Learn how to use the traditional clawhammer style of old-time banjo on the guitar to play traditional dance tunes with a powerful groove or sweet, contemplative melodies. With clawhammer technique exercises and great tunes to play.
Steve Baughman is known for his melodic fingerstyle guitar playing, which draws on Celtic, Appalachian, and various ethnic and folk traditions, as well as his clawhammer guitar playing of old-time fiddle tunes with an infectious groove and rhythm. He was described by Dirty Linen magazine as one of the best Celtic fingerpickers in the United States.
Steve is a pioneer of the unique clawhammer guitar technique, one of the few guitarists who have taken the traditional clawhammer style of old-time banjo and made it work powerfully on the guitar as a folk, rock, funk, and blues technique. The album Clawhammer Guitar: The Collection, which features Steve and three other clawhammer guitarists, was named an “essential album” by Acoustic Guitar magazine.
Steve is also a fine composer and dynamite clawhammer banjo player. He has several solo recordings to his credit as well as five books with Mel Bay Publications. He appears with Pierre Bensusan, Martin Simpson, and Pat Kirtley on the Rounder Records Celtic guitar collection Ramble to Cashel and his duo album with Robin Bullock, Celtic Guitar Summit, was voted one of the best albums of 2003 by Acoustic Guitar magazine, which also called his album Farewell to Orkney “a must for all lovers of guitar and especially Celtic music.” Steve is a regular teacher at guitar camps across the US, including the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop, Swannanoa Gathering, and California Coast Music Camp. .
Download a PDF list of all the Clawhammer Guitar lessons so you can keep track of your progress.
Clawhammer Guitar Lessons
A Clawhammer Guitar subscription includes:
A step-by-step approach to mastering clawhammer guitar technique
New lessons and tunes added every month
Detailed tab/notation for all lessons
High-quality video with multiple camera angles so you can see closeups of both hands in action
Play-Along Tracks so you can practice what you’ve learned
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CLAWHAMMER GUITAR BASICS
Intro to Clawhammer Steve introduces the concept of using clawhammer banjo technique on the guitar and demonstrates some of the kinds of music you can play with clawhammer.
Basic Clawhammer Technique: Bum-Ditty Learn the basic bum-ditty rhythm pattern that’s at the heart of clawhammer guitar technique. Before showing you the pattern, Steve talks about whether to play with your nails or a plastic fingerpick, as Steve does. Then he talks about the basic technique, which involves striking downward using the back of your fingernail, as opposed to picking upward in standard fingerstyle guitar technique, and your thumb playing on the pickup to the downbeat. Once you’re comfortable with the basic motion, you’ll learn to isolate strings with your downpick, starting with the high E string and then working through the second, third, and fourth strings, which are the strings that you’ll primarily use to play melodies. He also talks about some of the different ways you can play the brush stroke that occurs on the backbeat. With Notation/Tablature
Hammer-Ons and Pull-Offs Learn how to add hammer-ons and pull-offs to the basic bum-ditty pattern. Steve begins by showing you how to add a hammer-on and pull-off to a basic E minor chord and then how to play hammer-ons and pull-offs with single melody notes on individual strings and combine them with the bum-ditty pattern. With Notation/Tablature
FIRST CLAWHAMMER GUITAR TUNE
Shady Grove, Part 1: Basic Melody Learn to play the traditional music favorite “Shady Grove” using many of the techniques you’ve learned in the last two lessons. Steve starts by showing you how to modify the bum-ditty pattern slightly by just playing a single note instead of the brush stroke, and then he walks you through the melody of “Shady Grove” phrase by phrase, giving you a chance to play along with him as he goes. With Notation/Tablature
Shady Grove, Part 2: Play-Along Track Use this video to play along with Steve as he plays “Shady Grove” at a medium tempo. With Notation/Tablature
Shady Grove, Part 3: Adding Hammer-Ons and Pull-Offs Once you’ve got the basic melody to “Shady Grove” under your fingers, Steve shows you how to give it some variety by adding hammer-ons and pull-offs. With Notation/Tablature
Using Tab Steve talks about his philosophy of using tab as a learning tool. He recommends that you use it as a general guide not as a specific “it has to go exactly like this every time” rule.
