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Jun 23, 2024 - 12:19:10 PM
39 posts since 4/19/2024

I’m having a bit of trouble with the clearness and tone of my third and fourth string hammer with both my index and middle finger with normal clawhammer. The volume and clearness is much less with the 3rd and 4th strings.

I think I’ve traced it to the shape of the claw for my hand but I haven’t been able to completely work this out as a consistent practice exercise to get a technique that I can tell is “correct). In many videos I watch the movement is so fast that it’s difficult to tell how the person playing hits the third and fourth string and why it’s different than when I hit them.

Does anyone have any thoughts on how to practice hitting those strings. Right now it feels like hit or miss on the clearness and volume. I’ve gotten to where I can hit them eyes closed or open every time correctly and switch between any other string and those two easily and quickly but the sustain and tone and volume just aren’t the same.

Thanks for any tips.

Jun 23, 2024 - 12:59:40 PM

120 posts since 9/1/2020

By "hit or miss", does that mean sometimes you get the sound you're after?

Jun 23, 2024 - 2:04:39 PM
Players Union Member

Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

30321 posts since 8/3/2003

I think the main thing with a hammer on is to hit the hammer as soon after you pick the first note. If you wait too long, it will sound muted or have very little sound.

If you have trouble with the index and middle hammer on, try index and ring. Sometimes that is easier for some people.

Jun 23, 2024 - 3:01:25 PM

1090 posts since 3/23/2006

There are only two differences between hammering on the 1st and 2nd string vs the 3rd and 4th: (1) string diameter is larger on the 3rd and especially the wound 4th, and (2) the left hand position is bit more of a reach to the 3rd and 4th depending on your neck width and shape. It's usually not a matter of finger strength for the middle and 4th finger -- unlike the pinkie which often needs practice to get a strong hammer-on, but perhaps you need to keep practicing to build up more strength. Hard to say more without seeing you play, but practicing what you find difficult usually yields results.

Jun 24, 2024 - 3:58:07 AM
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4793 posts since 4/29/2012

You should be able to get a reasonably loud hammer without even plucking the hammered string first. alternate string hammers are a thing. Maybe just play around with hammering open strings without plucking them first. Try different fingers. Make sure you are hammering straight down hard with the tip of a a bent finger. I often see beginners fretting, and therefore hammering, with the pad of a more or less straight finger rather than the tip of a bent finger - so their hammers are weak.

Jun 24, 2024 - 5:01:26 AM

39 posts since 4/19/2024

I tried the bent finger early this mornng in a practice session and that really helped. It has been difficult with the pinky in practice especially in long spans. One move I was practicing is fourth string from second fret to fifth and it’s very hard to get that distance and strength from my pinky but the bent suggestion is really helping. Thank you!

Jun 24, 2024 - 5:36:46 AM
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JSB88

UK

614 posts since 3/9/2017

Forgive a stupid question, but is this question about Hammer-On's (left hand on the neck) or about the "hammer" part of clawhammer (right hand over the head, or thereabouts) [assuming right handed banjo)

Jun 24, 2024 - 6:55:38 AM

39 posts since 4/19/2024

Actually the initial question was about Hammer through clawhammer but since everyone was answering from the hammer-on term (most instructors discuss the clawhammer percussion as a hammer when I watch their videos) I have appreciated the details of both since my practice of hammer-on was also having difficulty particularly with my pinky (left hand) was very weak especially in a long span.

My original question was on strings 3 and 4 with the clawhammer right hand not being as loud as the strings 1 and 2.

I actually found a technique article and then subsequent video that talked about the angle of the hand remaining perpendicular to the strings improving the “loudness” and sustain when clawhammer percussion hammering with the right hand on strings 3 and 4. That change of watching the angle really really helped.

Jun 24, 2024 - 8:27:37 AM

120 posts since 9/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by JSB88

Forgive a stupid question, but is this question about Hammer-On's (left hand on the neck) or about the "hammer" part of clawhammer (right hand over the head, or thereabouts) [assuming right handed banjo)


That's what I wondered too. 

He seemed to be asking about the right hand striking technique, which is why I asked for clarification.

But then everybody kept talking about hammer-on technique...

Jun 24, 2024 - 8:28:20 AM
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JSB88

UK

614 posts since 3/9/2017

Ha, yes. I am constantly trying to perfect the pinky finger hammer-on, it's difficult to get right 100%, or maybe for me even over 30% of the time. As for clawhammer, I often think some strings sounding louder or quieter through a tune is part of the charm, but I play most 2f picking so am no judge.

Jun 24, 2024 - 2:51:42 PM

39 posts since 4/19/2024

quote:
Originally posted by JSB88

As for clawhammer, I often think some strings sounding louder or quieter through a tune is part of the charm, but I play most 2f picking so am no judge.


I am sure that the charm is really the playing style people have especially when they know how to change the volume and range of each string.  As a beginner,  I'm trying hard to get the volume the same for most of the strings and playing when I play the hammer (from the claw striking a string with index or middle finger nail) in a given measure.   I'm sure that someday I'll understand when to change the volume to lower or higher but that type of "personality" while playing is definitely beyond me.

But ensuring that the finger performing the percussive clawhammer on a string moves across perpendicular to the strings absolutely helped me ensure that the volume and intensity is a lot better.

 

on the hammer on, I think it's just a matter of practicing the work with the pinky to hit the timing and force when needed.

Jun 24, 2024 - 11:20:28 PM

JSB88

UK

614 posts since 3/9/2017

Quite right. What do they say? Something like 'it takes hours of practice to sound that natural', or something like that.

Jun 25, 2024 - 8:52:32 AM

4793 posts since 4/29/2012

Apologies. I was led astray by the first comment, which talked about hammering a sounded string.
On the original, actual, question: There should be no difference between the power put into 1st and 2nd vs. 3rd and 4th. Whether the volume that comes out is similar also depends on other fators like the age and gauge of the strings. Without seeing your technique it's difficult to say why you're having issues. But I'll give it a guess. The clawhammer motion comes from the whole hand hitting down on a string. Whether that hand hits the 1st or 4th string is dependant on how far in the finger (index or middle ) is curled, i.e the space between the finger and thumb. One often sees beginners plucking down with a moving finger rather than hitting down with a rigid hand moving from the wrist. This may be your issue.

Edited by - AndrewD on 06/25/2024 08:56:19

Jun 25, 2024 - 5:50:12 PM

Wobba

USA

141 posts since 4/15/2020

If you're new to finger style, it will take some time to get hammer ons consistent. It requires practice, which leads to building muscle coordination in your fingers and greater finger muscle strength. This will give you a consistent sound of hammer ons regardless of the string. Create a practice for hammer ons on different strings that you do every day. Then see how you are doing after a month or two.
When I was first learning to play I was pretty frustrated with how weak my hammer ons were. As the months went by I got better and better. Now I can hammer on where ever without even picking a sting and I can get a clear, loud note.
Hammer ons with the index and middle fingers comes easier. Hammer ons with the ring and pink, ugh, that takes a lot of work. But it's reachable.

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