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Jul 3, 2020 - 11:44:11 AM
76 posts since 9/14/2019

I just learned something. I posted a few days ago about not liking the sound of my 3rd and 4th strings. I've played music for 35 years but new to CH. My ears could tell the notes were off.

I've got a Woodchuck and have been playing over the scoop because....well, it's cool for us new guys. But today I started playing a little bit over the head and my problems mostly went away. The strings sound better, my pulloffs sound cleaner, etc.

I have never thought the banjo was the issue, but was curious if I need to tweak the setup a little. Now I'm curious how I need to tweak my attack when I'm over the scoop. Obviously I'm no expert but I sound a lot better playing over the head.

Is there a scoop secret I have to climb the mountain to discover? No matter what I do I can't get it to sound right.

John

Jul 3, 2020 - 12:49:21 PM

m06

England

8980 posts since 10/5/2006

Sounds like you've found your sweet spot. smiley

Edited by - m06 on 07/03/2020 12:49:36

Jul 3, 2020 - 1:43:31 PM

3859 posts since 10/13/2005

You play the banjo the way you prefer to get whatever sound you want out of it. Playing over the head or the scoop for different sounds is another option in the CH tool box, either long term or within a single song/tune. Usually a little louder and brasher over the head, more mellow and thuddy over the scoop – drive your banjo where ever you want to go... banjered

Jul 3, 2020 - 2:02:36 PM
like this

4652 posts since 5/9/2007

The number of Clawhammer Sounds is, at the very least, equal to the number of Clawhammer Players.

Jul 3, 2020 - 2:39:01 PM

76 posts since 9/14/2019

I'm not talking about good sounds. I'm talking about off-sounds. When I strike over the scoop my strings 3/4 do not sound good.

Just curious if you are supposed to hit differently.

Jul 3, 2020 - 3:34:18 PM

10010 posts since 2/22/2007

For me, yes. I could not play over the neck, only over the head, and then (like drop thumb) suddenly I could. I think that I had to work out the insecurity of not having the head to touch as a reference. I modified what needed to be modified without really thinking about it, but I do find that I have a different hand position over the neck then when over the head, and different again for the rare times I play close to the bridge. There is also a difference in how the stroke is more up and down over the head and more across the strings as I move over the head, but I didn't really decide these things they just came to me over time.

If you are getting off sounds, then it is almost certainly your technique. I was getting unwanted "clucks" over the neck until I made adjustments.  Also, for me at least, over the neck is single notes without much in the way of brushes. 

Edited by - banjo bill-e on 07/03/2020 15:36:20

Jul 4, 2020 - 1:13:27 AM

AndyW

UK

525 posts since 7/4/2017

I came to clawhammer banjo from guitar expecting reasonably quick results. However it just didn't happen, even with almost the full spectrum of left hand techniques ready and available.

It takes a long, long time to get the right hand functioning well. At first there is the problem of getting all the strings to sound cleanly. Then there is the ingraining of the double thumb and drop thumb. Then you've got to relax enough to try and build up some speed in that right hand. And obviously that's just the start.

What I found was that my hand fell naturally (I play with pot on my rh thigh) at the pot/neck junction. Any attempt to move away from my comfort zone to over the scoop (cause that's where you see everyone playing) was extremely difficult.

I think the reason is that minor differences are very difficult to incorporate when you are new and grinding in the mechanics. For example I tried to switch frailing fingers early on so I could use both and it was extremely difficult, but a few months later when I was more comfortable I did it almost instantaneously, and using a pick came easy too. Same as after a few months I could move across to the scoop if I wanted. By then you'll probably like me have other things to worry about like 'my fifth string gets weak with speed' etc.

So, don't sweat it and play where feels natural. Be aware the right hand is going to take a lot of time to get right and up to speed. (But the good thing is you can see the linear progress that happens as you move on).

Everything in clawhammer is slow, slow, slow, more slow, and then you'll be ready to go at your fastest.

Jul 4, 2020 - 5:34:16 AM

76 posts since 9/14/2019

quote:
Originally posted by AndyW

I came to clawhammer banjo from guitar expecting reasonably quick results. However it just didn't happen, even with almost the full spectrum of left hand techniques ready and available.

