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neo1022
07-26-2018, 07:45 AM
Interesting experience to report. After a year or so noodling around with the ukulele and learning the basics (and not making a lot of progress), I shifted my attention to Old Time banjo, mostly clawhammer. Found the banjo much easier to play than the uke for some reason, and love the rhythm and melody of clawhammer.

Anyway, owing to frequent travel and an aversion to hauling a full-size banjo around with me, I switched back to uke for a while and decided to focus on adapting clawhammer banjo techniques to the uke (guided by Aaron Keim's great book, Clawhammer Ukulele).

To my surprise, I found that the skills transferred effortlessly, and I was now able to figure out various banjo classics on the uke largely by ear. A week later, I can play most of my banjo tunes on the ukulele even better than on the banjo! Really impressed by the flexibility of this little instrument. And something about learning clawhammer on banjo really unlocked my (admittedly still paltry) musical skills.

I've wondered about the difference. One thing I noticed is that the style of instructional materials for banjo differ markedly from uke tutorials and instructional books/videos. Most banjo material assumed NO knowledge of anything -- no music theory, no technique, no nothing. So everything starts from the basics. Also, since banjo is a folk instrument that was traditionally learned from watching, listening, and chatting with players, it seems to have developed a slightly different culture for the transmission of musical skills. Plus which, the clawhammer technique places certain restrictions on the right hand action, which seems to simplify things a bit and allows attention to shift to the left hand (which is almost NEVER holding full chords - another thing I like). Whatever the explanation, in my experience banjo has been a great adjunct to ukulele, and the skills sure transfer.

Of course, clawhammer is a bit of a limited technique to use all the time on uke (missing that extra string does close off some avenues of musical expression), but for sheer fun, it can't be beat. Now I feel like I can actually PLAY (without looking at tabs!).

If you're curious, I highly recommend experimenting a bit with clawhammer. It feels odd at first if you're used to uke strummer and standard finger style, but once you've got your "claw," you'll be banging out tunes in no time...

Anyone else have a similar experience?

captain-janeway
07-26-2018, 08:57 AM
Have another source besides the Keim book you like? If my hands were big enough for banjo I'd play one, so I'm trying to learn the techniques for uke. Not fond of just strumming. Love bluegrass
Playing a banjo uke or just a uke? I'm a real beginner and picked up a Duke10 really cheap, but the tenor may be too big for me. I may pick up a concert Little Gem, just because they look fun and they're only $149

Steedy
07-26-2018, 09:33 AM
'Clawhammer Uke' by Jere Canote is a good basic clawhammer ukulele book. It has tablature for a dozen or so easy tunes and includes an audio CD of him playing them.

Down Up Dick
07-26-2018, 09:56 AM
neo1022 & captain-janeway what you both (and any other wanna be banjo uker) need is a GT “Cripple Creek” mini (travel) banjo. I own one, and it’s good.

Here goes: It has an 8 inch pot, 5 metal strings like a banjo, a Remo top, and it’s tuned cGCEG. It can be tuned gDGBD, but I didn’t care for that on my GT. One can clawhammer it just like a banjo. It’s about as long as a baritone uke. Mine has a great looking natural, gloss finish.

Isn’t that what you both wanted? :old:

captain-janeway
07-26-2018, 10:46 AM
neo1022 & captain-janeway what you both (and any other wanna be banjo uker) need is a GT “Cripple Creek” mini (travel) banjo. I own one, and it’s good.

Here goes: It has an 8 inch pot, 5 metal strings like a banjo, a Remo top, and it’s tuned cGCEG. It can be tuned gDGBD, but I didn’t care for that on my GT. One can clawhammer it just like a banjo. It’s about as long as a baritone uke. Mine has a great looking natural, gloss finish.

Isn’t that what you both wanted? :old:

They look great, but they weigh a ton. The Duke's really light as is that Little Gem.
I just had someone tell me most banjo is played more up the neck by the 5th fret. I didn't know that. What always put me off was looking at a banjo and seeing those huge gaps between the first couple of frets. I knew mine hands would never make those stretches. I'm having trouble with a tenor. Who knows. If I get better with a uke maybe I'll try. This is my first instrument.
Thanks!

