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Sep 13, 2019 - 3:43:12 PM
13 posts since 10/20/2017

I had a conversation recently with a banjo playing pal of mine about the difference between frailing and clawhammer. He plays three finger bluegrass music and I play Seeger style and two finger. I said I don't think there's any difference between the two. He said there is a difference, frailing uses drop thumbing and clawhammer uses pull offs and hammer ons. What do you think?

Sep 13, 2019 - 4:22:37 PM
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1955 posts since 12/31/2005

Real men say "claw hammer"

Sep 13, 2019 - 5:21:20 PM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

22558 posts since 6/25/2005

My personal usage: Frailing, unmodified, means not playing the inside strings with the thumb. Clawhammer means playing the inside strings (not just the 2d) with the thumb. No one seems to agree on identical definitions. So you have to explain what you mean each time   The discussion on these terms is decades old. 

Sep 13, 2019 - 6:34:12 PM
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Paul R

Canada

11861 posts since 1/28/2010

I think clawhammer uses all the techniques. So I think your friend is wrong.

While frailing and clawhammer can be interchangeable terms, I often refer to frailing as the style used to accompany "folk" songs - just the basic strum, unadorned. But that's just my preference.

There have been lots of terms used, such as "banging", "flailing", and "rapping" (the better musical genre by that name).

Sep 13, 2019 - 7:34:53 PM
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88 posts since 1/2/2019

There's a song by Matokie Slaughter called "Georgie" - I love it and have learned it, I consider it frailing - simple but very rhythmic. Here's here video.

youtube.com/watch?v=wFUnmJKzvI8

I love this style. Clawhammer to me is more complex, drop thumb, etc.

Sep 13, 2019 - 8:01:39 PM

876 posts since 1/9/2012

If you learned banjo by absorbing local culture, you call it what everyone around you calls it.

If you learned banjo by some conscious effort, e.g., books, tapes, on-line, school, etc., it depends on the decade (century or millennium). In my day, in New York City, it was all frailing.

Sep 13, 2019 - 8:22:31 PM
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Lew H

USA

2318 posts since 3/10/2008

My impression is that down stroke picking was called frailing" in the sixties. Pete Seeger might have helped popularize the word. Then the term "clawhammer" caught on for some reason--maybe because some people were more interesting in picking tunes than in accompanying their singing. I don't think there is a clear distinction.

Sep 13, 2019 - 9:25:37 PM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

22558 posts since 6/25/2005

quote:
Originally posted by nightingale

There's a song by Matokie Slaughter called "Georgie" - I love it and have learned it, I consider it frailing - simple but very rhythmic. Here's here video.

youtube.com/watch?v=wFUnmJKzvI8

I love this style. Clawhammer to me is more complex, drop thumb, etc.


Agreed. So there are at least two of us who think this way. 

Sep 13, 2019 - 9:32:29 PM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

22558 posts since 6/25/2005

Pete mentioned “clawhammer” in his 1954 (yellow) book, but got confused and attached it to Scruggs style. I think “clawhammer” caught on because of the three County “Clawhammer Banjo” records, which actually had everything from frailing with heavy brush strokes to complex drop-thumb clawhammer.

Sep 13, 2019 - 9:44:19 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

22558 posts since 6/25/2005

Here’s a link to Donald Zepp’s excellent essay on the subject. IMO, after reading it, there’s little, if anything, left to discuss.

http://www.banjo-l.org/frvscl.htm
 

Edited by - Bill Rogers on 09/13/2019 21:46:40

Sep 14, 2019 - 12:16:01 AM

AndyW

UK

450 posts since 7/4/2017

To me, just missing out drop thumb doesn't change you from one style to another. No more than missing out using ASPO's would, or not having the ability to play the thumb on the downstroke. It just means you haven't learned a technique yet.

Frailing and Clawhammer I take as interchangeable because people all have a slightly different take on things. As countless other threads have proved.

Sep 14, 2019 - 12:44:28 AM

m06

England

8122 posts since 10/5/2006

quote:
Originally posted by nightingale

There's a song by Matokie Slaughter called "Georgie" - I love it and have learned it, I consider it frailing - simple but very rhythmic. Here's here video.

youtube.com/watch?v=wFUnmJKzvI8

I love this style. Clawhammer to me is more complex, drop thumb, etc.


You chose a great example. The playing of Matokie Slaughter wonderfully demonstrates the continuum or spectrum that is banjo.

Her playing incorporated other additional elements than those you mention.

There is no 'versus', only range and diversity.

Edited by - m06 on 09/14/2019 00:45:50

Sep 14, 2019 - 3:43:35 AM
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R Buck

USA

2691 posts since 9/5/2006

Frailing and clawhammer are the same thing. Both are downstroke styles. It can also be called framming, flailing, and other such colloquial names. There is a lot of discussion of this but there are as many names for the style as there are ways to play it.

Sep 14, 2019 - 5:04:36 AM

2284 posts since 4/29/2012

This has been discussed here at length and often. A lot of us who have been playing for years hadn't even heard the term clawhammer until, maybe, the mid 80's. But discovered that that was what we'd been doing all along. John Burke did use the term in his c1970 book. But I don't remember seeing it at the time. As said above Pete Seeger used the term in a completely different context. There is sometimes a distinction where clawhammer uses drop thumb and single strings more than frailing. I don't recognise that distinction. But if it is there then your friend has it completely the wrong way round.

