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Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?

Knicke 19 Sep 00 - 05:45 PM
Jed at Work 19 Sep 00 - 06:30 PM
bseed(charleskratz) 19 Sep 00 - 11:21 PM
GUEST 19 Sep 00 - 11:34 PM
Oversoul 19 Sep 00 - 11:51 PM
Banjoman_CO 20 Sep 00 - 12:07 AM
Banjoman_CO 20 Sep 00 - 12:22 AM
JedMarum 20 Sep 00 - 09:43 AM
Gern 20 Sep 00 - 09:45 AM
BanjoRay 20 Sep 00 - 10:44 AM
Jim Krause 20 Sep 00 - 01:07 PM
GUEST,Russ 20 Sep 00 - 02:14 PM
GUEST,Songster Bob 20 Sep 00 - 02:31 PM
GUEST,Songster Bob 20 Sep 00 - 02:35 PM
Little Neophyte 20 Sep 00 - 02:51 PM
Jed at Work 20 Sep 00 - 02:57 PM
Jim Krause 20 Sep 00 - 02:59 PM
GUEST,Russ 20 Sep 00 - 04:56 PM
GUEST,Fretless 20 Sep 00 - 05:27 PM
mousethief 20 Sep 00 - 05:31 PM
GUEST,fretless 20 Sep 00 - 05:45 PM
Little Neophyte 20 Sep 00 - 07:00 PM
Sean Belt 20 Sep 00 - 10:39 PM
Oversoul 20 Sep 00 - 11:38 PM
Rex 21 Sep 00 - 01:00 PM
Mooh 21 Sep 00 - 07:26 PM
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Subject: Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?
From: Knicke
Date: 19 Sep 00 - 05:45 PM

I've been listening to a lot of P. Seeger and Taj Mahal and I decided I'd REALLY like to try "frailing". The variety of sounds and rhythms seems pretty great, plus I just really like the way banjos sound.

However: no one I know plays banjo clawhammer-style. Does anybody have any tips, or reccomendations for books that might help me out? I'd appreciate it.


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Subject: RE: Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?
From: Jed at Work
Date: 19 Sep 00 - 06:30 PM

Start here. A perfectly delightful record with some wonderful tunes to let sink into your brain .... listening is a great way to learn! Then I'm sure there will be other posters with some good books and links ....


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Subject: RE: Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?
From: bseed(charleskratz)
Date: 19 Sep 00 - 11:21 PM

Here's a link to a previous thread on the subject:

Click here

--seed


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Subject: RE: Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Sep 00 - 11:34 PM

You need a banjo first


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Subject: RE: Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?
From: Oversoul
Date: 19 Sep 00 - 11:51 PM

Try JOHN BURKE'S "Old Time Fiddle Fiddle Tunes for Banjo" (AMSCO MUSIC PUBLISHING COMPANY)in their "Personal Instructor Series #1" Mel Bay has a really basic book on frailing by Muller and Koehler which is fine but also has a lot of stupid photographs of hippies and chickens, etc. Actually there many fine books, these two just came to mind when I saw your thread.


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Subject: RE: Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?
From: Banjoman_CO
Date: 20 Sep 00 - 12:07 AM

Actually, one of our own mudcatters has a fine book out on frailing and clawhammer style. It is a very good to learn from. Tunes are good and the tabliture is easy to read and understand. I recommend it highly. The book is called "the Old Timey Banjo Book" by Bob Clayton. I think you can reach him through the e-mail links at the top of the forum page. Hope this helps.

Banjoman


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Subject: RE: Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?
From: Banjoman_CO
Date: 20 Sep 00 - 12:22 AM

Sorry Knicki, I forgot to give you Bob's handle. It is "Songster Bob" and you can get his e-mail address from the "mudcat profiles" in the links box. Hope this helps.

Banjoman


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Subject: RE: Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?
From: JedMarum
Date: 20 Sep 00 - 09:43 AM

I wrote to Songster Bob some time ago, at your suggestion, Banjoman ... I never heard from him. I suspect he's gone.


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Subject: RE: Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?
From: Gern
Date: 20 Sep 00 - 09:45 AM

The books that helped me were Pete Seeger's HOW TO PLAY THE FIVE-STRING BANJO and Eric Mueller's FRAILING: AN INSTRUCTIONAL MANUAL (a Mel Bay Product.) Brad Leftwich has an excellent instruction book called ROUND PEAK STYLE BANJO or something like that: it includes a CD recording of each exercise, for those like me who cannot learn without hearing a demonstration. Seeger's book only devotes a few pages to clawhammer, but his explanation is good. If you can find a festival with an old-time banjo workshop, that would be best of all. There are also instructional videos from Ralph Stanley, Gary Brewer and others, but I don't know enough to recommend them.