MIGRATING THE THUMB
Migrating the Thumb, Part 1: “Shady Grove” in A So far you’ve been playing the bum-ditty clawhammer pattern with your thumb only playing the sixth string, but it can play other strings as well. In this lesson, you’ll start learning how to “migrate” your thumb to other strings, first with a version of “Shady Grove” in the key of A, where your thumb will play the fifth string, A. Steve walks you through “Shady Grove” in A slowly, pointing out how he’s playing the “brush” gently, usually on just one string. With Notation/Tablature
Migrating the Thumb, Part 2: “Shady Grove” in G Modal TuningClawhammer guitar sounds great in open tunings, and open tunings make it easier not only to finger melodies but to use your thumb on different strings. Steve shows you how to play “Shady Grove” in G modal tuning (DGDGCD) in this lesson. With Notation/Tablature
PERCUSSIVE SLAPS AND TAPS
Percussive Slaps and Taps, Part 1: Percussive Slap In this lesson, you’ll learn to add a percussive slap and a left-hand filler tap to “Shady Grove.” Using the version of “Shady Grove” in G modal tuning, Steve shows you a percussive slap that you can use in place of the brush in the clawhammer bum-ditty pattern, and then shows you how to add it to the melody of “Shady Grove.” With Notation/Tablature
Percussive Slaps and Taps, Part 2: Left-Hand Filler Tap A filler tap is a tap of a string with the left-hand that you haven’t plucked with the right hand. Steve shows you how to use it in the space between the “bum” and the “ditty” in the bum-ditty pattern, and how to use it in “Shady Grove.” With Notation/Tablature
Cripple Creek, Part 1 The old-time favorite “Cripple Creek” is one of the first tunes banjo players learn to play, so it’s no surprise that it also makes a great clawhammer guitar tune. You’ll learn to play it in open-G tuning: DGDGBD. Steve shows you open-G tuning and a slide and pull-off lick you'll need to play “Cripple Creek” before walking you through a basic version of the melody. Once you’ve learned the melody Steve shows you a version with the thumb playing the third string. He also shows you how to add a palm slap. With Notation/Tablature
Cripple Creek, Part 2: Play-Along Track Use this video to play along with Steve as he plays “Cripple Creek” at a medium tempo.
SIX ESSENTIAL TECHNIQUES Learn six essential techniques that you’ll need to know to move forward with clawhammer guitar. Steve introduces double-C tuning on the guitar (CGCGCD), which is the tuning you’ll use to learn all of these important techniques and some upcoming tunes. Steve walks you slowly through all the techniques, which include open-string pull-offs and hammer-ons, alternating thumb, drop thumb, single-string bum-ditty, and more. He also gives you short exercises to practice the techniques, some of which combine techniques in one exercise. With Notation/Tablature
MORE CLAWHAMMER GUITAR TUNES
Angeline the Baker
Angeline the Baker, Part 1 “Angeline the Baker” is one of the most popular tunes in traditional music. You’ll learn a version of it played clawhammer style in double-C tuning (CGCGCD). Steve walks you through his arrangement, showing you where to play open-string pull-offs and hammer-ons to get the melody and where to play regular pull-offs and hammer-ons. With Notation/Tablature
Angeline the Baker, Part 2 Learn the B part of Steve’s arrangement of “Angeline the Baker” in this video. Steve also shows you how to use drop-thumbing to play the phrase that ends both the A and B parts. With Notation/Tablature
Angeline the Baker, Part 3: Play-Along Track Use this video to play along with Steve as he plays ““Angeline the Baker” at a slow tempo.
Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss
Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss, Part 1 “Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss” is another old-time fiddle tune that sounds great played clawhammer style on the guitar. Like “Angeline the Baker” you’ll learn it in double-C tuning (CGCGCD). Steve plays the whole tune through and then takes it apart, phrase by phrase, showing you few melodic options as he goes. You’ll learn the A part of “Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss” in this video. With Notation/Tablature
Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss, Part 2 Learn the B part of “Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss” in this video. The B part is a little more “notey” and is played primarily on the top two strings. With Notation/Tablature
Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss, Part 3: Play-Along Track Use this video to play along with Steve as he plays “Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss” at a slow tempo.
