Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

Banjo Lovers Online

 All Forums
 Playing the Banjo
 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

clfieds - Posted - 06/04/2020:  10:29:52

I’m mostly a bluegrass style player and have a few banjos with resonators.
But I do occasionally like to play a little folk or clawhammer so I’m just wondering what banjos do guys usually play for this style? Just pull the resonator off? Or is there a particular brand people recommend? Tone ring or just brass hoop? Not looking for a pro model, but something to get better on

Culloden - Posted - 06/04/2020:  11:06:12

You can clawhammer a resonator banjo just fine. Stringbean and Grandpa Jones did. However, there are plenty of old time players on here who can advise better than I can. If I were a clawhammer player the first banjo I would look for would be a Bart Reiter but there are many other fine makers.

WalruzLeggz - Posted - 06/04/2020:  11:07:04

Realistically, you can play either banjo style on either type of banjo; whether it be an open back or a resonator.

That said, folks tend to gravitate more twords open backs without tone rings for Clawhammer because it allows for a warmer sound. Some even opt for a 12" rim to give a deeper, bass-ier tone. You really don't have to spend money on a new banjo to try and improve with Clawhammer, you can simply use the resonators you already own. But if you really want to, I would buy an intermediate Gold Tone or Recording Kind. A Ute or maybe even a Pisgah would great too, if you're daring! Hope that helps

- Juan

Broken Ballad - Posted - 06/04/2020:  12:13:44

I use an openback gold tone. Sounded exactly like I wanted it to and still does after putting in a new fiberskyn. I'm newer to banjos so I wouldn't be able to recommend a particular brand or model. However I can agree with Walruzleggz. Get a cheaper banjo if you do decide to get an openback. When it comes to taking your resonator off and playing clawhammer style, supposedly it doesn't sound the same because it isn't meant for the way people play clawhammer. The same when playing the other style on an openback. I've done the latter, it didn't sound bad to me.

Bill Rogers - Posted - 06/04/2020:  13:40:57

If one of your banjos has a tube and plate two-piece flange, you can take off the flange plate and resonator and play it as an openback with just the tube. It’s not true that clawhammer players don’t like tone rings. Most of the top players, in fact, use tone-ring banjos of one kind or another. Most popular is probably the Electric tone ring, aka Whyte Laydie. Tubaphone and Dobson are also popular as are rolled-brass and brass-rod tone rings. It’s a matter of personal preference to play resonated banjo or openback, tone-ring or not,11” or 12”, head type and so on. There is no one old-time banjo that is the overwhelming choice as lis the Gibson Mastertone-style for bluegrass. Most players try several over the years before landing on their favorite.

clfieds - Posted - 06/04/2020:  18:08:27

Thanks Bill,
One of the ones that I own is a Richelieu and it has a white Laydie style tone ring. I will give that a try, just wanted to ask, because I have heard some good clawhammer and it definitely seems to have a more mellow “folky” tone with an open back.
Thanks for the good advice!

AndyW - Posted - 06/09/2020:  12:10:40

If you want to clawhammer your resonator, it might be worth putting a high bridge on (say 1 inch) to give your thumb plenty of clearance. You wont notice the high action lower on the neck where most clawhammer gets played.

Paul R - Posted - 06/09/2020:  21:22:23

No problem with a resonator. The Old Time Police are on leave and will not bother you. One of my two main banjos is not only a resonator, but it has an arch-top tone ring. I have it set up for clawhammer playing/tone with a looser head and stuffing. My main open-back has a Mastertone-style twenty-hole tone ring, which someone called "the poor man's Tu-Ba-Phone" tone ring.

There's also an advantage to using a resonator. It keeps all those bits like hooks, nuts, and bracket shoes from digging into you.

Plenty of Old Time players used resonator banjos. Not all were clawhammer players - which brings up the fact that clawhammer wasn't the only Old Time banjo style. But that's a discussion for another day.

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories