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Clawhammer the cheap way

Posted by docfeetz on Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Still holding my own with a few Scruggs/bluegrass style banjo tunes in open G and 3 finger style. Now I've decided I need to add clawhammer to the trades that I try to be jack of. But I can't afford the time or money for the classes at Old Town School this term, mostly because of 3 root canals and a tooth extraction (hit 54 and your teeth break, in my family). And the dental HMO copayments (A dental HMO is great when you're 25, but not when you're middle aged.)

So that'll have to wait until January. In the meantime I got a Mel Bay book, my tried and true approach since 1966. "Clawhammer from Scratch," ordered from Angie's Banjos (nice people).

So I'm trying to see if my hand curls up in the right shape. And the new tuning (double C) is a challenge. But not so much. Switching from mandolin to banjo and back to guitar (with a dropped D for delta blues thrown in) has me feeling more adaptable. Get 3 or 4 chords down and you can manage. But the strum'n'thumb action is still beyond me. That's where I wish I had a teacher, or at least a video that doesn't choke my Windows machine.

3 comments on “Clawhammer the cheap way”

Cottonmouth Says:
Wednesday, November 14, 2007 @10:03:33 PM

Paul, I was just picking out "Simple Gifts" in Double C (X2) as I was reading your entry. Next to mandolin, this tuning has plenty to offer me as a new clawhammer player; I really like it. The mandolin scales make plenty of sense, too, don't they?! Ken

vrteach Says:
Thursday, November 15, 2007 @10:15:53 AM

It's some distance from you, but you might try visiting the jam in Elwood:

There may be someone there who would be willing to show you how they do the motion.

dbrooks Says:
Thursday, November 15, 2007 @10:36:30 AM

Congratulations on starting up with clawhammer.  Dan's book is a great way to start.  It will get you into C tuning (and the key of D) right away and get you double-thumbing quickly.  Many beginners bum-ditty in G for too long, and it slows their progress.  I was one of those.

Check Dan's web site occasionally.  I have several lessons and workshops with him, and they are very good.  He has gone to a festival in Evart, MI, for the last few years and may do a workshop near you at some point. Of course, there are other good teachers around, including here.

When you can, try to find opportunities to play with others.  I have played some with a "volunteer" contra dance band that has helped learn lots of tunes.

Have fun!

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