“Beyond bum-ditty” lesson videos

I’ve posted some informal lessons on YouTube that show syncopation and other techniques that you can use to make an old-time tune your own. The video uses Julianne Johnson in aDADE and is aimed at intermediate players who are comfortable with drop-thumbing and plucks. It assumes you already know the basic tune.

Part 1: The A melody (covers “easing” into a note, syncopation, M-skips)

Part 2: The B melody (covers plucks and more M-skips)

Julianne Johnson with syncopation: Twice slowly and then at normal speed


17 Responses to ““Beyond bum-ditty” lesson videos”

  1. 1 John Adams August 13, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    Fantastic, glad to see some of this finally explained. I love the new blog format!

  2. 2 John Dotson August 29, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    At the moment this is a bit beyond me. However, I’m getting better all the time. Someday soon I will be ready to give your great videos a go. Thanks so much for posting them!

  3. 3 Merit September 29, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    This is beyond me at points,too. I love these videos. I am already able to pick some of it out by just listening. Thanks for keeping us away from the bum ditty.

  4. 4 Grant McDonald October 21, 2008 at 1:15 am


    Thank you so much for you wonderful videos. I could sit & just listen to your tasty playing and beautiful phrasing indefinitely. But I have a hard time NOT trying to play what you have shown us. Your Julianne Johnson series is just what the doctor ordered for me. I guess I am an intermediate level player, that is looking for those little nuances that might help me sound…., well, like you.

    I have sat and listened, rewound, and relistened. I have played, & replayed, and replayed some more. The differences between getting it, and not getting it are very, very subtle. Through perserverence, and a most excellant ideal to aspire to, along with your most gracious endeavours to explain it to us, by gosh, I’m a gettin’ it. You have helped dramatically elevate my playing to the next level. Thank you again!

    I have seen some of the Perlman & Carlin, et al. instructional materials. Yes they have helped me, but those fellows don’t exude the joy that you seem to in your playing. Frankly, I like the way you play better anyway. You sure do seem to be a happy sort, at least in what we can see on your videos. It makes us happy just to watch. Thank you for sharing!


    PS – your accent sounds like Michigan, but I’m sure you’ll set me straight. Where did you learn to play?

  5. 5 banjomeetsworld October 21, 2008 at 4:02 pm


    Thanks for your kind words. I’m glad to hear that the videos are helping you develop your sound. That’s pretty much my goal with the lesson videos–to help intermediate players explore techniques and experiment with musicality.

    I grew up in Chicago but spent a long time as an adult in Wisconsin, which I think got the upper hand in determining my accent.

    I learned to play banjo from books (Seeger, Krassen, Perlman), then I put the banjo down for about 20 years while I played other instruments in other traditions. I picked it up again when I moved to Bloomington, Indiana, where there are lots of old-time players and some fans of Illinois tunes. So my old-time repertoire reflects what’s played at sessions here and in Illinois.

    I hope you keep enjoying the videos, and thanks for writing.


  6. 6 Grant McDonald October 21, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    Hi Cathy,

    I will continue to work with your videos, as they seem to have a great “prickle factor” for me. (In case that phrase isn’t self-explanatory, it means that the tunes really grab me, and I want to learn them, similar to the way you play them, hopefully.)

    The first one of yours I stumbled across was Rampi Rampi. It kinda freaked me out. “What in the world is this woman doing?” I couldn’t believe that was a “normal” banjo in double C tuning – prolly my favourite tuning to play in. I guess it was mostly the 9/8 timing that it made it sound like you might have some extra intervals…somehow, but you had just the same old 12 that the rest of us here have. I’m working on that tune too. When I get it down, it will bring my tally of Turkish folk tunes up to … one! :-) But, I’m looking forward to freaking a few people out with that one!

