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Clawhammer Banjo Tutorials By learning the information taught in these tutorials you should be able to play any of the clawhammer arrangements on this site. If you are a beginner, just concentrate on the Level 1 lessons as well as the Level 1 arrangements. All of the Level 1 songs in the tablature section only involve the material in the Level 1 lessons. The Level 2 song arrangements usually start with the basic Level 1 arrangement and add the techniques learned in the Level 2 tutorials. The same is true of Level 3. For additional instruction check out the Books & Videos page. Level 1: How to Hold the Banjo Reading Tablature and Chord Diagrams How to Tune the Banjo in G Tuning The Melody Arrangements Basic Clawhammer Technique: The “Bum Ditty” Strum Level 2: Slurred Notes: Slides, Hammer-Ons, and Pull-Offs Level 3: Drop Thumbing

you should sit in a comfortable chair without arms. Hold the banjo so that you will be making chords with your left hand and using your right hand to pluck the strings. If you have a banjo strap be sure to use it so that it can hold the banjo neck up without any assistance from the left hand.Google Search Web www. Let the round part of the banjo rest between your legs and elevate the neck approximately to shoulder How to Hold the Banjo (for Clawhammer) As you are learning to play. .ezfolk.

Bend the fingers at both joints (as in the picture below) and hold down the strings with the tips of the fingers.The Left Hand Don't grab the banjo neck too tightly. but rather let it rest in the web space between your thumb and index finger. Use either your middle finger or index finger (whichever feels more natural) to pluck the correct string with a downward motion. while practicing holding the notes correctly with your left hand. The foundation of playing clawhammer banjo is the "bum-ditty" strum. try holding . Your plucking finger should be held in the same position and the movement should be in your wrist. using the back of your fingernail. if you are a beginner. This seems somewhat awkward at first but becomes very natural after practicing it for a while. Notice that the fingers hold the strings down just behind the wire "fret" instead of the middle of the space or directly on top of the fret. Take some time to play the melody arrangements without strumming. As you practice the melodies. just try to become comfortable with the basic right hand position. For now though. The Right Hand your right hand similar to the picture. The bum-ditty will be described in more detail in a separate tutorial.

Get it? . and this is the divider for the two measures. but it can come in handy. this method provides a clear and immediate mental image of what you need to do on the banjo.” which is the most common banjo tuning. which is the short string on your banjo that begins at the 5th fret. which make tablature much easier to understand. The tablature staff looks much the same as standard notation. the four 0's on the first line mean that you are supposed to play the 1st string four times. The top line represents the 1st string. This simply lets you know that there are 4 beats in each measure. Following the fourth note is a solid line from the top line to the bottom line. In the second measure in the example above the 2nd string is to be played open four times.ezfolk. A "0" on a line simply means you are to play the string open. The bottom line represents the 5th string. The 4/4 after the tuning designation tells you that the song is in 4/4 time. each line represents a string on the Return to Bluegrass Banjo Return to Clawhammer Tutorial Menu How to Read Tablature Tablature provides an easy way to read and write music as it is played on the banjo. which is the one closest to the floor when you are holding your banjo in the normal playing position. or other stringed instruments. but instead of each line representing a particular note. Still using the example above. The letters on the lines on the left side of the tablature (D-B-G-D-G) represent the tuning of each string when it is played "open" (without holding the string down at a fret with the left hand). this particular tuning is standard "G tuning. It has similarities to regular written music (standard notation). Not all tablature has this reference. With a little practice.Google Search Web www. guitar. Here are two measures of tablature: G G G G G The five lines of the tablature staff each represent one of the five strings on the banjo. By the way. These four notes are all quarter notes and are thus all given the same amount of time (1 beat each). but there are many differences also.

