The clawhammer banjo is usually not considered a “lead” or “melody” instrument.
Its conventional role in old time music is to compliment and support a melody player; usually a fiddler or a vocalist.
In recent times, however, many players have developed styles that rely on a more melodic approach.
Today’s lesson takes a look at the spectrum of possibility that exists between a rhythmic and a melodic viewpoint by offering up two versions of the same tune.
Exploring the melodic possibilities of this style can be an exciting and challenging undertaking but, when you’re doing so, I think it’s important to pay attention to context:
Rhythmic playing tends to allude to a melody without sacrificing too much of the rhythm and drive that the banjo can offer to a tune.
This approach is usually best for backing up fiddlers or other old time melody instruments.
Highly melodic playing tends to lack the drive and energy of therhythmic approach and, therefore, is usually applied to showcase situations where the banjo is, in fact, the lead instrument.
This is usually not the preferred mode of a banjo player in, say, a square dance band.
*note: Of course there are always exceptions to the “rule” but I thought I would offer up some basic guidelines for those of you who are still feeling your way through this stuff.
Alright then, let’s take a look: