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Clawhammer Core Repertoire Series: Holiday Edition

Posted by Josh Turknett on Tuesday, December 17, 2013

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Clawhammer Core Repertoire Series - Holiday Edition

Jingle Bells?


If you'd like a free, downloadable ebook of lessons 1 thru 7 (over 50 pages of content), just click here.

I know what you’re thinking. Jingle Bells??! That ain't an old time jam classic. Heck, it ain’t even a fiddle tune! How could this be part of the Core Repertoire Series?!

I admit, those are fair objections. However, I will also admit to being infected with a festering case of the Christmas spirit. Nasty stuff, it is. Seems like nothing but holiday tunes have been coming out of my instruments the past few weeks. So, I figured if I’ve got Christmas music on the brain, you might too.

Plus, there are plenty of worthy justifications for adding some holiday tunes to your core repertoire. For one, when your family gets together for the traditional feasting on foodstuffs and exchanging of thoughtfully procured giftery and Uncle Jeb, after his fifth eggnog big gulp, asks you to take out your round guitar and play something festive, folks might look at you cockeyed if you start banging out Soldier’s Joy.

Also, part of this series is about equipping you with an understanding of how to pick out and arrange tunes for yourself, and one of the best ways to do this is by using music that’s been burned into your cerebrum since you were but a wee lass.

Like Jingle Bells.

So grab a glass of holiday cheer, and let's do this.

Step 1: Know thy Melody

If you don’t know this one, you’re either freshly removed from your mother's womb and thus not equipped with the requisite motor skills to play the banjo, or the rock under which you’ve spent your existence surely isn’t wired for internet.

Step 2: Find the Melody notes

Ok, time to pick out the melody on the banjo - a process that's almost always easier when the tune has words. We’re gonna be playing this in standard gDGBD tuning. Remember, we’re not banjofying it yet, we just want to find the melody notes. Here’s what it should sound like:

Jingle Bells Melody.mp3

And here’s the basic melody in tab:

Step 3: Add some clawhammery stuff

Now let's clawhammerize it. With this tune, I’m taking a slight departure from the normal procedure we’ve been using for fiddle tunes, since this is likely to be one you’ll be playing solo. This means we need more melody notes. So, in an effort to get em in, we’ll just add in some double thumbs where needed (striking the 5th string with the thumb directly after a melody notes) and some bum ditties during the rest periods. Here’s the result:

Jingle Bells Clawhammered.mp3

And here it is in tab:

Step 4: Add a double shot of rum

Well it is Christmas, for goodness sake.

Step 5: Embellish to impress Uncle Jeb

So now in short order we’ve created a solid, perfectly respectable old-time rendition of Jingle Bells. You can stick with the version we’ve got here, or you can add in your own stylistic flourishes to suit your own fancy, or that of Uncle Jeb's. Try noodling around with it any way you can think of - you’ve always got the basic skeleton of the melody as home base. Hammer on to a melody note here and there, drop your thumb to an inside string sometimes instead of the 5th, and so forth.

Here’s my own rendition with various embellishments thrown in. As in previous tabs, the shaded notes are "skip notes", meaning they aren't ones I actually play (though I keep the hand moving as if I was so as not to break the clawhammer motion):

For Jeb.mp3

And here's the tab:

Now it's off you go to spread banjo-infused holiday joy to the world. With the next installment in the new year, we'll return back to our comfortable repertoire of tunes the rest of you're family has never heard of.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season! Here's a Jingle Bells send-off from my family to yours:


16 comments on “Clawhammer Core Repertoire Series: Holiday Edition”

bahruse Says:
Monday, December 23, 2013 @10:07:27 AM

Perfect. The singing and acting was excellentt..... really enjoyed the banjo too.

bahruse Says:
Monday, December 23, 2013 @10:08:12 AM

... and Happy Holidays to you too!

Josh Turknett Says:
Monday, December 23, 2013 @12:44:17 PM

Thanks Bahruse!!

damn yankee Says:
Monday, December 23, 2013 @3:27:44 PM

That was great. I consider myself a bit of a Grinch but your little diddy put a smile on my face. Thanks

gcbo Says:
Monday, December 23, 2013 @3:37:53 PM


Paul DeBlois Says:
Monday, December 23, 2013 @3:53:08 PM


rkrochock Says:
Monday, December 23, 2013 @6:15:48 PM

That was great. The kids were adorable and did a wonderful job and the banjo was very inspiring.

Joe256 Says:
Monday, December 23, 2013 @7:34:25 PM

The kids did great and the banjo was excellent!

TWIN504 Says:
Tuesday, December 24, 2013 @5:48:28 AM

Very nicely done! I was hoping to see a clawhammer rendition, but I enjoyed your banjo playing very much -- even without a bum-diddy. And the perfornances by the children were charming.

Josh Turknett Says:
Tuesday, December 24, 2013 @5:56:14 AM

Twin504 - Thanks! Yeah, hopefully folks here will forgive me for putting the picks on ;)

(And, of course, the clawhammer mp3's are all linked inside the post)

mswzebo Says:
Tuesday, December 24, 2013 @7:49:06 AM

That was great! Merry Christmas to you and yours.

dandylion61 Says:
Tuesday, December 24, 2013 @8:40:39 AM

From cold and windy Winnterpeg....loved it...great music and acting...merry Xmas

abroome Says:
Tuesday, December 24, 2013 @9:23:25 AM

Wow,thanks for the holiday edition class and performance with great vocals,choreography and costumes.Wishing you a Happy 2014!

GARY L. Says:
Tuesday, December 24, 2013 @9:23:27 AM


Vernie Says:
Tuesday, December 24, 2013 @10:20:24 AM

My granddaughter plays this on the guitar, and I was trying to come up with a version for us to play together.

Jack J Says:
Tuesday, December 24, 2013 @12:30:42 PM

Loud applause on this side of the screen. 5 star enjoyment!

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