    Anyway, don’t want to be a blog-hog here. Again thank you for your kindness in spreading the knowledge – gratis. It is hugely appreciated. If you’re ever up in Ontario, please let me know! There is a fest in my (mostly) boring town that celebrates “folk music.” They are well-established. It is free to the GP. Many different venues. 3 days, usually early August. I have no idea what they pay, but they do bring in artists from far away – Europe, S. America, for example. Although it is run by a “folk society” that champions Olde English kinda stuff, the fest seems to celebrate music of the folk, from around the globe. It could be at least part of a reason to swing up this a’ way. BTW I have no affiliation with this organization, aside from enjoying many performances they have helped to facilitate in my back yard. http://www.millracefolksociety.com/

    All the Best,

  7. 7 PETER January 5, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    Thanks for all these videos and tunes Cathy. I find them so useful and a great change from hard driving bluegrass.

  8. 8 scott February 9, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    I do the bum with my thumb and the ditty with my finger and nails. I guess I’m doing it backwards huh?

  9. 9 Roger in Korea May 1, 2009 at 6:45 am

    Wow. I’m so glad I came across your blog and Youtube postings a couple of days ago. I’ve been having the most fun with the banjo that I can ever recall having.

    Most of these elements of technique that you teach are ones that I’ve come across before. But your exciting playing and your love of this approach are intoxicating me in a way that my previous encounters with these techniques never did.

    I think it’s because like you said, it’s all about dancing to you. The other masters of these techniques that I’ve encountered were not so infused with the spirit of the dance as you and I think that’s what’s makes a big difference in your playing.

    I may be prejudiced in that interpretation since I taught contra and old-time square dancing for 20+ years before moving to S. Korea where I work as an English teacher. No dancing available to me here so I took up the banjo which I hadn’t played in 20 years or so.


  10. 10 Roger in Korea May 1, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    Hi Cathy,

    Do you by chance have any tab for the sophisticated version of Julianne Johnson that you demonstrate in these videos?


  11. 11 Roger in Korea May 2, 2009 at 6:02 am

    OK. Well, I finally read your statements about not writing tab, so scratch that previous post requesting it for Julianne Johnson. Guess I’ll have to stop being lazy.

    In any event, I have already stopped playing tunes only one way. Zepp’s little series of very short technique videos about “personalizing” a tune was extremely useful for breaking out of that boring habit, and you, of course, increase the inspiration.

  12. 12 Cathy May 10, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    Roger, thanks for your comments and your enthusiasm. It’s great to hear from another dancer. I’ve gotten some other questions about Julianne Johnson, so I’ll probably do another video in which I break down some of the trickier parts and show more clearly what I’m doing. Making another video is easier than trying to write syncopated tab. Strangely, I can sight-read music written in 7/8 but put something in 4/4 and I struggle, and if it’s syncopated, forget it.

  13. 13 Glenn August 30, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    Hi Cathy

    I just found your web site thru You Tube. I plan to be a very frequent visitor. I’m like three songs into the second video of Ken Perlman’s ‘Learn Clawhammer’ so I have a repertoire of sorts, but listening to your videos I realize my bum diddy stinks. I want to work on your Julianne Johnson while I’m on vacation on Cape Cod these next two weeks and see if I can get some decent sounding rhythm going. Where can I find the tab (and the tuning) on your site? I’d LIKE to play by ear but I’m not there yet.


    You rock!

    Glenn Appleman , Brooklyn NY

    PS I originally got inspired watching a B’klyn banjo player named Sean Condron playing for change in the subway.Very nice fellow.

  14. 14 Glenn September 11, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Hey I got Julianne Johnson down without TAB! Your fingering confused me till I noticed you had a capo on the neck.Little screens, little details. Now to work on my bum-ditty and beyond.


  15. 15 Ben February 15, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Hi Cathy,

    Your lessons are fantastic and I love your style. Where can I find the tabs your using? There seem to be a lot of different versions I’ve found. Is yours online? I’m a long way away from the nearest banjo store!

    Many thanks,


  16. 16 Cathy Moore February 15, 2011 at 11:32 am


    I generally don’t use tabs. For the weirder European tunes, you can find tab that I wrote on this site. Use the index above or browse through a category, then click on the tune name. For old-time tunes, I learn by ear.

    Have fun,


  17. 17 mano May 4, 2011 at 7:25 am

    You say hitting the banjo at the neck when do in the -ty of bum-ditty (aka hitting the 5th string) is a bad habit, but I must say for me it’s just adding more spice for your play.. maybe it’s me, but I love to hear those little hits on the banjo when you pick the 5th string.. :)

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