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Nov 29, 2021 - 2:19:56 AM

Gerard_60

Netherlands

40 posts since 2/3/2018

As a down-down clawhammer banjoplayer, i love to listen to Ralph Stanley's old time banjo. I myself play several of his tunes but they never sound the same as his. Recently I realized he might use the Pete Seeger upstroke on the first eight-note of ever four: The BUM (diddy). Can someone help me out ? Thanks in advance.
Gerard.

Nov 29, 2021 - 5:42:23 AM
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R Buck

USA

3043 posts since 9/5/2006
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Having watched Ralph play he incorporated three styles of banjo. He picked two finger, three finger index lead and a rudimentary clawhammer style in a very fast rapping style. If you listen to his earliest recordings he is playing two finger, later progressing to three finger. The clawhammer did not come out until later in his career after his brother, Carter, died.

Nov 29, 2021 - 6:10:08 AM
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janolov

Sweden

41320 posts since 3/7/2006

There is a DVD produced by Mile Seeger on Homespun where Ralph demonstrates his different styles (The Banjo Of Ralph Stanley). There are a lot of close-up filming and a tab book. There Ralph demonstrates both down-picking (down-down-thumb) and up-ping (up-down-thumb) and he calls both styles "clawhammer" because the right hand is in a claw shape both in down-picking and up-picking. When he plays Little Birdie he begins with down-picking but turns to up-picking rather soon.

Nov 29, 2021 - 6:37:51 AM

YellowSkyBlueSun

Virgin Islands (U.S.)

612 posts since 5/11/2021

The clearly demarcated lines of separation between various techniques is a modern phenomenon, or so it seems to me. Seems like many old pickers played a combination of 3 finger, 2-finger, frailing, and up-picking.

My advice would be to practice the fundamentals of 2 finger, or up picking, until you can get the basic motions down while keeping rhythm. Switch back and forth between up and down picking. Slowly work the other techniques into current songs you play. Eventually you'll be able to switch back and forth as you feel without thinking too much about it. That's what I did, anyway.

Nov 29, 2021 - 7:03:42 AM
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RioStat

USA

5674 posts since 10/12/2009
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quote:
Originally posted by R Buck

Having watched Ralph play he incorporated three styles of banjo. He picked two finger, three finger index lead and a rudimentary clawhammer style in a very fast rapping style. If you listen to his earliest recordings he is playing two finger, later progressing to three finger. The clawhammer did not come out until later in his career after his brother, Carter, died.


Ralph recorded plenty of clawhammer with his brother Carter.....Little Birdie, Shout L'il Lulie, and other tunes.

As a young boy, Ralph learned clawhammer from his mother, developed his 2 finger picking style to originally play "Bluegrass" when he and Carter got started professionally, then learned 3 finger after hearing Scruggs.

I will add that Ralph recorded a lot more clawhammer after Carter's death, but  most of the early Stanley Brothers and The Clinch Mountain Boys shows would feature a clawhammer tune or two.

Nov 29, 2021 - 7:39:11 AM
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conic

England

937 posts since 2/15/2014

I like mixing styles so glad this came up. This one Guy appears to me to be up picking and three finger styles mixed but could be wrong and does a nice job

Nov 29, 2021 - 8:21:14 AM

R Buck

USA

3043 posts since 9/5/2006
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quote:
Originally posted by RioStat
quote:
Originally posted by R Buck

Having watched Ralph play he incorporated three styles of banjo. He picked two finger, three finger index lead and a rudimentary clawhammer style in a very fast rapping style. If you listen to his earliest recordings he is playing two finger, later progressing to three finger. The clawhammer did not come out until later in his career after his brother, Carter, died.


Ralph recorded plenty of clawhammer with his brother Carter.....Little Birdie, Shout L'il Lulie, and other tunes.

As a young boy, Ralph learned clawhammer from his mother, developed his 2 finger picking style to originally play "Bluegrass" when he and Carter got started professionally, then learned 3 finger after hearing Scruggs.

I will add that Ralph recorded a lot more clawhammer after Carter's death, but  most of the early Stanley Brothers and The Clinch Mountain Boys shows would feature a clawhammer tune or two.