Hard Times, Part 1 Stephen Foster’s beautiful melody “Hard Times” is a good tune to learn a form of clawhammer guitar that uses gentler strums, a sort of rake across numerous strings with the fingernail that produces a more chordal sound. Steve’s arrangement is in double-C tuning (CGCGCD) with some cool moving lines and chord voicings. You’ll learn the first or A part in this video. With Notation/Tablature
Hard Times, Part 2 The second part of “Hard Times” has some chord voicings on the higher strings and ends with a repeat of the A part. In this video, you’ll learn the B part of “Hard Times” as well as an ending Steve plays after the final A part. With Notation/Tablature
Hard Times, Part 3: Play-Along Track Steve plays the whole arrangement of “Hard Times” at a slow tempo so you can play along.
Little Sadie, Part 1 You’ll learn to play the old-time ballad “Little Sadie” in G modal or “mountain modal” tuning (DGDGCD) in this lesson. Steve plays it through and then shows you the basic melody, before showing you how to “bum-dittify” the tune, which just has one part. With Notation/Tablature
Little Sadie, Part 2 In this video Steve shows you a few things to spice up your arrangement, including playing different strings with your thumb, adding percussive slaps, and a cool octave bass lick. With Notation/Tablature
Reuben’s Train Steve’s arrangement of the traditional song “Reuben’s Train” includes a lot of great clawhammer techniques. His arrangement is in open-D tuning (DADF#AD) and, after playing his arrangement through, so you can see what you’re in for, Steve walks you through the basic melody of both parts. You’ll also learn a few simple embellishments and variations you can add, like open-string pull-offs and percussive slaps. With Notation/Tablature
Reuben’s Train, Part 2 In this second lesson on playing “Reuben’s Train,” Steve adds a number of variations, including one that sounds a lot like the great clawhammer banjo player Wade Ward’s tune “Peach Bottom Creek,” and introduces some new techniques. You’ll learn “clawmonics” (in which you play the melody with 12th-fret harmonics), how to use a slide on the ring finger of your fretting hand, and more. With Notation/Tablature
Cluck Old Hen
Cluck Old Hen, Part 1: Basic Melody In this lesson, you’ll learn the old-time banjo favorite “Cluck Old Hen” in double dropped-D tuning, in which you drop both E strings down to D (DADGBD). In addition to a basic arrangement of the tune, Steve shows you how to spice it up with clawmonics, double stops, and more variations. With Notation/Tablature
Cluck Old Hen, Part 2: Variations You’ll learn some variations to Steve’s arrangement of “Cluck Old Hen” in this video. The variations include clawmonics, harmony lines, and open-string pull-offs. With Notation/Tablature
Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home, Part 1 The American folk classic “Home Sweet Home” sounds great played clawhammer style in open-G tuning. You’ll learn a basic version as well as a variation on the second part that uses barre chords. Steve walks you through the A part of his arrangement of “Home Sweet Home” in this video. With Notation/Tablature
Home Sweet Home, Part 2 The B part of “Home Sweet Home” is very much like the A part. The first two measures are the only measures that are different. Steve walks you through the B part and then shows you a variation using barre chords in this video. With Notation/Tablature
Home Sweet Home, Part 3: Play-Along Track Steve plays “Home Sweet Home” at a slow tempo so you can play along.
Old Joe Clark
Old Joe Clark, Part 1: Melody “Old Joe Clark” is a popular old-time and bluegrass tune. In this lesson you’ll learn an unusual Texas-style version of “Old Joe Clark” that comes from fiddler Howard Rains. Steve’s arrangement is in open-G tuning, and after playing it through a few times he breaks down the melody of both parts, showing you a few variations as he goes. He also shows you how you can move the thumb up to the top strings to give it a lighter, gentler sound. With Notation/Tablature
Old Joe Clark, Part 2: Play-Along Track Steve plays “Old Joe Clark” at a medium tempo so you can play along.
Brushy Fork of John’s Creek
Brushy Fork of John’s Creek, Part 1 There are a few different versions of the old-time fiddle tune “Brushy Fork of John’s Creek.” Steve’s version is in Orkney tuning (CGDGCD), which is like G modal tuning, but with the low D string tuned down to C. Steve plays “Brushy Fork of John’s Creek” a couple times and then takes it apart phrase by phrase, showing you a few different variations as he goes. With Notation/Tablature
Brushy Fork of John’s Creek, Part 2: Play-Along Track Steve plays “Brushy Fork of John’s Creek” at a medium tempo so you can play along.