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Feb 20, 2020 - 8:57:37 PM
7 posts since 2/11/2020

I will be getting my first banjo very shortly, and I have an interest in the mountain style or "clawhammer" style of playing. I love the idea of teaching myself (and there aren't any banjo players in my area to learn from so I don't have many other choices), I thought a good book was the way to go. I was wondering if any of you have had experience with "The Art of the Mountain Banjo" book by Art Rosenbaum. Or if there was a good book you learned from that you would whole heartedly recommend to a beginner.

Edited by - WalruzLeggz on 02/20/2020 20:58:28

Feb 20, 2020 - 9:25:04 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

23228 posts since 6/25/2005

For a raw beginner teaching him- or herself, I like Dan Levenson’s Clawhammer from Scratch. It take the student through three levels of playing with the same tunes.  It teaches “Double-C” tuning, which (capoed up to D) is the most common tuning for fiddle tunes (the majority of which are in the key of D).  From what you said you want to learn, I think this is the book (with DVD) for you. There are other good methods available, to be sure.  I just like Dan’s, because he put a lot of careful thought into his approach.

Edited by - Bill Rogers on 02/20/2020 21:26:30

Feb 21, 2020 - 12:16:23 AM
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Paul R

Canada

12438 posts since 1/28/2010

Dan has a number of good resources.

Other stuff out there includes the free download: Rocket Science Banjo by BHO's Tony Spadaro. He wrote it to be a companion piece to Ken Perlman's Clawhammer Style Banjo book.

There's lots of other material, such as Banjo Blitz, a series of videos by BHO member Tom Collins.

Feb 21, 2020 - 12:29:40 AM
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Nickcd

UK

197 posts since 1/28/2018

The "Art of the Mountain Banjo" is a nice resource & has tunes played in various styles - (to quote "A survey of traditional Banjo styles with tunings, playing tips, & musical notes") BUT in my opinion is not really a beginners book - better to go with one of the suggestions above.

Feb 21, 2020 - 2:07:50 AM

hoodoo

Canada

658 posts since 10/6/2017

So which banjo did you settle on in the end?

Feb 21, 2020 - 2:13:45 AM

2470 posts since 4/29/2012

Really just a "what they said" post. A couple of years ago my niece wanted to learn clawhammer and I looked at what I already had and what was out there and ended up with the Dan Levenson book as the best one for a complete beginner. Very clear. Very porgressive - starts simple and ramps up at a reasonable rate. Introduces double thumbing early. Starts with the specifically old-time but very useful double C/D tuning. If you get into it you'll end up with a shelf-full of books which should certainly include Art Rosenbaum's classics. But this is the one to start with.

Feb 21, 2020 - 2:17:34 AM
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Players Union Member

janolov

Sweden

40250 posts since 3/7/2006

I learnt the basics in the 1970's from Art Rosenbaum's first book (OId Time Mountain Banjo) and Pete Seeger's book (How To Play The 5-String Banjo). None of them is a really good beginner book, and I have Art Rosenbaum's other books and it is the same. They are good books but not for a real beginner, and they demonstrates a lot of other old-time styles than clawhammer. I think the best book for clawhammer today is Dan Levenson's Clawhammer Banjo From Scratch . Another good beginner book is Ken Perlman's Clawhammer Style Banjo

Later for second books there are a lot of other books available, and also a lot of sources on Internet, some are free and some have prices. There are a lot of free sources, but I think many of them are a disaster. One free resource that is to recommend is Rocky Science Banjo (but I cannot locate the url just now, but I think it  somewhere at  www.pricklypearmusic.net (which seems to be down at the moment).

Feb 21, 2020 - 3:38:19 AM

Nickcd

UK

197 posts since 1/28/2018

Try here for rocket science banjo download etc

rsb.pricklypearmusic.net/

Feb 21, 2020 - 6:12:57 AM
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247 posts since 10/16/2011

Wayne Erbsen has two great ones for just starting out . Clawhammer banjo for the complete ignoramous and the one i love the best is his tunes tips and jamming one . This is more of very large simple tab and words under the tab to learn singing to the banjo .It has songs in many keys too . This has Cd's to hear also .
Dan Levenson clawhammer from scratch is a super good one for learning basic melody playing in his double thumbing part and it is in C or D tuning . I used this book greatly to learn basic melodys and it comes with cd's so they play fast versions and slow ones and both fiddle and banjo versions so you really get what he's teaching out of the book and can hear and play at slow speeds too . I play both banjo and fiddle and play along with his Cd's alot with new songs on the fiddle . There are so many great books and teachers to learn from so just sharing my experince with you . Enjoy your new world of banjo playing .

