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Feb 27, 2021 - 9:51:23 AM
117 posts since 2/22/2019

What style best suits playing alone, Scruggs or claw hammer? Which style best accompanies singing? Or does it not matter?

Feb 27, 2021 - 10:05:06 AM

Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

25736 posts since 8/3/2003
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I think it's a personal choice. One thing won't work for everyone.

I play Scruggs style and do my own arranging for breaks and accompany myself singing. It works for me. May not work for others.

I think it only matters to the person who is playing and/or singing.

Feb 27, 2021 - 10:05:28 AM

2443 posts since 5/2/2012

I'm thinking that it depends on the type of music (bluegrass, "old time", popular, contemporary, etc.) you are wanting to play. And the arrangement (simple, complex) would factor in. I don't sing, but I'm guessing that clawhammer will rise to the top. But you can pare down Scruggs style and simplify it while you sing, then make it more complex when you play a break/solo.  As far as playing alone (and not singing), I don't think your style of picking will make a difference. I started out with clawhammer, then 2ftl (playing "old time" tunes), then switched over to Scruggs style (starting with BG music, then moving on to Tony Ellis tunes that have an old time flavor, and also fiddle tunes). Long answer to it probably doesn't matter.  I think you will find a way to make your style of playing fit the music you want to play. 

Edited by - thisoldman on 02/27/2021 10:08:11

Feb 27, 2021 - 10:36:18 AM
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beegee

USA

22277 posts since 7/6/2005

I think Scruggs style works better in an ensemble setting. i often find myself playing clawhammer when just sitting around at home.

Feb 27, 2021 - 12:47:23 PM

134 posts since 9/23/2019

If you’re unsure, I would say listen to as many recordings as possible and see which style “speaks to you.”

Also, there’s absolutely no reason this is an either/or decision. Ralph Stanley was a master of both styles.

Feb 27, 2021 - 12:53:14 PM

3555 posts since 7/12/2006

Even if you are alone you can play along with recordings.most of my bedroom tunes are melodic stuff

Edited by - stanleytone on 02/27/2021 12:53:29

Feb 27, 2021 - 1:31:37 PM

4075 posts since 10/13/2005
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Bluegrass music is primarily BAND music. I play/sing folk music – cowboy, Irish, modern folk, sea songs etc. with clawhammer and lately two and three finger old time picking styles. If you love bluegrass, so be it but I think of it as a narrower musical window than old time. Lots of bands use clawhammer too but clawhammer is fun to play in jams with others. My prejudice is old time for solo. Listen to the media/jukebox off to the left of this page and follow your muse.... banjered

Feb 27, 2021 - 1:39:20 PM

117 posts since 2/22/2019

quote:
Originally posted by szbassoon

If you’re unsure, I would say listen to as many recordings as possible and see which style “speaks to you.”

Also, there’s absolutely no reason this is an either/or decision. Ralph Stanley was a master of both styles.


Agreed trying to decide which to purchase first, an OB or resonator banjo.  

Feb 27, 2021 - 1:40:39 PM
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AndyW

UK

743 posts since 7/4/2017

I would say clawhammer for solo play. Especially to sing to.

Feb 27, 2021 - 2:38:51 PM
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KCJones

USA

1457 posts since 8/30/2012
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quote:
Originally posted by HighLonesomeF5
quote:
Originally posted by szbassoon

If you’re unsure, I would say listen to as many recordings as possible and see which style “speaks to you.”

Also, there’s absolutely no reason this is an either/or decision. Ralph Stanley was a master of both styles.


Agreed trying to decide which to purchase first, an OB or resonator banjo.  


My advice is to start with an open back simply because they're cheaper for the same quality, all else being equal. You can play any style on either option, but usually the resonator version of a banjo will be (at least) 2-300 dollars more than the open back version. Beginners usually have a budget in mind, and you get more bang for your buck with an open back. The primary purpose of the resonator is amplification and projection of the sound for use in an ensemble, and if you're mostly going to be playing at home, you don't need that. 

Edited by - KCJones on 02/27/2021 14:39:14

Feb 27, 2021 - 2:54:29 PM

11666 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by HighLonesomeF5

What style best suits playing alone, Scruggs or claw hammer? Which style best accompanies singing? Or does it not matter?


I only know Scruggs style -- in which I include melodic and any type of 3-finger picking that may not be strictly bluegrass -- so that's what's best for me, whether I'm playing solo performance pieces, accompanying singing, or just noodling.

What flavor of ice cream best suits eating alone: chocolate or vanilla? Does it matter?

Edited by - Old Hickory on 02/27/2021 14:56:27

Feb 27, 2021 - 3:06:07 PM
Players Union Member

Eric A

USA

1116 posts since 10/15/2019

I have found Seeger, Basic strum, up-picking to a nice style for at home picking and accompanying voice, for 40 years. I suppose clawhammer (I call it frailing) is the closest currently popular thing to it.