The rest of the strings are played open. Play it and see what you think. C Major. Written above these two measures of tablature are chord diagrams. Without getting too technical. The second diagram shows a D7 chord. C. 3rd fret. The D7 chord should be played with your first finger just behind the 1st fret. 2nd string -. and D Seventh. that is the picture that the chord diagram is showing. and D (or D7). 2nd fret. The quarter notes reach all the way up to the note. but just behind the fret (which makes it easier to hold down). In more advanced playing up the neck of the banjo the starting fret is denoted by a number on the left side of the diagram. but these are usually just called G. Notice how the tablature corresponds to the chord. Every song has a chord progression. playing all of the strings open gives you a G chord. 3rd string." Certain chords combined together make up a "key. Chord diagrams are basically just a picture of where the fingers of your left hand should be holding down the frets. etc. whereas the half note is designated by just a small line underneath the measure.not on top of the wire fret and not in the middle of the space. Holding down the notes and getting a clear sound takes a lot of practice but is easy once you get the hang of it. If you play the measure above correctly it should sound like the beginning of Jingle Bells. The first two notes in each of these measures are quarter notes. If you hold your banjo straight up facing you and look at the first four frets. . In both measures you should play the 2nd string open three times. Most banjo music consists of quarter notes and eighth notes. Try holding this chord with your left hand and playing the measure of tablature. The most commonly used chords in the key of G are G Major. Although there are no eighth notes written in these examples. but you don't need to worry about the for now." Most of the songs on this site are in the key of G. The last note in each measure is a half note. individual notes (one tone) combined together in certain ways make up a "chord. huh? Since the banjo is tuned in an open G already. The total time value of the notes in a measure in 4/4 time must add up to 1 whole note (4 x 1/4 = 1). take a look at some of the song arrangements and you will notice many eighth notes. The metal wires that separates the spaces on the banjo are called frets (1st fret. The line coming down from the note tells you the time value of the note. Your middle finger should hold down the 2nd fret.The two measures above are identical. Pretty easy.). The eighth notes have stems that are connected to adjacent notes. The first diagram above shows the G chord.

However. 2nd fret with your ring finger. Practice switching between the G. and then hold the 1st string. generally you will hold that chord position until a new chord is called for. but once you learn it it is very simple. but be prepared to move around a bit. perform certain licks.The second measure in this set shows a C chord. C. 2nd fret with your middle finger. 1st fret with your index finger (just like in D7). Therefore. then hold down the 4th string. though. when you are doing a strum you need to be holding the correct chord for the strings you are strumming. and D7 chords until you are pretty comfortable with them. I should point that when you see these chord diagrams written in tablature. It is important to remember . then let's play some songs! . much of the time you will be required to leave the chord position in order to hit certain melody notes. It is a little more difficult than the D7 because you need to hold down three strings at the same time. or whatever. think of the chord diagram as a guide to your general position. The 3rd and 5th strings are played open. Form the C chord by holding down the 2nd string.

Click here to open our electronic tuner page for banjos. Tune your banjo to sound like each open string played in the midi file. If it is not in tune it really won't sound right. If you don’t have an electronic tuner available. For tuning your banjo you should have a chromatic tuner.Google Search Web www. A midi player such as Windows Media Player must be installed on your computer to use this option. beginning with the 1st string (the one nearest the floor when you hold the banjo in playing position). .com Return to Bluegrass Banjo Return to Clawhammer Tutorial Menu Tuning Your Banjo One of the most important (and sometimes most difficult) things to do is to get your banjo in tune. Electronic tuners can now be purchased very reasonably and should be considered an essential investment for all banjo players. clicking on the “Play Midi” button on the left will allow you to hear the tablature below. Below are some tuning tips to help you out as well as some alternate banjo tunings. Each open string is played four times.ezfolk. Learning how the strings should sound takes a lot of time. which is the open strings in G tuning. but don't let that discourage you.

It is also sometimes called “sawmill tuning” or “mountain minor tuning. When tuning a string. . Notice that the notes the open strings are to be tuned to are written on the left side of the first line of tablature.1st string B .5th string (the short string on top when holding the banjo) Learning to tune the banjo properly is a skill that must be developed as you train yourself what sounds right and what doesn't. tune the string down to a point you know is LOWER than the correct pitch. tune the B note up to C. your ability to tune the banjo will develop over a long period of time as you develop an ear for the proper sounds. which enables you to play more open strings and less difficult chords with the left hand.4th string (one octave lower and the 1st string) G . G Modal Tuning -. be sure to pluck the string with your right hand as you turn the tuning peg so you can hear the sound. Some other common banjo tunings are listed below.” From G tuning only the 2nd string is retuned. G G G G G Other Common Tunings The banjo is usually tuned in an open tuning. 1. and many others." which is the most common tuning for the banjo.From G tuning. but listed below are some of the more popular tunings that are used. Little Sadie. C .This is a very popular tuning for old-time tunes such as Shady Grove. D 2. For G tuning these are: D . Be sure to continually sound the string to ensure you are not tuning it too high. There are dozens of different tunings that have been used over the years. Just as your playing will improve over time with continued practice.3rd string (one octave lower than the 5th string) D . thus possibly breaking the string. If you have an electronic tuner you should have no difficulty in using these tunings when they are called for.Tuning Tips G Keep in mind that the tuning above is "G tuning. Always listen to the note you are going tune along with first. If you can't tell whether the pitch of the string is too high or too low.2nd string G . and then tune up until you reach the right pitch. and then pluck your string and match up the sound.

