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Nov 25, 2021 - 8:29:46 AM
48 posts since 7/18/2020

I'm curious. Does anyone use the direct thumb crossover?

The direct thumb crossover is discussed on p. 86 of Ken Perlman's Melodic Clawhammer Banjo, p. 156 of his Clawhammer Style Banjo, and p. 58 of his Clawhammer Banjo.

The technique is given its most detailed descriptive treatment in Clawhammer Style Banjo, but Melodic Clawhammer Banjo provides a progressive exercise and a tune (Kemp's Jig) with direct thumb crossovers. However, in each instance of the direct thumb crossover, an alternate-string pull-off can be performed instead. This leaves me wondering if it is just cumulative to other compensation techniques.

(Edit: It looks like there are several instances of direct thumb crossovers in The Upton-on-Severn Stick Dance on p. 158 of Clawhammer Style Banjo. As with Kemp's Jig, it appears alternate-string pull-offs can be used instead.)

As for my experience with it, it just seems like an "M arpegggio" (in Perlman terms), but with a pluck of the thumb on the final note instead of following through with the nail of the downstriking finger.

Edited by - etisdale on 11/27/2021 07:39:44

Nov 25, 2021 - 9:16:29 AM
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4228 posts since 10/13/2005

Not me. Nor any alternate string pull-offs/hammer-ons. Bully for those who have the talent and persistence to do these advanced techniques. For me one of the attractions of Clawhammer was its lack of note busy-ness as compared to bluegrass. The above techniques are primarily if not exclusively for off-beat notes. I think I and perhaps most players would just muddify and slow down their tempo if they tried to incorporate these techniques as standard in their playing, thereby losing at least for me, the beauty/appeal of CH. If I were more obsessed with "getting every note in" as the melodic CH players are I'd just get a tenor banjo and call it good, much easier and simpler, and to me better sounding. Bluegrass IMHO is technically more challenging to be an "average player" and requires more understanding of musical theory. However I much prefer the variety of music themes/genres available with CH. After about 20 minutes of listening to Bluegrass, I am done and looking for the exit door. Not good or bad, better or worse, just personal preferences. banjered

Edited by - banjered on 11/25/2021 09:18:28

Nov 25, 2021 - 9:34:05 AM

48 posts since 7/18/2020

banjered Thanks for your response. There is that rhythmic quality of clawhammer banjo that I enjoy that some of the melodic clawhammer techniques really disrupt. I touched on that here when discussing "M displacement": banjohangout.org/topic/378948/#4824169

Ultimately, I just want to be a better clawhammer banjo player! It's for this reason that I started working through Clawhammer Style Banjo last February. I feel like the 15-45 mins I've spent on it every day has really improved my playing. Now, if I could just get the direct crossover down!

Nov 25, 2021 - 9:44:04 AM

48 posts since 7/18/2020

In this example, I actually think the 16th-note thumb pluck followed by the finger downstrike on the same string is more difficult than the following direct thumb crossover!


Nov 25, 2021 - 11:14:50 AM

48 posts since 7/18/2020

Still working on this! Getting smoother. Ha ha! But insofar as my previous post, I think the M arpeggio (M->) is smoother and provides a better set-up for the following direct thumb crossover.


Nov 25, 2021 - 5:49:41 PM

8317 posts since 3/17/2005

Interesting. I'll have to look at his books. I often cross my thumb over my finger as in the second half of the measure, but I'm playing 2-finger, index lead. I think it's easier than doing the same thing with clawhammer.

Nov 25, 2021 - 5:59:26 PM
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Bill H

USA

1789 posts since 11/7/2010

I spent log hours working melodic style banjo arrangements. It's all good when playing solo at my own pace, but in a jam setting at fiddle speed, forget about it. It ties me in knots.

Nov 25, 2021 - 8:56:51 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

25515 posts since 6/25/2005

I’m not much of a left-hand player, but I can and do play whatever note I need with whatever finger I need. I think I play a lot of thumb notes when others use aspos, doubtless including some crossovers. I have a few tunes on my music page if you want to hear how I play some common tunes.

https://www.banjohangout.org/myhangout/music.asp?id=7205

Edited by - Bill Rogers on 11/25/2021 21:00:57

Nov 26, 2021 - 2:18:31 AM

m06

England

10689 posts since 10/5/2006

It’s great to have the inclination to learn new techniques and explore different styles of playing.

However as Bill said, I’d be careful of assuming what makes for ‘better’. That is a subjective idea related to what that individual player is aiming to do.

To be able to do something is a good idea; but to choose not to do it even if we can is often more effective and pleasing musically.

In clawhammer banjo less is often more. But less not from lack; rather less from musical instinct and choice.

