Learn About Clawhammer Banjo – The Ultimate Guide

Clawhammer banjo is an older music style that originated in Africa. It slowly migrated to America and evolved taking many indigenous styles adapting to every place the music traveled to. Clawhammer banjo is peculiar because it’s played by striking down on the strings and following with a sound that of “claw-ham-er”.

It’s considered that once you learn clawhammer banjo you can learn any other instrument easily. Many places and books teach you to play the banjo by beating around the bush however, it’s very simple and not complicated as illustrated in many books.

A simple method to learn is by the thumb-pinch. This is a fool-proof way to learn the style without memorizing thousands of pages. Once you learn the basic stroke, it becomes extremely easy to learn the style.

Your right-hand plays a crucial role in playing the banjo and you need to how to place it exactly on the instrument. This is the decisive factor in your rhythm, tone, mood, and style of playing the banjo.

Even a few minutes of practice can bring a stark difference in your playing. Though there are various other styles of playing the banjo, the clawhammer style is unique due to its playing style and the music it produces which is very different from the other banjo styles.

Depending on the time you are willing to devote to your practice and the quality of your practice you can master it sooner than you thought. Once you ace, you can gradually move to another style, instead of doing everything at once.

clawhammer banjo

What is clawhammer style banjo playing?

The major factor of clawhammer-style banjo playing is putting down on the strings as opposed to bluegrass where you pull up the strings of the instrument. The fingers that are used for strumming are kept stiff and the hand remains in a claw shape. The thumbs remain still on the fifth string in a downward motion and this makes the banjo produce distinctive sounds.

 Is clawhammer banjo hard to learn?

Like all styles of play, this requires some practice and techniques to understand. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll play banjo effortlessly and with ease. You can get self-tutored in the beginning to understand the styles of playing using internet resources.

The internet has a wide array of resources to make your learning convenient and easy. It’s a good idea to visit live music events and get your ears accustomed to the music produced by banjo. You’ll also open up to more instruments and styles used by various musicians.


1. What is clawhammer-style banjo?

A clawhammer style is based on the hand position that’s used and the way of striking the strings. It’s played using a downward motion over the strings and the melody is played by striking one string followed by two or three strings.

Also, check out our latest post on  A Complete Guide on 4 String vs 5 String Banjo, to know more.