It takes a long, long time to get the right hand functioning well. At first there is the problem of getting all the strings to sound cleanly. Then there is the ingraining of the double thumb and drop thumb. Then you've got to relax enough to try and build up some speed in that right hand. And obviously that's just the start.

Everything in clawhammer is slow, slow, slow, more slow, and then you'll be ready to go at your fastest.


I'm not looking for shortcuts for technique.  I know building proper technique takes proper practice.

What I'm trying to do is understand the instrument and the philosophy behind the technique to remove any bottlenecks from the learning process.  My question about the scoop vs the head is not about shortcuts to the learning process but is about whether the approach to playing changes between the two.

Thanks,

John

Jul 4, 2020 - 6:27:58 AM

AndyW

UK

525 posts since 7/4/2017

I wasn't saying you were looking for technique shortcuts. Read my WHOLE post again and you'll see I'm simply saying take things slowly, play where it's comfortable now, and later down the line adding stuff(like playing over the scoop) is easy.

I can't say I'm greatly impressed by the fact you have chopped my post into a 'quote' to make it look like I am saying something rather than my whole post being there so folks can gist the context. Especially when the bits you left out were my actual answer to your question and the bits in your 'quote' are the lead in paragraph and final line.

Edited by - AndyW on 07/04/2020 06:32:43

Jul 4, 2020 - 8:32:32 AM

76 posts since 9/14/2019

quote:
Originally posted by AndyW

I wasn't saying you were looking for technique shortcuts. Read my WHOLE post again and you'll see I'm simply saying take things slowly, play where it's comfortable now, and later down the line adding stuff(like playing over the scoop) is easy.

I can't say I'm greatly impressed by the fact you have chopped my post into a 'quote' to make it look like I am saying something rather than my whole post being there so folks can gist the context. Especially when the bits you left out were my actual answer to your question and the bits in your 'quote' are the lead in paragraph and final line.


I apologize.  I'm certainly not trying to make it say something you didn't intend.  I thought you gave good advice and my assumption was that I misstated my intentions and I was trying to make my own goal more clear.

I will go back and fix the post if that is possible with this platform.

Jul 4, 2020 - 8:33:43 AM

76 posts since 9/14/2019

I do not see a way to edit or delete my post. If you'd like me to contact the administrators I would be glad to do so. Maybe they can assist in the process.

Jul 4, 2020 - 8:54 AM

AndyW

UK

525 posts since 7/4/2017

Hi. Don't worry about it.

I just try to give advice the best I can. As players go, I'm still a beginner of only 3 years, but still like to pitch in as I am early enough yet to remember how things went as I progressed.

Nothing to do with this thread but I think some of the older players forget what it was like to be a true beginner sometimes and tend to give advice that would be best for someone with a years playing under their belt.

Jul 4, 2020 - 10:08:50 AM

76 posts since 9/14/2019

I really appreciate your advice. It's very exciting to be learning something new and have so many good players to get advice from.

John

Jul 4, 2020 - 10:13:38 AM

ElvisB

UK

18 posts since 9/27/2019

Maybe, and stop me if I'm wrong guys, but the bridge need to be put differently (higher) if you prefer playing on the neck rather than on the head?

I've noticed that watching videos of people different playing position.

Jul 4, 2020 - 3:50:14 PM

m06

England

8980 posts since 10/5/2006

quote:
Originally posted by watercarving


>Is there a scoop secret I have to climb the mountain to discover? No matter what I do I can't get it to sound right.<
 


There's no scoop secret. Scoops have found their way onto many modern banjos for ease of playing over the neck. What the scoop does is provide additional clearance beneath the strings to facilitate r/h technique. Kyle Creed played over the neck without a scoop, but his action was higher. He is often credited with popularising the distinctive over the neck sound and once remarked that everywhere he went he heard folks that '...sound like me'.

If you're consistently getting nice tone from your 3rd and 4th strings over the head there's unlikely to be anything wrong with your string contact or attack. One guess is that simply playing over the neck makes you a little more tentative and may be affecting the string contact in that position. Tentativeness tends to inhibit momentum and that can cause your picking finger to not strike and go through the string cleanly. That can definitely affect tone. It may only be a fractional difference in momentum compared to when you are playing over the head but enough to be noticeable to your ears. If momentum is really inhibited the picking finger may stay in contact with the struck string and mute it, giving a dull 'thup' sound instead of a resonant clear note.