Sep 14, 2019 - 6:34:46 AM
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Owen

Canada

4397 posts since 6/5/2011

quote:
Originally posted by Brian Murphy

Real men say "claw hammer"


...and they DON"T eat quiche!!!

Sep 14, 2019 - 6:45:34 AM
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6358 posts since 8/30/2004

Why this obsession with the two terms "clawhammer" or "fraiing" ? Are we getting bored here? :-)   It's mostly regional so don't get hung up over such silly detais and just learn to play...Jack  p.s. both styles use "drop thumb". The old timers used both ways of playing ...geez....let's start calling BHO "clucking old hens" laugh

Originally posted by Owen
quote:
Originally posted by Brian Murphy

Real men say "claw hammer"


...and they DON"T eat quiche!!!


Edited by - Jack Baker on 09/14/2019 06:51:07

Sep 14, 2019 - 7:03:24 AM
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Owen

Canada

4397 posts since 6/5/2011

Image result for newman what me worry

Sep 14, 2019 - 7:14:51 AM
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6358 posts since 8/30/2004

cool

Sep 14, 2019 - 11:00:45 AM

111 posts since 8/25/2009

Basically, I agree with davidpp "If you learned banjo by absorbing local culture, you call it what everyone around you calls it." -and Jack Baker.

As I understand it, in the old days, banjo players in different regions didn't communicate with each other, so they developed different names for the old down-picking style: clawhammer, flailing, frailing (probably a British dialectical variant of flailing), rapping, whamming .... My favorite philosophy professor used used to inform us students about "Juliet's Principle": "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet". Or, it doesn't matter whether you call it la cerveza, or das bier, the beer will make you jut as happy :)

Steve Martin quoted a frequent objection "Frailing is not in the dictionary." So impelled, I consulted THE DICTIONARY (The Oxford English Dictionary (AKA the Oxford Unabridged Dictionary). In volume 6, around page 243, halfway down the leftmost column it has the verb frail and states that it is probably a British dialectical variant of flailing.

I prefer frail because it is five letters and one syllable as opposed to clawhammer, which is ten letters and three syllables. Also, when I went to volume 3 of THE DICTIONARY, there was no entry for clawhammer -which shows you how much those Oxford dons know about banjos :-)

Bill

Sep 20, 2019 - 7:36:24 PM
Players Union Member

Helix1

USA

447 posts since 4/17/2019

Frailing =I think grandpa Jones, he plays at the Y position. Brushes all the strangs.

Claw is way more melody notes, and Round Peak is the bomb. I define the 19th fret chime as the Z position. It's a short railroad, XYZ, but lots of little towns along the way. Wiggle room.

Up picking lends itself to two finger pinch chords.

If it's not in the dictionary, that's because banjo is a verb. They English people tried to insult us American boys by calling us "TATTERDEMALIONS."

Heck, R U a tatter ? I'm a tatter 2

Sep 21, 2019 - 9:09:02 AM
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2729 posts since 10/17/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Paul R



While frailing and clawhammer can be interchangeable terms, I often refer to frailing as the style used to accompany "folk" songs - just the basic strum, unadorned. But that's just my preference.
 


That seems to fit my experience; but terminolgy aside, there does exist differneces in technical, hand shape and motion; affecting sound and style.  While not official terminology, here is how think of difference...

(Clawhammer), right hand shape has rigidness to it, the fingers and thumb, knuckles are fairly in locked position; don't extend to flick, brush, strum or pluck. The motion is more wrist and arm, fingers striking into the string, (or pair of strings); on an axis more toward/into the head/fingerboard. I always associated that with making the hand a claw, and using it like a hammer. It tends to be more single note dominated, or maybe just with an adjacent string; fitting well with a bit more melodic contour.  (less full chords and strums.) A lot of players use drop thumb in that, as well all left hand devices,

(Frailing,), the right hand finger often a bit more flexible; might use fiinger musceles, extend as it goes down; the motion is a bit more down across the strings axis (a stroke, rather than a hammer); brush/strum are more common. Because of motion, and finger flex, some find it easy to incorporate an up pluck after the stroke/brush. As this tends to  incorporate more full strums, is a bit more chord oriented. (good for accompanying songs, but can used in tunes as well). 

Sep 22, 2019 - 2:10:38 PM

5 posts since 4/25/2015

As with everything in life I tend not to over complicate. To me there are 2 styles of banjo playing, one being 3 Finger Bluegrass style, the other being Old Timey style. This prevents an awful lot of arguments.

Chris

Edited by - dianchet on 09/22/2019 14:16:25

Sep 28, 2019 - 10:40:09 PM

Fathand

Canada

11516 posts since 2/7/2008

When I learned in the early 80s it was called frailing if it was largely bum ditty with melody in between chordal strums and maybe some rythmic drop thumb. Eighth notes when needed were usually accomplished by hammer on or pull off.

Then there was what was often called melodic clawhammer or melodic drop thumb in which the thumb dropping was used to get specific melody notes often eighth notes to create arrangements of fiddle type tunes.
Grandpa Jones would be considered a frailer in my book as an example.

Sep 29, 2019 - 12:37:48 AM
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999 posts since 2/4/2013

The main difference is the spelling.

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