Clawhammer Banjo Tablature & Instruction
by Mike Iverson



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Thanks - Mike Iverson





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Clawhammer Banjo

During the later part of the 1800's the banjo was one of the more popular instruments (thanks to the traveling minstrel shows) and clawhammer, or "stroke style" as it was called back then, was the style of playing most often used. There really weren't very many guitars in the old west but if you could travel back in time and look into the nineteenth century cowboy chuck wagons or line camps, I'd bet you'd find a banjo or fiddle in many of them!

For those not familiar with the banjo, the style that I play has been variously called frailing, clawhammer, stroke style, or downpicking; the later because all the notes are produced with a downward motion of the picking hand. This means that the player must create most of the notes by striking the strings using the backs of his or her fingernails. This is a unique style that is unlike that used on any other instrument.

My Personal Style

Being a singer, I primarily use my banjo for vocal accompaniment and for soloing with my various ensembles. This has caused me to develop a style of playing that is somewhat different from players coming from a traditional, or "oldtimey", background. It's my belief that clawhammer style banjo can be used (and sound great!) in any type of music. It's not just effective on oldtimey songs and fiddle tunes; blues, rock and roll, bluegrass, classical, and jazz styles can all benefit from the unique sound of this instrument. Clawhammer banjo is going through a renaissance right now and players like Michael J. Miles are taking it where Bela Fleck took bluegrass banjo years ago.

About These Banjo Tabs

I've been teaching clawhammer banjo in northern Utah for the last thirty years and have arranged many tunes for myself and my students. I've decided to make many of these tablature arrangements available for download on this web site. They are in PDF format and most computers should be able to read and print them. If not, you can download Adobe's Acrobat Reader which is available for both Windows and Macintosh systems.

Window users can "right click" on a link to download the file, mac users should "ctrl click".

Instruction

- Look at the tablature guides first!

  • Tablature Guide- How To Read Tabs
  • Tablature Guide - Embellishments
  • Banjo Tunings
  • Common Banjo Chords - In six tunings!
  • Basic Right Hand Technique - Click here to listen.
  • Sing With Your Banjo - Key of G
  • Sing With Your Banjo - Key of C
  • Hammer-ons - Click here to listen.
  • Pull-offs - Click here to listen
  • Slides - Click here to listen
  • Single Note Brushes - Click here to listen
  • Drop Thumbing Also know as double thumbing - Click here to listen
  • Alternate String Pull-offs & Hammer-ons - Click here to listen
  • Brush Skips Tied notes. - Click here to listen.
  • Playing in 6/8 time - Click here to listen
  • Chord Relationships - Click here to listen
  • Circle of 5ths - Click here to listen

  • Tablature

    Easy Tunes - Basic strum, some single note brushes

  • Amazing Grace - G Tuning (easy) - Listen to the sound file for both the easy and intermediate versions.
  • Easy Boil 'em Cabbage - G Tuning (very easy) - Click here to listen
  • Boil 'em Cabbage - G Tuning (easy) Click here to listen
  • Easy Cluck Old Hen - Sawmill Tuning (easy) - Click here to listen.
  • Cripple Creek - G Tuning - (easy) Click here to listen
  • Easy Cripple Creek - G Tuning (very easy) - Click here to listen
  • Eight More Miles To Louisville - G Tuning (easy) - Listen to the sound files: Slow & Up To Speed
  • Froggie Went A-Courtin'- G Tuning - Solo (easy) - Click here to listen.
  • Froggie Went-A Courtin' - G Tuning - Vocal Backup (very easy) Click here to listen to sound file with instructions. Click here for a sound file without instructions.
  • Go Tell Aunt Rhody - G tuning (easy) - Listen to the sound files: Slow & Up To Speed
  • Go Tell Aunt Rhody - G Tuning (very easy) - click on the link in the following line to listen.
  • Go Tell Aunt Rhody - G Tuning - Vocal backup (very easy) Click here to listen to sound file with instructions. Click here for a sound file without instructions.
  • Easy John Hardy - G Tuning (easy) - Click here to listen.
  • New River Train - G Tuning - Solo (very easy) Click here to listen to sound file with instructions. Click here for a sound file without instructions.
  • New River Train - G Tuning - Vocal Backup (very easy) - click on the link in the previous line to listen.
  • Easy Oh Susanna - G Tuning (very easy) Click here to listen.
  • Oh Susanna - G Tuning (easy) Click here to listen.
  • Easy Old Joe Clark - G Tuning (easy) - Click here to listen
  • Old MacDonald - G Tuning (very easy) - Click here to listen.
  • Rye Whiskey - G Tuning (easy) - can be used as a vocal backup. Listen to the sound file.
  • Shady Grove - Sawmill Tuning (easy) - Click here to listen
  • Easy Shady Grove - Sawmill Tuning (easy) Click here to listen
  • She'll Be Coming Around The Mtn. - G Tuning (easy) Click here to listen
  • She'll Be Coming Around the Mtn. - G Tuning - Vocal Backup (very easy) Click here to listen to sound file with instructions. Click here for a sound file without instructions.
  • Skip To My Lou - G Tuning (easy) - Listen to the sound files: Slow & Up To Speed
  • Skip to my Lou - G Tuning (very easy) - Click here to listen.
  • Skip To My Lou - G Tuning - Vocal backup (very easy) Click here to listen to sound file with instructions. Click here for a sound file without instructions.
  • Wildwood Flower - G Tuning (easy) - Click here to listen.