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Subject: RE: Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?
From: BanjoRay
Date: 20 Sep 00 - 10:44 AM

Dwight Diller has two excellent clawhammer instruction videos for intermediate and beginner banjo players. If you can get to one of his banjo beginner workshops even better. He really conveys a feel for the West Virginia style of playing. A more general instruction book is Clawhammer Banjo (I think!) by Ken Perlman - he gives a good introduction to a few different styles. The Brad Leftwich Round Peak Style book is quite advanced - I wouldn't use it until you you've got a good grounding in banjo playing. However it is an excellent advanced tutor for the playing styles of Tommy Jarrel, Kyle Creed, Fred Cockerham etc, with the emphasis on the fretless banjo.
Cheers
Ray


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Subject: RE: Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?
From: Jim Krause
Date: 20 Sep 00 - 01:07 PM

When I started out, books were my nemisis. Tablatures were impossible to figure out, and I didn't have a very good grounding in what clawhammer should sound like. I like listening and seeing at the same time. So the tape/book combination was the one that worked best for me. I still think Homespun Tapes is the best thing going, if they're still in business. I haven't gotten a recent catalogue in a few years.


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Subject: RE: Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 20 Sep 00 - 02:14 PM

First, subscribe immediately to Banjo-L. Go to http://www.ios.com/~zepp29/contents.htm for instructions.

Second, ask exactly the same question on Banjo-L and then jump quickly out of the way.

Third,As a banjo player myself I've learned a few lessons the HARD way.

1. Get very specific about your goal. Decide who you want to sound like. There are as many clawhammer banjo styles and sounds as there are clawhammer banjo players.

2. Dwight Diller says that in the beginning it is more important to listen than practice. If you are not sure exactly who you want sound like you need to obsess on listening to banjo playing. Once you have started to focus, obsess on listening to the playing you want to emulate.

3. Most important GET A TEACHER.

No amount of listening and no amount of reading can replace the insights you get from watching someone play or having them go, "No, that's not it, let me show you how that works." For a lifelong bookworm like me, this was the hardest and bitterest lesson I had to learn. If there are no local teachers start with a week at Augusta (http://www.augustaheritage.com/) or Swannanoa (http://www.swangathering.org/index.html) or Dwight Diller (http://www.dwightdiller.com). That will get you properly started and your teacher can point you towards the next step.


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Subject: RE: Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?
From: GUEST,Songster Bob
Date: 20 Sep 00 - 02:31 PM

Oops! Did I miss someone's email? I'll write directly.

Someone suggested the John Burke book, which I recommend be avoided until you've learned to play. It has a very strange tablature system (based on "phrases," not "bars" or "counts") and has numerous errors in transcription. If you play already, you can use your ears to correct for the errors, but if you're new at it, it's a tough row to hoe.

Now I'll go back and make amends for the oversight above.

Bob Clayton


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Subject: RE: Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?
From: GUEST,Songster Bob
Date: 20 Sep 00 - 02:35 PM

Guess I'll do it when I get home. I'm behind a firewall here at work, and don't have a cookie from Mudcat for this email address. So I'll log on at home, where the 'cat knows me, and will email Jed Marum directly. Looks like he wins a free book!

Bob Clayton


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Subject: RE: Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 20 Sep 00 - 02:51 PM

Russ, is it really necessary to obsess over one player like you said and end up emulating them? Why not just add another player to the list, like Banjo Russ. As for me, my goal is to add one more players to that list.....Little Neo.

Just wondering
Bonnie


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Subject: RE: Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?
From: Jed at Work
Date: 20 Sep 00 - 02:57 PM

Not free, Bob ... but I would love to get the book! It's come highly recommnded, ya know!


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Subject: RE: Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?
From: Jim Krause
Date: 20 Sep 00 - 02:59 PM

I started out wanting to sound like Art Rosenbaum. Then I heard Beverly Cotten, and got my banjo neck scooped out so I could get that clop, clop, clop on the brush stroke. You know what? I never did sound like either Art or Beverly. I sounded like me playing over the neck. The upshot is, steal all you can, learn the rest, and every clawhammer banjo player sounds different.


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Subject: RE: Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 20 Sep 00 - 04:56 PM

Little Neo - Good question. My advice is based upon my own experience. I think it is good advice for ordinary people like me, not musically talented people.

