Clawhammer Style Banjo

clstyleb2A Complete Guide for Beginning and Advanced Banjo Players

The clawhammer classic!! Here is a brilliant teaching guide that has become the handbook on how to play clawhammer banjo.

Ken leads you step by step to a thorough understanding of the instrument and playing style. He starts by teaching basic right and left-hand positions, chords and such fundamental clawhammer techniques as the brush, the “bumm-titty strum,” hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides,m and more. Then when you’re ready for more complicated picking, Ken eases you into such more advanced  techniques as double-thumbing, quick slides, fretted pull-offs, alternate-string pull offs, syncopation, harmonics, improvisation, and playing up the neck.

The book includes roughly 80 tunes and couple of dozen exercises.

An optional four-hour DVD illustrates every tune and exercise in the book.

Clawhammer Style Banjo

Centerstream/Hal Leonard

The complete clawhammer tutor: 200 pages, 80 tunes plus numerous exercises.

Companion Video

  • In DVD format (2 disks, 4 hrs.). Companion to  Rubí Clawhammer Style Banjo book. Illustrates every tune and exercises.
  • In original VHS format (2 video tapes, 4 hrs.). Last few copies available in VHS format.

Note: The Clawhammer Style Banjo video is a supplement to the book; it is not designed to be a “stand-alone” product. If you prefer stand-alone videos see Beginning Clawhammer Banjo and Intermediate Clawhammer Banjo on the DVDs page.

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Reviews for Clawhammer Style Banjo book

Bluegrass Unlimited

This is an exceptionally well-organized book which really lives up to its subtitle, “A Complete Guide for the Beginning and Advanced Player.” The author has a gift for explaining the multi-faceted clawhammer style of banjo playing in a clear, step-by- step manner which would appeal to players of all levels. Through photos, diagrams and concisely written passages, virtually every technique from the simple brush stroke to he double grace note is covered… There is much attention to rhythmic nuance, and just about any question that might arise in the reader’s mind is anticipated and dealt with insightfully.

The book…includes sections covering banjo terminology, the fretting hand, tablature notation, the plucking hand, hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, the single- note brush,…double-thumbing, alternate-string pull-offs, triplets, syncopation and advanced right- and left-hand techniques.

Frets Magazine

This is an excellent resource for clawhammer banjo players of any skill level…His most recent work presents both the rudiments and advanced techniques for clawhammer banjo. The text…is interspersed with high-quality photos that beautifully demonstrate hand positions… Part one deals with the more basic material … [and] about 30 tunes are provided to reinforce these techniques… Part two is for more advanced players and covers such techniques as double thumbing, quick slides, fretted pull-offs, ornaments and harmonics. In this section 50 tunes are provided…

Review for Clawhammer Style Banjo DVD

Bluegrass Unlimited

Ken Perlman was one of several “melodic clawhammer banjo” players represented on a Kicking Mule record with that moniker about 20 years ago. This recording along with all of his subsequent recordings have done much to solidify his role as one of the most creative practitioners of this art. He has stretched the boundaries of what can be done on the clawhammer banjo…

The first video takes us from the most basic fingerings and strums through to a good solid intermediate playing level… He uses an easily understood and workable system to identify the roles of both hands and give the students a handle on what and how the hands are used…By the time we get to tape, two a certain level of mastery has been achieved. The second tape continues to build upon this groundwork…

Perlman’s analysis and highly detailed presentation should help unravel the mysteries. Upon completion of these tapes the student will [have] the flexibility to improvise and a repertory of outstanding diversity.Perlman has taken the jig and given it a home on the five string banjo. Given the basic rhythm of clawhammer banjo… this was no small feat. He plays a bit of a rag during an intro sequence and again it was amazingly good. Again, ragtime rhythm and the basic timing of the clawhammer stroke do not fall naturally together. His phrasing and use of left- and right-hand techniques open a new world to the clawhammer banjoist. If you want to play clawhammer banjo, get these tapes.

Historical Note

Clawhammer Style Banjo was originally published by Prentice-Hall, a conventional book company who had no idea how to market it. It didn’t begin to circulate in any quantity until Prentice-Hall went out of business, and the book was picked up by Centerstream/Hal Leonard. Here’s the original “banjo in the clouds” book cover. I have always thought that the designer got her color scheme from the Stoned Wheat Thins box (I guess she figured I was a “Stone Wheat Thins” kind of guy).