Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

Banjo Lovers Online

 All Forums
 Playing the Banjo
 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Is this right?

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:

talmir - Posted - 02/08/2007:  08:55:24

I am trying my hand at clawhammer, and after reading a couple of tutorials on the bum ditty I decided to try and learn a song. At the same time I watched a video showing that you are supposed to pick the individual strings (the "bum") with the back of your fingernail? But when I do that I get this clicky sound I dont like.. I kinda play by picking the string normally with the underside of my finger and I think it sounds ok...

Am I missing something?

Check out "whiskey in the jar test1" on my homepage for an example.

tonehead - Posted - 02/08/2007:  08:59:41

Yes, with the back of your fingernail. You may need to change the angle at which you hit the string if you don't like the sound you're getting.

Take a look at this. He's playing with his middle finger.

Be significant.

Edited by - tonehead on 02/08/2007 09:04:51

talmir - Posted - 02/08/2007:  09:27:50

I´ve been experimenting using fingerpicks (the index and middle finger picks used in bluegrass) only turned upside down :P Since I have the suspicion my fingernail isnt long enough to make the correct sound, is that ok?

Rachel Streich - Posted - 02/08/2007:  10:23:12

Some people do use a fingerpick worn backwards (covering the fingernail), especially if their fingernail isn't long enough, or wears out and breaks easily. So that part is OK.

But using metal or plastic fingerpicks might be what's giving you that clicky sound you don't like. Take off the picks and try downpicking with your bare fingernail instead -- you might find you like the sound better. You don't need a really long nail to play clawhammer / frailing style anyway -- as long as your nail extends just a little bit beyond the tip of your finger, you'll be fine. Even if your nail is shorter than that, you can still frail with it -- you'll just get a softer tone.

Rachel Streich

What?: c 1920 Weymann 5-string openback
How Long?: Since 1989
Venues: Mostly jamming, willing to teach
Style: Old-time clawhammer
Other: Fiddle, guitar, some mandolin, vocals
Working On: "Garfield's Blackberry Blossom"
Dream Banjo: I'll know it when I see it

Yopparai - Posted - 02/08/2007:  11:09:39

AND give it some time as well. Starting out, it takes a while for the claw stroke and the rhythm to settle in. As your hand settles into that groove, your attack and tone will get better without (consciously) changing a thing.

I keep my fingernail clipped back pretty short (the same as all the rest of them) so you don't HAVE to have a long nail. It also frees me from a lot of the concerns about breakage. There just isn't a lot of it sticking out that could break.

1) I have pretty hard nails. You're milage may vary.
2) Some folks just prefer the sound they get with a longer nail. To each his/her own.

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories