- Do you plan to add material for beginners?
- Will you provide tab for [fill in the blank]?
- So you’re one of those tab-haters?
- Don’t you know that playing jigs on clawhammer banjo violates natural law, causes global warming, and will make you go blind?
There’s already a lot of material out there for beginners, and I don’t plan to add to it. If you’re just starting out and want to be able to play a wide variety of tunes clawhammer style, you might find the following to be helpful:
- Bum-ditty for clawhammer from EZFolk
- David Holt Beginning Clawhammer
- Right and left hand basics from Donald Zepp
- Three approaches to the right hand: Mike Iverson (also see his web site)
- Alec Slater’s free online manual with sound files
- Ken Perlman’s Clawhammer Style Banjo book and video
Old-time: I now avoid writing tab for old-time tunes or other simple melodies. This is mainly because I think everyone can develop at least some ability to learn by ear, and the only way to do it is to … learn by ear. For old-time tunes, the existing tab on this site is probably all there will ever be.
Other stuff: I do write tab for more complex pieces and will continue to do so as time permits, but I encourage you to try to learn the tune by ear and check the tab only to confirm what you’re learning.
I think tab is an excellent way to learn techniques. For example, you can compare different arrangements of the same tune and see that one person uses a pluck where the other hammers on to the note. This will give you ideas for your own arrangements. Tab can also help you figure out the tricky parts of a tune that you’re learning by ear.
However, I don’t think tab is always best way to learn a tune, especially if you haven’t heard the tune before. Tab can’t communicate the feel of a tune, so it can make your playing mechanical. More importantly, you can get stuck playing the tune the way you learned it from the tab. You haven’t really developed your ear; you’ve just memorized specific motions. This can make it hard for you to adapt to what others are playing or to make the tune your own.
When I’m feeling testy, I consider tab to be part of a consumer culture that weakens our own skills and makes us dependent on the supposedly quick fix provided by experts. Like many other conveniences, tab doesn’t really fix anything. It’s a band-aid for a wound that never heals. Our souls and culture need original self-expression and creative dialog, not passive consumption of tunes transcribed by a few. But that’s just when I’m feeling testy.
It may be hard at first, but learning by ear soon becomes quicker than hunting down and memorizing tab—you’re learning and memorizing at the same time. Plus when you can learn by ear you can play anything you want. And playing along with bands like Solas is way more fun than watching TV. See the tips sections for step-by-step suggestions on how to learn by ear.
Sorry, I can’t read the question. It’s all … going … dark …