Portfolio > Oil Paintings/Charcoal Drawings_Old Time Songs & Stories

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Clawhammer Banjoist
Clawhammer Banjoist
Charcoal on Paper
24" x 18"

You'll find I've used this model, Josh, in a lot of my banjo drawings and paintings. I used this pose--and Josh--for one of my characters in "Banging and Sawing."

I think the "Clawhammer" banjo playing style is the most haunting sound the banjo can make, the "High Atmosphere" sound, to use the phrase coined by Old Time musician great Wade Wade. It's my primary and preferred banjo style of playing. (For more about the "Clawhammer" banjo style, see "Banging and Sawing.")

If played over the neck, especially between the 12th-17th fret, Clawhammer gets more haunting, pensive, and moody. It's timbre becomes more throaty and deep bell-like. Surry County players of North Carolina took advantage of this timbre, made famous by the late Kyle Creed. Contemporary players like Riley Baugus, from the same area as Kyle Creed, also play this way--I get goose bumps whenever I hear Riley play!

The banjo has multiple timbres, depending upon where you strike or pluck the strings. Its timbre changes significantly, becoming very twangy the closer one plays to the bridge. Bluegrass players play right next to the bridge, getting the most "twang" out of the banjo. It's the most familiar sound of the banjo. One can hear this sound in the "Beverly Hillbillies" theme song. The movie "Deliverance" also features "dueling banjos" making this same twangy sound.