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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Playing louder with thinner strings?

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:

mcluskie - Posted - 04/15/2022:  07:16:16

Hi folks, can you help me play louder? My fiddler struggles to hear my clawhammer picking. I fixed it by using a metal pick. But I’m not so dexterous with a pick on the end of my finger. I’m thinking thinner strings might make me more audible? I have a loudish banjo with tuberphone tone-ring so don’t think that can be improved. What do you think? Cheers

banjukebox - Posted - 04/15/2022:  08:19:35

Fiddle mute?

mbanza - Posted - 04/15/2022:  08:22:31

I doubt thinner strings will foster much change in volume. The angle at which your finger contacts the strings may be a better solution. Observe carefully your angle of attack: It should be nearly vertical for melody notes and shallower for brushes. If you need to play loudly, you have to practice playing loudly.

Edited by - mbanza on 04/15/2022 08:22:48

MacCruiskeen - Posted - 04/15/2022:  08:22:49


Originally posted by mcluskie

banjo with tuberphone tone-ring

Is potato?

hweinberg - Posted - 04/15/2022:  08:24:21

Lighter strings are not likely to help. The fact that a pick solved the volume problem suggests that something about your picking with your nail isn't creating a strong attack. I assume you don't keep your picking nail too short. Perhaps your natural nails are a bit thin and flexible which would create a softer attack. This is a common problem and there are many threads to search on BHO regarding options for picks, artificial nails (ie, nail salon style or similar), etc. Many well-known clawhammer players use a pick including Kyle Creed who famously made his own. Good luck!

Pick-A-Lick - Posted - 04/15/2022:  10:44:40

Here’s a couple of specialized claw hammer picks I happen to have run across earlier today when I was ordering some regular finger picks:

Don’t know how much use any of these might be but I thought I pass along the information

mjt0229 - Posted - 04/15/2022:  14:14:28

I subscribe to Adam Hurt's approach to striking. He uses light strings, and so do I. I don't think I'm particularly loud or soft, but Adam has a great, full tone that doesn't lack volume. Here's a quick description of the idea (you can find more on BHO if you dig around):

Hold your right (picking) hand in front of you (I think this all gets mirrored if you're a lefty, but I'm assuming from your picture you're not). Imagine a clock face on your striking nail. When you play, arrange your hand so you're striking the string somewhere between 1:00 and 2:00 (or 13:00 and 14:00, if you prefer later in the day). This has your whole finger coming down and bracing the nail, and following through the string. When I play, the motion is perpendicular to the string, and towards the head at roughly a 45 degree angle; I drive the motion as much as possible from the arm, not the wrist.

It took a while for me to work out all the details, but the motion is natural, smooth, and produces a satisfying sound with some oomph behind it.

Maybe you're already doing this, or have already tried it, but it's worth a thought. I am like you, I can't adapt to a pick.

JollyRogers - Posted - 04/16/2022:  05:15:53

Tubaphone with medium strings played over the head should cut through. Do you have a hide head or? Are you stuffing the banjo? Are you holding the pot in a manner to cover it with your body? I use artificial nail on my picking finger.

I had/have this problem with my son and his fiddle, which is stupid loud. I got the same complaint. I was sitting and my body was deadening the sound. I didn’t realize, so I would really dig in, and then my playing would become sloppy. Eventually I switched to a different chair or stand with a strap, and make sure the pot has a way to let the sound reach him. He hears me fine now.

Edited by - JollyRogers on 04/16/2022 05:16:38

Chammer - Posted - 04/16/2022:  06:57:13

Do you use your middle finger when you are playing? Often, a person's index finger is the stronger of the two, and just might
result in more volume. Try it, and see.

KCJones - Posted - 04/16/2022:  10:32:47

Tell your fiddler to play with less volume.

mcluskie - Posted - 04/16/2022:  11:12:12

Thanks folks, some really useful info here. I do have a fibre skin head which I’ve just changed to renaissance, see if that makes a difference, cht

Dan Gellert - Posted - 04/16/2022:  17:43:32

The lighter head should help. Experimenting to find the right head tension, and getting the tension even (with a Drum Dial) will maximize clarity and projection.

A lighter bridge will give you brighter tone, and probably some volume boost as well.

Generally, you'd expect to get a bit less volume out of lighter strings, but as Mark suggests, your sound is going to depend on how your particular banjo and its setup interact with your particular playing technique.

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