Instructors: Evie Ladin

Welcome Clawhammer Banjo Students!

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by Evie Ladin
April 01, 2015

Welcome to Peghead Nation's first Clawhammer Banjo course!  I really enjoy helping people learn at their own pace, and especially developing skills for being able quickly to play with others, which is a cornerstone of traditional American music. I look forward to helping you develop a good ear for the rich repertoire of Old-Time Stringband music, and look forward to answering your questions and requests.


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Category: Course Discussions

Questions About Your Course?

If you have questions about the course or a specific lesson, or want to request a lesson from your instructor, you can email instructors@pegheadnation.com

Comments and Discussion

Posted by kevdudechan@gmail.com on
Hi Evie!,

Love your lessons. I got my banjo two weeks ago and was intently learning Bluegrass until I discovered Clawhammer two days ago and have decided to learn Clawhammer instead. While there was plenty of high quality Bluegrass videos online, none of the Clawhammer teachers resonated with me until I found your lessons. Anyway, I have a question on the strap. I have an open back banjo (epiphone MP-100), is there any specific type of strap you recommend? I looked online and there seem to be some that have hooks and some that have loops you tie.
Posted by cjmorv@gmail.com on
Hello Evie,

Just getting started with the bnajo and your course. Thanks for doing it!
In the Basic Clawhammer Technique Part Two where you're demonstrating hitting individual strings, I'm doing okay hitting the first string and alternating with the fifth but when I switch to the second, third or fourth, I'm not sure where my finger goes after it strikes the string. Does it go down and rest on the string below or strike the string and then go up and out of the way? With the first string my finger has nothing to collide with but with the others I end up between the strings and deadening the sound.

Thanks,

Kenny
Posted by jussi6210@gmail.com on
Hi Evie,

Little did I know when I passed by you in Grass Valley this year and saw you perform that I'd be buying a lovely Vega old time banjo and joining your course. I come from cello(!) so being used to the bow I spent a lot of time just getting the right hand technique down. I love old time fiddle tunes and not only because Scruggs style banjo totally escapes me. My only gripe with your course is that I don't recognize some of the tunes. Cluck Old Hen is not what I'm used to as Alison Krauss keeps playing in my head, Cotton Eyed Joe is nowhere close to what I've heard. The first tune I came across the way I know it is Buffalo Gals. So I'm just taking in the technique parts from earlier lessons but concentrating on Buffalo Gals. I know there are so many ways of playing these tunes: different keys, different techniques and then there is YouTube, iTunes, jams etc. to bring in even more confusion. It's a long road!
Posted by k8ball3@gmail.com on
As to my previous post, never mind. I rewatched the video for tuning up to "A" and saw where you say not to leave the banjo in that tuning. Self correction!
Posted by k8ball3@gmail.com on
Hi Evie.

I am working on "The Blackest Crow". I just wanted to ask if it is ok to leave my 5th string tuned to A or if I should return it back to G when not playing. It just feels like the string is gonna snap!

Thanks!
Kate
Posted by Scottnyg on
Hi Kenny,
Pretty much every tune that Evie teaches that's in C or D is in double-C tuning. Just look down the list for tunes in C or D.

Scott Nygaard
Editor/Co-Founder
Peghead Nation
Posted by ksjewell21_gmail.com on
Hi Evie, I've played banjo (3 finger for many years and always wanted to learn clawhammer. I have myself an old Vega Style 3 which I'm learning on and I'm starting to get it down but I have an issue with this banjo. the tension brackets end around the end of the pot and they're digging into my chest. Is there a remedy for this? Anybody else have a problem like this? When I play with a resonator banjo obviously not a problem. Also I'm loving the Double "C" tuning. Any more arrangements with that tuning (besides Going across the Sea and Say Darling Say) Thanks again for your lessons, they're excellent! KennyJ
Posted by danielcgabel@gmail.com on
Total banjo beginner and just starting your course. In watching your video, I notice that your thumb does not leave the 5th string after the "bum" and before the "ditty". The first part of the ditty seems to be played by downward/outward flexing of the fingers while the thumb continues to rest on the 5th string, and not by downward motion of the hand. I don't think you mention this in your description, and this motion is somewhat different than I think I see in other clawhammer players, where the hand, including the thumb, seems to be lifted from the strings after the bum and before the ditty. I am trying to figure out the proper right hand motion and any comments on this would be helpful. Thanks. Jo
Posted by littleherbfarm@gmail.com on
Hi Evie!
Like Charlie on this page, we will be coming to see you in Hot Springs, Arkansas, June 7th. You will have some happy banjo students finally getting to meet you in person!

Dianna & Allen
Posted by hmcowart@embarqmail.com on
Hello Evie, wow! so many students responding to you. How do you have time to answer them all? I am a new customer to Peg Head and fairly new to banjo. I fell in love with this instrument the moment I picked it up. I am a professional drummer of approximately 50 years and was beginning to learn guitar before purchasing a new Pisgah Wonder Banjo. Thank you for going over the "hand/numbers". That will really help me.

Hugh
Posted by waowen@gmail.com on
Just joined. I like your instructional style (used to "teach" but am now 75 - hmmm). Your emphasis on listening/hearing is helpful as well as other comparisons. Thank you. Bill
Posted by jerry.hannibal@gmail.com on
Hello Evie and Banjo Peg headers.

I take fiddle from Bruce Molsky next door and I stopped over here to see what's happening in the old time banjo side. Very pleased to see you teaching some of the tunes we're learning in fiddle! I just tried your banjo version of Bunch of Keys with Bruce's play along track and I got 'em to fit together at 3/4 speed. It was a bit tricky at first cause Bruce has a quarter note pick up at the A part.

Thanks for Riding the Rooster - just about wore my copy out already!!!!

