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Ragtime Clawhammer ala Ken Perlman (Beaumont Rag)

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Sep 21, 2020 - 8:48:09 AM
25 posts since 9/21/2018

Hi pickers,

I've been looking around for some new clawhammer tunes to learn. I just finished learning Dorrigo ( 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?


Sep 21, 2020 - 11:31:58 AM
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3899 posts since 3/11/2004

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

Sep 21, 2020 - 12:25:42 PM
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6736 posts since 8/30/2004
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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...smiley

Edited by - Jack Baker on 09/21/2020 12:30:04

Sep 21, 2020 - 1:47:25 PM
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25 posts since 9/21/2018

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).

Sep 21, 2020 - 4:51:05 PM
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3899 posts since 3/11/2004

What a coincidence. I just received an email from Ken Perlman about some Otober workshops on syncopation, rfagtime and playing up the neck.

Announcing a Series of Clawhammer Banjo Clinics Taught Online by Ken Perlman


Clawhammer Instruction

?from One of Today's Foremost Players & Teachers of the Style.

Ken will teach a series of online clinics via Zoom on intermediate and advanced clawhammer banjo topics over the next few months .


Here's the First Couple of Topics

with Dates & Times


Syncopation in Clawhammer: a Systematic Approach

(Monday, Oct. 5, 7:30-9:00 PM Eastern Time)


Based on a very simple element I call a "skip-stroke" (others refer to it as a "ghost brush") here's a step-by-step method that covers everything from shuffle endings and pushing the beat to complex rhythmic patterns, the "Turkey in the Straw" lick, and full-fledged ragtime.


If you already own or have an interest in Ken's new book Appalachian Fiddle Tunes for Clawhammer Banjo, this is the clinic for you!!


Price: $20 per computer.


Level: Intermediate & Up

Prerequisites: drop-thumbing, hammer-ons & pull-offs


Sign Up for Ken's Syncopation Clinic



Strategies for Playing Up the Neck in Clawhammer

(Monday, Oct. 19, 7:30-9:00 PM Eastern Time)


Have you been in league till now with David "Stringbean" Aikman, who notoriously told Bill Monroe, "There ain't no money above the 5th fret"?


Here are some strategies for getting comfortable venturing up the neck with impunity, including position playing, understanding the fingerboard, "trick" fingering strategies, movable chord shapes, and melodic fingering shapes. And of course, learning how to fret the 5th string, and how to use movable shapes incorporating the fretted 5th string will be front and center.


By the way, Monroe would soon replace Aikman by a then little known banjo picker named Earl Scruggs.


Price: $20 per computer.


Level: Intermediate & Up

Prerequisite: about a year's worth of playing experience


Sign Up for Ken's Up the Neck Clinic



What You Get


  • A Zoom invitation delivered to your email address


  • The exercises and tunes Ken plans to use for illustration will be sent to your email address as attachments in .pdf format


  • Permission to record the clinic via Zoom for your own future use


  • Ask questions via the bulletin board feature of Zoom and follow up questions directly to ken.


Message from Ken to Last-Minute Registrants


Please try to avoid signing up at the very last minute. Since I'm a one-person operation it will be difficult to send zoom invitations and email attachments while actively teaching.



Ken Perlman Contact Info:


307 Bellevue St., Boston MA, 02132

Mobile Phone: 781.316.5564


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Sep 23, 2020 - 6:19:36 AM

4898 posts since 5/14/2007

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.

Sep 23, 2020 - 7:26:38 AM

25 posts since 9/21/2018

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.

Sep 23, 2020 - 3:42:49 PM

4898 posts since 5/14/2007

You're welcome. Glad I could help.

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