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Beginning Clawhammer Page...

Hi... to all you beginning Clawhammer players!!!
It is my intent to list all of the tools and gadgets that I used to get me started playing Clawhammer banjo. This includes, books, videos, tapes, and such. Rhode Island isn't exactly a hot bed for Clawhammer players, so I had to search far and wide for infomation on this style of banjo playing. (I receive no compensation for any artists works that I mention or any brand name that I use or speak of. This listing is purely informational)
 

Banjo-Preferably open-back, but any will do. If you can't find a 1926 Bacon, or a Vega Tubaphone, a Deering, "Good Times" is an excellent beginners Clawhammer banjo. (Around $300)
Music Stand-Unless you are blessed with the ability to play by ear, then you will probably be learning to play by tablature. A good solid music stand is essential to hold your music, and other banjo related products that I will speak of. (Usually Black, with a shelf, adjustable height, around $40-60)
Foot Stand- This is an adjustable stand designed to raise your left foot 4-6 inches or so, to help you achieve the desired angle at which your banjo is cocked. Mine is almost perpendicular with my left shoulder.
Capo- This is a necessary gizmo to allow a Clawhammer  player to play in the many varied tunings of this style. I have used many different types and have settled on the Kyser. It is a one-handed type capo. You just squeeze the trigger and it opens to allow application to any fret.($12-15) I have use the Shubbs, which has a set screw and locks down on the fret. It works fine, but leaves an indentation on my Bacon's fret board. (No matter what tension I set it to) ($15-20) I use a cheap Dunlop for my "At work" banjo. It has a strip of rubber mounted on a metal piece, that has 5 or 6 slots where you hook in the strap and lock it down.  Not fancy, but functional. ($3-5) There are many types of capos; find the one that is right for you.
Strings- In my neighborhood, Warwick, Rhode Island; there are not many choices for strings. If you are there at the right time you can usually find some GHS, or D'Addario. For anything else you have to do mail order. Thank God for the Internet. You can shop around and find the strings that you want and get them cheap to boot. I have tried the D'Aquisto's and the Labella's and the Vega's also and have settled on the Vega lights for my Bacon, as well as the Franciscan that I play at work. On my Bart Reiter I use Labella nylon strings, because they were basically the only nylon I could find. Like all things banjo, the strings are all a matter of what sounds good to your ear. This summer at Winterhawk I played a Stelling banjo that had some of Geoff Stelling's medium strings on it. I played it Clawhammer style of course and the banjo sounded great! However, the strings were very rough and abrasive and within 15 minutes had worn a pretty deep groove in my nail. Not for frailin' I would say...
Bridges- Like strings, there are many types of bridges. I have tried the "Enterprise" bridge by Nechville and found it to be kind of bright for the style that I play. I have also used the Moon bridges, which I really like. I have tried the light and medium 1/2" in the Moons and I like both. The medium seems to give the tubbier sound that I am looking for. My only complaint about the Moon bridge is that the ebonite seems to flake off and chip, especially on the 5th string. Right now I am using a compensated on my Bacon, that I filed down to almost nothing on the 3 legs. My action is low and this bridge needed to come down in size. It sounds okay, so why mess with it. If you live near a place that carries a lot of banjo bridges, go there and see if the owner will allow you to try out some of the bridges. It seems that every bridge is different, in the density of the wood, how much mositure it retains, how old the wood is and other assorted factors. It is great if you have the luxury of trying out different ones, to get the one that sounds good to YOU.
Slow Banjo Necks- Sometimes in the summer, when it is hot and sticky, the banjo neck gets very slow and hard to slide up and down. We have a very high humidity level in Rhode Island, many times above 80%. To help this problem I use a very soft rag to wipe down the neck and string between songs. I also use a product called "Fast-Fret" by GHS. You rub the stick over the neck of the banjo and the strings and almost instantly, you are able to slide and glide just like you used to... Works very well.. It claims not to damage the finish, but on my Bacon, it looks to have caused a little discoloration. It could be just wear and tear on the finish from being played for 70+ years. I still use it...just so I can play in the summer.
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