Jerry H
Chillaxia, Western Reserve
New World
Posted by k8ball3@gmail.com on
Hello fellow Pegheads! Anyone interested in taking part in the American Banjo camp this September in Port Orchard, WA? It should be a blast! Check out the details here:

http://americanbanjocamp.com
Posted by Charlie Moore on
Hi Evie, we are excited to see you in concert in Hot Springs, AR in June.
Posted by Lazarog53@cox.net on
Hello , Evie. I need help on the first tune Cotton eyed Joe part 1 @ 5:40 you show how to end the A part but I cannot tell which strings your hitting and you also fret with your left hand, got everything else just can't seem to figure it out.
Posted by k8ball3@gmail.com on
Thank you for the reply, Evie! I have been trying to mimic your right hand when playing and it is getting easier every day. Thank you for having that camera angle as part of the lessons. It helps me focus on it so much better. I guess practice really does make perfect; or it gets you to Carnegie Hall. Whatever your preference ;)
Posted by Steve Share on
Thanks for getting back to me. Can you show us the proper way to use a metronome? Maybe in a video? And maybe address of the best ways to practice and learn it might be helpful for others.
Posted by evie_ladin on
k8ball3@gmail.com - Thanks for your comment. Two things, first, practice along with my drills and easy songs, paying attention to leaving your thumb on the fifth string, or always landing there when striking down with your lead finger, every time. Second, no, it doesn't really matter if you are playing with different technique - there are so many ways to successfully play, if the way you are playing is not holding you back from enjoying playing or learning new songs, I wouldn't worry too much about it!

To Steve Share - I recommend a circular approach - continue learning new songs, and cycle back to the old ones. Practice drills and playing with a metronome, no matter how slow, and gradually increase your tempo. The main thing is keeping good time. It's not that productive to learn alot of songs that you can't play in time, but not a worry to continue adding to your repertoire while also working on the other skills. In my practice, I spend time on different skills in a cycle, always touching base with the basics, and always learning new tunes. Hope that helps!
Posted by Ann@silvercranes.com on
I'm really enjoying these lessons. Thanks, Evie!
Posted by Scottnyg on
I am taking clawhammer lessons. I started about two weeks ago. In terms of getting the most out of my lessons do you recommend when we practice a song that we stick with that one song until we get it memorized and can do it quickly? Or do you suggest I move on once I can just follow the tab and play it that way but somewhat slowly.

Thank you for your help.

Steve Share
Posted by k8ball3@gmail.com on
Hi Evie. I really enjoy your teaching style. I have taken some lessons here and there and have basically just been playing the same old songs over and over before finding this online course. My issue is that I have developed some real bad right hand habits. I tend to pick my whole hand up off the banjo head and then pluck down with my thumb (I have a guitar playing background, I think perhaps it came from that).

I am trying to undo this and starting back at square one. Do you have any suggestions how else I can work to restructure this muscle memory? When I try to play true clawhammer style, it feels like I just can't do it. When I play my bad habit way, I can play along with you. Or, is it not such a big deal? Thanks!
Posted by Evie Ladin on
bluegrass4life@gmail.com Magdalena I am so fluid with using drop thumb and other techniques it's hard to nail down exactly what I do. I'd say play around with using drop thumb whenever it sounds good to you! I often employ an alternating drop thumb-bum-ditty pattern, moving around melody notes, etc. I believe I broke that down in one of the drop thumb lessons. Have fun!
Posted by bluegrass4life@gmail.com on
Evie,

Thank you for your reply. I've been playing a lot with Say Darlin Say. I noticed in the intro that you play an alternating drop thumb pattern as you change chords while you are singing. Can you describe for me what kind of pattern you are thumbing as you change chords? I would love to incorporate the drop thumb technique while I sing/play chords! It sounds very cool! Let me know what you think.
-Magdalena
Posted by bluegrass4life@gmail.com on
Hello Evie,

Thank you for your last reply about playing the same note on the same string (index/thumb). I've been playing a lot with Say Darlin Say. While you are singing, I noticed that you play a drop thumb pattern while you play the chords. Could you describe for me the kind of pattern you are playing as you change chords? I would love to incorporate the drop thumb technique while I sing! It sounds soo cool!
Magdalena
Posted by Evie Ladin on
Hey Joe texasjoeromeo@hotmail.com - That's great to apply the banjo to all kinds of tunes. As was done for most of it's history, I suggest retuning your banjo to something that sounds good to you for these tunes, based off the most common tunings, but perhaps divergent. Obviously the chords can always be constructed in any tuning - I regularly change the tuning of my fifth string and others, if there are tones I want to hear, or shapes that fit better with the song I'm playing, i.e for Oh Death with the Stairwell Sisters I tuned to gCGCC. There is a great resource online of alternate banjo tunings you should check out - but my advice is to play with it and find what you like! http://zeppmusic.com/banjo/aktuning.htm

mjbrennan@eircom.net I hope you see that I answered your inquiry in my last post!

bluegrass4life@gmail.com Hi Magdalena - If you mean do you play the same note with index/thumb one after the other to keep in the right hand technique, absolutely. As long as you stay with the general down/up/down/up idea of downstroke vs thumb you can play whatever you want!

Have fun everyone! It's great to hear such positive feedback! Evie
Posted by bluegrass4life@gmail.com on
Hello Evie,

It's been over a week that I signed up and I am really enjoying the lessons. I am especially liking the drop thumbing! As I was playing around with the B part of Nancy Rowland in the low register, I found myself wanting to play the open G string (3rd string) twice with my index then thumb. Do claw hammer musicians play unison notes like that? Is there an easier way that you can get the same effect? Let me know what your thoughts are.
Thank you,
Magdalena
Posted by mjbrennan@eircom.net on
Evie, I've just joined your course and am delighted with it.
I love your relaxed style and manner. You're so nice and easy to follow.
Sometime ago I mentioned to you what I want to do from this course----accompany Irish Trad music and sometime even play the melody of the tunes..reels,jigs,hornpipes etc. It won't be your fault if I don't achieve that,
Thank you so nuch.
Posted by mjbrennan@eircom.net on
Hi Evie.
I've just started your course and am delighted with it. You have a natural talent for teaching. Already I can feel I am progressing. Looking forward to introducing my CH skills to our Trad Irish sessions before too long, with your continuing guidance. And eventually, I wont just be doing accompaniment. Thank you. Good luck from Ireland.
Posted by texasjoeromeo@hotmail.com on
Hi Evie,

Really enjoying your course! I play and sing several celtic songs and tunes in Em and Dm such as Black is the Color, Banks of the Lee, and other songs for example sung or performed by Andy M. Stewart of Silly Wizard Many of these tunes incorpoate the b7 (major) chord - for example C in the key of D minor.