Edited by - m06 on 11/26/2021 02:25:30

Nov 26, 2021 - 4:00:22 AM
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Bill H

USA

1789 posts since 11/7/2010

quote:
Originally posted by m06

It’s great to have the inclination to learn new techniques and explore different styles of playing.

However as Bill said, I’d be careful of assuming what makes for ‘better’. That is a subjective idea related to what that individual player is aiming to do.

To be able to do something is a good idea; but to choose not to do it even if we can is often more effective and pleasing musically.

In clawhammer banjo less is often more. But less not from lack; rather less from musical instinct and choice.


I have been back to playing with a group on a weekly basis since summer--guitar, bass, mandolin and fiddle.  The more i play with these folks, the more aware I am of how the banjo fits into the group setting, and in particular with the fiddle who really drives melody. It really depends on the tune, but I find that some melodic licks are totally lost within the group setting. What I find is that fitting my playing into what the fiddler is doing is the best thing. Timing becomes hypercritical. If the fiddle is playing a notey run, fitting a spare, percussive base under it might feel right. When the fiddle backs off into harmony or a lower octave, if I have a fancy run under my belt, I will add it here. It is interesting how the group dynamics and various instruments work to complement each other. 

Back to the thumb crossover, I have learned a lot form Ken's books and from listening to his playing. Educating your hands to go beyond the the rhythmic and melodic limits of basic calwhammer adds much enjoyment to the process of learning. It can be very satisfying to fit these things in at a jam if you can perfect it. 

Nov 26, 2021 - 5:10:28 AM

8317 posts since 3/17/2005

It looks to me as though he's playing 2 1/8 notes in a row with his finger. I'd find that harder than the thumb cross.

Nov 26, 2021 - 5:33:01 AM
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R Buck

USA

3043 posts since 9/5/2006

Well Ken has succeeded again in getting y'all to rethink your banjo playing. He is a wonder to watch play. His warm up routine is also interesting. He is a very precise fellow in his approach to his music. I think I may have got him miffed one day when I told him that playing 6/8 time in the clawhammer style is like running up hill and that I liked the way Mick Moloney played jigs on his tenor banjo. Then Ken records Dallas Rag in two keys and it is utterly amazing. He is quite the banjo picker for sure. So I've grabbed every kernel of knowledge I could handle and ran with it. Ole Chip Arnold, now he's sat at the foot of another master and learned, as we all do at times, that everything we learned was wrong, or at least incomplete. Glad to see this thread. It is a real sign out there that there is intelligent life playing the banjo.

Nov 26, 2021 - 7:29:44 AM
Players Union Member

jduke

USA

1132 posts since 1/15/2009

I agree with banjered in that I like a more stress on the rhythm, than actual note for note playing of a tune, but I do want enough of the melody to make the tune recognizable. So, I don't drop thumb, but try to get what few extra notes I need with my left hand.

I also agree with R Buck that Perlman (and other tab writers) succeed in getting us to rethink how we play banjo. Not necessarily by learning or duplicating their work, but by allowing us to see a complicated phrase and working it into our own simple or complex style of playing.

Edited by - jduke on 11/26/2021 07:31:10

Nov 27, 2021 - 9:01:26 AM

48 posts since 7/18/2020

Great, thoughtful comments all. Thanks.

m06 Understood with respect to "better." For me, I am still quite new to clawhammer banjo (in terms of practice hours), so I am still navigating the world of clawhammer banjo. One thing is for sure: I am a much better player than I was at this time last year by any measure. I dabbled in clawhammer banjo for a few years on an old Alvarez resonator banjo passed on to me. Had I played for anybody then, I am certain they would have found me loud and obnoxious. In late 2020, I bought a Reiter banjo (probably one of the last Round Peak models) and, in February 2021, Perlman's Clawhammer Style Banjo. I've diligently practiced every technique and tune in that book most every day since. Nobody runs from me when I bring the banjo out. I think that's a good sign. :)

As to the direct thumb crossover, I've been able to practice it a lot so far this Thanksgiving holiday. Perlman mentions there is "an unnatural dead space" that results from resting the finger used to strike the higher string (e.g., string 3) on the lower string (e.g., string 2) prior to plucking the lower string with the thumb. It seems this dead space can only be eliminated if the rest stroke itself is eliminated--and that is difficult to do! Notably, Perlman mentions striking the strings with the finger a little more out than down to reduce that dead space (by reducing the resting in the rest stroke). That seems to work as intended, but I also find it difficult to not inadvertently mute the higher string with the thumb as it comes in pluck the lower string, which only seems to amplify the dead space. Perhaps the direct thumb crossover is best suited for a novel staccato effect. At any rate, I think it is time for me to move on in my studies. :)

Nov 28, 2021 - 4:16:38 AM

m06

England

10689 posts since 10/5/2006

Sounds like you’re having fun as you learn which is the main reason we all play. smiley

Edited by - m06 on 11/28/2021 04:17:10

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