UD #48 Closet Banjo: The Clawhammer Technique
from Ukulele in the Dark
w/ Guido Heistek
I am very excited to introduce the CLAWHAMMER style this week!
What’s CLAWHAMMER? Here’s a video of me playing Wayfaring Stranger in the clawhammer style. It will give you a feel for how it sounds. Enjoy!
When I first received a ukulele from my wife some 12 years ago I was struck by how it sounded a little like a banjo, an instrument I’d always had a soft spot for.
The five string banjo has a high pitched string that is plucked by the thumb of the right hand. It’s the string that starts half-way up the neck (see in the illustration above).
Ukuleles are often strung with a high-G string, which can give them a sound reminiscent of a five string banjo. The clawhammer technique really brings this aspect out.
Clawhammer also works perfectly well on a low-G ukulele, baritone uke, or guitar. It just sounds a little different.
Here’s a little video showing how to play clawhammer. There are some written notes below as well:
Here are some notes of what’s covered in the video…
A. THE BASIC MOVEMENT:
“BUM – DI – TY”
1. BUM: Dropping the index (or middle) finger through the string to play a single note.
2. DI: Opening the hand to sweep the finger(s) downward across the strings.
Note: You don’t have to sweep across all the strings. You can start the sweep at the same note you chose for the “BUM” note.
3. TY: Thumb plucks G-string
Here’s the timing:
1 2 3 4
BUM DI TY BUM DI TY
B. PRACTICE STRATEGIES:
1) “BUM” notes! It’s tough at first to get a good solid sound this way. Here are some ideas for practice.
a) Practice playing single notes in the “BUM” style.
b) Practice scales in the “BUM” style.
c) Practice simple melodies in the “BUM” style.
2) PRACTICE THE BUM-DI-TY MOVEMENT USING THE BACK OF YOUR UKULELE. FUN!
3) Apply the BUM-DI-TY STRUM TO CHORDS
-Try choosing different strings for the “BUM” note. Mix it up!
D. WANT MORE? Here are some excellent resources:
EZfolk.com has some excellent clawhammer tutorials:
I learned to play clawhammer from my friend Aaron Keim. Long before I met him I was introduced to his Youtube videos and learned the style there:
Aaron and Nicole Keim have a wonderful duo called the QUIET AMERICAN. Explore their music here:
Also they’ve got some good uke resources here:
All for now!
P.S. I am regularly adding new lessons to Ukulele in the Dark. Please subscribe to my mailing list below to receive every lesson right when it comes out. Be sure not to miss a thing!