I would really be interested in seeing how you might approach these keys from a banjo perspective.

Thanks,

Joe
Posted by Evie Ladin on
To Beth Krebs - I know what you're referring to, and yes it does seem redundant, but I do think it's the resonation with the whole instrument as it goes through the roll. It's also how I was taught, and my habit :)

Mshomos@hotmail.com it was great to meet you in Texas! So the tunings I've recorded so far in Peghead lessons are G (gDGBD), Double C (gCGCD), and Mountain Modal (gDGCD). With any of those, if you use a capo, you can move the key - ie if you capo to the second fret, a whole step up from G - brings you to A. Second fret, a whole step up from double C tuning, gets you to D. While you have to also adjust your fifth string so the whole tuning moves up a whole step (ie aDADE for D tuning, a whole step up from C); understand if you moved three frets up would get you to Eb, four frets, E, etc. Each fret is a half step, so capo movement can adjust for every key.

Old Time Banjo, because one retunes for each key, can be a little difficult in general jam sessions where they may change key for every song. In old time sessions, they often stay in one key for a long time - because not only the banjo but also the fiddle might need to retune. You can start to recognize chord shapes on the guitar for reference, or ask someone what key a song is in, and tune accordingly. Have fun!

Michael Brennan that's a lovely idea - CH banjo can sound great with Irish tunes. The main issue is the tuning, etc since Irish tunes usually are medleys that change keys mid-stream. My friend Mark Roberts plays alot of Irish music, jigs included, on clawhammer banjo. Look him up for some inspiration!
Posted by Michael Brennan. on
Hi Evie. Just came across your Intro Lesson and am very impressed. One of my interests is Irish trad on tenor banjo. Sometimes, I accompany a session on guitar. Now I think CH banjo would be lovely for this. If I progressed enough I'd even hope to play Irish trad melodies, but that might be too ambitious. I am tied up for the next couple of months, but I definately intend to enroll then. I like your technique.
Good luck from Ireland.
Michael.
Posted by mo.sho@me.com on
Hi, Evie! Saw you at the Arhaven house concert in Austin. I'm a beginner banjo player and play other string instruments and I'm confused. Need to clear this up before I move on. Probably a common question: I guess it would be chordings vs. tunings? I'm up to Mississippi Sawyer. OK, so I have it capoed at A, and playing Double C. How does this make it in the key of D? How would I know any of this playing in a group when they say we are playing in the key of D, C, etc.? I'm just not clear on this at all... Thanks in advance. - Monica Shomos
Posted by Beth Krebs on
Hi Evie,
Thanks for your clear lessons. Your playing (and singing) is such an inspiration!
I have a question regarding the Cuckoo lesson:
At the end of the galax roll, you do a hammer on to a note on the first string (it matches the note of the 5th string) just prior to sounding the 5th string. I'm guessing there's a good reason for this, (since it's more complicated to play than just sounding the 5th string at the end of the galax roll) but I'd like to know what it is. Does it have to do with the resonance?
Thanks so much,
Beth
Posted by Evie Ladin on
Hello Friends - Some responses - sorry for the long delay for some of you!

@tturchin@gmail.com
Traci I don't think we'll be posting Working on the Railroad, as it's not really in the traditional repertoire we're working with, but if you google the chords you can start there, and I bet you could easily pick out some melody notes, enough to sing with your grandchild! Have fun with that.

@Mattrush@juno.com
Matt great suggestions. I'll put them on the list, though it might take a while to get them in rotation! Love both of those tunes!

@jvoelck@gmail.com and @jerry.hannibal@gmail.com
As for putting something in the pot to dampen the sound, it's not so much about volume as it is narrowing the overtones that banjos can produce. Without something in the back, they tend to have a very wide, echoey sound, and even a little something can focus the sound, allowing you to really hear the tones more clearly. I have a small piece of foam tucked in just below where the neck meets the pot and love that sound. Some people put something under the bridge, but this location is what works best for my banjo. I've had a whole stuffed animal in there years ago, but now I've grown up :)

As for the bridge question - just as a guitar bridge is compensated for the different frequencies at which the strings vibrate, having the moon bridge allows the strings to stay better in tune up the neck.

@stefan.niessen@swr.de
Hi Stefan - It's not terrible to only use your index finger, but I think it reduces the flexibility as you play faster or stronger. To get a stronger sound, I would recommend adding your middle finger on the brushes - I basically use those two fingers when playing, sometimes even using my middle finger to lead. For sure the "chuck" is not technically possible with one finger, as the technique is to connect with the middle, and dampen with the index and that's what actually produces the desired sound.

@ticketyboo1821@gmail.com
So uppicking with your index is one style of playing clawhammer - it's not wrong, it's just different! I don't play that way and would find it difficult. My style is really based on the downstroke of the lead finger, but there are alot of traditional players, I believe it's common in Kentucky, who uppick the lead before the brush strokes. If it's the most comfortable way for you to play, go for it. I don't know how it affects the ways I teach syncopation, drop thumb, etc, and might not transfer to all the skills I am teaching, but you can certainly continue developing repertoire in this way. As you may know, I glue one fingernail on, and take it off when it breaks, or I have a break from playing, and that works for me easily. It's lightweight and I don't notice it. It gives me better volume and makes it easier on my one digit.

