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Nov 24, 2021 - 2:28:45 PM
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130 posts since 11/9/2021

Hats off to you guys, this is hard to do! 1 week in and I had pretty much gotten concertina down enough to play fiddle tunes with my band. 1 week in on clawhammer and I sound like a bumbling fat fingered fool. sad  But then I remember back when how long it took me to learn fiddle; at least 3 years before people stopped telling me to GO AWAY!

Nov 24, 2021 - 2:42:44 PM

2968 posts since 2/10/2013

Is a concertina chromatic ? I know that unless a harmonica player has a chromatic harmonic, they had to use different harmonicas for different keys. I once had the opportunity to play Irish tunes on a fiddle while playing along with a concertina player. It was a lot of fun. Something like playing the 5 string along with a good fiddler. Everything seems to work fine.

I currently play 5 string, fiddle, and fiddle tunes on the flattop. No time available for concertina.
If you walk into an Irish jam playing your concertina you will be a welcome addition.

Nov 24, 2021 - 3:03:30 PM

rcc56

USA

3912 posts since 2/20/2016

It can take a little while to learn and get comfortable with the clawhammer or frailing technique. For me, even though I had already been playing guitar for 10 years, I believe it took a couple of weeks to develop the stroke and another couple of months to get comfortable with it. That's better than the couple of years it took me to start to relax with a violin bow.

Once you get the stroke, it will be with you forever. At one point, I set down the banjo and did not play it for 8 or 10 years. When I picked it back up, I got my stroke back within a few hours.

If it continues to give you difficulty for a long time, learn to do some "Seeger style" up-picking. It is easier to learn, and creates the same rhythm. Once you get the hang of that, it may be much easier to pick up the frailing stroke.

And if you like Irish music, you might try to pick up a 4 string tenor banjo,  tune it GDAE [one octave below your fiddle], grab a flat pick, and use it on some of the Irish tunes.  Your left hand technique will be a bit different from what you use on your fiddle:  If you go up the scale on the A string, you'll take A open, B with your index finger, C with your middle, C# with your ring finger, and D with your little finger.  If you need notes above the fifth fret, you are best shifting up to the next position rather than trying to stretch your left hand out uncomfortably.

Edited by - rcc56 on 11/24/2021 15:11:30

Nov 24, 2021 - 3:10:18 PM
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2793 posts since 12/31/2005

If playing the banjo was easy, absolutely everyone would be doing it. I firmly believe that.

Nov 24, 2021 - 3:49:50 PM
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4878 posts since 5/9/2007

A fella once said to me. "Banjo playin', that's hard ain't it?!"

I replied. "Not the way I play!"

Nov 24, 2021 - 4:42:48 PM

130 posts since 11/9/2021

Thanks guys, appreciate the tips. We ( my 2 sons and I) have mandolins, mandola, octave mandolins, a mess of guitars, a concertina, saxs, a zaphoon , a pile of fiddles, a few basses and they all get played. This is the first banjo though. One day I'll add a tenor, buts thats not really a challenge, its the same fingering as fiddle, mando and octave. It's 5 string that is driving me now! Loved clawhammer almost as long as I've loved fiddle, I figure it's time!

Nov 24, 2021 - 5:53:01 PM
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jacot23

USA

249 posts since 12/13/2012

Lot's of free resources on YouTube that can and do help. My favorite is BanjoLemonade, but Brainjo, Tom Collins, and Hillary Burhans are all good, just to name a few. Several of those have paying sites(or Payreon) as well for even more help.

Hang in there it's fun!

Nov 24, 2021 - 6:24:26 PM

Omeboy

USA

3004 posts since 6/27/2013

All you need is a good teacher. Find a good clawhammer player and ask them for some lessons.

Nov 25, 2021 - 6:26:42 AM
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Paul R

Canada

15385 posts since 1/28/2010

Don't worry about it being difficult. I have a couple of students who are having trouble getting the basic stroke, and keep putting off the next lesson. Funny thing is, I never had trouble with the stroke - it's playing cleanly at speed that's a challenge.

I started with Seeger's book and played the "Seeger stroke", but my first clawhammer lesson had me switch permanently, and I never looked back.

Nov 25, 2021 - 6:45:57 AM
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Players Union Member

Lew H

USA

2698 posts since 3/10/2008

It's only hard at first. Then it becomes therapeutic and fun.

Nov 25, 2021 - 6:55:47 AM

1661 posts since 5/19/2018

I’ve been at it for close to 50 years at this point.

The more I play and learn, I realize just how much I don’t know and that once you get one style or technique down pat, another one crops into your view.

Focus on what you want to learn now, master that and don’t worry about the nuances that seem to elude you. With practice and playing, They come in time.

Music is a journey, not a race, so enjoy each step as they come.

Nov 25, 2021 - 7:07:50 AM

banjo bill-e

Tuvalu

11803 posts since 2/22/2007

One week in? Yeah, at that point Clawhammer is hard and frustrating and sometimes baffling. But you are only one week in. Hang in there!

