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ErnieElse
07-07-2015, 04:10 AM
Hi all,

This is not a "how clawhammer ?" thread but a "why clawhammer ?" thread.

I'm currently learning the technique and like the learning process very much although I appreciate it will take a lot of practice for it to become second nature. However, I'm starting to wonder why I'm learning it and want to be sure it will be worth the effort :)

Firstly, I'm not interested in learning things for learning's sake and am only interested if it will make much of my music sound "better" and more distinctive. Making cool-sounding music is what I'm striving for, not being the guy who can play every chord and technique under the sun.

Secondly, I'm not interested in learning it because I have any affinity whatsoever with playing old time bluegrass and Americana tunes. Indeed I prefer playing all the standard mainstream pop, rock, country type stuff.

However what I am searching for is the most efficient way to combine strumming chords with picking a melody and creating a driving rhythm in as unified a way as possible and naively the clawhammer technique would seem to offer this. Is there an easier way ?

So am I learning a technique that can be arranged and applied across the musical spectrum so that people will go "wow, how did he do that ?" or am I learning something that is very specific to a particular musical genre and will often sound odd when used for playing many of the standard mainstream tunes I like to play ? Would I find myself building a repertoire around the technique rather than adopting the technique to make my chosen repertoire sound better ? Banging out Cripple Creek and the other standards of that genre is of no real interest to me.

I guess the next question is regarding tabs. Is it easy to rearrange standard chords plus melody tabs into bum-ditty format or once again am I learning a technique that is not applicable to a re-arrangement of most of the standard tabs out there.

Many thanks for any opinions.

Ernie

Down Up Dick
07-07-2015, 04:57 AM
Clawhammer has been a lot of work for me, and I still don't play it well. It is very difficult to get usta, and it takes time to play it comfortably. If you don't like the music (Old Timey but not much Bluegrass), why bother learning it? Put your learning time into the kinda music that you like.

Different strokes for different folks! :old:

Rllink
07-07-2015, 05:14 AM
Ive watched video after video, and I just can't seem to do that first down plucking thing with the index finger, and get a clear note. I think that if I could do that, everything else would fall into place eventually. But they keep saying that it is like knocking on a door, and it isn't, because I've been knocking on doors all my life, and I still can't hit that string. Anyway, I've quit and gone back to it a half dozen times, and right now I'm in quit mode.

Tootler
07-07-2015, 05:16 AM
I play a mixture of folk (trad & conemporary) and pop and briefly tried clawhammer but realised it wasn't right for me or for most of the songs I sing. I use a mixture of strummed (mostly) and finger picked accompaniment. I found finger picking easier to pick up than clawhammer but it still takes time and effort to coordinate it with your singing. There's tutorials on You Tube.

Down Up Dick
07-07-2015, 05:34 AM
Rollie, I hate to give anyone instructions any more. They jumped me pretty bad yesterday.

Why do you wanna play Clawhammer? You don't like Old Timey music do you? It's a lotta work (for me) if one doesn't wanna play old folk songs. I guess you could play any tunes you want, but Clawhammer is kinda distinctively Old Timey. Have you watched it on YouTube as I suggested before? One can even take lessons there.

Well, good luck with your endeavors--try YouTube first. :old:

Down Up Dick
07-07-2015, 05:52 AM
Whoops! I didn't see that you've already watched videos and still can't do what you want. Well, that's Clawhammer! It's difficult because you're doing something that you already know how to do--but differently!

Either work and work and work on it or forget about it. It takes time . . . :old:

Rllink
07-07-2015, 06:01 AM
Rollie, I hate to give anyone instructions any more. They jumped me pretty bad yesterday.

Why do you wanna play Clawhammer? You don't like Old Timey music do you? It's a lotta work (for me) if one doesn't wanna play old folk songs. I guess you could play any tunes you want, but Clawhammer is kinda distinctively Old Timey. Have you watched it on YouTube as I suggested before? One can even take lessons there.

Well, good luck with your endeavors--try YouTube first. :old:Well, I don't know why I want to learn it. I'm probably better off not wasting my time, for all the reasons that you said. Yes, I did watch that video that you gave me.

