ROCKET SCIENCE BANJO

WWWeb sources:

There are a lot of guys giving a lot of bad advice on the www, but these are some guys who are giving good advice on playing the banjo.

Hunter Robertson
Hunter Robertson, banjoist extrordinaire, has a wonderful website with some lessons, some tunes and a whole lot of good banjo info. If I gave stars this site would get 4 out of four. Furthermoer you can buy Hunter's new cd "If You Want To Sleep Go To Bed." It sounds like an Irish tune title but is really a quote from Charlie Lowe. You can read a full review of the cd on my blog or at the Banjo Hangout "reviews" section.

Fretless Fury - Round Peak Banjo
At this writing Tom has three lessons in playing Round Peak style fretless banjo on youtube. You will also find videos of him playing a number of tunes from the RP region both in solo versions and with his string band New Hot Times.

Donald Zepp – Clearhead Banjo
Zepp has a number of videos taken through a banjo sporting a clear head (hence the name) for a stomach’s eye view of the various clawhammer strokes. He also has tutorials and a enough banjo material to keep you up all night for many many nights.

Banjo Brad's Prickly Pear Music
Tutorials, tabs, links, and all sorts of Good Stuff. A tremendous amount of banjo material gathered up in one place. Fred has also written up a good selection of easy tabs for beginners – Both old time tunes and folk songs – using Tabledit. He is head Technical Advisor for the Rocket Science Banjo project – Which means that without his help I would still be using Sharpies to scribble out tabs on recycled college ruled paper).

The Tabledit © site where you can download the free TEFViewer program that allows you to read and print the tabs provided in the Rocket Science Banjo materials.
You can also, if you desire, check out the full version of Tabledit program that allows you to write your own tabs. The full program costs $59.95 US, but once registered, all updates are available for free, for life.

Banjo Meets World
Cathy Moore, is a dancer, a world traveler, and a world class clawhammer banjo player. Her youtube channel and blog have some of the most unusual tunes you will ever hear clawed - along with a few hoe-down tunes you've heard all your life - sometimes in odd settings. I love her version of Lonesome John.
She specializes in Balkan Rhythms (which make Balkan politics seem simple) which are frequently in alternating measures of amazing rhythms (like 9/8, 11/8). Like all dancers she sees them as patterns of 2 and 3 beats, and once you can see them that way too, everything gets real easy --- or at least easier.
Cathy also has a YouTube site:
Banjo Meets World

Mike Iverson Tabs
This is Mike's new site - To access the clawhammer stuff, click on the "Progressive Clawhammer" link.

Mike Iverson is a clawhammer banjo player (actually he is a multi-instrumentalist) specializing in folksongs, but he knows a lot of fiddle tunes too. His tabs are clear and easy to read. I particularly recommend his "Easy Tabs". They are clear and, while simple, do not lose the melody in a wall of banjo "stuff"

Thumb Lead Two Finger Banjo
Sean Barth has been writing an excellent blog about Thumb Lead 2 Finger style banjo. I highly recommend it to anyone wishing to add another style to their clawhammer. In fact, I recommend All clawhammerers do at least one other style. Sean has created an excellent series about this too long ignored technique.
You won't find much other mention of Thumb Lead (that I know of) on the web, but here is most everything you need to do more than just get started in the style. There are tabs, mp3s, tutorials, articles, examples, etc. Just like clawhammer, you still have to do all the work, but I can see Sean's blog becoming the bible of thumb lead. Bookmark it, but don't just bookmark it. Read a couple articles, listen to some tunes, become a thumb leader. All I ask is that if you are still struggling with downpicking - don't quit it to go all Up-picking. For one thing there is lots to be said for combining the two. Thumb Lead is very complimentary to the clawhammer style. I used to switch back and forth easily.

Tom Berghan (His YouTube channel)
Tom Berghan or tomberghan as he is known on the Banjo Hangout is a recent convert to clawhammer, although you would never know that from his claw recordings. He has been a professional musician since the 1960s, a theorbo player and lutenist specializing in the music of the 17th century. He has been very involved in the Seattle Early Music scene (Early Music is the classical player's equivalent of Old Time Music).
However, he has always been involved in folk music of one sort or another and is the only person I know who actually knew Gus Cannon. Young Tom would visit Gus at his Memphis home in the late 1960s and talk music with a real original. I really envy him that.
Along with OT tom plays blues on piano and other styles on his various 4 string banjos (including the bass banjo). In his short two years of playing clawhammer he has become one of my banjo heros with technique and musicality of the highest order. You will find a wonderful demo of the clawhammer movement on the RSB videos page.
Here are links to much more of his playing on all his instruments:

17th Century Lute Music
Old time tunes etc. posted on the Banjo Hangout
Tom's youtube channel

Clarence Ashley Plays "Coo-Coo Bird"
This is Tom 'Clarence' Ashley playing his "Coo-Coo Bird" and using his Coo-Coo Bird roll as described in Chapter 4.2 of Rocket Science Banjo. I watched this video many times to establish exactly what Ashley did and am sure now that my initial assessment (from 1960) was correct. It is a simple 3 or 4 finger ukulele roll. I suspect Ashley got it from another Medicine Show performer. The so-called Galax lick is really used in many areas and I'm sure Ashley was exposed to it. His choice of the roll instead of the drag lick probably has more to do with preference than ability.