Season 2: Solo Clawhammer Classics
Episode 2: “Sandy River Belle”
There’s no faster way scare off a banjo-curious guitarist than to flash a list of all the possible alternate tunings on the banjo. In the world of the guitar (and much of contemporary music), chords are king. So a new tuning means having to learn an entirely new set of chord positions. What a waste, right?!
As you the aficionado of clawhammer and old-time banjo well know, however, alternate tunings are one of those things that make our beloved instrument so special. And no, they don’t exist to make our lives more difficult. On the contrary, alternate tunings exist to make our life easier, and to make our banjos sound better.
Which brings us to today’s tune and tuning: Sandy River Belle.
That’s right, “Sandy River Belle” is one of those tunes that is so perfectly suited for a particular tuning that said tuning bears its name – “Sandy River Belle tuning” – lest anyone forget what tune they’re supposed to play in it.
Turns out there are actually multiple Sandy River Belle tunings, but that’s a discussion for another day. In this installment of Core Repertoire Series, we’ll be covering the most commonly encountered tuning referred to by the “Sandy River Belle” moniker, which is fCFCD.
So, get your banjo tuned up, or down, or sideways, and let’s do this!
Step 1: Know thy Melody
Step 2: Find the Melody Notes
Step 3 – Add Some Clawhammery Stuff
Step 4: Embellish to Taste
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.