective forums - BG is much higher volume than OT. I agree that you will learn what you like and listen to most easily. Check out you tube videos on both styles and see if you can decide what connects best with your soul :-)

If you decide to go clawhammer, check out Rocket Science Banjo by Tony S - Old Wood Chuck on the forum. It's a wealth of info.

thombanjo - Posted - 02/23/2012:  05:53:50



If you want to hear the perfect "marriage" bewtween old-time and three finger just listen to Alan Munde and Wayne Shrubsall play together; absolutely beautiful on their album, "Old Friends."  Tony Ellis plays somewhat of a combination of the two styles to wonderful effect.


Fathand - Posted - 02/23/2012:  06:22:12



Clawhammer melody comes from playing the melody with strummed chords and 5 string drone as filler around it, 3 Finger melody comes from playing the melody with picked chords and 5 string drone as filler around it.



Clawhammer is more user friendly if playing solo. 


chip arnold - Posted - 02/23/2012:  08:03:48



i'll take gentle exception to fathand's statement. clawhammer doesn't require any strumming of chords and in fact the vast majority of c'hammerers use multiple string brushes very sparingly or not at all.

the roll based, 3-finger sequence is mostly 12312312, 12312312, while the 2-finger (frailer and thumb) clawhammer sequence is 12121212, 12121212 or 1-12 1-12 (bump-ditty), etc. 



in both cases, extra notes are used as filler or what woodchuck calls 'connective tissue".



 



Edited by - chip arnold on 02/23/2012 08:06:20

tomberghan - Posted - 02/23/2012:  16:45:51


quote:
Originally posted by billybop


Which style is the easiest to learn, clawhammer or bluegrass 3 finger picking?



If I have an open back 5 string would either style be about the same, according to my ability and preference?






Yes,
Both are about the same if you have prior experience playing music. I you don't then CH might have a little advantage. Now in both styles, one can play melody (play melodic lines) and accompany that melody with harmonic support.

It is the HARMONIC SUPPORT that is different.

In CH, most players will brush an occasional chord or play a drop thumb to add chord changes or to just imply chord changes. If you watch a CH banjoist play, those words should make sense. Now, Scruggs style is the same thing but instead of brushes and drop thumb, we play "rolls" in and around the melody.

So, playing the melody is the same in either style, but it is how one accompanies the melody that is different.

If we are just singing a simple song like "Roll in my Sweet Baby's Arms" then we can just strum along CH (like bum-titty bum titty), or we can just play the basic chords while picking rolls (forward and reverse rolls). It can be on the more simple side like Grandpa Jones (who said there ain't no money above the fifth fret!), or get really fancy like Don Reno. It's all good!


Edited by - tomberghan on 02/23/2012 16:51:31

bd - Posted - 02/23/2012:  17:11:35



quote:


Originally posted by tomberghan




quote:


Originally posted by billybop






Which style is the easiest to learn, clawhammer or bluegrass 3 finger picking?







If I have an open back 5 string would either style be about the same, according to my ability and preference?










 






Yes,

Both are about the same if you have prior experience playing music. I you don't then CH might have a little advantage. Now in both styles, one can play melody (play melodic lines) and accompany that melody with harmonic support.



It is the HARMONIC SUPPORT that is different.



In CH, most players will brush an occasional chord or play a drop thumb to add chord changes or to just imply chord changes. If you watch a CH banjoist play, those words should make sense. Now, Scruggs style is the same thing but instead of brushes and drop thumb, we play "rolls" in and around the melody.



So, playing the melody is the same in either style, but it is how one accompanies the melody that is different.



If we are just singing a simple song like "Roll in my Sweet Baby's Arms" then we can just strum along CH (like bum-titty bum titty), or we can just play the basic chords while picking rolls (forward and reverse rolls). It can be on the more simple side like Grandpa Jones (who said there ain't no money above the fifth fret!), or get really fancy like Don Reno. It's all good!





Ha! every time I see that line it's attributed to a different person.


Alan Friend - Posted - 02/23/2012:  18:02:29



I usually start my students out with clawhammer, and after a few lessons, take one the the clawhammer tunes we worked on and show them how it can be modified to 2-finger picking.



I, and most CH players I know, concentrate on the melody when playing a tune, with occasional chords here and there.  Many of the melody notes in old-time tunes fit into the chords, so if you try to finger some of the chords, you have the choice as to whether you want to play individual notes or more chords.



Alan




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