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What Is The Scoop Used For On A Clawhammer Banjo

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Sep 14, 2018 - 5:37:39 PM
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movcon

Canada

17 posts since 9/12/2018

Hello,

Just new here at BH and still researching on my first banjo purchase. I have played rhythm guitar for a few decades and not sure if I should play three finger style or clawhammer. I have bought Wayne Erbsen books for three finger and clawhammer. I also have the opportunity of a teacher for both styles in Ottawa, Canada.

I noticed that some clawhammer banjos have a scoop on the neck. What is the purpose of the scoop? Cheers.

movcon

Sep 14, 2018 - 5:47:13 PM

BigUn45

USA

2 posts since 9/15/2015

The scoop is sometimes called a "thumb notch" . Some clawhammer players like to play over the neck to get a mellower, deeper, sound. The scoop gives a place for the thumb to go when playing drop thumb style.

Sep 14, 2018 - 6:05:18 PM

11278 posts since 10/30/2008

Also the scoop gives a higher "action" on the strings, with no frets, to get in the way of thumb OR fingernails getting a good purchase on the strings. Some old time players like to have thumb and fingers way up there in the scoop for a certain "tone". Not such a loud/brassy tone as frailing down on the head area.

Sep 14, 2018 - 7:15:26 PM
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1410 posts since 10/17/2013

Sometimes, on VERY hot days when playing outside, the scoop is used for dishing out ice cream to the sweating clawhammer player. The taste of cold vanilla ice cream dished out by way of the scoop is out of this world!

Edited by - bluegrassbanjopicker on 09/14/2018 19:16:13

Sep 14, 2018 - 7:22:11 PM

777 posts since 1/9/2012

Sep 15, 2018 - 7:30:19 AM

R Buck

USA

2540 posts since 9/5/2006

Kyle Creed originated the idea of a scoop on the neck to facilitate playing over the fingerboard to get the overtones found there. That is the idea of the scoop. Our friends here have provided other scoops on the scoop.

Sep 15, 2018 - 10:51:45 AM

movcon

Canada

17 posts since 9/12/2018

Thanks everyone for the info. Cheers.

Sep 15, 2018 - 11:10:01 AM

AndyW

UK

301 posts since 7/4/2017

My hand naturally falls in the pot/neck junction with my banjo on my rh thigh. I'm grateful to have purchased a banjo with a scoop as it helps immensely and I didn't even know the real benefit it would bring when bought it.

Sep 16, 2018 - 7:10:24 AM
Players Union Member

rudy

USA

13022 posts since 3/27/2004
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quote:
Originally posted by movcon

Hello,

Just new here at BH and still researching on my first banjo purchase. I have played rhythm guitar for a few decades and not sure if I should play three finger style or clawhammer. I have bought Wayne Erbsen books for three finger and clawhammer. I also have the opportunity of a teacher for both styles in Ottawa, Canada.

I noticed that some clawhammer banjos have a scoop on the neck. What is the purpose of the scoop? Cheers.

movcon


The scoop makes over-the-neck playing much more comfortable, but there's also nothing wrong with considering it a beautiful embellishment.

Sep 16, 2018 - 9:35:32 AM

604 posts since 6/9/2009

quote:
Originally posted by R Buck

Kyle Creed originated the idea of a scoop on the neck to facilitate playing over the fingerboard to get the overtones found there. That is the idea of the scoop. Our friends here have provided other scoops on the scoop.


Is that really true? The banjos I've seen that Kyle built didn't have the scoop. There were banjos all the way back in the late 19th century that had the frets stop at 17, sometimes leaving an area that was covered by a metal plate, like on Buckbee HC Dobsons.

Sep 16, 2018 - 12:31:06 PM

R Buck

USA

2540 posts since 9/5/2006

Don't know for sure, it was stuck in my head that Kyle did that. Folks with better memories than I will be able to corroborate. I play banjos with and without the scoop, you just have to jack the action to get a good bite, at least I do when there is no scoop. 

I checked with a banjo detective and he thinks it was Ray Alden which make sense.  I was a poor boy back in those days and any ole banjo would do. So there you go. My mistake.  I did own a Kyle Creed once and it did not have the scoop so yeah I guess I was wrong earlier.

