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Dec 17, 2008 - 1:30:45 PM



1705 posts since 7/14/2008

Originally posted by Michael Smith


do you work CW?


I sure do!

.... --- .--. . - --- -.-. ..- --- -. - .... . .- .. .-.

BTW, I know I've seen your call someplace. Are you a DXer?

--... ...--, Brennen

Jan 27, 2009 - 6:16:02 AM

58250 posts since 12/14/2005

Another thing that might be handy for beginners, is an online banjo tuning site.
Open G tuning can be had at

=):{ )
Mike Gregory, Banjo Maker Infraordinaire
When I say my instruments are as good as anything Gibson or Martin ever made,
I mean MEL Gibson and DEAN Martin!

My banjos can be seen on my own website

See me & my SQUARED EEL banjo on the Y''all tube

Mar 23, 2009 - 5:04:17 PM
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502 posts since 2/4/2009

What about having some sort of a welcome to the BHO with an orientation of some kind that would help newbies more easily navigate the site and perhaps avoid some of the recurring stuff. I would also agree with who cares what way you do it, except that for the newcomer, they want to know if they're doin' it right and may not know that it's done a billion ways. And I certainly appreciate all of you out there that cheerfully answer the same questions time after time; that's what it's about IMO.


It''s noon somewhere!

Apr 11, 2009 - 4:11:47 PM

1704 posts since 6/29/2008

so you are trying to direct these questions to a sort of FAQ area, is that the point? if that was the point i like the start, but it should be made clear and easy to get to


Apr 12, 2009 - 2:30:36 PM

191 posts since 1/14/2009

The information is all out there, I think the best thing to do is just compile all the links in one spot. It might be better to split this up, so one sticky is general information, one on clawhammer, and another on the other old time styles. I vote we just link Zepps page on tunings. Apart from beginning banjos, I think it may be good to list some good beginner books.

"The worst of all fears is the fear of living."-Good ol'' Teddy Roosevelt


May 13, 2009 - 2:28:51 PM

609 posts since 11/3/2004

Originally posted by brokenstrings

* index or middle?

See my poll of prominent players on my Hangout page.

stay tooned....
Glenn Godsey

"Time passes unhindered"

Sep 18, 2009 - 10:45:15 PM



242 posts since 2/27/2009


Sep 29, 2009 - 8:17:11 AM



130 posts since 5/29/2009

Lately I have taken to using Aquila Nylgut Classical Banjo strings. I started using a pick as my index finger nail now is concave; I guess it was too soft and thin and got deformed. With the Nylgut I don't get the racket that sometimes happens when I knock into an adjacent steel string. Also the strings are soft enough that they don't seem to mess up my nail anymore, and I like the feel. On one of my banjos I have a set of Elixir Light guage Polyweb wrapped strings. With these the spurious noise is greatly reduced also.

Both types of strings are pricey, but they are worth the extra bucks. I tried regular nylon, half the cost of the nylgut strings, but did not like them.

Oct 24, 2009 - 12:12:12 PM
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154 posts since 6/9/2009

SPLogDog: The information is all out there, I think the best thing to do is just compile all the links in one spot.

Why not start a BHO Wiki? Wiki is perfect for knowledge management.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - *
Banjo picking is like golf, once you are hooked, you are hooked for life.
Bang Bang...

Oct 30, 2009 - 3:59:58 AM
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149 posts since 8/16/2005 this where I should ask a question then? I'm having a bit of trouble digging through the previous posts; my search queries aren't hitting but I know my question is a basic one. I don't want to start a new topic cuz I'm sure it's REAL old by now. But can someone direct me to a thread about striking 2nd, 3rd, and 4th strings? My books don't get into it in detail, neither do the videos I've been watching. As a guy used to three-finger picking, I don't know how to hit those non-1st strings without hitting the string under it. Am I being ridiculous here? Is it obvious and I'm coming off like a Labrador retriever only without the cuteness to make up for the idiocy?


Oh, and why do we use open backs for clawhammer? I understand there's a different sound in general, I just don't know why open backs are considered the clawhammer-style banjo.

Am I the only banjo player in India?

Edited by - billyshake on 10/30/2009 04:15:40

Oct 30, 2009 - 4:42:15 AM



130 posts since 5/29/2009


Banjo players in India? Maybe a sitar player can help.

Seriously, it takes some time before you stop jangling the adjacent string(s). The greatest difficulty with clawhammer is learning the basic stroke. Actually your striking finger should come to rest against the lower string (just briefly and almost imperceptibly as you speed up), but not sound it (unless you are doing a clwhammer roll, which is strinking one or more strings).

If you continually sound the string(s) below the one you intended to strike it could be you are flicking your finger. This is a big no, no. The striking finger should not move; movement should be restricted to a little roll of the wrist and a slight lifting of the forearm (less is better, but it takes some time to use minimal motion and get a acceptable sound). The hand is, as in the name, a claw.

Another problem might be the angle of attack. You should be coming down on the string, not hitting it with a glancing blow. If the angle is too shallow you will slide across the lower string, sounding it, not coming to a rest against it.

The prolbem is that all of this is difficult to convey in writing. There are a lot of helpful clips on you tube of the basic stroke. Check this one out. It has a pretty good basic explanation of the stroke, with a video:

Don't flick!


Nov 9, 2009 - 11:48:24 AM

685 posts since 11/4/2003

I have been playing bluegrass for over 44 years. but i would love to learn to play clawhammer banjo can somebody tell me do i start i think it is thumb twice on the fifth string and then strum down.any help would be helpful.thanks stan.

always remember the father and son in heaven

Nov 17, 2009 - 2:04:40 AM

441 posts since 11/17/2007

Try this:

Good luck,

Originally posted by banjostan

I have been playing bluegrass for over 44 years. but i would love to learn to play clawhammer banjo can somebody tell me do i start i think it is thumb twice on the fifth string and then strum down.any help would be helpful.thanks stan.

always remember the father and son in heaven

Jan 7, 2010 - 11:03:03 PM



1486 posts since 12/1/2009

Although I have played banjo about 15 years past I was never truly accomplished. Just strummed along to accompany guitars. Since starting up again I am putting a bit more effort into it. I have noticed that my guitar finger picking style translates fairly well to banjo. I tend to lead with the middle finger on 1st string and index on 3rd and sometimes 4th and use thumb on 4th and 5th as part of the melody. Think this is more BG than OT style but who cares. Sounds OK and sure is fun! I'm kinda slow as relearning banjo chords and retraining muscle memory but find I can achieve a few rolls if I really concentrate. So I think it doesn't really matter what your style is called as long as it works for you and lets you play along with others. It's all about enjoying the music yer making! JMHO

Yer Pard

Jan 21, 2010 - 1:23:04 PM

4 posts since 1/21/2010

Forgive me if this is terribly obvious, but I've seen some banjos (like the Sullivan BHO is currently giving away) are listed as Clawhammer banjos. Is there a difference in the banjo itself? I'm painfully new to the banjo scene, but I'd thought it was just a difference in style.

Jan 21, 2010 - 2:00:13 PM
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2311 posts since 9/7/2007

Originally posted by ManBearSquid

Forgive me if this is terribly obvious, but I've seen some banjos (like the Sullivan BHO is currently giving away) are listed as Clawhammer banjos. Is there a difference in the banjo itself? I'm painfully new to the banjo scene, but I'd thought it was just a difference in style.

Any 5-string banjo will work for clawhammer, old-time picking styles, or Scruggs. Many clawhammer players prefer openbacks and a portion of those like a scoop where the 17-22 frets would usually be, while Scruggs pickers generally want a resonator banjo with all its frets intact. Many openback 5-strings, esp. with frailing scoops, are therefore marketed toward clawhammer players.


Edited by - bluemule_77 on 01/21/2010 14:01:52

Jan 31, 2010 - 1:24:14 PM
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5298 posts since 1/16/2010

I have real trouble with this clawhammer/bluegrass if there are only 2 ways of playing the banjo. Somewhere earlier in this thread there are 5 or 6 "Old timey" ways of playing listed...but that list is far from exhaustive.

Of course, a beginner is best off starting in one style and getting a feel for it, before moving on...but please be aware that the landscape is waaaaaay richer than just 2 styles.