D C . D A or F# . It is not the most popular tuning but can come in handy for playing in the key of C and is quickly accessible from G tuning. . depending on which sounds best for different songs.” It is not really an open tuning but allows you to easily form the most used chords in the key of C (C. F. tune the B note up to C. The 5th string can either be tuned to A or F#. tune the D note down to C.3. G 4. D 5. 1. 5. 2. G D Tuning -. 4. tune the G note up to A or down to F#. 3. This was the standard tuning for the 4-string plectrum banjo. 1. F# . Notice that from G Modal tuning only one string is retuned. tune the B note down to A. 4.From G tuning. and G). 3. D B G C . G Standard C Tuning -.From G tuning. 3. 5. G C .From G tuning.This was the first tuning that Pete Seeger taught in his classic book. Many fiddle tunes are played in the key of D by fiddlers and banjo players will play along using this tuning and put a capo on the 2nd fret to get in the key of D. 2. tune the D note down to C. tune the G note down to F#. G Double C Tuning -.From G tuning.This tuning is very popular among clawhammer banjo players and is probably even more popular than G tuning for playing fiddle tunes. 2. 1. D A . 5. 4.From G tuning.From G tuning.D tuning is probably the most common alternative tuning for bluegrass players. “How to Play the 5-string Banjo.

You should practice playing them with the back of the fingernail just as you learned in the lesson on the bum-ditty strum. now would be a good time for it. Don't worry about being too perfect here.the The Melody Arrangements (and How to Use Them) Many of the songs on this site are taught in the form of four different arrangements and are categorized as Melody. making these melodies sound right on your banjo can be great practice. and Level 3. Moving along to Level 1 and combining the melody with the bum-ditty strum will ultimately provide much better practice. In fact. and 3 arrangements are all based on the melody arrangement. If you haven’t learned the bum-ditty yet. 2. then take the same file and add bum-ditty strums to the melody to construct the Level 1 arrangement. The Level 1. . Level 1. It's really a pretty simple process! As far as playing and learning the melody arrangements. The purpose of the melody arrangements is not really to play them as banjo solos but to break down the tune of a song to its foundation -. Level 2.Google Search Web www. and so on. Once that was done I would save that file as the melody arrangement.ezfolk. in arranging these songs I simply started by writing out the melody arrangement. After practicing for a while you will find that picking the melody of a song out is usually pretty simple. if you are in the beginning stages of playing. The melody of the song is simply the notes that would be sung if you were singing the song.

your practice comes as you are playing your choice of the songs found elsewhere on this site. keep in mind that in addition to playing the melody you are also strumming the chords. <four and>. Basically I believe it is just a matter of learning the basic stroke. but I don't want to make it sound overly complicated either -. <three>. go for it. As you play the bum-ditty. with each measure sounding like "bum-ditty bum-ditty" or.ezfolk. the melody arrangements are really just the bare skeleton of the song. The foundation of playing clawhammer banjo is the "bum-ditty" strum. but sometimes you will need to move away from a particular chord position for certain notes. Most of the time the melody notes will be within the chord that you should be playing at the time. I don't want to oversimplify the bum-ditty. Of course. I know that sounds confusing. when counted. All of the Level 1 arrangements are simple enough for beginners to play. This is derived from the rhythm of the banjo.Google Search Web www. then practicing it a few thousand times until it becomes second nature. <two and>.com The “Bum-Ditty” Anytime you're ready to progress from just playing the melody to playing the Level 1 arrangements. Once you add the bum-ditty to the melody it starts sounding like an actual banjo tune. play that song as much as you like before doing other songs. as it is probably the single most important element in playing the clawhammer style. much like a rhythm guitar player plays chords. If you like one particular song better than the others. "<one>. .it's not that difficult. but the best way to clear it up is to start playing and figure out what needs to be done when something seems out of the ordinary. Remember. Be sure to pay careful attention to the chord changes that are written on top of the tablature." with the first and third beats of the measure being quarter notes and the second and fourth beats each being a two-part strum consisting of two eighth notes. by all means.

