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Picking up on the strike

Posted by Copo on Thursday, November 9, 2006

This is my first blog, so please read with care. I'm going to write about my clawhammer dilemma.

Since the start of the year, when i started playing claw, i was executing the bum-ditty strum but, rather than striking down on the string with my nail, i was picking up with the point of my finger.

The picking up came naturally but i noticed clawhammer player Bill Whelan (in my native Dublin, Ireland) was playing what looked like a different style. He was, of course, striking down and not picking up. I got a clawhammer DVD and realised that i should be striking down. Although ive started the strike, im confused. Should i stop the picking up and focus purely on the strike? I really can't see why striking down would be preferential to picking up.

My next blog will have some answers, im sure. Cheers

8 comments on “Picking up on the strike”

Yopparai Says:
Thursday, November 9, 2006 @3:01:51 PM

"Up-picking" is a perfectly legitimate style, and very closely matches "down-picking" - at least as far as I understand it. Clawhammer is a lot more popular right now and proponents will tell you that its got more drive and power.  I haven't tried up picking, so I can't compare them personally.

Give down a shot, it never hurts to have extra tools in the shed. Then you can ask the only person that matters if you should choose or favor one or the other. Yourself.

Hunter Robertson Says:
Thursday, November 9, 2006 @4:08:39 PM

Hi Derek, Keep going with both! They give quite different results but both are good. Frank Proffitt is one good example of what picking up with the finger sounds like. For clawhammer: Wade Ward, Buell Kazee, Fred Cockerham, Hobart Smith etc. Art Rosenbaum had an album, which besides being good music, was a run through of the various traditional styles - 2 finger, 3 finger, up-picking, down-picking... Art of the Mountain Banjo I think it was called, had an accompanying book of tablature as well. Bill's a great player and well worth listening to (met him years ago in Dublin and saw him again more recently when I was living there. Where is it they play again, the Stag's Head?) Yours, Hunter

FretlessFury Says:
Monday, January 8, 2007 @8:25:24 AM

Hi Derek,

It sounds like your original goal was to learn clawhammer, but you started up-picking by mistake.  I would stick with that original goal and abandon up-picking for now.  Clawhammer is pure magic, and the only way to learn it is to take the plunge.

Good luck!

Tom Collins

paddylazio Says:
Tuesday, January 30, 2007 @10:44:00 AM

hi derek if yer havin dat problem i think u should stop playin and give it up all together start playin darts r sumthin

R.D. Lunceford Says:
Tuesday, February 6, 2007 @12:46:18 PM

I would concentrate on down-picking (Clawhammer).

Striking down may not be "preferential" to up-picking, but it renders a different sound. 

brokenstrings Says:
Monday, March 12, 2007 @11:24:30 PM

I had the same problem. I knew you were supposed to downpick, but, coming from harp and guitar, it just went against the grain and slowed me down no end. Finally forced myself to downpick and eventually it began to seem natural.

Clawdan Says:
Wednesday, April 4, 2007 @5:44:16 PM

Focus on the strike and try a thump a thump a (down-up-down-up) finger thumb finger thumb rhythm for more of that old time sound and feel. Makes the drop thumb come much quicker when you are ready. In any case, play nice.

rendesvous1840 Says:
Monday, April 16, 2007 @10:25:53 PM

Pete Seeger used both. I believe Uncle Dave Macon used both, and some other styles as well. I find it easier to play quietly when up picking, and use it a lot in jams when I don't want to drown out a soloist on a quieter instrument.  It's also good for slower songs, and for waltzes.I've learned to change in mid song to take a solo.Down picking stands out better for that.   

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