Practical experiment and careful analysis is really the only way to iron this out. You'll crack it.

Edited by - m06 on 07/04/2020 15:55:56

Jul 4, 2020 - 3:53:08 PM
likes this

1656 posts since 4/10/2005

OP, should it be assumed you actually want to play over the neck? 'Cause if you merely feel you "should," throw that notion out the window and play where it feels\sounds best to you. The scoop fetish is one more silly fashion that was historically favored by few but somehow came to be "PC" in Oldtime Province.

Jul 4, 2020 - 7:31:49 PM

76 posts since 9/14/2019

quote:
Originally posted by ceemonster

OP, should it be assumed you actually want to play over the neck? 'Cause if you merely feel you "should," throw that notion out the window and play where it feels\sounds best to you. The scoop fetish is one more silly fashion that was historically favored by few but somehow came to be "PC" in Oldtime Province.


I want to be able to do it when I want a little mellower sound.  You do make a good point.

Jul 5, 2020 - 1:59:37 AM

Nickcd

UK

216 posts since 1/28/2018

Learning the banjo to my mind is a never ending journey & I am still near the start.
I initially found I got my (at the time) preferred sound playing over neck - with no scoop - I then moved to playing over the head better contact /action with thumb on the fifth string and for drop thumb. Still played some over the neck but felt 5th string action too low - tried a bridge with raised 5th but didn't like bridge (too thin). So in end made myself a scoop & now probably tend to play over neck more than head. Also changed my strings yet again & went for a calf skin head - sound now getting there.
(btw also have another nylon strung banjo - no scoop & play this over neck probably more than the head).
I had a brief resume of my frailing action when playing over head or neck & pretty much same even if change playing area during a single song - but for others it may indeed vary & be better.

(Btw re 3rd and 4th string sound- I did find these duller at first and found triplet hammer-ons for example difficult but takes time and my triplet Hammer ons and pull-offs getting better but still room for a lot of improvement!

Did you say what guage strings you are using? - worth experimenting as strings fairy cheap).

Jul 5, 2020 - 2:49:38 AM

AndyW

UK

525 posts since 7/4/2017

A couple of folks have mentioned high action and raised 5th bridges.

I play at the pot/neck junction and find that even with a scoop the tension hoop(even though it's lowered to neck/head level at the neck) gets in the way of my thumb a bit.

I bought a scoopless beater banjo, and found it difficult to get thumb contact. What made things much easier for me was to buy a 3/4 inch bridge just a little bit higher than what was originally fitted. In fact it made such an improvement that I then fitted a 3/4 bridge to my scooped banjo. The other thing I have done very recently (to improve thumb 'bite' as I wished to be able to dig in and raise it's volume a touch) is I have hacksawed off (and filed smooth) the tension hoop tang next to the first hook. That tiny bit of clearance makes a world of difference.

Jul 5, 2020 - 2:53:14 AM

177 posts since 8/11/2015

I haven’t played much over the scoop of my banjos before. I do like the clucky sound but the strings are a bit floppier there so I find that playing further back feels more precise and a bit easier.

However, yesterday I found that playing over the scoop may give me a new vantage point to attack a few «problems» with my playing style: that I hit the head too much with my thumb and that my thumb tends to hover and fly all over the place instead of being anchored to the fifth.

The latter is more of a problem because other people say that it is a problem. I don’t feel that it slows me down or anything but I would still prefer to tweak my thumb position a bit. Reprogramming your hand isn’t easy after doing it one way for a few years but now I think that approaching playing over the scoop may possibly help.

In any case it is great to have that choice in an instrument. Many guitar players pick over the end of the neck as well but the guitar doesn’t really help you to do that.

If the op’s scoop playing sounds off I’m thinking that it could be related to frequencies and that maybe a head adjustment would help. This is of course pure speculation on my part since I haven’t seen ir heard the instrument but anyway. New/different strings?

Jul 5, 2020 - 8:41:47 AM

3859 posts since 10/13/2005

I like Andy's description of the "evolution" of the right hand as regards technique/finesse. After 30 years I still think about my right hand, practice some, and wonder if I need to change anything. If there is a finish line out there I haven't found it yet. I am beginning to suspect that my goal of becoming a banjo prodigy by the time I am 90 may not happen.... banjered

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