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Apr 19, 2021 - 10:45:10 AM
7 posts since 3/29/2021

As a clawhammer wanna-be, should I start off playing and positioning my hands to play over the scoop from the get-go, or do many players simply prefer the tone created when playing over the scoop rather than over the banjo head? Some lesson videos (Dan Levenson) suggest starting off right off the bat by playing over the scoop. Note that I come from fingerstyle guitar, and picked up 2-finger banjo, but clawhammer is an entirely different beast. I did peruse the FAQ, but did not see this addressed.

Apr 19, 2021 - 11:00:59 AM
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3486 posts since 4/29/2012

It is just a matter of preferred sound rather than 'correct' technique. Some of us haven't even got scoops (and don't feel disadvantaged).

Apr 19, 2021 - 11:11:15 AM

rcc56

USA

3469 posts since 2/20/2016

I suppose it depends on what kind of sound you want to get.

Playing "over the scoop" [if your banjo has one] is going to affect the instrument's tone in the same way that playing over the fingerboard will affect the tone of a guitar.

Playing over the scoop is pretty much a recent trend. When I first started to learn the banjo, no one had scoops and I never saw anyone playing up there.  I still don't play up there.  If I want that kind of sound, I'll move to below the end of the fingerboard, and I might prefer to use a 2 finger style or "Seeger style" up-picking rather than frailing.

It all depends on what you want, though. Frailing over the board is very popular these days.

To me, learning frailing was very much about finding and getting comfortable with the bounce.  For some folks, it might be easier to get acquainted with this by playing over the head first, and then move over the scoop later if you so desire.

Edited by - rcc56 on 04/19/2021 11:16:25

Apr 19, 2021 - 11:35 AM
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AndyW

UK

770 posts since 7/4/2017

Play where it's comfortable, there's enough going on to learn without having to consciously try to manoeuvre your hand into a set 'position'.

Later once you are a bit more of a competent player it will be easy for you to shift the position of your right hand if you wish.

Apr 19, 2021 - 11:48:23 AM
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61 posts since 1/11/2020

Don't scoop your banjo. Theres no need.
You can play over that position as-is but unless you're playing steel strings that spot is gonna reduce some volume.
Personally I'd suggest learning over the head and get comfy and moving will be much easier and come without too much thought after that.
But that's just one opinion in the opinion ocean.

Apr 19, 2021 - 12:13:05 PM
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csacwp

USA

2836 posts since 1/15/2014
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There is nothing traditional about a scoop.

Apr 19, 2021 - 12:26:43 PM
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KCJones

USA

1488 posts since 8/30/2012

Scoops are just a goofy aesthetic trend that hopefully dies soon.

Apr 19, 2021 - 12:30:49 PM

7 posts since 3/29/2021

quote:
One thing that I do notice when playing over the scoop is that it shortens the "reach" up to the nut.  I'm used to short-scale acoustics (24.9") and even the short-scale 25.5" banjos seemed like a stretch.  Not as much when playing over the scoop.  But I'm sure that's just takes adjusting on my part.
 
Originally posted by Oldtimefeeling

Don't scoop your banjo. Theres no need.
You can play over that position as-is but unless you're playing steel strings that spot is gonna reduce some volume.
Personally I'd suggest learning over the head and get comfy and moving will be much easier and come without too much thought after that.
But that's just one opinion in the opinion ocean.


Apr 19, 2021 - 1:20:25 PM
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1332 posts since 5/19/2018

About 100 threads here on just this subject.

I’m pretty clearly in the DO NOT scoop your banjo.

My opinion is that it ruins the instrument.

If you want to get a new one with a scoop, fine. Your option and I’m OK with that.

To add a scoop to an existing instrument, or worse yet, put a scoop on a vintage instrument, I see that as a crime.

No traditional player prior to 1985 had a scoop on their banjo. As far as I know, no banjo built prior to the 1960’s had a scoop in place for the sole purpose of use for clawhammer playing.

If fact, what is with those? When did they appear and why?

Apr 19, 2021 - 2:08:18 PM
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10893 posts since 4/23/2004

When I designed my perfect CH banjo, I included a scoop. Probably the best thing I did for playability.

I played for 20 yrs without one. First one I played...most sensible thing ever. That has always been my sweet spot...why not make it more comfortable and more usable?

Run with what you like...but not with scissors. laugh

Apr 19, 2021 - 2:29:59 PM

banjo bill-e

Tuvalu

10931 posts since 2/22/2007

Which clawhammer players inspired you to take up banjo? Do you want to sound like them? Watch video and see where and how they play. If the sound you like is played over the head, don't scoop. If the sound you like is played over the fingerboard then you have options. It's not really playing over the scoop, it is playing over the fingerboard, scoop or not. Some play over the fingerboard without a scoop and do not miss it. Others find the scoop is more comfortable and doubt that they would ever need those high frets. If you fall in that last group, scoop!

Apr 19, 2021 - 2:33:46 PM

3046 posts since 2/18/2009

I am not a clawhammerer, though I hope to learn someday. I pick with just my fingers in a random sort of way, but I have found that I like to play over the scoop area sometimes, whether there is a scoop or not, and occasionally I like to pick much further up the neck, over about the 8th to 10th fret area. It makes an interesting round sort of sound up there, though the reach is slightly awkward. I think it's always worth trying all areas of the strings and seeing what you like, if you go too far to one end or the other you can always come back toward the middle and no harm done.

Apr 19, 2021 - 2:50:16 PM

Andy B

USA

56 posts since 5/26/2007

For years I played a very nice banjo without a scoop. I tried to play over the end of the fretboard but my thumb kept hitting the side of the neck. I sold that banjo and bought a very nice banjo with a scoop that makes playing over the end of fingerboard very easy. I like the tone up there. The scoop works for me, but it is not for everyone.