The thumb should automatically go to the top string (5th string) as the strum (DIT) is being made. TY -. They may be right. BUM -. This is an eighth note. Try it both ways and pick the one that suits you best. The second picture shows the hand after the strum.either the middle finger or the index finger.Pluck the 5th string with your thumb. Following are some general observations regarding this: G The strum is accomplished using the back of the fingernail of one finger only -. DIT -. and that the index finger gives you more control and volume. This is an eighth note. all in the same motion. no more than an inch or so off the strings. Comparing the second picture with the first should give you an idea of this motion. but there have been quite a few good players to use their middle finger instead. The hand is pulled back only slightly. If you have a hard time visualizing this. The first picture shows the right hand position as the strings as strummed. The bum-ditty can be broken down into these three simple movements: 1. the forearm does not move. 2. In the Level 1 and Level 2 arrangements.Play one of the first 4 strings with your middle (or index) finger. the thumb always G . think of the top of the banjo as a door and make a motion like you are knocking on the door.The two pictures above should give you an idea of how your right hand should look. This is a quarter note. After the strum the hand pulls back slightly while the thumb plucks the 5th string (TY). In the picture I am using my middle finger. 3.Strum with the back of your middle (or index) fingernail. Note that when knocking on the door. but rather the hand is bent at the wrist. Some people are adamant that using the index finger is the only proper way to go. If you use your index finger it should be tucked in a little more so that it is even the other fingers (more like a fist). The movement is very similar. so I think the argument can be made either way.

The technique for playing the single strings (BUM) is basically the same as the beginning of the strum.plays just the 5th string. In the Level 3 arrangements the thumb drops down and plays other strings as well. and so on. when plucking the 2nd string your finger should then come to rest on the 1st string. or 4th) the finger should come to rest on the string below it. Your hand position does not change. but when your hand is pulled back (remember the door?) the thumb comes off the 5th string without making a sound. When playing an individual note on one of the inner strings (2nd. when songs are played at normal tempo this is hardly (if at all) noticeable because it is so quick. G Except for the bending at the wrist. Of course. the hand is basically held rigid. For example. but it does make a difference. G . The thumb still goes to the 5th string for stability. letting all of the movement be done with the wrist. 3rd. The position of the fingers should remain in a claw-like position.

Below are some examples. For more practice. In the sample above. depending on which direction your sliding finger is moving. choose measures from any of the Level 2 arrangements. & Pull-Offs Slurred Notes (Clawhammer Examples) These are common left hand techniques that create slurred notes -. Remember that the note at the 2nd fret is sounded with your right hand. use your middle finger to slide from the 2nd fret up to the 4th Slides. .the pitch of the note on a string changes by the action of the left hand instead of striking the string with your right hand.ezfolk. but the note at the fourth fret is made by the action of the left hand sliding up to the 4th fret. Slides A slide raises or lowers the pitch of an original note that is played. Hammer-Ons.Google Search Web www.

but with the hammer-on the procedure is reversed. then forcefully pull your left hand finger down off the string in such a way as to produce a second note. so it is basically the opposite of a hammer-on. or 4th finger. then you hammer down on a fret to produce a second tone. First you play the open string. 3rd. Notes are usually played by fretting at a certain position and then playing a string.Hammer-Ons A hammer-on always raises the pitch of the note that is being played. To produce the pull-off you must play a fretted string. and the hammer down on a higher fret of the same string with your 2nd. only the first note in the pair is actually played with the right hand. You can also begin with a fretted string. As with all slurred notes. . Pull-Offs A pull-off always lowers the pitch of the note that is played.

Note that below there is a "T" under the tablature in the instances where you need to bring your thumb down. but there are times that you will also play the 3rd and 4th strings with your thumb. and then practice any measures containing drop thumbing in the Level 3 songs. The Level 3 arrangements are not that much different than the Level 2 arrangements except for the addition of the drop thumbing technique. but the pattern is the same so the notes that need to be played with your thumb should be obvious with a little practice.Google Search Web www.ezfolk. Sometimes there are notes that you are just not able to get to unless you go down and play the string with your thumb. Practice the exercise below until you get a feel for it. The "T" is not on the regular tablatures. but just like the bum-ditty it becomes a simple movement once it is mastered. It may seem difficult at first. In Drop Thumbing In the Level 1 and Level 2 arrangements the thumb always plays the 5th string. this technique tends to add some nice variety to the sound of the clawhammer strum. and only the 5th string. . Most of the time your thumb will go to the 2nd string just as in the example above.