Other old time styles, can work. But as soon as you put those picks on for Scruggs, your family is going to be slinking off to a quiet corner to be able to hear their screens, and/or giving you the evil eye, and you will be looking into buying a banjo mute.

That's my opinion.

Feb 27, 2021 - 4:19:35 PM
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KCJones

USA

1457 posts since 8/30/2012
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Don't forget about the various 2 finger traditional styles out there, that work very well for solo playing and singing. Check out Clifton Hicks for a contemporary example.

Feb 27, 2021 - 7:43:43 PM
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1680 posts since 7/4/2009

Bluegrass or Scruggs style banjo is essentially an ensemble style; it should really, at minimum, be accompanied by guitar and bass, or at the very least a guitar. So not so great for accompanying singing by yourself, though people do it. If the choices are just "Scruggs" style and clawhammer, then I would say clawhammer, though a lot of resources for clawhammer banjo treat song accompaniment as an afterthought if they mention it at all ("people sing with the banjo? Huh!").

I accompany almost all my songs with two finger (thumb and index lead), or "Seeger style" up-picking.

As far as choosing between a resonator and an open back, it will probably be easier to accompany singing with an open back initially, though a resonator will also be fine as you develop your touch.

Feb 28, 2021 - 7:12:41 AM

2619 posts since 2/10/2013

I think 3 finger style work best with a small group of musicians. If a person intends to play alone for the own enjoyment, I think clawhammer style will work best. Clawhammer provides rhythm AND melody at the same time.

One more thing, If I played just one style, bluegrass or clawhammer, I would not try to switch to the other style until I was proficient in that one style of playing. Use of the right hand is very different for each of the styles.

If I had been aware of what I would be doing with the banjo, I would have started out playing clawhammer. So I play 3 finger style with "Band in a Box" and keep looking for other string instrument players. Hard job during good times, almost impossible now.

Feb 28, 2021 - 7:16:26 AM

117 posts since 2/22/2019

Does CH style require substantially less time to learn than 3-finger?

Feb 28, 2021 - 10:35:58 AM

1680 posts since 7/4/2009

No.

I think it's fairly common for beginners to make progress more quickly initially with clawhammer than bluegrass style, then eventually hit a wall where it takes a while to make any more. In bluegrass style, the wall is at the beginning and you don't make much progress until you get past it, then progress becomes easier.

But any style of banjo is going to take a substantial amount of time to learn if you want to make good music.

Feb 28, 2021 - 4:17:37 PM

117 posts since 2/22/2019

Are both styles equally suited for playing fiddle tunes?

Feb 28, 2021 - 6:46:30 PM

AGACNP

USA

155 posts since 10/12/2011
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quote:
Originally posted by HighLonesomeF5

What style best suits playing alone, Scruggs or claw hammer? Which style best accompanies singing? Or does it not matter?


I think it's a matter of which style speaks to you.

There are plenty of recordings of banjo/fiddle only, without the remainder of the band, and they complement each other nicely. Check out the Flatt and Scruggs 'Carnegie Hall' album, there are at least a couple landmark tunes following this arrangement.

Noam Pikelneys 'Old Banio' arrangement is three finger style, accompanying vocal...sounds like it works pretty well in my opinion.

That said, claw hammer works well with just a fiddle, or alone. I happen to like them both, unaccompanied.

Edited by - AGACNP on 02/28/2021 18:47:05

Feb 28, 2021 - 7:16:50 PM

AGACNP

USA

155 posts since 10/12/2011
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quote:
Originally posted by AGACNP
quote:
Originally posted by HighLonesomeF5

What style best suits playing alone, Scruggs or claw hammer? Which style best accompanies singing? Or does it not matter?


I think it's a matter of which style speaks to you.

There are plenty of recordings of 'Scruggs style' banjo/fiddle only, without the remainder of the band, and they complement each other nicely. Check out the Flatt and Scruggs 'Carnegie Hall' album, there are at least a couple landmark tunes following this arrangement.

Noam Pikelneys 'Old Banio' arrangement is three finger style, accompanying vocal...sounds like it works pretty well in my opinion.

That said, claw hammer works well with just a fiddle, or alone. I happen to like both styles, unaccompanied.


Edited by - AGACNP on 02/28/2021 19:18:53

Feb 28, 2021 - 7:20 PM

AGACNP

USA

155 posts since 10/12/2011
Online Now

Double post...
Mar 1, 2021 - 5:50:44 PM
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2619 posts since 2/10/2013

I learned basic clawhammer faster than I did 3 finger style. But both styles have substyles and the amount of effort will probably be determined by how deeply you study each style.
Clawhammer makes me tap my foot more often than 3 finger style.

I once met a great banjo player from Dayton Ohio. He was fluent in both styles. hearing someone play a tune a couple of times 3 finger style, then without pause, play the tune clawhammer style was impressive and entertaining. The banjo player was Mike Lilly who was visiting a jam in White Pidgeon Mi..

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