Apr 19, 2021 - 3:33:06 PM

49 posts since 6/5/2006

An important factor in this discussion is the height of the strings above the frets at the base of the neck. With a tall bridge and/or less neck back angle the old players could easily play over the frets of the neck without a scoop when they wanted a lighter, sweeter sound. I first heard it called "keening" in the late 50's. I have a vague recollection of this term being associated with female banjoists. Virtuoso melodic clawhammer players of the 60's and 70's preferred a lower string action which made scoops popular.
Even though the old players didn't need a scoop they sometime omitted the last half dozen frets or filed them flush or cut a bevel in the high side of the neck. Some old banjos, especially smaller pony and ladies banjos have a metal plate flush with the fingerboard.
IMO if you want to play over the neck (with or without a scoop), its best to learn to do it early because playing over the head gives your thumb something to hit and rest on and that won't be there over the neck. That was a problem for me so I now attach a strip of ebony on the side of the neck next to the scoop with rubber cement. So, if you're arrived late to the party, that should help.

Apr 19, 2021 - 4:03:53 PM

577 posts since 3/9/2013

I don’t play those frets that far up anyway so why not have a scoop. I can get behind not scooping a current unscooped banjo worth money. I personally like them and probably think they will stick around. Don’t know why some folks are so against them, even other people having them.

Apr 19, 2021 - 4:41:12 PM
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368 posts since 11/5/2010

No scoop. I use the frets. Don't hate them tho. I grew up clawhammering on BG banjos, so I'm used to low action.

Play where it sounds right. Capo? Playing backup or taking a solo?

Let the harmonics speak when they want too. Be flexible.

Apr 19, 2021 - 5:00:10 PM
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57150 posts since 12/14/2005

From the original posting, I get the strong impression that your banjo already HAS a scoop, and you are asking about where to best strike the strings.
And yet, the preponderance of replies are whether or not to CREATE a scoop on a banjo which has not a scoop.

If my perception is accurate, then the suggestions that you experiment with where YOU feel the banjo sounds like YOU want it to sound, are the right answers.

Apr 19, 2021 - 5:01:27 PM
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6939 posts since 8/30/2004

No big deal either way. But a scooped neck when played in that area of the neck does have its own sound. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don't care...Different sounds are fun. People are loving banjo and that is what's important to me...Jack

Apr 19, 2021 - 5:22:30 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

24626 posts since 6/25/2005

Watch videos of the great players. Most play over the head. FWiW.

Apr 19, 2021 - 5:36:01 PM
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6939 posts since 8/30/2004

Yes...yes

Edited by - Jack Baker on 04/19/2021 17:36:33

Apr 19, 2021 - 5:53:32 PM
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49 posts since 6/5/2006

I believe most of the great players do play over the head but three of my favorites play over the neck: Riley Baugus, Pat Lyons (Banjukebox) & Benny Bleu

Apr 19, 2021 - 5:54:33 PM
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Clawdan

USA

3471 posts since 3/12/2006

Yep, scoop or no scoop, over the neck or over the head. ALL personal preference, sound and comfort. String Bean played over the neck back in the 50's (maybe the 40's).

My thoughts are better to have an not want than want and not have. Missing frets? I remember an old timer saying years ago, "Son, there ain't no money above the 5th fret."

As you like and as you need. We can talk more off list if you like.

Play Nice,
Dan Clawdan Levenson
www.Clawdan.com (check out the new site!)

Apr 19, 2021 - 6:10:09 PM
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49 posts since 6/5/2006

Sorry, I left Dan Levenson off my short list. Nice site.

Apr 20, 2021 - 7:44:03 AM

7 posts since 3/29/2021

Thanks for all the replies! Appreciate it. I was mainly wondering if there was some sort of "advantage", which probably is too strong of a word, other than the different tone you get, to playing over the scoop. The best descriptive is what Dan mentioned in his video lesson about how if you play over the scoop, you do have to position your banjo in such a way that it the first few frets are closer in reach.

Apr 20, 2021 - 8:43 AM
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467 posts since 2/6/2011

As many have said, I think it's personal preference. I'm a proponent of scoops. I think they are a great addition to the ever-evolving banjo. (like the addition of the fifth string, geared tuners, synthetic heads, etc.)
One thing you should consider is where you place the pot while playing. If you have it on your thigh rather than in the middle of your lap, you might find it more comfortable to play over the neck.

Apr 20, 2021 - 8:49:23 AM

6127 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by restreet

An important factor in this discussion is the height of the strings above the frets at the base of the neck. With a tall bridge and/or less neck back angle the old players could easily play over the frets of the neck without a scoop when they wanted a lighter, sweeter sound. I first heard it called "keening" in the late 50's. I have a vague recollection of this term being associated with female banjoists. Virtuoso melodic clawhammer players of the 60's and 70's preferred a lower string action which made scoops popular.
Even though the old players didn't need a scoop they sometime omitted the last half dozen frets or filed them flush or cut a bevel in the high side of the neck. Some old banjos, especially smaller pony and ladies banjos have a metal plate flush with the fingerboard.
IMO if you want to play over the neck (with or without a scoop), its best to learn to do it early because playing over the head gives your thumb something to hit and rest on and that won't be there over the neck. That was a problem for me so I now attach a strip of ebony on the side of the neck next to the scoop with rubber cement. So, if you're arrived late to the party, that should help.


Those design aesthetics were not used, or intended to be used, the same way as the modern Round Peak scoop.

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