In this lesson series, you’ll learn five fiddle tunes arranged for the clawhammer banjo in the key of D:
Step Around Johnny
All five tunes are common to most old time musician’s repertoires and are, in my opinion, essential study for practicing clawhammer banjoists.
I’ve provided two distinct arrangements for each tune; a “melodic” and a “rhythmic” version.
Each version comes with separate tablature and video instruction.
The melodic arrangements adhere -as closely as possible- to the exact melody that I have in my head for a particular tune.
These challenging arrangements are included for a couple of reasons:
1.) To give you a glimpse into my personal process for arranging a tune for the clawhammer banjo.
- When arranging a tune on my own I always find a melodic arrangement first!
- After I’ve figured out a melodic version and played it for a while, then (and only then) will I start to alter my approach to allow for a more rhythmic treatment of said tune.
- I strongly encourage you to follow the same process throughout this lesson series.
- It’s highly recommended that you always learn the melodic arrangement before moving to the rhythmic.
2.) To inspire you to stretch your abilities.
- A “melodic” arrangement is generally more difficult to play than a “rhythmic” one, requiring advanced and sometimes awkward right and left hand techniques (drop thumb, alternate string pull offs, phantom strokes, etc).
- These challenging arrangements can push you outside of your comfort zone and expand your technical and conceptual skills.
The rhythmic arrangements take a step or two back from trying to play every note of the melody and focus, instead, on playability and “drive”.
This is achieved, primarily, by doing the following:
- Altering especially difficult passages by removing melody notes.
- Removing a lot of melodic drop thumb passages and any other passages that impede fluidity and good, rhythmic feel.
- Adding strumming or brushing wherever appropriate.
Although strictly melodic arrangements of a tune can make for impressive show pieces and helpful practice studies, I feel that a rhythmic approach is much more conducive to up-tempo playing and ensemble playing.
So, although I highly encourage you to spend a lot of time with the melodic arrangements, I also want to emphasize the fact that the rhythmic arrangements will likely have broader practical applications.
It is my hope that, by providing two disparate approaches for each melody, this lesson series will familiarize you with some of the basic mechanics of melody arrangement and, ultimately, empower you to create your own clawhammer versions of your favorite tunes.
A Final Thought
My mission is to be the most helpful and accessible clawhammer banjo instructor on the internet.
Remember that I am always available online to answer your questions about specific lessons or any banjo-related queries that you might have.
Don’t be shy. If you need clarification on one of my lessons or if you just want to say hello, send me an email at: