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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Right Hand Clawhammer exercises

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majikgator - Posted - 12/03/2009:  16:37:39

does anybody know of any right hand clawhammer exercises to use for a good warmup, i don't think what i have been doing is adequate, just some straight Bum Dittys to a scale followed by some Bum Pa Ditty drop thumb scales. That just doesn't exercise enough of the various things you run into while actually playing a tune. In Scruggs style you can just run through all the basic roll patterns, for clawhammer i'm not sure.

chip arnold - Posted - 12/03/2009:  16:43:48

2-finger styles including clawhammer have "patterns" too. They're just shorter. I've never practiced any patterns though except maybe when first trying to get hold of a new sequence. I just practice tunes. Sometimes real tunes and lots of the time I just make stuff up as I play.

Edited by - chip arnold on 12/03/2009 17:30:21

RPM - Posted - 12/03/2009:  16:43:54

Mike Iverson has some good ones on his Blue Sage site:

Supertone - Posted - 12/03/2009:  17:06:01

Ken Perlman's Clawhammer Style Banjo has a bunch of really good technical exercises.

argybarg - Posted - 12/03/2009:  17:33:34

I don't find bum-dittys hard to do all in a row, and likewise with drop thumbs. The hard work is in going from one to the other and back again, cleanly. So I exercise this with patterns I've set up.

For example: Four bars of bum-ditty, only the second is a drop thumb instead. Do a bunch of those. Then the third is a drop thumb. A bunch of those. Then the fourth. Then the first.

Then try this one. I'll say that a "b" is a single bum-ditty. Four of these would make a bar. I'll use a big X for a drop-thumb that replaces a bum-ditty. I'll separate the bars with slashes:

X-b-b-b / b-X-b-b / b-b-X-b / b-b-b-X

Then repeat the sequence. This is just random enough that you have to really concentrate on where the drop-thumbs go and you have to have them right there in your fingertips. I found that after doing a bunch of this pattern to a metronome I was able to call up a drop-thumb without thinking about it, just by feel. And anything could go in the X: a skip; a cluck; a slide, so on.

majikgator - Posted - 12/03/2009:  19:00:31

i don't know if i can swing for Ken Perlman's book right now(the Grinch arrived) but will see if somebody has a copy i can get that part out of. i did think about the MIke Iverson site just after i posted this and just revisited it, i suppose i could work work some patterns out of his advanced drop thumb exercises, and mix those up with something like some regular strums and pinches. But please keep 'em coming, i'm not that creative. i am wanting a real hand burner i can do five minutes with before practicing tunes so that my hands are limber so i can concentrate on the music.

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 12/04/2009:  10:37:53

In Rocket Science Banjo you will find things like the page of drop thumb rolls (yes Virginia you can do drop thumb rolls. There are also a number of other exercises that can serve as warm ups, and you can even play them along with the MIDI yo be sue you are getting them right.
I think the drop thumb rolls are in the section titled Brain Surgery Banjo. It is a separate Download from the main body of RSB but the cost id the same - nothing.

tfaux - Posted - 12/04/2009:  11:05:06

This isn't a hand-burner, and is probably much simpler than what you're looking for, but I usually get my students to do "the silent exercise:"
Embed your thumb on the 5th string, and without actually strumming the other strings extend your hand repeatedly, slowly and perfectly. Imaginine that it's made of tightly bound tough rubber bands (which essentially it is) and get a feel for how the muscles and tendons expand and contract, and how it feels to pivot everything from your thumb. Do it a lot.

It seems pretty simple, but it seems to really help get folks get their RH centered, right from the beginning.
It can also be helpful to look at one of those anatomical diagrams of the hand, just to see that its really an elastic contraption.


minstrelmike - Posted - 12/05/2009:  09:46:54

What are you warming up to? I've never understood the idea of warming up unless you're going on stage AND need to start strong. Whatever you practice is whatever you practice whether you do it in the first 5 minutes or the last five.

Clawhammer techniques are both right and lefthand.
For a quick stretch for my fingers during jams when I switch from picking to frailing, I'll do a few quick pull-offs. For a more ordered approach, I would say frail with pull-offs on the 1st string. Go as far up the neck as it still sounds good doing pulls like this: 2-0, 5-0, 16-0

Another exercise I do is to not do any frails at all, just all bum strokes and I make hammers and pulls on the open strings going up the 'scale' with hammers and down using pulls.

A straight right hand approach is to mix up the strokes:

boom shukka boom shukka : then shukka boom shukka boom, then shukka shukka boom boom and so on and so forth. But I don't warm-up for practice. What I do is what I'm practicing. MM

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 12/05/2009:  11:45:03

How about doing scales in three note patterns using only the standard two stroke (bum-dy Bum-dy) stroke?
this is one of the scale exercises in my A Major Scale Sheet - which is supposed to be on my Google Group for download but which has apparently screwed up big time - as everything I try with that Google group thing appears to do.

So anyone who would like a batch of exercises and opinions on scale exercises please just email me and you will get the full tef, complete with MIDI playable tabs, fingerings, and even a couple shifts (one scale goes to the 12th fret)

majikgator - Posted - 12/05/2009:  14:43:55

thanks Tony, i will look into the drop thumb rolls and give that a try, although i did try and so some rolls one time that kind of hurt in a scary way, trying to copy Mark Clawgrass Johnson, i may be to old for that but i will look at yours as well as your other exercises. i have always done warmups first thing when i pick up an instrument, i don't understand not doing it other than it usually doesn't sound good when i have tried to play a tune without doing some kind of warmup first, it may have something to do with the fact that i am convinced i am naturally uncoordinated, people laugh when i say that but believe me i REALLY had to work hard to play the little that i do, nothing natural about it and clawhammer is the hardest discipline i have tried it is way far away from natural for these hands .

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 12/05/2009:  17:08:13

These are Not bluegrassy rolls but simply patterns of Drop and 5th String thumb strokes within regular clawhammer.

majikgator - Posted - 12/06/2009:  10:35:36

i printed it out Tony and will work with it for a while looks as good as anything, just some kind of thing to change it up, that i didn't create, if i make up something it risks my making up something too comfortable for me.

deuceswilde - Posted - 12/06/2009:  12:15:37

These should work.

strokestyle - Posted - 12/06/2009:  13:05:41

Yikes! I'm sunk!

Edited by - strokestyle on 12/06/2009 13:07:18

majikgator - Posted - 12/06/2009:  15:24:03

i do what you might call decipher standard musical notation, i figure it would probably take me a couple monthe to transcribe that into tab, although if it is what it claims that was quite an undertaking to produce what they claim is every possible combination of right hand movements, and to get it down to where the hand movements would become a tremelo well i can't produce a good tremelo on a mandolin with a flatpick. but alas it will remain a mystery to me as there is no way i am going to do the deciphering to begin with, but thanks for thinking of me.

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 12/06/2009:  15:31:13

I've spent years writing this sort of exercise in both tab and music. Not to toot my own horn or anythng but in the early pages of RSB there are similar exercises written in tab and for clawhammer. Then there are other things like that page of Drop thumb Rolls later.

If you really want to get into SERIOUS left and right hand exercises nothing beats Ken Perlman's "Everything You Wanted To Know About The Banjo. But I am serious when I say serious.

deuceswilde - Posted - 12/06/2009:  17:13:20

No need to transcribe it into tab when it can be used as is.

Let's try an experiment. Notation scared the ---- out of me. But it is really quite easy to learn the basics.

Give the following a try. Just 30 minutes will be all it will take. If it does not work out, no biggie. If you can read TAB then you already know note duration and rhythm, that's the hardest part, you are 3/4 the way there.

Keep in mind that this music is written assuming that the banjo is tuned eAEG#B, that is the same intervals as standard "C" tuning.

Play the following slowly, looking where each note lands on the staff. Don't worry about the note names. Just go through the motions looking at each note and playing it at the same time. Ignore the left hand fingerings.

Give it a fair shot. All excuses aside, I mean really, what are you doing this evening. This is simple, children do it every day in elementary school.

After you feel comfortable with the scale, try the first exercise. If you miss a note don't worry, just check the scale and try it again. I feel like you will blow through the first sheet in no time.

Edited by - deuceswilde on 12/06/2009 17:14:49

trapdoor2 - Posted - 12/06/2009:  18:30:52

The first page of the Converse exercises are indeed very easy to deal with right out of the notation...esp. with the scale guide Joel provided. I have never been able to just quit 'cold turkey' like Joel...I'm just not that dedicated (I play other TAB-dedicated stuff like OT and BG) to sight-reading notation. Maybe one day.

