Clawhammer guitar

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Clawhammer guitar

Postby estragon » Sat Oct 16, 2010 12:17 pm

I'm trying to learn clawhammer guitar technique as it something I've neglected.

I found various stuff online describing it as a 'bum-ditty' pattern with the 'bum' and the 'di' being a downstroke with the fingernails and the 'tty' part being a thumbstroke.

Im pretty sure i undertand this correctly (at least in concept!)

Having recently been on a RL Burnside buzz again i thought id look at his playing for some pointers........

I found this vid on the tube:

Is RL playing bum-ditty clawhammer here? If so, i cant quite get my head round it. If not, can someone try and send me a vid of a blues tune that IS done as bum-ditty clawhammer.............. that way i can learn the technique while learning a new tune.

(If you look at the RL vid, there are loads of links to others from the same session, i hope at least one of em is the technique im looking for then i can try and learn it from that!)

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Re: Clawhammer guitar

Postby blueshome » Sat Oct 16, 2010 4:42 pm

RL is playing straightforward picking with thumb and index only. Thumbing downstrokes and picking upstrokes with his index. The song is played out of Spanish. Difficult to get at first because of his great command of rhythmn. Not claw hammer though as I understand it, just a lot of practice hours.
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Re: Clawhammer guitar

Postby estragon » Sat Oct 16, 2010 5:21 pm


I can play it like i think he plays it (but not as well!). I was confused because someone had said to me he was playing clawhammer in that clip and i couldnt see how that related to the clawhammer i was trying to get my head around!

OK so can anyone direct me to any clips of RL playing clawhammer, (or any other blues player for that matter!)

Knowing the way i learn, it will be so much easier if i can watch someone even on video and actually learn the song.....


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Re: Clawhammer guitar

Postby wanderingyankee » Sun Oct 17, 2010 9:14 am

Clawhammer is actually a Banjo technique. It's a series of downstrokes with fingers and thumb. No upstrokes like traditional fingerstyle or Travis picking.

The fingers play the 1, 2 while the thumb plays bass note in between.

So, 1, 2 ..and...1,2...and = finger, finger...and(thumb bass), finger, finger...and(thumb bass). All downstrokes.
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Re: Clawhammer guitar

Postby twangmeister » Mon Oct 18, 2010 6:24 pm

I don't thing clawhammer is used much in traditional blues guitar!

Clawhammer gives a steady pulse and beat, while most old guys wanted to constantly break the rhythm up. There are videos on You Tube of Steve Baughman, Michael Stadler and others performing traditional old time country and bluegrass tunes in it (which I'm guessing that you have already seen), but I've never seen any real blues.

It's a really cool technique and one I've dabbled with myself - if you managed to incorporate it into blues you would have pretty unique sound!
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Re: Clawhammer guitar

Postby Old Stella » Sat Oct 23, 2010 12:57 am

The ways Son House snaps the fat string resembles clawhammer - but it's not "Clawhammer."

Banjo clawhammer goes - BUM ba ba BUM ba ba
The index finger hits a melody note, the fingernails of the other fingers brush Down on the other strings and JUST after the brush, the thumb catches on the short string, rests a half second then snaps that short string. But watch Son House on YouTube, it IS interesting how he seems to be the only guy from the golden age doing this. Minstrel banjo playing morphed into blues guitar playing around 1900 so Son picked something up from an old timer.
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