I stand corrected. Unfortunately I never heard Ralph play clawhammer until after I got home from the service in the early 70's.

Nov 30, 2021 - 11:16:23 AM
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Emiel

Austria

10033 posts since 1/22/2003

On "Little Birdie" Ralph does not play clawhammer, it's an up-picking style where the index-finger both picks up on the "bump" and strikes down on brush.

Nov 30, 2021 - 11:45:23 AM
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8317 posts since 3/17/2005

As an aside, give Don Borchelt's 3-finger index lead a listen. Very different from Stanley, but still primarily index lead.

Nov 30, 2021 - 3:26:33 PM

1827 posts since 7/4/2009

I would advise against trying to pick out a set pattern for Ralph's playing and try to figure it out by listening; he often introduces subtle variations throughout a song, and I'm confident he seldom played a song exactly the same way twice.

Ralph did use upstrokes in his clawhammer playing; that said, I've never heard or seen him play a song in straight up-picking. More often, it sounds something like down-up-down-thumb. A downstroke, a quick brush up, a brush down, and the thumb string.

He also used a two-finger index lead style on his older recordings. Listen to the Stanley Bros. original Rich-R-Tone recording of "Little Maggie."

I have a CD - Songs My Mother Taught Me - with a lot of Ralph's clawhammer playing and David Holt's interview with Ralph where he talks about and demonstrates his styles. That clears up a lot.

Nov 30, 2021 - 6:29:28 PM
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1827 posts since 7/4/2009

Okay. Here is a video sample of the DVD Jan mentioned. It will shed a lot of light on what we've been talking about in this thread.

1:23 - Ralph plays "Shout Little Lulie" in an approximation of his mother's banjo style

2:09 - "Little Birdie" in a two-finger up-picking, (up pick, down stroke; what I call "swingfinger" and the style usually associated with Little Birdie). He's about to play it with a variation when Mike asks him to play it slowly.

Around 3:20, Mike & Ralph discuss the upstroke lick in Ralph's clawhammer playing - Ralph calls it "tickling" the banjo. But I can't hear it in the tune he plays.

4:08 - Ralph demonstrates the two-finger style (up, up this time) he used to play "Little Maggie" with.

Edited by - UncleClawhammer on 11/30/2021 18:31:20

Nov 30, 2021 - 6:53:41 PM
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cevant

USA

301 posts since 2/5/2020

I would assume that you've heard this album but since I didn't see it mentioned here I'll post a link.  Nothing but clawhammer.

youtube.com/playlist?list=PLsA...NMQO5ByU2

Edited by - cevant on 11/30/2021 18:54:39

Nov 30, 2021 - 11:48:33 PM
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janolov

Sweden

41320 posts since 3/7/2006

quote:
Originally posted by cevant

I would assume that you've heard this album but since I didn't see it mentioned here I'll post a link.  Nothing but clawhammer.

youtube.com/playlist?list=PLsA...NMQO5ByU2


Ralph called his up-picking style "clawhammer" because his hand was clawed in the same way as down-picking, so even if the album is referring to "clawhammer" there are some up-picking in it, for example Little Birdie. 

Dec 1, 2021 - 7:21:37 AM

8317 posts since 3/17/2005

I believe I hear a lot of up-picking in there. Maybe some 2-finger? But it can be very hard to distinguish between finger lead styles by listening only. Clawhammer is a finger lead, 2-finger style.

Dec 1, 2021 - 8:55:27 AM
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janolov

Sweden

41320 posts since 3/7/2006

I think his mother learned him "clawhammer" (which included some up-picking). When he started more professionally with his brother Carter, he seemed to have a typical 2-finger index lead style with the the right hand anchored at the banjo head. After listening to Earl Scruggs he added the middle finger to his playing.

One difference between Earl and Ralph was that Earl from the beginning was a 2 finger thumb lead player, while Ralph was a 2 finger index lead player, and Earl tried to play the melody notes by the thumb when possible, and Ralph prefeered to use the index for the melody notes.

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