Edited by - R Buck on 09/16/2018 12:44:50

Sep 16, 2018 - 4:32:18 PM

4110 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by BobTheGambler
quote:
Originally posted by R Buck

Kyle Creed originated the idea of a scoop on the neck to facilitate playing over the fingerboard to get the overtones found there. That is the idea of the scoop. Our friends here have provided other scoops on the scoop.


Is that really true? The banjos I've seen that Kyle built didn't have the scoop. There were banjos all the way back in the late 19th century that had the frets stop at 17, sometimes leaving an area that was covered by a metal plate, like on Buckbee HC Dobsons.


I can not speak to Creed or the origins of the modern scoop.

The 1880s to early 1890s banjos with the unfretted section of the fingerboard near the rim was a way for factory banjos intended to be sold to the masses to address false strings (uneven in thickness).  By not fretting the upper positions, one will stop the strings there as if it was a fretless banjo and this allows for adjusting intonation.  Otherwise the common at the time defective false strings would sound out of tune and the person buying the banjo, not knowing any better, would take it back and complain that it was "fretted wrong."

The intention was not for round peak clawhammer playing over the neck, rather for people to be able to play in the higher positions in tune.

Very early banjos sometimes had a dramatic cut away from the neck at the rim.  Again, this was not for playing over.  It was a aesthetic design element based on the way tack head banjos were made with a large notch for clearance of the tacks.  To me it also looks like something to make the banjo look more exotic like the various spiked lute gourd instruments that were the predecessor to the American 5 string banjo.

Sep 16, 2018 - 8:35:17 PM

604 posts since 6/9/2009

I wasn't trying to suggest that the cutaway on old banjo necks was for playing over, just that as a design feature it predated the modern notion of the "frailing scoop."

Odd to hear that Ray Alden would be the source of the frailing scoop thing when I don't think I've ever seen him play over the neck or use a scooped banjo.

Sep 17, 2018 - 5:22:37 AM
Players Union Member

rudy

USA

13022 posts since 3/27/2004
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by BobTheGambler

I wasn't trying to suggest that the cutaway on old banjo necks was for playing over, just that as a design feature it predated the modern notion of the "frailing scoop."

Odd to hear that Ray Alden would be the source of the frailing scoop thing when I don't think I've ever seen him play over the neck or use a scooped banjo.


Twenty seconds into the first video that popped up on youtube shows Ray over the neck.  No scoop, but early 70's wasn't a time that they could be commonly seen.

https://youtu.be/iMMj8PsLV5A

Sep 22, 2018 - 4:57:30 PM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

11479 posts since 8/30/2006

I like Arthur Hatfield's solution of raising the 5th string to get extra length to compensate. Then I'm looking at different people using a narrowing of the fingerboard from say the 19th fret, so the 5th string is like in the air. It's a different kind of "scoop", and I'm intrigued about that.
Great scoop, Rudy. I like smaller inlays, I've gone to 12mm stars for that reason. More class, less bling, good job.
There are other shades of gray here. I don't use a scoop at all, X, Y, then to me Z is out over the neck.

Sep 22, 2018 - 7:40 PM
Players Union Member

rudy

USA

13022 posts since 3/27/2004
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by Helix

I like Arthur Hatfield's solution of raising the 5th string to get extra length to compensate. Then I'm looking at different people using a narrowing of the fingerboard from say the 19th fret, so the 5th string is like in the air. It's a different kind of "scoop", and I'm intrigued about that.
Great scoop, Rudy. I like smaller inlays, I've gone to 12mm stars for that reason. More class, less bling, good job.
There are other shades of gray here. I don't use a scoop at all, X, Y, then to me Z is out over the neck.


Thank you, Helix.  The ogee or "S" scoop is commonly attributed to Kevin Enoch.  I don't recall seeing it on banjos prior to his use of that design.

The maple leaf inlays were specified by the person that one was made for.  The longer I build the more I find satisfaction in simplifying, though.  On my personal banjos I go with 1/8" or 1/16" inlayed dots on the fret board surface and 1/16" dots at the side. 

Edited by - rudy on 09/22/2018 19:42:50

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