I’ve never much cared for the separation that exists between bluegrass and old-time/clawhammer banjo players. The division, more an artifact of history than anything more deliberately construed, keeps the two styles in relative isolation from one another. And that’s a shame because:
a) banjo players need to stick together
b) all this music springs from the same well
c) the average listener couldn’t care less
d) there’s lots more great tunes to play and licks to steal if you’re willing to leap across genres!
On that last note I bring you this week’s tune: “Clinch Mountain Backstep”.
Clinch Mountain Backstep, considered one of the great Ralph Stanley’s signature banjo tunes, is a staple in bluegrass circles. Yet, with its modal scale and crooked configuration (note the extra half measure in the B part), it certainly feels like it could’ve originated long before banjoists donned their first fingerpicks.
Not that you need an excuse to play it. Good music is good music, and “Clinch Mountain Backstep” is no exception. It sounds great played clawhammer style, and I think you’ll have a lot of fun with this one.
Clinch Mountain Backstep
aEAC#E tuning, Brainjo Level 3
Notes on the tab
Skip notes: The notes in the shaded box are “skip” notes, meaning they’re not actually sounded by the picking finger. Instead, you continue the clawhammer motion with your picking hand, but “skip” playing the note by not striking it (this is a technique used to add space and syncopation). The fret number you see in the shaded box is the suggested note to play should you elect to strike the string.