Have fun everyone! Glad you're all enjoying the course - I am too!
Posted by ticketyboo1821@gmail.com on
Hi Evie I've just began the course and am very impressed which your style of teaching where you get straight to the point without dragging things on. My question is my fingernails are brittle and I don't fancy stick on nails, I've tried persevering with different picks and to no avail I find them to clangy. However I find if I pluck up using my index finger everything sounds fine and more controlled what I'm asking is will this up picking make any difference as I go along on your course.
Regards
Terry
Posted by jvoelck@gmail.com on
Hi Evie,
I just noticed that your banjo has a curved bridge. I've heard of Moon bridges and wonder if that is what is on your banjo? I don't really understand the purpose of a curved bridge but would like to. Can you explain why the curved instead of a straight bridge?
Thank you!
Jules
Posted by stefan.niessen@swr.de on
Hi Evie,
thanks very much for taking up the idea of a lesson on syncopation, "Sourwood Mountain" being a ready-made example where this can be implemented. I'm looking forward to your lessons on how to become more flexible with different versions of a tune with "The Leap".

Question: I noticed that I execute the brush stroke (which follows the melody note) using only the index finger of my right hand, the middle and ring finger just hitting the air. Could this be an issue on the long run (e.g. when it comes to learning the "chuck")? I play Clawhammer for 18 month now, practicing daily. Would you recommend that I should try to change this habit?

All the best, Stefan
Baden-Baden, Germany
Posted by BRIAN FORSMAN on
Hi Evie
I am a fiddler, just starting clawhammer banjo. I am going to sign up for your course. I love your sample lesson of Shady Grove. You make it very understandable. I am 61 years old and looking forward to your lessons!

Brian
Posted by jvoelck@gmail.com on
Hello Jerry- Thanks very much for your response. I don't really have an issue with playing too loud, even when playing with my friend who plays mandolin. Nevertheless, I've been experimenting with a linen napkin (off-and-on but mostly off), and the napkin does seem to reduce the unwanted vibrations/noise to produce a more direct, albeit somewhat muffled, sound. I have to admit, though, that those vibrations may not be as much an issue if I practice more and improve my technique.

In response to your last note, it's really quiet here in Ann Arbor, Mich., too. I appreciate it. It's the lull before the storm of incoming U. of Michigan students. 8^)
-Jules
Posted by jerry.hannibal@gmail.com on
Hello,

I’ll share the only wisdom I have re: stuffing the pot. Open back banjos can be pretty loud and most players like to mellow out the sound by stuffing something into the pot. Pete Seeger famously suggested a cloth baby diaper (clean) and I used one myself when the kids were little. I have 2 banjos - I stuff my 1926 supertone with a mushed up grocery store plastic bag. I stuff my Reiter Buckbee with one of my wife’s old undershirts. You will get different sounds depending on what you use. Then again, if you are happy with the sound of your banjo without stuffing the pot, enjoy. But if you start playing with a fiddler and your banjo is overwhelming the fiddle, you might reconsider.

On another note, it’s the first weekend in August and it’s like a ghost town up here in Chillaxia. Where is everybody?
Jerry
Chillaxia
Western Reserve
Posted by jvoelck@gmail.com on
Evie and anyone who may have some wisdom to share:
I recently learned from a very accomplished banjo player that clawhammer players should *always* place a folded cloth napkin up in the top inside of the banjo, so that it is tucked in tightly against the head, rim, and truss rod. He said the cloth napkin is the perfect size and weight, so he didn't recommend other materials (a handkerchief, for instance). I tried it, and to be honest I'm not sure why it's better to play with the napkin rather than to play without it. Maybe, with each note played, there is slightly less vibration and a little more directness to the sound, but I think the trade-off is that you lose some volume. Does anyone do this, and if so, why? Evie, do you recommend it? Thank you for any replies.
Jules
Posted by Mattrush@juno.com on
Hi Evie, I just watched a great video of you playing Yew piney mountain and would love to suggest this as a future lesson. It sounded great and would be a fun tune to learn. Thanks
Matt
Posted by Mattrush@juno.com on
Hi Evie, I've been a taking lessons with you for over a year and love it! I wanted to post quickly about a lesson request. I was hoping you could teach John Brown's dream. I would like to learn this to be able to play it with a partner who play's fiddle. Id really like to learn a fun song for a clawhammer banjo and fiddle to play together. Thanks for your consideration.

Matt
Posted by tturchin@gmail.com on
Thanks so much for this great course! I live 1.5 hours away from the nearest clawhammer instructor, so it is wonderful to be able to learn without a three hour commute! I have a lesson request--I was wondering if you would consider adding I've Been Working on the Railroad. My beloved grandpa used to sing it to me and my 8 year old loves that song, so I would love to be able to play it for her on the banjo! Thanks for considering!
-Traci
Posted by Evie Ladin on
Hi All! To answer some questions...

alampman@telus.net - I'm not sure of the question, as the basic bum-ditty rhythm and all the rest of the playing has beats on the down beat and the off beat, and the beats between! For the beginner tunes, the lead notes are often played on the downbeat and the strum on the offbeat, but of course when you're picking out melodies you're going to have notes on all sides of the beat. Sorry if that's not too helpful!

stefan.niessen@swr.de Yes a lesson just on syncopation might be great! I'll keep that in mind.

grazzo707@yahoo.com Sorry I don't really have an opinion on that feature. I'm not too familiar on the technical aspects of those choices.
Posted by grazzo707@yahoo.com on
Hi Evie,

Just wanted to get your opinion on zero glide nuts. I'm getting ready to order a Recording King OT25 and am wondering if these nuts are worth the extra $75.

