September 20, 2010 5:02 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend some good resources - DVDs, websites, or books - for learning clawhammer/old-time banjo? I don't live anywhere near a teacher, and am starting from scratch with essentially no musical background.

That's all. Thanks!
posted by pilibeen to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I would wholeheartedly recommend Elements of clawhammer banjo: a lesson with Chris Coole. Chris has been my teacher for the last 7 years or so, and this is just like getting a lesson from him, minus the customary cup of coffee he throws in. (Me-mail me if you can't find a local copy.)

The Bob Carlin DVDs from Gold tone are not bad, and are a little cheaper. Bob's a virtuoso performer, but you might not warm to his manner.

While it has absolutely everything, Banjo Hangout can be a major time suck. Better to learn a few tunes than learn crazed rumours from that site.

If you can get your banjo setup checked before you learn, it'll make learning a bunch easier if you've got an instrument that does what it's supposed to.
posted by scruss at 5:19 PM on September 20, 2010

Best answer: I love Pete Seeger's How to Play the 5-String Banjo. It's a delightful little book that's infused with Pete's spirit and ethos. It won't give you all the nuts and bolts you'll need, but it's great for inspiration and would be a nice complement to some of the more technique-heavy books.
posted by messica at 6:32 PM on September 20, 2010

Best answer: Seconding getting on Banjo Hangout. They taught me a lot.

My big suggestions are Wayne Erbsen's Clawhammer Banjo for the Complete Ignoramus. It's not the best as far as being totally comprehensive and useful for playing music, but it will have you playing songs in no time. And that will get your confidence up, so you can move on.

My other suggestion is Patrick Costello's stuff. He's got free books and videos galore. They'll take you pretty far, especially when combined with the Erbsen book.

Rocket Science Banjo is also free and also worth checking out. I don't like it quite as well as Patrick's stuff, but it's still really, really solid.

Last, but not least is Mike Iverson's page. Once you get fairly competent with the others, get on here, grab a song you like and go.

If you buy the Erbsen book and download all the others, you'll be busy for at least a year at the low cost of $15 or so. If none of these do it for you, I also really really like the Murphy Method DVDs. I haven't used the Clawhammer one specifically, but I've got the Bluegrass one, and it's really great to get up and going with.

If you can find a teacher within a day's drove though, I'd make a weekend trip for an hour lesson. I know one lesson doesn't seem worth it, but it really really is when it comes to clawhammer. The basic strokes can be taught in an hour, and it's way better to learn right from the start than to have to unlearn.
posted by piedmont at 6:43 PM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: All these suggestions are great...Thanks!
posted by pilibeen at 2:49 PM on September 21, 2010

« Older How do I get rid of cigarette odours in an...   |   Fill in the blank! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.