Down Up Dick
07-07-2015, 06:07 AM
Well, I don't know why I want to learn it. I'm probably better off not wasting my time, for all the reasons that you said. Yes, I did watch that video that you gave me.

Well, at the risk of being excoriated, I'll give it a try. What are you trying to do? :old:

Rllink
07-07-2015, 06:24 AM
Well, at the risk of being excoriated, I'll give it a try. What are you trying to do? :old:Just that first down stroke with the index finger, where you hit that one string to get everything started. That is all. I know how the do it, I don't get it done. Instead of a note, I get a thunk. My finger ends up stuck between the strings. I don't think that you can make me more coordinated.

PhilUSAFRet
07-07-2015, 06:41 AM
I have short, soft, nails and can't do clawhammer very well. If you don't really like that style of playing, why worry about it? Just don't learn/play it.
I get my bum diddy bum with a quick down/up with my forefinger and a down on the 4th string with my thumb. Not "elegant" but it get's the job done.
Save your frustration for trying to learn something you really, really want to learn and will use often. Uke is supposed to be "fun."

ErnieElse
07-07-2015, 06:49 AM
Whilst I do hope I get more replies about the benefits of actually being able to play the style across musical genres rather than another thread about actually how to play the style, I will offer the following as someone who is putting in quite a few hard hours of practice at the moment.

I am finding that playing clawhammer on a larger instrument such as Tenor or Baritone is quite a bit easier than a smaller instrument for (so far) three reasons.

1 String tension is higher and so more volume is achieved with less string movement.

2 Learning to strike unfretted strings is relatively easy on all instruments but striking fretted strings is trickier as the small movement downwards of the string when fretted can cause the strike to miss. These downward movements are smaller for instruments with longer scale length.

3 I'm finding a good way of hitting fretted strings is to simultaneously fret them and pull them down towards the first string slightly. Such small string bends hardly distort the sound on a larger instrument but become very noticeable on a smaller instrument.

These are my observations FWIW.

Anyway, still hoping to be convinced that clawhammer is a smart addition to traditional strumming and Travis picking for a player who just likes to bang out modern music.

Ernie

Down Up Dick
07-07-2015, 06:58 AM
Just that first down stroke with the index finger, where you hit that one string to get everything started. That is all. I know how the do it, I don't get it done. Instead of a note, I get a thunk. My finger ends up stuck between the strings. I don't think that you can make me more coordinated.

First, play a single note. It's a melody note, and the first note of the tune. Then set the nail part of your index or middle finger at string #4 and strum down toward the floor. Then, with your thumb which is already resting on string #4, pluck the string. Whenever you "pick" a string, you should strike it towards the top of the Uke and stop it at the next lower string. If your fingers are going between the strings, you're probably pressing too hard. It's just a light stroke across the top of all four strings and then a pluck. The timing for the Bom-Diddy is two tied 8th notes.

Anyway, that's how I learned how to do it. "Get 'er done!" :old:

Rllink
07-07-2015, 07:34 AM
Whilst I do hope I get more replies about the benefits of actually being able to play the style across musical genres rather than another thread about actually how to play the style, I will offer the following as someone who is putting in quite a few hard hours of practice at the moment.

I am finding that playing clawhammer on a larger instrument such as Tenor or Baritone is quite a bit easier than a smaller instrument for (so far) three reasons.

1 String tension is higher and so more volume is achieved with less string movement.

2 Learning to strike unfretted strings is relatively easy on all instruments but striking fretted strings is trickier as the small movement downwards of the string when fretted can cause the strike to miss. These downward movements are smaller for instruments with longer scale length.

3 I'm finding a good way of hitting fretted strings is to simultaneously fret them and pull them down towards the first string slightly. Such small string bends hardly distort the sound on a larger instrument but become very noticeable on a smaller instrument.

These are my observations FWIW.

Anyway, still hoping to be convinced that clawhammer is a smart addition to traditional strumming and Travis picking for a player who just likes to bang out modern music.

Ernie
I'm probably the one who started in the "how" direction instead of the "why" direction, so to address your question, I don't see any reason. I don't even know why I keep trying, because I know that even if I do learn it, I won't do it a lot.

Down Up Dick
07-07-2015, 07:43 AM
I'm probably the one who started in the "how" direction instead of the "why" direction, so to address your question, I don't see any reason. I don't even know why I keep trying, because I know that even if I do learn it, I won't do it a lot.

That's what I thought, Rollie. Just go on with your new jam sessions. :old:

Inksplosive AL
07-07-2015, 07:53 AM
Why because the nails clacking add such a nice percussive sound to the music.

I like the music where you can play clawhammer I just dont think I'll ever really get it either. Truth be told the time needed just might not be worth it.

Down Up Dick
07-07-2015, 08:39 AM
Exactly, Inksplosive AL, I agree. Some knowledge just isn't worth learning to everyone. :old:

Irvine
07-07-2015, 09:25 AM
After 3 failed attempts i decided to give it another try and i am slowly making the bum ditty a thing i can do. I do like folk/country/old timey and bluegrass so I'm hoping this is something i can use to explore that music. I don't think i would be spending the time if i didn't like these musical styles. But Once i can do it well, i will definatley try it it in other music
-- I have enjoyed a great version of Cats in the cradle by Richard Hefner.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y08-twcUO9k

Down Up Dick
07-07-2015, 10:50 AM
ubulele, I agree with all that you said above; mostly BECAUSE I ALREADY SAID IT! But have a nice day. :old:

kypfer
07-07-2015, 01:07 PM
As ubulele wrote, it's an individual sound, much like calypso or lute music or blues, all of which can be played on a ukulele, but I think you've got to want to play in that style for it's own sake, else the whole exercise becomes a fairly academic process.

For me, I wanted to play a specific tune in this style (Old Joe Clark, on a 5-string banjo) and persevered until I could do it. Having achieved that, I found I could use the style in many other scenarios. I'm not sure I'd have bothered to learn claw-hammer without a particular goal in mind ... now I've got it I'm really glad I did :music:

Just my tuppence worth. I'm not saying I'm right or wrong, just giving an example as how/why I learnt claw-hammer ... YMMV ;)

jwieties
07-07-2015, 02:12 PM
One of the many things I love about clawhammer is that it takes simple chords and fingerings and makes them sound complex and interesting. The right hand technique is challenging, but after putting in the hours it becomes very rhythmic and natural. At this point some of the easiest songs I play sound are clawhammer tunes that sound technical and difficult.

In addition, any technique you learn will ultimately make you a better player. Fan strokes, split strokes, 2 finger picking, 3 finger picking.... all will help you to develop you own style. I have learned many song that I would never listen to on an album simply because I wanted to learn a particular trick or technique. I've always learned setting new from it and expanded my appreciation of the music.

DownUpDave
07-07-2015, 03:28 PM
The short answer......as a few above mentioned NO!!! it does not span multiple types of music well. Just think BANJO because that is the sound you get with clawhammer. Does not go well with classical, rock, reggie, flamingo, pop......you get the idea.

It does go extremely well with old timey, folk, country and bluegrass.

Down Up Dick
07-07-2015, 05:37 PM
Well, ubulele, I'm glad we ended on a friendly note. I was worried that I was a little harsh. I don't care for mixed drinks, but I will stand in line for cookies.
:old:

ErnieElse
07-08-2015, 06:37 AM
Hi jwieties,


One of the many things I love about clawhammer is that it takes simple chords and fingerings and makes them sound complex and interesting. The right hand technique is challenging, but after putting in the hours it becomes very rhythmic and natural. At this point some of the easiest songs I play sound are clawhammer tunes that sound technical and difficult. .

This is exactly the approach I am trying to take. I addition to learning the old-timey tunes which mix bum-ditty with melody down-picking I am also experimenting with standard chord progression tunes but using the bum to extract the root note of the major and minor chords that follow in ditty part or to extract the flat seventh note in the case of 7th chords. All pretty formulaic stuff but then I'm not trying to re-invent the wheel at this stage.

I'm finding that this technique really accents the chords, much more so than simply strumming or up-picking the same chord where the root note often gets lost and tunes can all start to sound like each other.

It's clearly not the same as playing chords and melody together but it gives that impression when applied to standard modern pop/rock/country tunes, and the rhythm sounds great. Is this what you do ?



In addition, any technique you learn will ultimately make you a better player. Fan strokes, split strokes, 2 finger picking, 3 finger picking.... all will help you to develop you own style. I have learned many song that I would never listen to on an album simply because I wanted to learn a particular trick or technique. I've always learned setting new from it and expanded my appreciation of the music.

All this is true but one needs to prioritise the learning process. Lightning-fast fan and split strokes do nothing for me at all but at some point I'm sure I'll get the urge to learn them. Likewise I'm very much a 2 finger picker with my thumb covering the bottom two strings and right now I see no reason to confuse my brain and muscle memory with 3 finger picking but I'm sure that will change. Right now I'm sticking with clawhammer.

Rgds,

Ernie

Nickie
07-08-2015, 02:17 PM
Not to be "picky", but ubulele is correct. Clawhammer has nothing to do with playing Bluegrass music. Some people get confused about this, because Steve Martin does clawhammer, but also plays with the Steep Canyon Rangers.
As Bill Monroe would say, "That ain't no part of Bluegrass."
I do enjoy clawhammer, and a friend has offered to teach me, when he returns for florida this fall. Nothing like having an in person teacher!

cdkrugjr
07-08-2015, 06:42 PM
I'm trying because I'm acutely aware of how little I know, so any new thing increases my knowledge of what can be done on the uke.

I play lots of things I'd never consider performing for just that reason

kypfer
07-08-2015, 09:00 PM
There is also confusion because many tunes are commonly played in both clawhammer and bluegrass styles, since they share a common musical heritage.

Further sources of confusion may be that in an early version of Pete Seeger's "Play the 5-string Banjo" booklet, under the heading "Three Finger Picking or Clawhammer Style" he refers to "Scruggs style" interchangeably, also, certainly in some UK publications, there is a guitar finger-picking style referred to as "clawhammer" which bears a closer resemblance to what might be termed these days as "Travis-style".

It would seem that usage of the term "clawhammer" has evolved over the years!!

jwieties
07-09-2015, 06:17 AM
It's clearly not the same as playing chords and melody together but it gives that impression when applied to standard modern pop/rock/country tunes, and the rhythm sounds great. Is this what you do ?
Ernie

In part that is what I do. I may stumble across a progression I like and I'll start playing it in a clawhammer style. I may take an existing song and find that it's easier to play some of the melody using clawhammer techniques. I may find a song dull at our monthly uke jam, so I'll start clawhammering the chords while everyone else strums along.

I strongly believe this style can be used far outside of whatever type of music one thinks it belongs to. James Hill has certainly made it his own. Ken Middleton also uses clawhammer across a wide variety of music. Check these out:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0TPqam9E4xc
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=C8LKNMHWmR0
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zM6Skllvylc

Robin Harrison
07-10-2015, 10:59 AM
Hi Ernie.
You ask "why clawhammer? " and later " I hope to be convinced etc"
I wonder if this video might answer both questions.
Irvine recommended one great Richard Hefner video but try this one too.
I find it both charming and inspiring.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OzN9d37SeCo&list=FLwb2ln72Pc-TzRU9g3mUESA&index=21
This one was the clincher for me. I'm willing to painfully practice this strange style to try emulate him and when I waver, I listen to this video again !
I'd like to know what you think of it...............
Regards.

ErnieElse
07-12-2015, 06:31 AM
Hi Robin,

Many thanks for the nice reply.

This post is just a placeholder to say that I shall get back to you about the Richard Hefner video in a week or so's time once I'm back in front of my desktop. Right now I'm unable to see which of RH's videos you have linked to on this ancient iPad I'm using ibut if you let me know which song then I shall find it on the YouTube mobile site and can then comment sooner.

I have watched quite a few RH videos and agree that he is an excellent teacher.

Like you I am addicted to learning this unusual style as it sounds great. Right now it is going surprisingly well but I am still a little unsure whether my learning has taken a detour down a dead-end as opposed to working on other stuff which I might use a lot more. The style unifies picking and strumming which is what I'm after, but at the same time the strum-thumb of two eighth notes is not as flexible or variable as a down-up normal strum of two eighth notes, so chord heavy tunes can start to sound a bit regimented rather than with more free-flowing strumming. Hopefully you get my drift.

Cheers,

Ernie

Robin Harrison
07-13-2015, 06:44 AM
Sorry; should have said.
Under the Boardwalk.