I’m a long-time musician in my first couple of weeks of learning clawhammer banjo. I hadn’t gotten very far before the composer side of me wanted to get in on the act, so I started making up simple tunes and exercises based on the ones I found here on Banjo Hangout and in all the great teaching videos that are available online. Right away I ran into some interesting issues. Here’s the first one I did, to work on the basic downstroke/upstroke pattern and drop thumb: [Link1]
I liked the way this sounded, with the hammer-ons and pull-offs adding a little spice, but I realized after I wrote it down that I had put all the 5th string upstrokes on the beat instead of the on the second eighth note of the beat - kind of a cut-time version, I guess.
My second attempt, after looking at some of Lukas Pool’s beginner tunes, was a little better: [Link2]
The biggest problem I had with this one was that the last three measures seemed a lot harder to play than the rest.
And here’s one more: [Link3]
I think this one came out the best, although I wouldn’t be surprised if all three are variations on already existing tunes that I half-remembered. In any case I’d appreciate any feedback on whether I’m getting closer to something that sounds idiomatic to the clawhammer veterans!
The last two look fine, but the first one would be quite awkward to play as tabbed out. A fifth string note right after a hammer on or pull off throws off the clawhammer rhythm. Those fifth string notes could be omitted.
gratefulbiker When learning new tunes, I'm actually looking for times when I can substitute using the thumb on the 5th string to find a note in the melody - much easier than reaching up to the fifth fret on the 1st string. It's just another way to play the same note.
Thanks Jason and Pat for your comments. In that first one I think I was aiming for a double thumbing pattern but wrote it in quarter notes instead of eighth notes (which would have made the hammer-ons and pull-offs 16th notes(!) I do like the sound of it, but I agree with Jason that it definitely strays from the clawhammer rhythm.
i like Number 1. It strays away from the more strict clawhammer 'bump-a-diddy'. But there's no rule against that. You may want to explore some of the 19th century stroke style material out there. This was down picking before bump-a-diddy and is much freer with its rhythmic patterns, using the open 5th as a melody note more often.
I only looked at #3. Unless you intend to sound every one of the 5th string notes in the tab, you can mark the ones you want to omit with an x. Also, you could substitute some drop thumb instead of the constant 5th string. Just a couple of thoughts :-)
Just looked at #2. I like it the best.
Edited by - chip arnold on 03/25/2023 12:09:49
Thanks for these comments! Andrew I’ll definitely check out the material you mention. If you have any particular sources in mind, please point me in the right direction. I like the sound of that first one too. (Maybe because the hammer-ons and pull-offs let me sound a bit fancy with my beginner’s technique!)
Chip, thanks for the tip about using an “x”. Is there a preference for doing that vs. just writing the beat as a quarter note? Coming to banjo tab from traditional notation, I wondered about to how handle rests and longer notes. (What do you do if a tune ends with a strum on beat 3 for example?)
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