Take a look at Pete Seeger's classic 1940's book "How to Play the Five String Banjo" (still in print, the last time I looked) to get some idea of the huge range and breadth of styles out there. Pete learned by traveling around and meeting a diverse range of banjo players, most of whom could only do 1 or 2 things well...but he learned those 1 or 2 things from a lot of different people, and it amounted to a whole lot more than just 1 or 2 things in the end.

Pete was the first banjo player I heard in the 1950s, and after hearing him play just about anything on the instrument, I came away with the idea that you could play any song you liked on it. I'd actually been playing for a while before I even found out there was a conventional banjo repertoire, so I've always maintained the idea that the banjo is suitable for anything you care to play on it.

I've been playing a long time, and my objective is to keep my right hand as flexible as possible...that is, to be able to switch from claw-hammer to finger picking to strumming and back (and forth) in the course of a single bar...using whatever suits the rhythmic purpose of the song at that moment. I do tend to categorize my songs as predominantly finger-picked, or predominantly claw-hammer ... but they're always open to a lot more than that.

I guess my main message here to beginners is to keep yourself open to the rich and varied possibilities of the instrument, and don't develop tunnel vision, thinking the instrument can only be played one or two ways. Yes, start with one technique at a time... but let your playing expand and grow. And never stop learning new ways to play. There are tons more ideas you can find by exploring this site!

Edited by - Marc Nerenberg on 01/31/2010 13:26:53

Jun 3, 2010 - 12:57:30 PM
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2069 posts since 8/8/2006

* index or middle?
Either. Preference can by based on tone (middle finger is closer to the bridge if the thumb is in the same place, easier to get a brighter sound, easier to get a mellow sound with the index. Preference can also be physiological: I could use either one when younger, but the index joint seems too stiff now, so middle finger it is.

* What is OT as as opposed to BG? Classic? Jazz?
Old Time is the original "folk" music played by rural people in the U.S.
It could also be called the original form of country music- Bluegrass and Nashville country are later developments.
It is melody oriented, not improv oriented. Chord backup is simple cowboy chords.
Nowadays it tends to be associated with fiddle, banjo, and string band music,
but ballad singing, shape note hymn singing, and dulcimer songs are also Old Time music too. It tends to be associated with the Appalachian and Ozark mountains, because it has survived longest there, but it used to be played and sung all over the country in the rural areas, although the styles would vary from area to area.
Old Time banjo started with African-Americans, but got popular with white mountaineers and is now more associated with them.

* What other kinds of OT besides CH are there?
If you mean Old Time Music in general, see above.
If you mean Old Time Banjo, there is Old Time Fingerpicking, either 2 or 3 finger,
and "up-picking" where the initial note in a bump-ditty is picked up with the index finger, but the "ditty" part is "brush-thumb" just like clawhammer.

* Why do OT players use so many different tunings?
Before 1843, all banjos were fretless, and fretless banjos stayed popular because they were relatively easy to make. A tune is easier to play on a fretless if more or most of the melody notes are on open strings.
However, even on a fretted banjo, it's still a little easier, plus the open strings ring out giving a tune a different feel.

* What's Seeger-style?
Seeger style uses a bump-ditty or "up-picking" strum to play chord accompaniments for songs. Because song accompaniment is the focus, long-necked banjos are sometimes used (in imitation of Pete Seeger himself, the founder of the style).

* What, if anything, is the difference between frailing and clawhammer?
"Frailing" used to mean using a bump-ditty with lots of hammer-ons and pull-offs to get melody notes that didn't fit in the bump-ditty right hand pattern.
Clawhammer used to mean the use of lots of drop thumb to either get melody notes, or break out of a bump-ditty rhythm pattern. The term frailing was used in Pete Seeger's banjo book, and that started an association with "bump-ditty", John Burke wrote the first book on melodic clawhammer, and used the term clawhammer, so that was associated with melodic drop-thumb style.
Nowadays they get lumped together, which means you have to say "bump-ditty clawhammer" or "melodic drop-thumb clawhammer" if you want to be more precise about which approach you are using.
The term Clawhammer is catchy and useful, because it describes the motion fairly well- you put your hand in a claw, and hammer down on the strings.