  • Intermediate and Advanced Tunes
  • Amazing Grace Variation - G Tuning (int) - Listen to the sound file for both the easy and intermediate versions.
  • A Place in the Choir - G Tuning - Solo (int) Click here to listen. (both versions)
  • A Place in the Choir - G Tuning - Backup (int) - click on the link in the previous line to listen.
  • Amelia's Waltz - Open C Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Angeline the Baker - Double C Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Arkansas Traveler - Double C Tuning (int) - Click here to listen.
  • Around the Horn - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Ashokan Farewell - Open C Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Bach Cantata #140 - Open C Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen. To listen to a better solo version with the original long rests removed click here!
  • Bach Minuet - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Banish Misfortune - Double C Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Battle of New Orleans (8th of Jan) - Double C Tuning - Solo (int) - Click here to listen
  • Battle of New Orleans (8th of Jan) - Double C Tuning - Backup (int) - click on the link in the previous line to listen.
  • Big Sandy River - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Big Mon - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Big Sciota - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Bill Cheatum - G Tuning (int) Click here to listen.
  • Bill Malley's Barn Dance - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Billy in the Lowground - Open C Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Black Eyed Susie - Open C Tuning (adv) - G Tuning (easy) - Listen to the sound files: Slow & Up To Speed
  • Black Nag - Sawmill Tuning (int) - Click here to listen.
  • Blackberry Blossom - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen (both versions).
  • Blackberry Blossom G Tuning (adv) - Down the neck variations. Listen to the sound file in the line above.
  • Blackberry Blossom - G Tuning (int) - Simplified variation (for faster tempos) - G Tuning (easy) - Listen to the sound files: Slow & Up To Speed
  • Buffalo Gals - G Tuning (int) - Click here to listen.
  • Bye Bye Blues - G Tuning (int) - Click here to listen.
  • Camptown Races - G Tuning (int) Click here to listen
  • Cattle in the Cane - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Cherokee Shuffle - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Chicken Reel - Open C Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Chisolm Trail - G Tuning - Solo (int) - Click here to listen
  • Cindy - G Tuning - Solo (int) Click here to listen to sound file with instructions. Click here for a sound file without instructions.
  • Cindy - G Tuning - Vocal Backup (int) - click on the links in the previous line to listen.
  • Cossack Lullaby (Russian) - Gm Tuning (adv) - Listen to the sound files: Slow & Up To Speed
  • Clinch Mountain Backstep - Sawmill Tuning (int) - Click here to listen both versions
  • Clinch Mountain Backstep Variation - Sawmill Tuning (adv) - click on the link in the previous line to listen.
  • Clinch Mountain Backstep - Simplified variation (for faster tempos) - Listen to the sound files: Slow & Up To Speed
  • Cluck Old Hen - Sawmill Tuning - Solo / Backup (int) - Click here to listen.
  • Cluck Old Hen - Variations - Sawmill Tuning (int) - Click on the link in the previous line to listen.
  • Cold Frosty Morning - Sawmill Tuning (int) - Click here to listen.
  • Coleraine - Gm Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Cripple Creek - Variation 1 - G Tuning (int) Click here to listen (all 3 versions)
  • Cripple Creek - Variation 2 - G Tuning (int) - Listen to the sound files: Slow & Up To Speed
  • Cuckoo's Nest - Open C Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • The Cuckoo - Sawmill Tuning (int) Click here to listen.
  • Darcy Farrow - G Tuning (adv) - Listen to the sound files: Slow & Up To Speed (includes backup)
  • Darcy Farrow - Vocal Backup - G Tuning (adv) - Listen to the "Up To Speed" sound file above.
  • Dark Rider - Gm Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen. Click here to listen to another MP3 (along with the tune 'Coloraine') from a "live" performance.
  • Devil's Dream - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen to both versions.
  • Devil's Dream Variation - G Tuning (adv) - click on the link in the previous line to listen.
  • Dixie Hoedown - G Tuning (int) - Click here to listen.
  • Down to the Valley to Pray - Open C Tuning (int) - Click here to listen.
  • Drowsy Maggie - G Tuning (adv) Click here to listen.
  • Ebenezer - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Fire on the Mountain - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Fisher's Hornpipe - Double C Tuning (adv) - Listen to the sound files: Slow & Up To Speed
  • Flowers of Edinburgh - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen
  • Four Wet Pigs - G Tuning - Solo (int) - Click here to listen. (backup & solo)
  • Four Wet Pigs - G Tuning - Backup (int) - click on the link in the previous line to listen.
  • The Fox - G Tuning (adv) - Listen to the sound files: Slow & Up To Speed
  • Friend of the Devil - G Tuning - Solo / Backup (int) - Click here to listen.
  • Gary Owen - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen
  • Get Along Little Dogies - G Tuning (adv) 4/4 time arrangement - Click here to listen
  • Ghost Riders In The Sky - Gm Tuning (adv) - Listen to the sound files: Slow & Up To Speed
  • Girl I Left Behind - G Tuning (int) - Click here to listen
  • Going to Chicago Blues - G Tuning - Vocal Backup (adv) Click here to listen to sound file with instructions. Click here for a sound file without instructions.
  • Gold Rush - G Tuning (int) - Click here to listen
  • Green Leaf Fancy (Blake) - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Home With The Girls In The Morning - Double C Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen
  • I Don't Love Nobody - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen
  • Jesse James - G Tuning (int) - Click here to listen.
  • Jerusalem Ridge - Gm Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Jesusita En Chihuahua - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Julia Delaney - Double C Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Kesh Jig - G Tuning (int) - Click here to listen.
  • Kitchen Girl - Sawmill Tuning (int) - Click here to listen.
  • La Bastringue - Double C Tuning (adv) Click here to listen.
  • Liberty - Double C Tuning (int) - Click here to listen.
  • Little Sadie - Sawmill Tuning (int) - Click here to listen.
  • Maiden's Prayer - G Tuning - Listen to the sound files: Slow & Up To Speed
  • Magpie - G Tuning (adv) Click here to listen.
  • Marching Through Georgia - G Tuning (int) Click here to listen.
  • Midnight on the Water - Open C Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Needle Case - Double C Tuning (int) - Click here to listen to both versions.
  • Needle Case Variation - Double C Tuning (adv) - click on the link in the previous line to listen.
  • New Rigged Ship - Gm Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Off to California - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen
  • Oh Susanna - G Tuning - Variation (int) Click here to listen.
  • Old Grey Cat - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • The Old Home Place - G Tuning (adv) - Listen to the sound files: Slow & Up To Speed
  • Old Joe - Open C Tuning [not "Joe Clark"!] (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Old Joe Clark - G Tuning (int) - Click here to listen (both versions).
  • Old Joe Clark - Variation - G Tuning (adv) - click on the link in the previous line to listen.
  • Old Molly Hare - Double C Tuning - Listen to the sound files: Slow & Up To Speed
  • Ookpik Waltz - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Over The Waterfall - Double C Tuning (int) - Click here to listen to both versions.
  • Over The Waterfall - Double C Tuning - Variation (int)
  • Paradise - Open C Tuning (int) - Click here to listen to solo & backup.
  • Peeler Creek Waltz - G Tuning (adv) Click here to listen.
  • Piney River Girl - Open C Tuning - Vocal Backup (adv) Click here to listen to sound file with instructions. Click here for a sound file without instructions.
  • Polly Wolly Doodle - G Tuning (int) - Click here to listen.
  • Ragtime Annie - Open C Tuning (int) - Click here to listen.
  • Red Haired Boy - G Tuning (int) - Click here to listen.
  • Redwing - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Rickett's Hornpipe - Double C Tuning (adv) - Listen to the sound files: Slow & Up To Speed