Years ago I bought the banjo and the books (some of which have been recommended here) and started banging away. I wasn't trying to emulate anybody. I was just trying to play tunes the way they were written in the book. I was also trying to learn as many tunes as possible. I succeeded....sort of. I reached the point where I could play plain vanilla versions of a zillion tunes at jam session tempo. The problem was that I was boring myself to death while playing the banjo. As the song goes, I thought "Is that all there is?" and eventually almost completely quit playing banjo.

One day I was listening to a new banjo CD and thought, "Wow! I really like the way he's playing that banjo. I wish I could do that." So, duh, I signed up for lessons from the player and started trying to play the way he does. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I had to forget everything I thought I knew about banjo and return to square one. However, I am ecstatic with the results. I am having fun playing the banjo for the first time in years. At this point in my new love affair with the banjo, the highest compliment you can pay me is "Your playing sounds like...."

But ... I look upon the emulation phase as just the first step. I now have a foundation that I can move from to create a style more my own. But the important thing is that I couldn't have gotten to where I am now if I hadn't done the emulation thingy.


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Subject: RE: Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?
From: GUEST,Fretless
Date: 20 Sep 00 - 05:27 PM

I second the warnings about Burke's book. It is a great text if you already know how to play and if you know the tunes, but it's not for tyros. Same thing is true of Ken Perlman's banjo books -- great arrangements, but trying to follow the tabs will wear you out if you don't already have a sense of what you're doing (Sorry, Ken. And you were even nice enough to thank me in the acknowledgements!). If you're using a book rather than a live teacher, I would start with something like the frailing chapter in Pete Seeger's How to Play the 5-String Banjo. And then maybe try to get your hands on the tab book he published to go along with his record, The Goofin' Off Suite. Then listen to all the banjo music you can, watch all the players you can, and remember that there are no rules, what sounds right is right, and the whole point is to enjoy the sounds that come out of the instrument and don't wake up the neighbors.


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Subject: RE: Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?
From: mousethief
Date: 20 Sep 00 - 05:31 PM

What's a tyro?

ignorant in Seattle,
Alex
O..O
=o=


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Subject: RE: Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?
From: GUEST,fretless
Date: 20 Sep 00 - 05:45 PM

Webster's II: "An inexperienced person: BEGINNER."

Which gives me a chance to add another tip: be patient. Getting the drop thumb motion on the right hand (especially for a lefty like me) takes lots and lots of practice. And lest the thread begin to creep, there's already a thread (or perhaps dozens of them) in the archive about the trials of left-handed folk musicianship.


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Subject: RE: Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 20 Sep 00 - 07:00 PM

Thanks Russ, those details you added about yourself really help and it makes sense. I do try to find players I enjoy and then focus on their style. But eventually I would like to be my own expression of the music.

Bonnie


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Subject: RE: Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?
From: Sean Belt
Date: 20 Sep 00 - 10:39 PM

Books are great for learning beginning stuff. Recordings are good, too. But I'm firmly of the opinion that music has to be learned from other real people. Whether it's a teacher sitting with you and going step by step over tunes and techniques or whether it's more informal, like watching, listening, and eventually playing in a jam situation. But the connection between people is what music is all about and it's best learned that way.

Patience is also a big factor. the instance given above of drop-thumbing. Geez it took me forever to get that right!

- Sean


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Subject: RE: Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?
From: Oversoul
Date: 20 Sep 00 - 11:38 PM

Regarding the problems with Burke's book, you guys are right. There are some rough transcriptions, and Uncle Dave gets a bum rap (pardon the pun) in the introduction, but I still think it is a good investment. Burke did a good job getting that printed at all in 1968. Look at some of the shit that came later. The Burke thing was not perfect, but not JIVE. Polite banjoists told me some of the tunes were "impossible". Think about that all you tyro tablature titans who teach.


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Subject: RE: Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?
From: Rex
Date: 21 Sep 00 - 01:00 PM

I'll second Banjoman. Get Bob Clayton's book. (Songster Bob) It's true that you have to hear it to know how to play it. Still, Bob's book will show you how to start. Then listen to Uncle Dave Macon. MmmMmm

Rex


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Subject: RE: Clawhammer Banjo: Where to start?
From: Mooh
Date: 21 Sep 00 - 07:26 PM

Keep an eye peeled for the name Ken Perlman. He's got books and tapes which are very good, and he's very knowledgable about the music of P.E.I. I've heard him at sessions where he just cooked!

Peace, Mooh.


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