Jan 13, 2011 - 7:39:45 AM

455 posts since 9/14/2008

small hands - index or middle in your opinion ?

Jan 30, 2011 - 10:14:23 AM



33 posts since 2/5/2010

Hey I have a basic question. I started playin about a year ago and have recently looked at some banjo reviews. I am playin on a Gold Tone CC 50 and it seems a lot of folks talk about tightening the head. I have the tool but not the knowledge. What do ya think?
Also I just got a strap but honestly don't know where the best places to clip it on are.?

Edited by - kelardi on 01/30/2011 10:16:40

Jan 30, 2011 - 10:24:22 AM

Miguel MC Dowell

Puerto Rico

171 posts since 9/8/2010

If you go up in the right corner box and search for head tightening there are several postings in there about it. As far as your strap I clipped mine at the center foot right behind the tail piece and then the last hook at the heal of the banjo, or you could go to the other side it all depends on how it feels and fits for you.

Feb 6, 2011 - 8:52:54 AM



33 posts since 2/5/2010

Thanks, it all worked out.

Edited by - kelardi on 02/06/2011 08:54:48

Jul 5, 2011 - 1:14:21 PM

171 posts since 4/19/2011

No nails on the left hand (unless you're left-handed) and I use the middle finger because that finger hangs down the lowest when I curl my hand in a relaxed manner prior to striking the first note in a tune. To add to even more confusion, there are some of us, here in the Ozarks, who call the "frailing" playing style "overhand" or if picked (one or two or whatever fingers) we call the style "underhand".

Eat lotsa jello, it is supposed to strengthen nails. OR get the thimble pick OR use a plastic finger pick carefully filed down and smoothed with fine sand paper, worn "backwards" or ignore it and treasure that "thumpy" sound when you play with a busted finger nail.

Even though there are those who would argue strenuously about the subject: There ain't no "Right Way". Just play it. Have fun and explore various sounds you get. Some will be kinda nice! I promise!

Oct 31, 2011 - 5:47:36 AM



2649 posts since 4/15/2011

Ok I will give you my take on this:

* index or middle? ( someone did a survey here and found it to be about 50/50..I started with index but "quickly"· switched to middle. I find I have better control and volume personally...including accuracy )

* What is OT as as opposed to BG? Classic? Jazz? ( Old time incorporates a hand that moves more as a "unit" regarding the playing as opposed to bluegrass ( unless if you are playing the ole "2-finger Ky style playing ) ..which incorporates idividual fingerpicking pattern commonly referred to as "rolls" Classical ( I am assuming classical banjo ) or jazz are styles that could incorporate either type of playing method...though probably more fingerpicking than anything )

* What other kinds of OT besides CH are there? ( the only other I know of are "2-finger Ky style picking, but I have seen some folks here play in the old " minstrel" styles I guess that seems to incorporate a little of everything (CH, 2-finger and even 3-finger )

* Why do OT players use so many different tunings? ( good question...I "suppose" its because many of the old fiddlers played in diff the same thing happened with alot of the old fiddle tunes and ballads...also reflecting the diff styles of the original composers maybe? )

* What's Seeger-style? ( It seems to me more of a simple clawhammer strum ( the bum-ditty ) and rhythym with less melody playing...more emphasis on the banjo in a supporting roll of singing...but I have heard Seeger do some pretty melodic kinda stuff at certain times too )

* What, if anything, is the difference between frailing and clawhammer? ( from what I have seen, heard and read...there is none...although some argue that frailing is more of a straightforward rythymic style while others clawhammer denotes more the melodic...I think its two diff ways to say the same thing )

This is my take on it all...even though I havent been playing long!

Edited by - erikforgod on 10/31/2011 05:49:41

Feb 6, 2012 - 5:28:04 AM

206 posts since 11/1/2006

First, for Keith Madison: I have small hands, and I use my middle finger. The forefinger is a "stretch" for me.
Second, on styles: Mike Seeger's definitive collection "Southern Banjo Styles" gives an idea of the range that's out there. Also, check Zepp's list of tunings. If it's musical, it's fair.

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