Thanks,

Steve in Berkeley
Posted by stefan.niessen@swr.de on
Hi Evie,
in your introductory performance of (modal) "Shady Grove", at the very beginning, you do a few m-skips which make a great effect! What do you think about a lesson where you teach m-skips or brush-skips a bit more in depth, maybe as part of a lesson on syncompation?
I am new to your course and very happy with it!
Stefan, Baden-Baden (Germany)
Posted by alampman@telus.net on
Hi Evie:
I have a question. Is the banjo rhythm played on backbeat?
Anne
Posted by jvoelck@gmail.com on
Dianna, thank you very much for your post about dipping. So far, I'm happy with my "Nail Defense" polishy stuff, but if that doesn't work in the future, I may try the dip. I'm with you on the picks and the fake nails--I really dislike them. And this is why--among many, many other reasons--that it's a good thing I'm not a professional musician. 8^)
Posted by littleherbfarm@gmail.com on
Several months ago there was a discussion on this page about strengthening the Frailing fingernail. I've been going to a nail salon and getting what is called a "dip" on my index finger. It's like a clear polish brushed on the fingernail, followed by dipping the fingernail in a fine powder. This is typically done 3 times, but I ask the nail tech to dip my nail 4 times to ensure it holds up to lots of banjo playing. The "dip" is supposed to be healthier for the fingernail than the acrylic nail you can get at the salon. Apparently, they have to dremel into your nail bed to get the acrylic to stick causing very thin nails after a while. My natural nail is still in pretty good shape under the dip and it holds up well. Maybe 3-4 weeks in between salon visits. It costs $3 to get one nail done. They may need to glue on a "tip" at first if your nail is really short and shredded, but this will pretty quickly grow out and they will just dip your natural nail. I had tried all sorts of modified picks, the freedom pick and a glue on nail. For the last several months, "the dip" has been wonderful. It looks natural, it"s tough and makes a good sound on the banjo. Hope this helps someone out there! Dianna
Posted by jvoelck@gmail.com on
Evie,
Thank you very much for the Midnight on the Water waltz lesson--and it's in my favorite capoed double-C (D) tuning, too!
Jules
Posted by scottzadroga@yahoo.com on
Hello Evie. I enjoy your course and teaching style. I have seen your version of Sugar Babe and it is the best IMO. Was wondering if you plan to do a lesson for that particular version.

Thank you

Scott
Posted by karl0409@me.com on
Were ready for you to tour 'Downunder" any time Evie :)
Cheers Karl in Canberra
Posted by djanetos@gmail.com on
Hello, great course! Wondering about the last few variations you play on the Say darlin say video, where you play up the fretboard and also uilizing the low strings. I would love to be able to do all of them but Im not grasping it from the video, its a little fast for me. Any suggestions would be helpful, thanks!
Posted by Evie Ladin on
@karl0409@me.com Great!

@Ian Smith Nope I use GHS JD Crowe extra light steel strings on my axe. Let me know when you're ready for us to tour down under folks! We'd love to...
Posted by Ian Smith on
G'day Evie from the land of Oz...just getting started with clawhammer so your tutorials look to be real helpful
Am I imagining it, or have you got nylon strings on the banjo you are using in the sample video, playing Shady Grove ?
Cheers Ian Smith
Posted by karl0409@me.com on
Hi from Canberra Australia Evie :) I am really enjoying your great course and I have downloaded your 3 CD's from iTunes and listen to them in the car and it certainly gives me something to aim for!
Best wishes Karl
Posted by jvoelck@gmail.com on
Thank you, Evie. I'm already looking forward to a couple more waltzes! And if you can find another old-time waltz tune named after a bird ("The Brownest Sparrow"? "The Yellowest Finch"?), imagine how popular you'll be with the Bird Fans taking this course, me included. Ha ha!
Posted by Evie Ladin on
@littleherbfarm@gmail.com - here's what I found about Chance's Little Birdie: the tuning is eCGAD, but Chance has tuned it down half a step from there. So tune your banjo like that, and basically he's chosen some simple strumming pattern I bet you will find if you play around in that tuning. I'm glad the lessons have gotten your husband rolling on developing repertoire!

@jvoelck@gmail.com - Thanks for the reference - looks like it's an Irish waltz, and at least for the purposes of this platform, I'm working within the Southern old-time repertoire. But you are right we area overdue for another waltz! It might take a while to get in the queue, but I'll be sure to include TWO more when I next film lessons. Thanks for the suggestion!
Posted by jvoelck@gmail.com on
Evie, Southwind (or South Wind?) is a 3/4 time, waltzy tune. Here is a version I found on Youtube:
https://youtu.be/i895gFApewc
I think you taught us just one song in 3/4 time so far, and I'd love to learn another one. If not Southwind, then maybe something else in that time signature? Thanks again for considering!
Posted by littleherbfarm@gmail.com on
Hi Evie! Really enjoying my lesson time with you. Your teaching methods are working well for myself and my husband. He was pretty frustrated and unmotivated while attempting to learn to play banjo for the first 17 months he owned it. Eventually he decided to try your banjo lessons and is enjoying success and playing songs. (You saved his banjo from a lonely life of collecting dust in some dark corner!) Having the tab available while first learning a new song is really helpful for those of us who have never played music. However, playing by ear is getting easier, yay!

I agree with one of he previous comments; "Little Birdie" - Chance McCoy version, would be an awesome addition to the lesson list. Sarah Nichols does a beautiful Chance McCoy version of Little Birdie on U-Tube.

Lovin' my banjo and telling lots of my frustrated new musician friends about PegHead Nation...
Posted by evie_ladin on
@profbob@tampabay.rr.com Sugar in the Gourd is usually played on the fiddle in A, so I think of it as an A tune. If you are playing on your own, or the fiddle is tuned down to G it absolutely works in G.

@jvoelck@gmail.com I don't think I know Southwind. Do you have a source for it?

