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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Can you get the same clawhammer brushy sound from 2 finger?


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: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/389526

drytoast - Posted - 03/26/2023:  11:30:30


I know clawhammer is more than the brush but I love that sound of a clawhammer tune! Can I get a similar sound with 2finger?

I'm asking because I'm having a real hard time with clawhammer as a beginner. I can get the 1st string to sound "well" but when I move to other strings my fingers end up muting the string I'm trying to strike... I've been just trying right hand strikes for about a week with about 5 to 10 minutes at a time. Multiple times a day. Basically when I'm at my desk I grab my banjo and strike strings for a while.

I did notice that 2finger is way easier to pick the strings for me and I was wondering if I could get close to a clawhammer sound with up picking?

I guess what I'm thinking is that I'll "regret" not learning clawhammer later.. but I really just want to play and 2finger can get me to a point where I can play a tune faster and clawhammer is frustrating me at the moment.

gbisignani - Posted - 03/26/2023:  12:01:09


It took me months to get a decent clawhammer "bum ditty" to sound acceptable. It's maybe 3 years and I'm better but nowhere near what I hear others doing. I played 3 finger for many years but very little ever sounded like bluegrass. I really consider myself a folk player not a bluegrass or old time player. I find 2 finger harder than either !

banjo bill-e - Posted - 03/26/2023:  12:19:21


No. Two finger sounds like two finger and clawhammer has it's own distinct sound. It's fine to start with Two finger and then take up clawhammer down the line. Highly recommend some instruction, either in person or online. There is so much good online material out right now, much of it free, that there is no reason not to take advantage of that. No reason why you will not be able to get clear strikes on every string if you practice the correct motions.

KCJones - Posted - 03/26/2023:  12:30:48


Don't fall into the dogmatic illusion that 2 finger and clawhammer are distinct and mutually exclusive styles. In traditional banjo playing, they are mixed all the time. The concept of 2 finger index lead, 2 finger thumb lead, frailing, and clawhammer as distinct styles is a modern concept with little basis in historical reality. 



Long story short: You can do 2 finger when you want, and if you want a brush just use your middle finger and brush the strings. And if anyone tells you you're playing "wrong", you can use that same middle finger to "brush them off". 



 



See the following links for an example of 2 finger with brushing. You need to have fun first. Everything else follows after that. 



youtu.be/ItrrqsV9xcA



youtu.be/LbyKkS1jMtk


Edited by - KCJones on 03/26/2023 12:42:20

Jack Baker - Posted - 03/26/2023:  12:53:02


Billie,


I do think that people are mixing the two techniques frequently these days. I suspect they always have. They just didn't have BHO to talk about what they were doing--maybe. I do think that how you move your body is simply part of your playing...Jack




Originally posted by banjo bill-e

No. Two finger sounds like two finger and clawhammer has it's own distinct sound. It's fine to start with Two finger and then take up clawhammer down the line. Highly recommend some instruction, either in person or online. There is so much good online material out right now, much of it free, that there is no reason not to take advantage of that. No reason why you will not be able to get clear strikes on every string if you practice the correct motions.






 


Edited by - Jack Baker on 03/26/2023 12:55:11

thisoldman - Posted - 03/26/2023:  14:02:13


I started playing clawhammer, but switched to 2FTL shortly thereafter....something like 5 or 6 months in. After awhile, I looked at some real easy clawhammer tabs and thought I might be able to translate them into 2FTL. For the most part, I switched a pinch for the clawhammer strum and it seemed to (kinda) work. That said, I'd suggest you continue to work on your clawhammer stroke for awhile. For some people, it takes only a few weeks to get into the rhythm, while others may take some time. Be patient, and it will probably come.

janolov - Posted - 03/27/2023:  00:31:50


2F and clawhammer gives very much the same sound and rhythm. The same notes can be played, the difference is how the strings are attacked. in 2F the string is picked by an upward movement and usually it is the flesh of the finger that touches the string. In clawhammer it is a downward movement and (usually) the nail that touches the string. This difference may give a different sound.

