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clawhammer Vs. Scruggs Style

Posted by banjo playing bulldog on Monday, October 8, 2007

The banjo is one of the most recognizable instrument in Bluegrass music.  It’s twangy, rhythmic sound stands out among the softer guitar, base and fiddle.  This five stringed instrument has a unique sound depending on the style of the instrumentalist.  Clawhammer, a form of playing the banjo, is recognized as the original method. Where as, Scruggs style did not come about until the early 1900’s.  The two styles create totally different sounds from the instrument.  Even the way each technique is played differs greatly.

Clawhammer is completely different from Scruggs style because how it originated, the way it sounds and the way it is played. 

          Clawhammer began when an African slave created an instrument by stretching a pig skin over a turtle shell, inserting a maple branch for a neck and using horse hair for strings.  “The banjo did not make it to America until the seventeenth century.”  (Meier)  Clawhammer was the way the African slaves played. (Siegal)  The man that turned the banjo from a slave music maker to a popular white instrument was Joel Sweeny.  Sweeny played the Clawhammer style that he learned from the slaves owned by his father.  His public performances were popular with the culture of the early 1800’s.  Bluegrass style on the other hand did not come along until the nineteenth

 

(Honeyman, 2)

 

century when Europeans applied their guitar picking technique to playing the banjo.  The new style became extremely popular when Earl Scruggs applied his own hot licks and rolls, giving us the sound we are familiar with today. 


4 comments on “clawhammer Vs. Scruggs Style”

luthier99 Says:
Sunday, October 14, 2007 @10:06:57 PM

History shows that the banjo can take many paths.  From the early strumming and two finger styles to blugrass and folk and everything inbetween.  Many people learn the 'right' way to play the instrument and some people invent it.  Every kind of music from bluegrass, irish, rock, blues, southern appalachian, eastern Canadian (the other old time), classical, jazz, and others have been played on the banjo.  What the artist decides to do with the tool comes from deep within.  Regardless of who our influences are we all strive to play from within.  Our desire to keep playing everyday unfolds sometimes subconsciencly into what is known as our style.  We all have a style strictly our own, weather we realize it or not.  Thanks for writing a bit of history.  I wonder what will become of the banjo and its masters in the next chapter of American history and also the world.

oboebasson Says:
Friday, January 11, 2008 @8:51:19 PM

Neat

fatbanjo Says:
Tuesday, August 5, 2008 @8:42:30 AM

Lets just love the banjo however we play it or as pete Seeger says "let the banjo play you"

banjo playing bulldog Says:
Tuesday, August 5, 2008 @4:56:21 PM

This was my senior paper

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