@Ryan Willey - Alright, whenever you're ready :)
Posted by Ryan Willey on
Hi Evie, Thinking I will be ready to join your band in about twenty years. Enjoying learning clawhammer and loving it's structure, well done.
Posted by jvoelck@gmail.com on
Hi Evie, I love all of the tunes you've offered so far...Thank you! I'd like to request just one song if it works for you: Southwind. Thanks for considering!
Posted by Elafouge@gmail.com on
Evie-- I've been remiss in thanking you for the great lesson on The Cuckoo (a request no less!) I especially appreciate that you've stayed close to the traditional and classic Clarence Ashley version. Still working on that Galax roll! I've added it to what I call my 'bird set' ... Cluck Old Hen/The Blackest Crow/The Cuckoo. Would love to add 'Little Birdie' (are you familiar with the Chance McCoy version? (but that's another request :-)

Playing banjo (and your lessons) help keep me sane and fortified in these unpresidented and trying times ...
Posted by profbob@tampabay.rr.com on
In Sugar in the Gourd, why play it with the capo in position 2?
Couldn't it be just as well played without the capo in open G?
Posted by profbob@tampabay.rr.com on
Can disregard previous post re Buffalo Gals and numbering of measures.
No problems with it now.
Posted by profbob@tampabay.rr.com on
In Buffalo Gals, had a hard time following you with measures 9 and 10, going from 0002 into Part B.
I find that inserting a 5 and 0 on fifth string right after that first 0 on 5th string in measure 10 (starting part B) sounds better to me.
(By the way, numbering the measures in songs would make referencing areas in songs easier, if I may make that suggestion).
Posted by Evie Ladin on
@rounder939@gmail.com I love that tune. I'll do my best to get to Seneca Square Dance the next time I film some lessons!

@profbob@tampabay.rr.com regarding speed, your best friend is a metronome. play along at a comfortable speed, and then increase it a little, like 5bpm, until that is just as comfortable. Keep doing that and you'll be speeding along in no time. But steady time!!
Posted by profbob@tampabay.rr.com on
Have been playing clawhammer nd bluegrass for a few years. Took one online clawhammer a while back.
I decided to try yours and especially like how you show variations using pull-off, hammer ons and slides for a song.
The instructor at other site did not do this - just played using specific tabs. So I find your variations a worthwhile addition.
My only problem is speed. Over the last year or so, I would practice songs over and over (bluegrass as well as clawhammer) at a one hour sitting but never seem to get any faster. I am sticking with clawhammer style from now on though, at my age (74).
Do you have any speed exercises available?
Posted by rounder939@gmail.com on
Evie: A request for help. Would you please consider for a future lesson Seneca Square Dance if you think others might be interested. It's a great tune to play, one of those that starts feet and fingers tapping, and I keep stumbling over the fingering for the B part. Thanks, Brad
Posted by frnholo@gmail.com on
Thank you so much for adding Cuckoo to the lessons! I am so pumped to learn it! Or at least try!
Posted by jvoelck@gmail.com on
To everyone who, like me, is prone to problems with the "frailing finger nail"-- I discovered a product at my local CVS that has really helped me. It's called Nail Defense, and it states on the bottle that it is a "protein-enriched strengthener." I was dubious, but I tried it, and it works for me. No more broken or cracked nail! I just put on a couple of light coats, let it dry thoroughly, and then I'm good to go on Evie's next lesson. Every so often I remove it, let my nail breathe a bit (usually just over night), then put on a couple fresh coats. Here is the best part: The bottle is recyclable, and, even better, no animals were tested or harmed. It may not work for everyone, but I prefer my real nail to press-on nails or those plastic banjo picks. Maybe it will work for you too.
Posted by Elafouge@gmail.com on
I second the @frnholo@gmail.com suggestion for a women's banjo camp. Have been pondering how great that would be. Have it on a boat, maybe cruising the San Juan Islands, and it could be the "Sail Away Ladies Banjo Camp! Sign me up! Will definitely suggest you in particular, and more women clawhammer players in general, to the banjo camp admins out there.
Posted by frnholo@gmail.com on
I was fortunate enough to attend apparently the only banjo camp you taught at and loved your classes. Including the clogging one! Maybe you should consider holding your own banjo camp just for women!

I would also request a lesson on "Cuckoo". I love your lessons. Thank you.
Posted by littleherbfarm@gmail.com on
Just started your course, Evie, after playing clawhammer banjo for 6 months. Glued a press-on nail to my index finger today and that has helped a lot already. I kept wearing my fingernail down to the quick and played with a modified plastic finger pick that would not stay in place for very long. I enjoy how your lessons are practical and go slow enough for a beginner to catch on and start playing. I'm not quite sure how I stumbled upon Peghead Nation, but I'm glad I did! Thank you, Evie for teaching these courses. There are a lot of women here in the Ozarks who love their open back banjos! Many of us are a bit older (50's) and learning to play a musical instrument for the first time.
Posted by evie_ladin on
@Elafouge@gmail.com - Thanks so much for your feedback! I love teaching at camps but have only been invited to ONE banjo camp in my professional history - a shame! I hear a lot how nice it is especially for other women to learn from me, and get 100% positive feedback from my teaching, so that is great to hear. Feel free to suggest me as an instructor. But it does seem like a boy's club - surprise surprise. Your suggestions are good ones - I'll see if I can work them in for sure.
Posted by evie_ladin on
@steven.a.melnyk@gmail.com To answer your requests - 1. I have been thinking about a play along practice video for techniques and skills like I do in my group classes and will likely record one in my next recording session - so hopefully that will be added soon; 2. I am really not sure what you are intending with this question. since each tune I teach teaches the melody, which IS the tune. The fiddle plays many more notes than I typically aim for, since I like to include harmony and rhythm as it sits best on the banjo, rather than truly melodic playing, getting all the notes of the fiddle tune - less useful in jam sessions, since no one can hear those intricacies in that setting. Since the banjo is tuned open, when you play other notes in the chord, you are playing harmony notes that should mostly work played against the melody. However, in old-time music, typically everyone mostly plays melody every time through. I use dynamics and chord back up to back off the melody, otherwise, that's what I'm playing. Let me know if this answers your question! 3. You can start to notice that many pull offs, hammer ons and slides get you to similar notes played fretted or open - ie sliding to a note rather than playing it open. Really, the variations for me come from trying to imitate the rhythms and sequences I hear from the fiddle - and within a chord structure, you can really play around without getting too much in the way. Not the best suggestion, but you have to just try inserting them in place of straight bum dittys or open strings...they give more rhythm and syncopation to your playing!
Posted by Elafouge@gmail.com on
You're a really fine teacher Evie. So appreciative of your lessons. Have attended a few banjo camps with really great teachers, professional musicians like you, but you really keep me inspired and playing for at least an hour most every day! Your lessons are clear, progressive, jam packed full of options for beginners and onward. And, I'm finally learning by ear and rarely if ever look at your well constructed tune tabs. I see now how learning a tune by ear from the get go makes it so much easier to pick up and remember. The only problem is sometimes those tunes stay in my head for days even when I'm not playing!