AndrewD - Posted - 03/27/2023:  02:38:02


The other alternative is up-picking. Effectively clawhammer with an up-stroke rather than a down-stroke from the index finger. This has come to be associated with Pete Seeger. But he learned it from traditional sources.

janolov - Posted - 03/27/2023:  03:04:14


I think Pete Seeger learned this style from Samantha Baumgarner (and perhaps some other old banjo pickers) who would be unknown to most of us if Pete Seeger didn't do what he did. 



youtu.be/QUifDpSOxhg 



youtu.be/TWfszrzc51Q



 



 



 



 



 



 



 



 



 



 



 



 


Edited by - janolov on 03/27/2023 03:08:20

AndrewD - Posted - 03/27/2023:  04:35:37


quote:

Originally posted by janolov

I think Pete Seeger learned this style from Samantha Baumgarner (and perhaps some other old banjo pickers) who would be unknown to most of us if Pete Seeger didn't do what he did. 



youtu.be/QUifDpSOxhg 



youtu.be/TWfszrzc51Q






The first link takes me to an advert for a Kia Sportage in Swedish. The second one is Samantha Baumgarner and demonstrates my point. Would you know from listening that this was up-picking not down-picking ?

RG - Posted - 03/27/2023:  07:32:30


Listen to Doc Watson, the vast majority of his tunes he is essentially playing 2 finger index lead with a lot of pulls offs. George Landers & Bascom Lamar Lunsford also come to mind... they essentially used an "up" brush stroke to approximate a drop thumb rhythm. You can get a "ch" sound with 2 finger index lead as both are "index lead" styles of playing, it's harder to do with thumb lead, but Dock Boggs routinely used brush strokes in his 3 finger style when you listen to his playing... here's an example, my version of his tune "Davenport."


drytoast - Posted - 03/27/2023:  09:01:17


Up-stroke is where I think I'll start! I have very short finger nails to the point they don't extend past the skin. I think that might be an issue. I can get an ok sound with a pick but I find the ones I have uncomfortable. I have a thimble on the way...

Upstroke seems to me like a good compromise!

Bill H - Posted - 03/27/2023:  09:51:46


quote:

Originally posted by gbisignani

It took me months to get a decent clawhammer "bum ditty" to sound acceptable. It's maybe 3 years and I'm better but nowhere near what I hear others doing. I played 3 finger for many years but very little ever sounded like bluegrass. I really consider myself a folk player not a bluegrass or old time player. I find 2 finger harder than either !






I think it me some years be able to pick a clear melody. I would not worry about it at all. Controll will come with time--and will require at least several months, but in the meantime there is so much to work on. The other thing is that you do not need to choose one or the other. Many players play more than one style.

Eric A - Posted - 03/27/2023:  10:07:40


quote:

Originally posted by drytoast

Up-stroke is where I think I'll start! I have very short finger nails to the point they don't extend past the skin. I think that might be an issue. I can get an ok sound with a pick but I find the ones I have uncomfortable. I have a thimble on the way...



Upstroke seems to me like a good compromise!






Don't think of up stroke as any kind of a "compromise".  It is a perfectly valid style on it's own merits.

drytoast - Posted - 03/27/2023:  10:51:29


Thank you. Compromise was probably the wrong word.

chip arnold - Posted - 03/27/2023:  11:40:57


I play only 2-finger, index lead. I don't do a lot of brushes, but It is simple to do them with 2-finger IL. You can brush on the upstroke instead of picking a single string. Also, many Old Time index lead players brushed down on the "dit" in Bum ditty or bum pa dit ty. You can do a pinch, too. I sometimes pinch with my thumb on the 5th string and finger brushing up on the 1st and 2nd strings. You can play pretty much any clawhammer tab with 2FIL.
Here's Juliann Johnson with a few brushes:
banjohangout.org/myhangout/med...archived=
And Cowboy Waltz. I do a two string UP brush at the beginning of the A part. Sorry for speeding up :-)
youtube.com/watch?v=XLDwgO3JoNc

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