Clawhammer Banjo Exercises - Picking Hand

by David Bandrowski

These clawhammer banjo exercises for your right hand will help you improve your clawhammer playing. We start with very basic one note exercises and strum patterns and move into drop thumb exercises. With all of these exercises, it is best to work with a metronome and go very slowly while focusing on playing every note very cleanly, with a good tone and feel.

Ex. 1 - Using either your index finger or middle finger, strike down on a single string. Repeat as needed.


Ex. 2 - Here we are doing the same as in ex. 1, but in this exercise we added the 5th string which is played with the thumb. Every time your hand goes down to play the single note with your finger, your thumb should rest on the 5th string and be ready to play it.


Ex. 3 - Here we are practicing our strum down with our finger and following it up with the 5th string being played by the thumb.


Ex. 4 - Here we combine the single note played by the finger, the strum down with the finger, and the 5th string that is played by the thumb. This is the classic "bump, ditty" pattern that is very prevalent in clawhammer banjo playing. It is named this because the rhythm the syllables make when you say that is the same as the rhythm of this playing pattern. In this exercise we are just focusing on the single note by the finger to land on the 1st string.


Ex. 5 - this is the same "bump ditty" rhythm as above but here we are moving the single note the finger plays so that it can play the 2nd - 4th strings.


Ex. 6 - this is a drop thumb exercise. Now we will be following each downstroke of the finger with the thumb playing the string next to it on the first half of the pattern, and then the thumb playing the 5th string on the second half of the pattern.


Again, practice slowly and with a metronome while focusing on the clarity of your notes. Good luck and feel free to ask any questions in the comments box below!






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