And no disrespect to all the great guys I've had lessons with, but it is so nice to learn from such a strong, accomplished, clawhammer queen! Love the tunes you choose to teach too. May I make a request? Little Birdie is a favorite of mine. Also The Cuckoo. In any case, thanks for sharing your love of old time clawhammer and your expertise.
Posted by steven.a.melnyk@gmail.com on
As a beginner (just got started in mid August), I find that these lessons form a useful complement to the lessons offered by my teacher. Love the songs and the approach. Three requests. First, a video talking about how to best practice - it would be nice to structure my practice time so that I am always moving forward. Second, my teacher is able to take a piece of music and convert it to the harmony. In the book, "Clawhammer Banjo for the Complete Ignoramus", Wayne Erbsen often provides two versions on his CD - the tune and the Melody. It would be nice to understand how to play background melody since I intend to start going to old time jam sessions here at the University (Michigan State University). Third, you could share with the students guidelines about when to improvise by using slides, hammers, and drop thumbs. I see it being done but don't quite understand the logic.

Thank you for a great course. Working my way through (not easy when you are working full time at a demanding job) but I can see and hear the differences.
Posted by Orffman@gmail.com on
Evie, loving these lessons. I have been playing clawhammer for a long time but never got the double thumbing down. Your lessons are really great for incorporating this into my playing. Love the speed of the lessons and the fact that you sing too! Super great lessons. Thanks so much for doing this. Michael
Posted by Scottnyg on
Hi Julie,
Evie plays a few variations of that phrase. Sometimes she plays the second fret and sometimes she plays the open string, sometimes she plays the second fret and then does a pull-off to the open string. It's hard to say which one she plays most often. So you can play either one -- whichever sounds better to you. And don't worry about being the clawhammer police. I'm glad to hear about anything that might be a "mistake."
Glad you're enjoying the course.
Cheers,
Scott

Scott Nygaard
Editor and Co-Founder
Peghead Nation
Posted by jvoelck@gmail.com on
Hi again Scott or another nice Peghead Person who is reading this message-- I don't want to seem like the clawhammer tab police, but I find the tabs helpful and like to use them after watching Evie's videos. So here is another small change that may be needed: On "Pretty Little Widow," Part B, I believe that the last note in measure 3 should be open on the first string (0), rather than fretted at the second fret (2). Thanks for checking. This is a great course! Clawhammer banjo makes me smile. 8^)
Posted by rounder939@gmail.com on
Evie,
Congratulations on a well done course. I'm a VERY long time guitar flatpicker with an interest in Appalachian music history and I play a lot of what you teach. I was floored by your major key version of Shady Grove and it translated to the guitar easily. It's beautiful. That being said, you reignited my long neglected interest in clawhammer and I'm hooked. Oldtime dance music keeps my oldtime blood up and I look forward to learning a lot from you. Best, as well to Dan. This web site surpasses anything I've seen elsewhere.
Posted by shamillner@gmail.com on
Scott,
I asked about notation software a week or so ago, you said that you use Finale which is what I have as well, yet I am struggling to figure out how to use it to make banjo tabs. I use mine mainly for fiddle tunes (without tab). I don't know if this is too much to ask, but would you consider emailing me a Finale file of a banjo tab you have created so I can use it as a template? Thanks for considering.
Shannon Miller
shamillner@gmail.com
Posted by Scottnyg on
Chris,
You're right that in measure 23 and 24 of "The Blackest Crow" the melody is the second string open, but the 4th string fretted at the 2nd fret is the root note of the chord Evie is playing, the F#m chord.
Best,
Scott

Scott Nygaard
Editor and Co-Founder
Peghead Nation
Posted by Scottnyg on
Hi Shannon,
I use Finale for most of the notation and tab on Peghead Nation, including Evie's course.
Scott

Scott Nygaard
Editor and Co-Founder
Peghead Nation
Posted by shamillner@gmail.com on
What tab writing software do you use for Evie Laden's Clawhammer Course?
Posted by chris@chrispye-woodcarving.com on
Hello Evie, the Blackest Crow is a beautiful song and tune, thanks for choosing it! Something doesn't seem right in the tabs though: measure 23, you have the 4th string fretted 2 (above 'mourn') but you seem to be playing and singing second string open for that note? Same for measure 24?
Posted by Scottnyg on
Fixed. Thanks again.
Scott
Posted by jvoelck@gmail.com on
Thank you, Scott. I wish I had noticed this when I sent my first message, but there also is a fix needed on Greasy Coat, Part B, measures 1 and 5. The hammer-on in both measures should be 0-3, instead of 0-2. Thank you again!
Posted by Scottnyg on
You are right. Thanks for the catch. The tab has been fixed.
Scott Nygaard
Editor and Co-Founder
Peghead Nation
Posted by jvoelck@gmail.com on
Evie, if I'm not confused (admittedly always a possibility!), shouldn't the tab for Part B of Greasy Coat, measures 2 and 6, look like this on the first string: 3 3 0 0, instead of like this: 2 2 0 0? In other words, I think I hear and see you playing at the 3rd fret there, instead of the second.
I love your lessons and am having so much fun. Thank you!
Posted by evie ladin on
@ebolson1128@yahoo.com For this course we are sticking to traditional material, though I encourage you to use what you learn to play anything that strikes your fancy!