Feb 21, 2020 - 6:34:17 AM
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Players Union Member

Eric A

USA

446 posts since 10/15/2019

I'll second the Wayne Erbsen books.

Feb 21, 2020 - 7:58:14 AM
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129 posts since 9/27/2007

I also recommend Wayne Erbsen's books. They can be purchased through his website: nativeground.com/
Get the "Clawhammer Banjo for the Complete Ignoramus" first. Easy to read basic melody tabs and the CD or mp3 sound files that go with it will get you moving in the right direction. I have had books by other instructors mentioned on this thread but for starting out Erbsen's Ignoramus is the best in my humble opinion.

Feb 21, 2020 - 8:31:42 AM
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7 posts since 2/11/2020

quote:
Originally posted by hoodoo

So which banjo did you settle on in the end?


I am settling on a banjo in the classifields that has all walnut construction, if I can't get that I'll go for the RK-OT25

Feb 23, 2020 - 7:47:18 AM
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bitz

USA

40 posts since 3/1/2016

Late to the party here, but definitely Dan’s Clawhammer from Scratch for complete beginner. It helped me out tremendously! You’ll be playing Spotted Pony in no time!

Feb 23, 2020 - 8:15:45 AM

bitz

USA

40 posts since 3/1/2016

A few more suggestions. Lukas Pool has a beginner series for free on his website ozarkbanjo.com . I’ve been a big admirer of his playing for quite sometime. I’ve considering signing up for his online lesson series. It’s prerecorded stuff, but I’m sure there’s plenty of gold to be found in there.

Also, Head on over to Tom Collins’ Patreon site. FretlessFury He does some fantastic stuff there. Much is geared toward the beginner. I’ve had a few lessons from Tom and I can say he is a fantastic teacher and really cares about getting things right early on. Best! Mike

Feb 23, 2020 - 1:35:40 PM
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42 posts since 8/6/2011

A lot of the classics are mentioned here.

I have used the same book for years teaching novices, it seems to work well, not overly technical.

amazon.com/Frailing-5-String-B...5&sr=8-31

Feb 23, 2020 - 1:57:45 PM
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Players Union Member

Eric A

USA

446 posts since 10/15/2019

quote:
Originally posted by jgaughan

A lot of the classics are mentioned here.

I have used the same book for years teaching novices, it seems to work well, not overly technical.

amazon.com/Frailing-5-String-B...5&sr=8-31


Definitely an oldie but a goodie.  yes

Feb 23, 2020 - 2:05:16 PM

bitz

USA

40 posts since 3/1/2016

Yes! Frailing the 5 string is great too! I love the recordings in that one. I guess there’s just a lot of good stuff out there to learn from.

Feb 23, 2020 - 2:07:01 PM
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mjt0229

USA

326 posts since 4/20/2015

quote:
Originally posted by Bill Rogers

For a raw beginner teaching him- or herself, I like Dan Levenson’s Clawhammer from Scratch. It take the student through three levels of playing with the same tunes.  It teaches “Double-C” tuning, which (capoed up to D) is the most common tuning for fiddle tunes (the majority of which are in the key of D).  From what you said you want to learn, I think this is the book (with DVD) for you. There are other good methods available, to be sure.  I just like Dan’s, because he put a lot of careful thought into his approach.


I don't use the same physical technique that Dan describes but I really like how he arranges the tunes and builds them up from double thumbing to drop thumbing in that book. It's a good progression that maps directly to how I play now.

Feb 23, 2020 - 9:43:23 PM
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2 posts since 10/28/2019

I’m a beginner that started learning clawhammer last November after getting a Deering Goodtime. I spent the first six weeks just learning basic frailing using various videos on YouTube. Thanks to BHO, I also read many informative posts here that helped me get past some frustrations and get me started on my banjo journey.

