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Level 1: Beginner
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Old Time Fingerpicking
Classic Style Banjo
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Banjo Lessons: “Rattling Clog”

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That was a tune called The Rattling Clog,
and it comes from a book by Septimus
We need more people named Septimus out
there, I believe.
It's from a banjo method that he published
in 1923.
And it's just filled with all sorts of
great rags, and marches, and clogs.
This, to me, sounds like light classical
And these were all the elements that went
into the classic style.
This is a little farther down the road,
since the classic style.
You can sort of pin it down to start in
kind of in the late 1860s,
and here we are in 1923, when this thing
was written and published.
And the thing about this tune, it's in
drop C tuning, which Will Scruggs
use to play Farewell Blues and Home Sweet
Home and a number of other tunes.
So if you're starting in G tuning, then
you just take the fourth string.
you tune it down a whole step to c, and
everything else stays the same.
So you have the d, the b, the g, the c,
and the g.
And you'll find when you go into this
tuning that things are gonna go a little
out of tune because the pressure on the
head is changing,
cause there's a little less pressure on
the bridge since you've lowered
the tension on that fourth string to get
it from D down to C.
So you'll probably find that you're gonna
have to re-tune
the whole banjo because everything goes a
little out of tune
when you tune that fourth string down from
D to C.
So, just get with your tuner and tidy that
tuning up and then we can continue.
And, I'm gonna break this tune down into a
few different parts and
really most of the action is in the right
That's where a lot of the stuff's going
on, cuz the,
the left hand is fairly simple, for the
most part.
I'm gonna start with the first section of
the tune.
I'll call it the a section,
even though in the original music, it
doesn't call it the a section.
And I'll play this a little more slowly
just so
we can get a sense of what's going on.
So one, two, three, four.
So there are a number of things going on
here, as I said before, a lot of it has to
do with the right hand.
The very first four note sequence,.
actually the first five notes require
you to hit first, second, third, and
fourth strings in a row.
And this has happened in various portions
of the site, but
what I want you to do is you're gonna be
playing the C chord.
Now, when you play the C chord, you don't
need to fret the second fret of the fourth
string because that's already a low C
note, which is really nice.
That's why this is such a great tuning.
So, you hit the fifth string, and then
you're gonna do the first, second, third,
and fourth strings.
For the first string, use the middle, for
the second string use the thumb,
third string is the index, and then the
thumb, so
that's how you get those four notes
without duplicating a right hand finger.
And then it's just a forward roll, and
then you go.
[NOISE] When you're playing the single
string style, you're almost always
alternating thumb and index,
thumb, index, thumb, index for, for
successive notes.
With the turn of the century style and in
this music,
there was no indication what the right
hand was supposed to be.
So, I'm sort of judging this by other
tunes I've seen where they talk about how
you deal with this repetitive single
string sort of a thing in this era,
instead of thumb and index, a lot of it is
index and middle.
And this is, so
I'm applying that idea to this case in
point right here.
So I'm hitting,
this is the second measure.
I'm hitting the fifth string, then for the
first string which is at the third fret,
I'm using the index on the right hand.
And then, as I go to the second fret,
I use the middle finger.
In the right hand, and then back to the
So it's thumb, index, middle, index.
Thumb, index, middle, index.
So I'm going.
And then there's a pull off here,
indicated by a little arc.
And the original music.
And it's not a fast pull off, like.
Like that.
It's just,.
Just eighth notes.
Then a forward roll and then.
So I'm sorry, once again.
That's all very standard.
And then the fourth measures.
And then, this is a lot more of the index,
middle, back and forth.
So starting with the middle, index,
middle, index, middle, index,
middle, index, and that leaves you free to
do the thumb on the fifth string.
And I'm using one finger
per fret in the left hand.
Index, index, index, middle, ring.
And then this repeats.
With a little variation there.
And then.
Okay, then the second section.
I'll slow this down a little bit.
Three, four.
A little tuning.
I'm in range there.
Okay, so, you're going to go.
Index, middle, thumb, index.
Then, I cross the thumb across here.
So, you're not gonna double a right hand
Thumb going thumb, middle, thumb, middle,
and I'm just sliding the ring up one fret.
And there's that pull off again.
then I cross the thumb over for the, the
third measure of this section.
Thumb, middle, thumb, index, thumb,
middle, thumb, middle.
And then.
Just middle, thumb, middle, thumb, pull
And then the last line is the same as the
second line that you played.
At least I'm speaking in the original
music here.
I'm gonna play the whole thing once more
slowly and then up to tempo.
One, two, three, four.
Okay, now I'm going to play it back at
normal tempo.
And one thing I like to do sometimes to
get just a little more
emotion into the music is to just move a
little bit back and
forth, a little closer to the bridge,
a little further away so you're not just
anchored in one place for the whole tune.
Probably in the original playing of this
tune back in the 20s because
people would've been using nylon or gut
string banjos.
I mean, the strings would have been
[LAUGH] nylon.
And, they probably were playing pretty
close to the bridge to be able to be heard
over perhaps a piano, or maybe another
banjo that was being played along with it.
I'm doing it with picks cuz this is the,
most of you have regular
metal strung banjos and I want to kind of
duplicate that kind of a sound.
So just pay attention to my right hand and
see where I'm moving it back and forth.
I'm not saying you have to do this.
This is more of an improvisatory thing,
where however, you feel it you can do it.
So here is the" Rattling Clack" one more
Two, three, four.