Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

Banjo Lovers Online

Should Clawhammer Be a Technique or a Genre?

Hide these ads: join the Players Union!
May 20, 2022 - 7:14:35 AM
623 posts since 2/6/2018

Dan Walsh recently posted a good article on the above on Deering's website:
At face value, it's an interesting question that most have a quick answer for. By definition, "genre" is a category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter. With that said, it readily suggests clawhammer is a technique. Since there is an overwhelming amount of similar bluegrass tunes played both in clawhammer and Scruggs/3-finger, case closed. However, have spoken to many folks who believe the contrary. I play Scruggs style and love clawhammer (have tried and failed many times to learn). Am I alone in this thinking?

May 20, 2022 - 7:40:24 AM
like this

2227 posts since 2/12/2009

What confuses me is why should there be ""categories" of banjo styles at all ? Why not just play the banjo ?

May 20, 2022 - 7:51:22 AM
like this
Players Union Member



41631 posts since 3/7/2006

I regard clawhammer as a technique that can be used in several different genres.

May 20, 2022 - 8:43:04 AM
Players Union Member

Texasbanjo (Moderator)


27358 posts since 8/3/2003

I think it can mean whatever one wants it to mean. It can be a technique that you learn so you can play old time music or it can be a genre that includes old time music.

May 20, 2022 - 8:45:51 AM

4397 posts since 10/13/2005

Why the "OR" in your question? banjered

May 20, 2022 - 8:51:21 AM

1876 posts since 1/28/2013

There are several 3 finger picking patterns and techniques that are used on genres of music other than Traditional Scruggs, which uses mainly forward and backward rolls. Celtic, Classical, Bluegrass/Rock, and other Progressive styles use many other picking patterns not seen in Traditional Bluegrass. Even left hand fretting is different.

Edited by - jan dupree on 05/20/2022 08:54:54

May 20, 2022 - 9:17:38 AM
like this

Bill Rogers (Moderator)


26040 posts since 6/25/2005

Back to the original question. It’s a technique. So is Scruggs style. So is flatpicking. Bluegrass is a genre. Note that the bluegrass genre typically includes the techniques of Scruggs style and flatpicking.

May 20, 2022 - 10:57:44 AM
like this

Jim Yates


6846 posts since 2/21/2007

I agree completely with Bill Rogers.
Old Time music is a genre that includes several techniques including clawhammer, up-picking, two finger and three finger styles.

May 20, 2022 - 11:16:42 AM

623 posts since 2/6/2018

Originally posted by banjered

Why the "OR" in your question? banjered

That's taken directly from the Deering article and would assume worded in such a way as to draw folks into the article.

May 20, 2022 - 11:23:31 AM

2724 posts since 11/25/2003

It would say it's a technique. Compare it to a fiddle player. There are many bowing techniques used in the "old time" music genre. Cheers!

Hide these ads: join the Players Union!
May 20, 2022 - 11:29:40 AM
like this

349 posts since 11/9/2021

Old Time, Bluegrass, Jazz, Rock etc etc are genres. Clawhammer, Round Peak, 3 Finger, Scruggs, etc etc are techniques. 'nuff said.

May 20, 2022 - 11:47:25 AM

4205 posts since 11/29/2005

I play a bit of CH Uke & Guitar as well as CH banjo.

May 20, 2022 - 11:59:27 AM



21 posts since 12/31/2014

I've never thought of clawhammer as a genre, but it's more than a single technique of making music on a banjo. I think of frailing as the bum-ditty, and then clawhammer as the bum-ditty and a number of other techniques that augment playing overhand style. That includes drop thumb, alternate string pull offs, etc. etc.

May 20, 2022 - 12:05:15 PM
likes this



1479 posts since 8/9/2019

Clawhammer simply cannot be considered a 'genre' of music.

Neither can '3 finger style'.

It's quite obvious.

May 20, 2022 - 2:42:21 PM
likes this

5291 posts since 5/9/2007

"Nuff Said"

May 21, 2022 - 12:57:58 AM

Jimmy Sutton


262 posts since 9/30/2013

I am with my fellow countryman (?) Spoonfed. Why do so many of you guys waste time on such unimportant matters (?) Just play your bloody banjo however you like and call it what you like. There are no rules in folk music.

