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Claw Hammer vs Scruggs

Posted by dOwN_iN_tHe_OzArKs on Wednesday, October 25, 2017

like this

How does one play clawhammer I am a beginner if you would call it that trying to figure out which style I want to learn in I do own finger picks and I also struggle with the finger picks do to v string being so small that I often hit the fourth stream I've watched some videos on clawhammer looks like a guy was holding a credit card in his hand to keep the form I wasn't sure really how implemented the index and middle finger and to the claw hammer cuz it didn't really look like the fingers moved at look like they stayed gripped around the card that he was holding I'm just trying to get some opinions and all are welcome clawhammer or Scruggs Style thanks

14 comments on “Claw Hammer vs Scruggs”

AndyW Says:
Wednesday, October 25, 2017 @2:57:15 PM

I tried scruggs, but the tinny sounding banjo I had combined with fingerpicks put me off. A few years later clawhammer seemed impossible at first, but a little bit of work allows you to you crack the initial hurdle.

For me I'm glad I eventually chose clawhammer, but certainly scruggs(bluegrass) seems much much more popular and I might have had a false input from my rubbish early banjo.

Choose what you prefer to listen to... Flip a coin and stick with it if you can't make up your mind. Both choices are valid.

WayneConrad Says:
Wednesday, October 25, 2017 @3:15:08 PM

Hi Nathan [or should I call you "willey?" :) ]. Welcome to the blogs!

I agree with @AndyW. Any banjo will take work and persistence to learn, so it's best to pick what appeals to you most. I started with bluegrass, but my heart wasn't in it--that's probably the biggest part of why I didn't progress very fast. Then I heard clawhammer, and I was captured by that sound. It was a couple of years of hard study (I'm not a fast student) before I could make a good clawhammer sound, but worth it. I could have gotten a good bluegrass sound in that amount of time, had my heart been in it. I do think that bluegrass is a more difficult style to master than clawhammer, but I think if you love the sound then the difficulty won't matter. I wouldn't worry about any tricks like playing with a credit card in your hand. That sounds kind of gimmicky to me. Plus, credit cards come in one size but hands don't.

After picking the style, the next step would be picking an instructor or web lessons or book. But it won't make sense picking those until you've decided which style to learn.

Paul R Says:
Wednesday, October 25, 2017 @5:40:07 PM

Hey, Nathan, there's lots of good advice above. Just to throw another monkey wrench into the works, there are more five-string banjo styles than CH or Scruggs Bluegrass. There are other three-finger styles, and there's two-finger (thumb and index lead). In other words, the world of the five-string banjo is multicultural.

However, if you want to focus on one or the other of your choices, it's entirely up to which one a) is more appealing musically, b) sounds better to you, and, c) is better suited to your learning/playing style and ability.

Focus on learning materials that are common sense and practical, not, as Wayne says, gimmicky. I suggested elsewhere that you check out Tom Collins' "Banjo Blitz" videos. He's a BHO member, and the videos aren't too long, and each deals with a separate facet of CH style playing. You can sift through the series and find the things you'd like to work on. This isn't to say you should ignore other materials - Dan Levenson, Tony Spadaro, Mike Iverson, Ken Perlman, Cathy Fink, Mary Z. Cox and others have lots of good material, and you can progress sequentially through their teaching. And, as people have suggested on other threads, find yourself a teacher.

dOwN_iN_tHe_OzArKs Says:
Wednesday, October 25, 2017 @5:44:53 PM

@Paul R, what are these other styles you speak of?

WayneConrad Says:
Wednesday, October 25, 2017 @7:10:11 PM

dOwN_iN_tHe_OzArKs There are many, but the ones I know of are two-finger thumb lead and three-finger thumb lead. Also, there are variations in clawhammer. Pete Seger played clawhammer with some up-picking added in. There's clawgrass, that combines bluegrass with clawhammer. There's 3-finger up-picking that is not bluegrass, although I don't know what its name is.

AndyW Says:
Wednesday, October 25, 2017 @11:58:12 PM

I would advise picking clawhammer or scruggs. The reason is there is an absolute wealth of learning resources available for these two styles.

Boadicea Says:
Thursday, October 26, 2017 @12:38:10 AM

It is great that you started your blog! Welcome to the practising club! Great to have you along for our banjo journey!

Paul R Says:
Thursday, October 26, 2017 @12:22:43 PM

Nathan, in two-finger there's two-finger thumb lead (2ftl) and two-finger index lead. There are BHO members proficient in both. BHO member Sean Barth has a Web site dedicated to 2ftl, called Thumb-Lead Banjer. His site has an explanation, tabs, and lots of info about the tunes and their origins/players.

AndyW Says:
Thursday, October 26, 2017 @12:56:23 PM

The two beginner books I have used are:

Bluegrass- First Lessons Banjo by Jack Hatfield
Clawhammer- Clawhammer from Scratch by Dan Levenson

Both are good beginner books. The Hatfield book gives quick 'feelings of accomplishment' by presenting very easy tunes. Dan's book goes more in depth, and is more challenging.

For a few quid, either would be a good starting point.

Boadicea Says:
Thursday, October 26, 2017 @9:05:11 PM

I hope that you get your banjo back from the shop shortly dOwN_iN_tHe_OzArKs. Is it anything serious?

dOwN_iN_tHe_OzArKs Says:
Thursday, October 26, 2017 @9:08:28 PM

No I don't believe so.. I got upset at my banjo awhile back and took all the strings off and I didn't get the bridge in the right place. Just having him check the pegs, drum and neck for me.

Boadicea Says:
Thursday, October 26, 2017 @9:25:49 PM

Well that is good news!

My banjo teacher told me if you don't feel like smashing your banjo because it is frustrating you to the ends of your wits then you really haven't engaged with learning the banjo, I was not quite sure that he was serious, but I certainly wasn't certain that he was joking by any means. He is an interesting man. So I think getting upset with your banjo, and taking off it's strings would get you across the line with this one.

I am a very non relaxed person, and one of the reasons I am learning the banjo, not only because it is fun, but also to learn to be more relaxed. What do you do for relaxation? I am always interested to know what other people are doing to relax.

Boadicea Says:
Thursday, October 26, 2017 @9:27:29 PM

I am doing Scruggs style dOwN_iN_tHe_OzArKs but each time there is a clawhammer banjo up for a prize on this website I secretly cross my fingers, and hope for the best.

dOwN_iN_tHe_OzArKs Says:
Saturday, October 28, 2017 @11:53:04 AM

@boadicea I like to mold things out of clay for relaxation.

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