In the past couple months, I discovered that I really liked playing in Double C after discovering Dan Levenson’s "Clawhammer Banjo from Scratch". So far, I can play simple versions of Spotted Pony and Angeline the Baker. Good luck and have fun!

Feb 25, 2020 - 3:38:26 PM

8 posts since 2/23/2020

'Melodic Clawhammer Banjo' by Ken Perlman is very, very good.

Feb 25, 2020 - 7:18:48 PM
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Wyozark

USA

962 posts since 12/2/2012

I'll share some thoughts that you may consider before you make a final selection:

  • A very experienced and knowledgeable clawhammer banjo player suggested that one should pick just one beginner book, the one that suits you best, and stay with it. I, of course, did not follow this advice and have several "beginner" books by different authors. I don't know if it harmed me or not. 
  • After starting out it took some time but I eventually learned that there are some differences, though it all might be called "clawhammer" or some other type of old-time playing. I think it sort of matters whether you want to concentrate on fiddle tunes, which has almost no singing; or tunes that you can sing with, but might also be a fiddle tune. It probably matters whether you want to attend Old Time Jams or just sit on the porch and play to the dog and the grandkids (me).
  • They say you don't know what you don't know. And I surely didn't know, and probably still don't know, except a little. But if I were to start over again I think I would first listen to as many "clawhammer/old time" banjo players (singing and non-singing) as possible and then figure out who I would like to emulate. I would find songs/tunes that I like in several versions (i.e. so many great versions of Wild Bill Jones and John Hardy and Soldier's Joy are out there and are often very different) and find out what style that player is using. And after that - then I would ask what materials should I follow that would get me to where I think I want to be.

Have fun! Welcome to BHO. You'll find really nice, knowledgeable folks here who are very generous with their time and gladly will help you in your banjo journey.

Feb 25, 2020 - 8:40:36 PM
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RG

USA

3000 posts since 8/7/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Wyozark

I'll share some thoughts that you may consider before you make a final selection:

  • A very experienced and knowledgeable clawhammer banjo player suggested that one should pick just one beginner book, the one that suits you best, and stay with it. I, of course, did not follow this advice and have several "beginner" books by different authors. I don't know if it harmed me or not. 
  • After starting out it took some time but I eventually learned that there are some differences, though it all might be called "clawhammer" or some other type of old-time playing. I think it sort of matters whether you want to concentrate on fiddle tunes, which has almost no singing; or tunes that you can sing with, but might also be a fiddle tune. It probably matters whether you want to attend Old Time Jams or just sit on the porch and play to the dog and the grandkids (me).
  • They say you don't know what you don't know. And I surely didn't know, and probably still don't know, except a little. But if I were to start over again I think I would first listen to as many "clawhammer/old time" banjo players (singing and non-singing) as possible and then figure out who I would like to emulate. I would find songs/tunes that I like in several versions (i.e. so many great versions of Wild Bill Jones and John Hardy and Soldier's Joy are out there and are often very different) and find out what style that player is using. And after that - then I would ask what materials should I follow that would get me to where I think I want to be.

Have fun! Welcome to BHO. You'll find really nice, knowledgeable folks here who are very generous with their time and gladly will help you in your banjo journey.


This is excellent advice and mirrors my experiences learning to play 46 years ago, especially listen, listen and then listen some more...

Feb 28, 2020 - 3:11:04 PM
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m06

England

8416 posts since 10/5/2006

As Michael and RG said: listen, listen, listen. Absorb that sound and pulse so it becomes a part of you.

I would add to find an experienced player/teacher who will show you how to play the instrument and nurture and support your progress. A mentor.

And at all times use your ears and be lead by your heart. No book can replicate the experience and the cultural head start of first-hand learning, listening and exposure.

Edited by - m06 on 02/28/2020 15:26:41

Mar 3, 2020 - 3:02:54 PM

Clawdan

USA

3410 posts since 3/12/2006

Thanks to all of you who have suggested and enjoyed my Clawhammer Banjo From Scratch.

Consider at least a lesson (I and others teach by skype as well as in person) or two at the beginning Juan. It can get you set up and headed in the right direction from the start.

Play Nice,
Dan
www.Clawdan.com

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