May 21, 2022 - 6:29:05 AM
likes this

8388 posts since 3/17/2005

Jimmy Sutton ...
I suppose for reasons similar to you commenting on it ;-)

May 21, 2022 - 7:26:31 AM



11219 posts since 6/5/2011

"Should clawhammer be a technique or a genre?"



May 21, 2022 - 6:43:58 PM
like this

4227 posts since 3/28/2008

Technique, not genre.

A genre (or style) is (loosely speaking) about what notes you play. A technique is about how you play the notes you play.

I remember and article in Frets magazine in the 1980s where Tony Trischka opined (persuasively, IMHO) that "Scruggs style" is indeed a style, with identifiable signature licks and moves, but that "melodic style" was not truly a style but rather a technique that could be applied to many different styles (bluegrass, jazz, classical, etc.).

May 22, 2022 - 1:07:55 AM

1011 posts since 6/25/2006

Interesting article. He is British so I can imagine him being baffled by being told he is not playing 'proper clawhammer.' I wonder if he played something which wasn't an OT fiddle tune...shocker.

May 22, 2022 - 6:19:53 AM



12012 posts since 2/7/2008

Clawhammer is a technique. I have heard it used for Old Time, Country, Jazz and Rap.

I didn't bother to read the Deering article because I have seen several poorly written articles there in the past.

May 23, 2022 - 5:58:41 AM
likes this

31 posts since 4/19/2014

While clawhammer is certainly a technique and can be applied to other kinds of music, when someone says “clawhammer banjo” to me, I immediately think of old time fiddle tunes, which is too bad, because I love CH but don’t particularly care for fiddles. I’ve heard “Scruggs” style banjo played in other genres, but there is a reason it’s associated with bluegrass. I’ve also heard bebop trumpet played outside of bebop, but when someone says “bebop” I think of the genre.
Point I’m making is you can shoehorn any instrumentation into any genre (see Phish / vacuum) but at a certain point some instruments, especially played in a certain style get so associated with a particular kind of music, that the technique becomes known as the genre and hearing it outside of the genre is a novelty.
So, in my opinion, while all playing styles are indeed techniques, CH and “Scruggs”, can also be used as names for genres.

May 23, 2022 - 1:22:30 PM



1718 posts since 8/30/2012

I've never met a musician that actually used genre labels to describe their music. Because of this, I argue that genre's are not a musical device at all. Who does use genres? Marketing reps for record labels. So really, "genre" is a marketing term, not a musical term.

If you run a record shop, depending on your niche and clientele, it may be useful to have a section marked "clawhammer banjo". It could be argued, in that situation, that "clawhammer banjo" functions as a genre. But would the musicians that recorded the music in that section agree? Maybe, maybe not, most likely they wouldn't care at all.

Genre's are a ghost, IMO. A specter, a trick of light, shadows on the wall. At best, they represent intellectual laziness and limited musical vocabulary. They serve no purpose to the musician, and have no place in a conversation between musicians.

May 25, 2022 - 4:06:55 AM

Paul R


15857 posts since 1/28/2010
Online Now

Technique. Old Time is a genre in which various techniques - clawhammer, 2ftl, 2fil, 3-finger, and so on - are used.

Of course genres exist, whether or not performing artists use them. Baroque, classical, romantic - there can be many classifications even within what we broad styles of music.

May 25, 2022 - 7:21:46 AM
likes this



1301 posts since 4/12/2004

KCJones offers an observation that I can relate to.

When I was first introduced to the banjo, I was suffering from a genre deficit disorder. In the mid Sixties, I went to a little knife and gun club named the Ken-Mill cafe in Cincinnati, where I heard a performance by Earl Taylor, Jim McCall and the Stoney Mountain Boys. They had a banjo in the band and I was gobsmacked by the sound it made. The next day after work, I immediately went to my favorite record store and requested a record with "banjo music". I was taken to the back of store and directed to a single bin marked "Banjo" where I found an Eddie Peabody album. I had heard of Eddie Peabody, so I bought the record. When I got home, I played about 20 seconds of each cut on the record. There was something wrong; what I heard on the record was not what I had heard at the Ken-Mill cafe the night before. Eventually, I figured it out.

Hide these ads: join the Players Union!

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories