Do you plan to add material for beginners?

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:


Other materials:


Will you provide tab for [fill in the blank]?

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.


So you’re one of those tab-haters?

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.


Don’t you know that playing jigs on clawhammer banjo violates natural law, causes global warming, and will make you go blind?

Sorry, I can’t read the question. It’s all … going … dark …

15 Responses to “FAQ”

  1. 1 Norman Gadoury September 7, 2008 at 12:45 pm


    Stay as testy as you are!

    you are one of my favorite banjoistas…..

  2. 2 Maxime September 29, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    Hi and thanks for all these awesome vids! I am wondering though if it is physically possible to tune a Epiphone MB-100 banjo in those chords? Or you need some specials caracteristics on the banjo?
    My email is theyardbirds18@hotmail.com Thanks!

  3. 3 Bernie November 23, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    I just discovered your stuff on BHO today and my mind is blown. Wonderful playing and wonderful music. I’m a beginner, but now I know I’ll never be happy until I can play Rampi Rampi. Back to work, I guess.

  4. 4 winefarmer November 29, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    I’m a new & big fan of your site! As a long-lost banjo-playing Iowan it’s nice to hear midwestern fiddle tunes. Thanks, and I’d be overjoyed if you could find an Iowa tune to post.



  5. 5 Don Burnette January 31, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    To start learning the Banjo at 72 YO, I don’t have time to learn TABS. I concur with you explaination and thank you for expressing my own feelings. I love you playing and the exprssions on your face while playing. You and your teaching is a joy for this old picker..

  6. 6 mike mc carthy February 9, 2009 at 12:12 am

    saw your “stumped tail dog ” and had to learn it as I too am a proud owner of a stump tailed dog ! thank you

  7. 7 matt February 25, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    i’m firmly pro-tab, but i never take it as gospel. for me, it’s more like asking what state a city is in before i go looking for it. i also never try to sound like anyone else in particular when i play, because, seriously, if you’re doing that, just put on the record. it’s the same as when i brew beer – i use clone brew recipes as starting points to figure out how to make a particular style of beer because i know i like certain breweries takes on certain styles. but yeah, if i really wanted something that tastes just like old rasputin, i’d go buy some old rasputin.

    that and my ability to pick things up by ear is improving but still limited, and tab is a huge time saver for me.

    i also learned how to play music by trying to copy joy division and birthday party records by ear, so something as “regular” as most kinds of acoustic music is a little weird for me, but i think the regularity is helping my ability to learn a tune by ear.

  8. 8 Tom Durkin August 4, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    This website is excellent I’m so glad I found it. I’ve just started learning clawhammer and the tabs are invaluable. If you are thinking of posting more please do, particularly in open G :)

    Thanks very much for all the work.

    I’ve subscribed to the RSS too!


  9. 9 Dee Capozzi August 7, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Love your clawhammer mini instructions via YouTube. I live in Indiana, do you give lessons at all or hold mini camps on clawhammer banjo.
    I am a beginner player and picking it up right along just want
    to start of with good habits. I play guitar and Hammered
    dulcimer and the banjo has me hooked eager to learn more

  10. 10 Cathy Moore August 7, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    Hi Dee, thanks for your comment. I agree that it’s a great idea to get a teacher early on to avoid bad habits. Unfortunately, I’m concentrating on my business, so I don’t give lessons these days. You might check the Banjo Hangout at http://www.banjohangout.org to find a teacher in your area.

  11. 11 Cathy August 7, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    Hi Tom, thanks for your kind words. I’m focusing on my business right now, so it might be awhile before I post more videos, but you’ll see them appear in the RSS feed when they’re done.

  12. 12 Dee Capozzi October 9, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Dear Cathy

    I have picked up some nice techniques from yur Youtube series .
    These little series builds confidence in my own playing and
    love your style of clawhammer playing.
    You have this wonderful gift in music, have you ever made
    a CD ? And if so, would have any for sale?

    Best regards

  13. 13 Jonathan Lowell March 8, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    Hi Cathy,

    I’m looking to buy a new banjo. I’ve been learning on a dearing goodtime, but now I’m in a string band and need to upgrade fast. We play stuff all over the map, and I find what you’re doing on the banjo particularly exciting and inspiring. Do you have any tips? Something with a lot of expressive range and something that can be played loud. Any sources for perhaps buying used online? I’m hoping to spend around $1000, maybe can stretch it up to $1500. Thanks.

  14. 14 Cathy Moore March 8, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    Jonathan, I’m not familiar with a lot of the banjos out there, so I recommend you ask your question on the Banjo Hangout: http://www.banjohangout.org

  1. 1 Consumerism and orthodoxy in old-time? « Banjo Meets World Trackback on December 9, 2008 at 12:46 am
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