Nov 25, 2021 - 7:28:21 AM

4231 posts since 10/13/2005

Pete Seeger said that it took him a year to get the bumm-dit-ty down and another year or two to really get it down. I have friends who are way superior to me in musical knowledge and talent. When they saw me playing a banjo tune CH style and I handed them my banjo, they tried to duplicate the very simple bumm ditty I was doing and they were completely flummoxed they couldn't immediately duplicate what I was doing. I was internally laughing at them because it also took me months to get the basic strum down. It is a very simple strum but for most of us, not easy. Getting the basic strums of CH isn't so much talent as it is plain persistence/determination. You simply have to keep repeating it until you have it locked into your automatic wiring. Once you have even one simple song locked in, you have the whole CH song/tune world now accessible to your muse. For me it was Pete's Skip To My Lou. I remember practicing on that tune over and over feeling like I just wasn't getting anywhere when one day I realized I was actually playing the tune and it actually sounded like a tune instead of an exercise. You just keep at it and someday you will be as rich and famous as most of us are (grin!). banjered

Nov 25, 2021 - 7:53:09 AM

130 posts since 11/9/2021

Taking advice - first lesson tomorrow at (high) noon. The teacher is the most respected clawhammer player on Long Island and I have jammed with her many times at the various jams out here.

Frustration and music for me is foreign, as I was the orchestra handyman in high school, playing what ever instrument was missing for a piece. I thank the music director, Dr Troxell, every time I pick up an instrument.

The tune I am concentrating on is Eight More Miles to Louisville, love that one. I am also memorizing the various chord structures, which is pretty easy (mostly).

What does everyone use for the pick when doing CH? FIngernail, or some sort of fingerpick? I'm working with a metal ProPick that has an open 'spoon' so I can feel the strings.

Nov 25, 2021 - 9:12:55 AM

R Buck

USA

3044 posts since 9/5/2006

You should have tried 1/2 century ago. A lot more help available today.

Nov 25, 2021 - 9:42:44 AM
Players Union Member

DC5

USA

22034 posts since 6/30/2015

quote:
Originally posted by wrench13

Taking advice - first lesson tomorrow at (high) noon. The teacher is the most respected clawhammer player on Long Island and I have jammed with her many times at the various jams out here.

Frustration and music for me is foreign, as I was the orchestra handyman in high school, playing what ever instrument was missing for a piece. I thank the music director, Dr Troxell, every time I pick up an instrument.

The tune I am concentrating on is Eight More Miles to Louisville, love that one. I am also memorizing the various chord structures, which is pretty easy (mostly).

What does everyone use for the pick when doing CH? FIngernail, or some sort of fingerpick? I'm working with a metal ProPick that has an open 'spoon' so I can feel the strings.


I try and use no pick at all, but if I need one I use a Fred Kelly pick, or a sterling silver one I had made by someone here on the hangout.  Sadly I don't remember who that was.  I don't use anything on my thumb.  My nails used to break, but now they seem to have strengthened, or I've changed my attack so I rarely use a pick unless I need the extra volume.

Nov 25, 2021 - 4:17:33 PM

4231 posts since 10/13/2005

I play/sing 8 More Miles to Louisville and I think it is a fine song to get the basics down if that is your muse. I remember how difficult it was in the beginning to go from one chord to another without totally losing the rhythm, now i don't even think about it, it just happens. With all your music background plus a teacher you should move along about 10X faster or more than I did. As above I just use a metal pick put on backwards over the nail when I want/need to. Hang in there! banjered

Nov 25, 2021 - 4:32:19 PM

131 posts since 2/11/2019

quote:
Originally posted by wrench13

Taking advice - first lesson tomorrow at (high) noon. The teacher is the most respected clawhammer player on Long Island and I have jammed with her many times at the various jams out here.

Frustration and music for me is foreign, as I was the orchestra handyman in high school, playing what ever instrument was missing for a piece. I thank the music director, Dr Troxell, every time I pick up an instrument.

The tune I am concentrating on is Eight More Miles to Louisville, love that one. I am also memorizing the various chord structures, which is pretty easy (mostly).

What does everyone use for the pick when doing CH? FIngernail, or some sort of fingerpick? I'm working with a metal ProPick that has an open 'spoon' so I can feel the strings.


I tried picks with ch but could never get comfortable.  What I did do was learn how to use both my middle finger and my index finger so I wasn't constantly wearing one out cuz there were days my index finger got too sore to play.  Having two fingers to use helped a lot.

Dec 18, 2021 - 4:54:40 AM
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130 posts since 11/9/2021

Lesson yesterday and the teacher was impressed with my progress. In fact the lessons have all been about the right hand, since she knows me from the jam sessions that left hand fingering is a non-issue with me. I am writing my own little series of practice tunes, incorporating both techniques she is giving me and stuff I figured out on my own.

Does anyone play tunes in Gm, with the B dropped to Bflat? I am digging that sound on this banjo a lot, but she tells me most banjo pickers go to a Gm modal, with the B tuned up to C, which I get but the other sounds so mournful!

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