  • Rocky Top - G Tuning (int) - Click here to listen to solo & backup.
  • Rocky Top Backup - G Tuning (int) - click on the link in the previous line to listen.
  • Rory O' Moore - G Tuning (int) - Click here to listen.
  • Roseville Fair - Open C Tuning - Solo (adv) Click here to listen to sound file with instructions. Click here for a sound file without instructions.
  • Roseville Fair - Open C Tuning - Vocal Backup (adv) - click on the link in the previous line to listen.
  • Rye Whiskey - G Tuning (int) Listen to the sound file.
  • Sailor's Hornpipe - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • St. Anne's Reel - Double C Tuning - Click here to listen.
  • Sally Anne - G Tuning (int) - Click here to listen.
  • Sally Goodin' - G Tuning (int) - Click here to listen.
  • Sally In The Garden - Double C Tuning (int) - Click here to listen.
  • Salt Creek - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • New! Salt Spring - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Salty Dog Blues - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Santa Anna's Retreat - Sawmill Tuning (int) - Click here to listen.
  • Scotland The Brave - G Tuning (int) Click here to listen.
  • Seneca Square Dance - G Tuning (adv) Click here to listen
  • Shady Grove - Variation #1 - Sawmill Tuning (int) - Click here to listen to all three versions.
  • Shady Grove - Variation #2 - Sawmill Tuning (int) - click on the link in the previous line to listen.
  • Ships are Sailing - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Shove That Pig's Foot Further In The Fire - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Soldier's Joy - Double C Tuning (int) Click here to listen.
  • Soldier's Joy - Double C Tuning - Variation (adv) Click here to listen.
  • Sourwood Mtn. - G Tuning (int) - Click here to listen.
  • New! Spotted Pony - Open C Tuning (int)
  • Star of the County Down - Gm Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen
  • Staten Island Hornpipe - Double C Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Swallowtail Jig - G Tuning (adv) - Listen to the sound files: Slow & Up To Speed
  • Tennesse Stud - Open C Tuning - Vocal Backup (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Texas Gales - Open C Tuning (adv) - Listen to the sound files: Slow & Up To Speed
  • This Land Is Your Land - G Tuning (int) - Click here to listen.
  • This Land Is Your Land - Vocal Backup - G Tuning (int) - Click on the link in the previous line to listen.
  • Trip to Sligo - G Tuning - Listen to the sound files: Slow & Up To Speed
  • Turkey In The Straw - Open C Tuning (adv) - Listen to the sound files: Slow & Up To Speed
  • Unquiet Grave - Gm Tuning - Solo (int) - click on the links in the following line to listen.
  • Unquiet Grave - Gm Tuning - Vocal Backup (int) Click here to listen to sound file with instructions. Click here for a sound file without instructions.
  • Wabash Cannonball - G Tuning - Solo (int) Click here to listen to sound file with instructions. Click here for a sound file without instructions.
  • Wabash Cannonball - G Tuning - Vocal Backup (int) - click on the link in the previous line to listen.
  • Water Bound - G Tuning (int) - Click here to listen
  • Waynesboro - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen
  • West Fork Gals - Double C Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Westphalia Waltz - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Wheel Hoss - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Where Have All The Flowers Gone - G Tuning - Vocal Backup (int) Click here to listen
  • Whiskey Before Breakfast - Double C Tuning (int) - Click here to listen.
  • Widow's Creek - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Windy and Warm - G Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Wind That Shakes The Barley - Double C Tuning (int) - Click here to listen.
  • Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald - Sawmill Tuning (adv) - Click here to listen.
  • Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald - Vocal Backup - Sawmill Tuning (adv) - Click on the link in the previous line to listen.
  • Yellow Rose Of Texas - G Tuning (int) - Click here to listen.

  • Hope you enjoy the tunes and instruction!

    .... Mike Iverson

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