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Feb 24, 2021 - 6:49:12 PM
103 posts since 2/15/2009

I am a brand new claw hammer player and am learning using “Clawhammer Banjo ~ Tunes, Tips & Jamming” by Wane Erbsen. The simple version of “Black-eyed Susie” in the book is in double C tuning. The first three bars use a “claw-hamm-er” single-note, brush, thumb 5th string technique, which the book describes in great detail. The fourth bar, however, is just four consecutive quarter notes.

What is the appropriate technique for playing those quarter notes? All thumb? Finger style? All index finger in a claw configuration with thumb silently resting on fifth string each time? The book doesn’t suggest any particular technique and I don’t want to develop a bad habit right off the bat. I’m attaching a pic for reference.


Feb 24, 2021 - 7:00:19 PM
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4070 posts since 10/13/2005

"All index finger in a claw configuration with thumb silently resting on fifth string each time?" Yes. You want to get to the point where you can choose whether to sound the fifth string or not. Depending on the song/tune, you may prefer sounding the fifth string or not. Also, don't get locked into thinking there is only one "correct" way to play a song/tune, either in print or from what you hear/see. In old time, there are countless "versions/renditions" of tunes/songs. The idea is to get as many clawhammer tools in your tool box that you can apply them when and where you want them. Good Luck! banjered

Feb 24, 2021 - 7:10:21 PM

Jesse C


103 posts since 2/15/2009

Thanks for the advice @banjered

Feb 25, 2021 - 1:11:48 AM
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3382 posts since 4/29/2012
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If you had started with the, more usual nowadays, double thumbing recommendation (basic action is index-thumb-brush-thumb not index-nothing-brush-thumb for 4 equal notes) then this would be self evident. The 4 notes in bar 4 would each be succeeded by a thumbed 5th and it would look like 2 index-thumb-index-thumb sequences. Exactly like the index-thumb-brush-thumb sequence earlier but only playing one string instead of a brush. Do this and then leave out the thumb notes in bar 4 and you have what's written. But I wouldn't leave out the thumb notes.

Edited by - AndrewD on 02/25/2021 01:16:43

Feb 25, 2021 - 6:37:31 AM

Jesse C


103 posts since 2/15/2009

Thanks @AndrewD. I will try double thumbing too.

Feb 25, 2021 - 9:08:41 AM



742 posts since 7/4/2017

If you want to go with AndrewD suggestion I can highly recommend Dan Levenson's book 'Clawhammer Banjo from Scratch'. It's only a few shekels and will last you a good six months or more. The other main benefit of learning that way is to ingrain drop thumb early. If you don't want to splash the cash then there is a free pdf called 'RocketScienceBanjo' by Tony Spadero, but it doesn't drill you quite the same. Below is a link to RSB plus some freebies.

Dan Levenson 1
Dan Levenson 2
Dan Levenson 3
RSB Videos
RSB Site

Feb 25, 2021 - 9:29:15 AM

Jesse C


103 posts since 2/15/2009

Thanks @AndyW. I will look into the material you suggested.

Feb 25, 2021 - 10:57:19 AM

4062 posts since 11/29/2005

Here's the corrected link for the RSB Site, it is a subdomain of my PricklyPearMusic site.

RSB Site:

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