@chadwin50@icloud.com Great! I use an old luggage strap on one banjo and a random strip of leather on the other, so really, it's personal preference, and comfortability. A friend of mine makes gorgeous hand tooled leather banjo straps - Angelina Elise on Facebook. Check her out!
Posted by chadwin50@icloud.com on
Hi Evie.

I am enjoying your banjo course. I just started and have learned cotton-eyed joe.
I am trying to decide upon a banjo strap and what style. Do you recommend a cradle strap? Or is it just a personal preference? And any other suggestions would be helpful about straps.

Thanks,
Chris
Posted by ebolson1128@yahoo.com on
Hi Evie! Thanks for all you do. Any chance we can learn Willie Watson's version of "Mexican Cowboy? https://youtu.be/N49k4KkshAs
Posted by evie ladin on
All I can suggest is that you move the metronome up extremely slowly, incrementally, so that you can keep all the parts intact as you increase speed. If you can do it slower, try just 5bpm faster at a time, and keep the tune together! Have fun!
Posted by Reformedcellist@gmail.com on
Hi Evie! I love the course. Quick question about playing the single string melody with the bum ditty's in between. I can hit a groove with the melody in Old Joe Clark but am loosing the strum in the process when I play at a faster tempo. I can do it at a slower tempo, but am having a hard time when I speed up.
Thanks!
Posted by Evie Ladin on
Good question about changing strings. Some people change them often, me, not so much because I like how they sound. Hard to explain but they can sound 'dead' and then should be changed. at least three times a year, unless they get very dirty at a festival or something. Some people change their strings before every gig! But I find them too bright and jangly when they're brand new. Use your ears! Thanks for the comments everyone!
Posted by jvoelck@gmail.com on
Evie, how often should banjo strings be changed? Is there a way (or ways) to tell when they should be changed? Thanks.
Posted by jvoelck@gmail.com on
Hi Evie--I'm an acoustic guitar player and love it, but one day I heard a recording of Matokie Slaughter playing Big Eyed Rabbit, and I was captivated. I mean I loved it! I started listening to other clawhammer players, and I decided that I needed to learn to play banjo that old-time way. Now, thanks to your lessons, I'm living my dream and having so much fun! Thank you.
Posted by weisspromo@aol.com on
Hi, Evie,
I've been thoroughly enjoying your course for the past several months. In addition to learning the particular melodies for each tune, I like the way you manage to convey some basic and transportable techniques and riffs that can be applied to backing up and filling on other tunes, as well.

I just noticed that you're appearing in my general neighb, at the Jalopy Theater in Brooklyn, NY, in a couple of weeks. I look forward to seeing you there and introducing myself.

Happy New Year!

Chuck Weiss in NYC
Posted by Evie Ladin on
I leave it on until it comes off on it's own, or i pop it off if it cracks. It has never really bothered the actual nail, though I do leave periods of no nail on when I'm doing other things, so it gets some air. Hope that helps!
Posted by virginiaoman71@gmail.com on
Thanks. Doesn't peeling on and off the fake nail (using superglue) kill your nail after a while? or do you just keep the same fake nail on for weeks at a time? I'm new to the land of fake nails so thanks for answering these questions.
Posted by Evie Ladin on
I just get press on nails "for active lifestyles" (but not necessary) and stay stocked with superglue!
Posted by virginiaoman71@gmail.com on
Hi Evie. Im LOVIN this banjo course with you. Can you tell me the name of the fake nails you use on your strumming finger? who's the maker and is there a model or style number? Also, can you let us know what glue you use to attach and do you do any trimming or filing?

MANY thanks. I've been experimenting with different picks but would love to try a fake nail. Just want to get a tried and true one.
Posted by Evie Ladin on
Thanks everyone, glad you're enjoying the course! Bradley, while basic technique encourages you to get used to playing the 5th string after the brushes, once you get rolling, you can be selective about when or if you play it - in keeping with how you'd like the song to sound. I like for people to eventually explore the tone and strength of the 5th string sound as it can overpower the melody notes if you're not careful. But for starters, yes, play the fifth string after each brush to get used to the style. As for upstrokes, there are up-picking styles of clawhammer, that mix with brushes, or not, but basic frailing does not include any upstrokes. I hardly play any! Keep playing and have fun!
Posted by bradndeb@telus.net on
Hi Evie, lovin' the course. So we try to pluck a 5th string thumb after every brush? After every "chick" we get the "a". Was wondering when playing single melody notes throughout the song, always try for the 5th string after the brush? One other question, do we ever do up strokes on clawhammer?
Keep up the good work. Will be working the clawhammer into the next record for sure

Bradley in Canmore Alberta
www.banffwardens.com
Posted by Scottnyg on
Annette,
We'll be putting up a video clip of Evie talking about her banjo soon.
Thanks,

Scott Nygaard
Editor and Co-Founder
Peghead Nation
Posted by Annette_Siegel on
Hi Evie,

Enjoying the videos lessons! :-) Would you mind letting me know who made the clawhammer banjo you are playing (not the goodtime one)? Type of woods and tone-ring...love to hear about it!
Much thanks, Annette
Posted by richgw07@gmail.com on
Hi Evie

I really enjoy the "response playing" in your lessons. It helps me get the tune.great course! Thoroughly enjoying it and learning how to play.

Rich
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