I've been looking around for some new clawhammer tunes to learn. I just finished learning Dorrigo (youtube.com/watch?v=V3rBJULjEMA) with Brad Kolodner, and I'm pleased with how that's going, so I'm turning my attention to Ken Perlman's Everything You Wanted to Know About Clawhammer Banjo, specifically "Beaumont Rag."
What I'm having trouble with is the B section (see attached photo), where he has us fret the drone string on the seventh fret. Not only is this the devil to finger, but it doesn't sound right to me. Is there a technique or approach here that I'm missing?
Ken is a very notey player, trying to match as many fiddle notes as possible, it seems. Thus he looks for them on the 5th string when necessary. Both the left hand and right hand are asked to do some unusual things. In the first measure you highlight, the thumb plays the 5th string while it is fretted at the 7th fret by the pinky(?) perhaps. Then an open-string pull-off is needed to be performed by the left-hand at the 4th fret of the 3rd string. In the next measure the thumb plays the 5th string at the 7th fret and then drops to play the 3rd string at the 4th fret after a skipped (or tied) note.
He discusses some of these licks earlier in the book (pp. 52-60), including asking clawhammer to play ragtime pieces. You may find some help there.
My hands are too small to cover the stretches needed to fret the 5th string, so I can talk a good game, but I can't play it.
P.S. Perlman has a good column on syncopation using m-skips and other techniques in the September 2020 Banjo Newsletter.
Edited by - dbrooks on 09/21/2020 11:34:30
Good post David,
Ken and I graduated with our Masters Degree at the same time from NYU. He is a great player on both banjo and guitar and his books I'd highly recommend. Ken is a top notch person and player to me..Jack p.s. I have lots of my clawhammer students look at your tabs and posts...
Edited by - Jack Baker on 09/21/2020 12:30:04
dbrooks That's some great advice; thanks! I realized (facepalm) after I posted this that the reason the note didn't sound right was because I had it capoed on the second fret. I was behaving as though that wouldn't have any effect on the fifth string, but of course it does.
I'll give your fingering advice some thought, because that was my next question. He mentions "indirect thumb crossover" at one point, which sounds like voodoo to me (and I can't find any instruction online about it).
Jack Baker I haven't had the pleasure of meeting Ken, but he's a monster player and clearly knows his stuff. I have two of his books (also have Melodic Clawhammer).
What a coincidence. I just received an email from Ken Perlman about some Otober workshops on syncopation, rfagtime and playing up the neck.
If you use your 4th finger, your pinkie, on the fifth string and keep your fingers properly arched, you showld be able to make the stretch. A tip here: put the pinkie down first.
You say, "Not only is this the devil to finger, but it doesn't sound right to me," What exactly do you mean by "it doesn't sound right"? In what way does it sound "wrong?" Is it out of tune? Is the tone of the note played with the thumb too different from the downstroke? Is it muted? If you can be specific, maybe we can offer some specific suggestions.
Thanks, John Gribble! That's good advice about the fingering.
Re: the "not sounding right," I realized that I had it capoed at the second fret, when it should have just been in plain double C. After I fixed that, it sounded fine.
You're welcome. Glad I could help.
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