I don't think that Converse meant that these exercises contained every permutation/combination, just "all" the ones that commonly show up (and perhpas some uncommon ones that show up in his 1887 tutor). Some of these moves are beyond the scope of today's clawhammer, esp. as it drifts into thimble and tremolo. The first page is a great workout though and if you can get that clean, right on the beat and up speed, it will do your RH (and LH) a lot of good.


majikgator - Posted - 12/06/2009:  18:50:34

thanks deuceswild i may for the sake of the exercises but in general i don't think standard notation and banjos and guitars etc are a good combination you say assume those notes are there and assume this tuning but unless all of that is specified by additional notation it isn't really claer what's going on. if you have evr looked at some really good classical guiat music forinstance you will notice there is so much additioal notation to specify at what position on the neck the note is to played at and all those other niceties that it is a very cluttered mess, tablature is very specific and a lot neater. without all that notation a person could just as well assume all those notes were on the fourth string. whereas with tab with very little additioal notation you can not only be told where it is to payed but HOW it is to be played if you want. without your second post i would have a hard time realizing that it was in an oddball tuning. the only giveaway was the three sharps telling me it was in A and historical knowledge knowing that the standard tuning of that long ago day was gCGBD and i suppose this is tuned lower to accomadate a gut strung minstrel style banjo. i said i can decipher music to SIGHT READ it requires practice and i have no desire to learn minstrel style banjo from old archived manuscripts and definitely not into classical banjo, i just like to pick banjo, i'm not into the historical thing.

deuceswilde - Posted - 12/06/2009:  20:10:47

Yes, the notation can get very cluttered with fingerings, positions, etc..

There are some common misconceptions concerning "classical" banjo.

Go to my website and take a look at the Eclipse Self Instructor for the Banjo. It has a many very easy to read tunes, many that you will know. The notation is clean, most pieces are played in the lower positions. Most of them can be played stroke style (clawhammer without the strict rhythm structure).

I play lots of types of music, classical is not one or them unless you include short pieces from operettas. In fact classical music for the banjo from that era is few and far between.

Sorry for the hijack, back to the program,

Yes the first page is a good workout. The first two lines of the "Combination Exercises" some will recognize as a dotted version of "Juba" with variations.

The others I just posted for fun, if someone wanted to try their hand at them.

BTW, Frank B. Converse's Analytical Banjo Method is courtesy of Tim Twiss' Banjo Clubhouse and I think Marc had something to do with it. I cannot think them enough for their contributions to the banjo world. I think I will send them one of my thimbles, perhaps that is a start.

Any banjoist, be it bluegrass, OT or whatever would likely get something out of it. It is an impressive work.

majikgator - Posted - 12/06/2009:  21:19:32

a very worthwhile endeavor just not my cup of tea, if people like yourself weren't interested in it then it could be lost and that would be a sad thing for instance i don't know what thimble playing is really.

Edited by - majikgator on 12/06/2009 21:22:33

trapdoor2 - Posted - 12/06/2009:  21:23:34

Originally posted by deuceswilde

BTW, Frank B. Converse's Analytical Banjo Method is courtesy of Tim Twiss' Banjo Clubhouse and I think Marc had something to do with it. I cannot think them enough for their contributions to the banjo world. I think I will send them one of my thimbles, perhaps that is a start.
LOL. I own the original, copied it (took 3 days to do it all...thank god the binding was completely shot and the pages could be easily taken out) and sent it to Tim as a giant pdf. He's getting another one soon (Converse's "1863 Songster") to put up for all to enjoy. Wouldn't it be great if we could get all the early stuff together for everyone to use? The Briggs Instructor is available online and both Tim and I have originals of the 1860 Buckley and 1865 Converse for future "online publication". Would be nice to find an original Rice and Converse greenback book...

You making copies of the shield thimbles from Clarke? That would be cool. I have a brass "Converse" thimble and an ACRI a la John Balch...I like it best.


oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 12/06/2009:  22:56:08

I read music - but I don't torture myself to do it. I have enough eye trouble now thank you

Convert that 150 year old music to modern computer typeset music notation and I might even give it a try. But I've not sure I would do it for exercises. Exercises work best if instead of spending your time trying to figure out which note is meant you can spend your time trying to sort out the left hand fingers sort of stuff.

If I wanted to play these exercises on fiddle or oboe I would want modern music, but as a banjo player I would also greatly prefer tab. As a matter of fact I once read through a copy of a Briggs book that was rewritten in tab. It was pretty readable and quite interesting musically. Were I going to transcribe it myself however, I would do it to Tabledit so I could LISTEN to the tab on the MIDI. Now that's the way to learn. If you have Rocket Science Banjo
get out a tab and play it on your MIDI. You might even want to play along with it - they are all at A = 440 so if you tune to concert you can easily play along. In testing my tabs I started playing along with them and I can tell you it is just about as much fun as a man you can have when he's all alone.

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 12/06/2009:  22:58:24

Your advice sort of got buried under the music notation. It is a great way to strengthen and train the hand. Good post!

majikgator - Posted - 12/08/2009:  13:52:55

oh yeah tfaux, forgot to mention good idea, knid if akin to stretching before running i guess.

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