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Solo Clawhammer Classics, Episode 4: "Fortune"

Thursday, April 9, 2015


Clawhammer Core Repertoire Series

Season 2 - Solo Clawhammer Classics

Episode 4: "Fortune"

by Josh Turknett,


Are you a subscriber to the Clawhammer Core Repertoire Series?

If not, sign up by clicking here, and you'll get all 15 episodes of the first season (the "Jam Classics" edition) for immediate download, plus you'll get the next PDF book for this edition ("Solo Clawhammer Classics") as soon as it's off the press.




As I mentioned in the introduction to season two of the Clawhammer Core Repertoire Series, this season is all about classic solo clawhammer tunes. Not surprisingly, many of these classics also happen to be my personal favorites. 

And "Fortune" is no exception. 

In fact, it just might be my "desert island tune." In other words, if I were forced to play one tune for the rest of my days, it just might be this one. And it's one that once I get started playing, I find a hard time stopping. My wife can verify this.  

I hope you have the same experience. 


Step 1:  Know thy Melody


According to the cardinal rule of tune learning, we must first ensure that said learning is irrevocably imprinted into our sonical memories before proceeding with the business of playing it.

So, first take a listen to my final arrangement played in the video above. After that, take a listen to the version on fiddle linked below by Tommy Jarrell. Fortune is one of those iconic tunes from the Round Peak tradition, so who better to listen to for inspiration than Mr. Round Peak himself. 

Fortune by Tommy.mp3


Step 2:  Find the Melody Notes


After you've listened enough times for sonical imprintation, now it's time to find those melody notes on the banjo.


Fortune is traditionally played in the key of D, so get thy banjo to double D tuning, aka aDADE, and then see if you can find the essence of this tune on your banjo. We're just looking for the basic notes right now, so hold the bum ditties for later.


Here's what I hear as the basic core melody of Fortune:  Finding Fortune.mp3


And here's how that looks in tab:



Step 3 - Add Some Clawhammery Stuff 

Now, full clawhammerization may commence. Let's take that basic melody above, add in a "ditty" stroke after our basic melody notes, throw in a few syncopated embellishments with the odd pull off and hammer on, and we get something that sounds like this:  


Clawing for Fortune.mp3


Nothing too fancy here, but it sounds mighty fine already. Here's what that version looks like in tab:




Step 4: Embellish to Taste


At this point, see what else you can do with this tune. Play it whatever way suits your ears best. In my version from the video, I've added a few more fretting hand embellishments, as well as the occasional drop thumb. Notice also that I like to move the melody lower in measure 14 for a little change of pace.



Notes on the tab: Drop thumbs are noted with a "T" underneath the tab. Notes with a shaded box around them are "skip" notes, in which you move as if you are going to strike the string with your picking finger, but don't actually do so (i.e. you "skip" over the note).


Also, feel free to sing a verse or two. There are several floating around in the old timeyverse, including those I sing in the video.



About the Author

Dr. Josh Turknett is the creator of the Brainjo Method, the first music teaching system to incorporate the science of learning and neuroplasticity and specifically target the adult learner (more at



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Josh Turknett has made 22 recent additions to Banjo Hangout 

Occupation: neuroplastician

Gender: Male
Age: 46

My Instruments:
Cedar Mountain L4, Cedar Mountain J200. Dan Pennington tubaphone, Mike Ramsey white laydie, homebuilt special, bob thornburg gourd, Terry Bell Boucher minstrel banjo, deering goodtime special

Favorite Bands/Musicians:
Mike Seeger, Mac Benford, Tommy Jarrell, Kyle Creed, Fred Cockerham, Hobart Smith, Mississippi John Hurt, Paul Brown, Doc Watson, Norman Blake, Earl Scruggs, Tom Adams, Will Keys, Camp Creek Boys..

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Created 11/18/2003
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Lover of all things banjo. One half of the Georgia Jays ( Founder of Brainjo, the first music instruction method targeted at the adult learner and based on the science of learning and neuroplasticity (more at

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