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I play clawhammer, and my jamming partner is...bluegrass...?

Posted by Sassafrassa on Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I jammed for the first time with another human being on Sunday, and while I wish I could say my playing went well...it really didn't.  I have been learning clawhammer style banjo, and have been practicing slow versions of songs I know noting the melody.  It's roundpeak style, so it's not really the bum-ditt-ty rhythm, but more of a one-two stroke.  I love the way it sounds when I play alone, but when I tried to play with my friend playing guitar, it dissolved into a crazy jumble of mess.  He was playing much faster than I was used to so I couldn't really keep up with fretting the melody.  After the first two attempts at Soldier's Joy, I was reduced to strumming chords.   It sounded much better that way, actually, than me trying to stumble through the melody.  

I think part of the problem is my lack of experience, but also, J was used to playing in bluegrass jams. Are these two styles incompatible? 

Luckily, J was very nice about the whole thing.  He enjoyed himself, and was thrilled that he found someone who can sing harmony.  He invited me to come to the jam he attends each week, and says that I would be no means out of place.  I'm excited by the prospect of getting involved with a group of musicians, as I know it will really advance my playing...but I'm quite terrified by the prospect. I'm not even playing in the style that I have been practicing.  I'm worried about really getting things jumbled up in my head and hands. Lord, what have I gotten myself into....



5 comments on “I play clawhammer, and my jamming partner is...bluegrass...?”

RatLer Says:
Tuesday, July 13, 2010 @5:01:43 PM

I play CH and I play BG...I use what I guess is called bum ditty...don't really care for that name! But anyway I keep up with the BGers with that syle...

Sassafrassa Says:
Tuesday, July 13, 2010 @5:07:29 PM

Hello, RatLer! I love both styles...I grew up listening to BG. I just really clicked with CH. But the rhythms seem different to me when I was trying to play this weekend. Maybe I just need more practice! Perhaps I can just work at it more, and hope that I blend in!! :)

Bill Rogers Says:
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 @12:19:40 AM

How experienced is your guitar-playing friend? It's not just a matter of speed. Dance rhythm for old-time playing is different from bluegrass rhythm. A couple of years ago I started to play some tunes with a friend who's an experienced, former pro bluegrass musician. Our first tune, with him on guitar, wasn't working. I said to him that he was playing bluegrass time and my clawhammer playing needed dance rhythm. That took care of it.

Sassafrassa Says:
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 @7:45:52 AM

J's been playing a while, but I don't know how familiar he is with old time. That may be my problem. I will talk to him next time we play together. Thanks for the advice, Bill.

DaveInCA Says:
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 @11:54:48 AM

You can certainly say, "Hey--please slow down a little!" ;-)

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