Down Up Dick
07-26-2018, 12:37 PM
They look great, but they weigh a ton. The Duke's really light as is that Little Gem.
I just had someone tell me most banjo is played more up the neck by the 5th fret. I didn't know that. What always put me off was looking at a banjo and seeing those huge gaps between the first couple of frets. I knew mine hands would never make those stretches. I'm having trouble with a tenor. Who knows. If I get better with a uke maybe I'll try. This is my first instrument.
Thanks!

I think I’ve talked to you before, and it was almost the same conversation. If you are so tiny and weak, why don’t you just get a soprano? Kala makes a soprano banjolele, and so do others. Why do you have a tenor if you can’t reach the frets?

I’m also not as strong as I usta be, so I play most of my instruments seated. I play my flutes standing or moving about. I think it helps with breathing.

Anyway, buy a soprano banjolele, sit down somewhere, plunk away wid it, and be happy you can do it. :old:

captain-janeway
07-28-2018, 01:44 PM
I think I’ve talked to you before, and it was almost the same conversation. If you are so tiny and weak, why don’t you just get a soprano? Kala makes a soprano banjolele, and so do others. Why do you have a tenor if you can’t reach the frets?

I’m also not as strong as I usta be, so I play most of my instruments seated. I play my flutes standing or moving about. I think it helps with breathing.

Anyway, buy a soprano banjolele, sit down somewhere, plunk away wid it, and be happy you can do it. :old:
We may have spoken before. The tenor was the first uke I bought before I knew anything about sizing or playing. I just love the sound that's why I keep it. I'm hoping my hands will stretch some so I can play it. I'll sell and my new Duke if I really can't play. Cross your fingers for me

daviddecom
07-28-2018, 04:26 PM
I had a sort of similar experience, but the other way around maybe. I got a banjo years ago, tried to learn 3-finger picking but gave up (mostly because it was just too loud for my living situation at the time). Then years later, I started playing the ukulele, and after experimenting with strumming and fingerpicking, I stumbled on clawhammer (also via Aaron Keim’s book) and fell in love with it. Eventually, I got my old banjo out of the closet, swapped the steel strings for Nylgut, took off the resonator, and started frailing. At this point, I now have two more banjos (one with steel strings and a Dobson tone ring and the other a fretless, Nylgut-strung Mountain banjo), and I play way more banjo than ukulele.

Regarding captain janeway’s comment about old-time banjo mostly being played above the 5th fret, I don’t think that’s quite true. I’d guess that most old-time repertoire actually ends up hanging out in the first few frets. It does help, though, that a lot of tunes are in A or D, though, which means playing with a capo on the 2nd fret, so that the “first few frets” are actually frets 3-7.

Nevertheless, I actually do think that old-time banjo could involve less stretching than the ukulele. The open tunings mean that you need fewer fingers for chords, and some old-time styles de-emphasize chords altogether. Also, banjo necks tend to be quite a bit narrower than ukulele necks, so you don’t usually have to reach as far across.

David

daviddecom
07-28-2018, 04:30 PM
Oh, and speaking of Aaron Keim, I noticed that he seems to have worked out fluorocarbon string gauges that work for tuning his mini 5-strings (which have an even shorter scale length than the Gold Tone Cripple Creek Mini) in open G or open A.

David

captain-janeway
07-28-2018, 06:34 PM
David
Thanks for the info. I know very little about banjo playing (I'm barely getting going on uke). May pick up that clawhammer book. Maybe if I get better on uke I'll switch to banjo.

Nickie
07-29-2018, 03:06 PM
We may have spoken before. The tenor was the first uke I bought before I knew anything about sizing or playing. I just love the sound that's why I keep it. I'm hoping my hands will stretch some so I can play it. I'll sell and my new Duke if I really can't play. Cross your fingers for me

I really think you can learn to play this, but just in case you decide not to keep the Duke 10....ahem...

captain-janeway
07-29-2018, 03:21 PM
I really think you can learn to play this, but just in case you decide not to keep the Duke 10....ahem...

Will keep that in mind. It's brand new and not getting played but I love the sound. I'm hoping for a stretch that allows me to play