Welcome to the Breakthrough Banjo course! I hope you have loads of fun, and learn more than you ever thought possible.
First things first, if you haven’t seen it yet, then watch this video:
Accessing The Course
(QUICK NAVIGATION: Click here for a stripped down TABLE OF CONTENTS to quickly navigate through the course contents.)
This page will be your main headquarters for the course, where you’ll be able to access all of your course contents from. To get back to this page at any point, you can either enter the page URL in your browser, which is clawhammerbanjo.net/memberhome (or bookmark this page in your browser). You can also click the login button on the top menu.
If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions along the way, feel free to either leave them in the comments section where applicable, or contact me at “firstname.lastname@example.org“. I’m here to help you any way I can.
“A black belt is a white belt who never quit”
How To Move Through The Course
As of Nov 24, 2015, I’ve made some significant changes in how the material is delivered, based in large part on feedback from all the great members here.
The first significant alteration is the addition of the Clawhammer Vault, a large and growing repository of tunes and songs for you visit as you move through the course. Regardless of where you currently are on the Timeline of Clawhammer Mastery, the hope is that with The Vault you’ll always be able to find music that is both inspiring and attainable at your current level of expertise. Because having great music to play is absolutely essential to staying motivated throughout the learning process.
The other major change in the course design is that, as you’ll note below, all the course content is now available at once, as opposed to being released in monthly installments.
That said, the sequence in which you move through these materials is still vitally important, and a central component of the Brainjo method. Just as you wouldn’t sign up for Calculus 301 as your first introduction to mathematics, resist temptation to dive into more advanced material before its prerequisites have been mastered.
The primary learning modules are where the meat of your learning occurs, where new concepts and techniques are introduced in carefully chosen sequence.
The learning supplements area is where you’ll find tools that will allow you to further refine the skills that you’ve learned, and where you can go to just kick back and have some fun. You’ll find suggestions in each of the primary learning modules for how to best take advantage of the supplemental materials.
I will continue to add new modules and materials inside this course, so you will continue to see new additions here over time. I will make announcements at the top of this page whenever new content has been posted.
The Ultimate Goal
The entire Brainjo method for clawhammer banjo is designed to move you towards one one ultimate goal in mind: to allow you to hear great banjo music in your mind and bring it out into the world through your banjo. This course is designed to build the neural networks, or circuits in the brain, that will allow this to happen.
That said, while knowing our ultimate destination helps frame our journey, resist the temptation to focus on where you ultimately want to be, and keep that focus on enjoying the place you’re at. Not only will this mindset help ensure you enjoy every step along the way, it’s also (paradoxically, perhaps) critical to you actually reaching that ultimate destination (or whatever musical goals you’d like to reach).
So remember to enjoy the ride, because that’s all we’ve got! There are bound to be many rewarding moments along the way, and you will be making joyful music all the while.
And speaking of building circuits in the brain, I would also recommend reading through the articles in the “Laws of Brainjo: The Art and Science of Effective Practice” series. These articles outline the principles that are incorporated into the design of this course, and I think that understanding them will further enhance your understanding of the learning process, and guide how you go about implementing the lessons covered.
BREAKTHROUGH BANJO COURSE CONTENTS
Primary Learning Modules
In this module, you’ll learn the important chord shapes for G tuning, along with Brainjo level 1 and 2 arrangements for 8 classic tunes.
Prerequisites: The “How To Play Clawhammer In 8 Essential Steps” course
In this module, you’ll learn the swiss army knife of clawhammer banjo techniques: Drop Thumb. This module includes a drop thumb lesson video, picking exercises, tune tutorials with tabs and mp3 backups
Prerequisites: the “8 steps” course
In this module, you’ll be introduced to the clawhammer banjoists other primary tuning: Double C. If you haven’t gotten out of standard G tuning yet, you’re in for a real treat. This module includes a lesson video on double C tuning, tune tutorials with tabs and mp3 backups.
Prerequisites: Modules 1 and 2
In this module, you’ll learn how to pick out the chord changes for any tune by ear (even if you think you can’t!), and then you’ll put those skills to the test. This module includes a lesson video on hearing chord changes, a lesson video on hearing chord changes, and practice question and answer videos on hearing chord changes.
Prerequisites: the “8 steps” course
In this module, you’ll learn how to pick out the melody for any tune by ear, and then will have the opportunity to put those skills to the test. This module includes a lesson video on finding melodies by ear, practice question and answer videos on finding melodies by ear, and video tune tutorials.
Prerequisites: the “8 steps course”, Module 4 suggested
In this module, you’ll learn how to take any tune, pick out the chord changes and melody, then build up a basic clawhammer arrangement. This module includes a video lesson on creating a basic clawhammer arrangement.
Prerequisites: Module 3, 4, 5, the “8 steps course”
In this module, you’ll learn all about syncopation, one of the greatest ways to add depth and interest to your playing, and to get people’s feet moving! You’ll learn exactly what syncopation, and the many tools you have as a clawhammerist to put syncopation into your playing. This module includes a video lesson on syncopation, a video lesson on “syncopated skips”, picking exercises, tune tutorials with tabs.
Prerequisites: Module 2, the “8 steps” course
In this module, you’ll learn everything you need to know to get started singing and playing. And regardless of whether you fashion yourself a singer or not, learning the basics of how to sing and play will inform and improve other aspects of your playing. This module includes a video lesson on singing with the banjo, a supplemental PDF book, 13 songs with video demonstrations and tabs.
Prerequisites: Module 3 (module 6 suggested)
In this module, we’ll pick up where we left off after module 6, and show how to take any tune and, using all the tools in your clawhammer bag of tricks, make a virtually limitless number of arrangements, covering the spectrum from sparse and rhythmic to notey and melodic. This module include a video lesson on creating complete clawhammer arrangements, a supplemental PDF book on the subject, and multiple “tune challenges” to develop and test your arrangement building skills.
Prerequisites: Module 6, 7
In this module, you’ll learn the ins and outs of one of the singular pleasure of the clawhammer banjoist: playing with a fiddler. This module include a video lesson on playing with a fiddler, along multiple demonstration videos of fiddle and banjo duets.
Prerequisites: Module 6 (module 9 suggested)
In this module, the first installment in the “Masters of Clawhammer” series, we’ll perform a complete dissection and analysis of master Adam Hurt’s brain. This module includes a video interview of Adam, a full concert of 10 solo clawhammer tunes with an accompanying mp3 album download, tabs for the main and level 2 versions of each tune, video demonstrations of the level 2 arrangements, a tune by tune analysis video, and a video lesson on Adam’s style.
Prerequisites: none for interview in concert, Module 9 for playing content
In this module, you’ll have the opportunity to practice the art of playing with the fiddle, in this case playing alongside master fiddler Justin Manglitz. You’ll have the opportunity to fill in for my part as banjo player off our inaugural album “Round Peak, Georgia.” This module includes the complete “Round Peak, Georgia” album, tabs for the primary and level 2 arrangement for every tune, a playlist (and mp3 downloads) of solo fiddle tracks for jamming practice.
Prerequisites: Module 10
In this module, we’ll talk about the music of Round Peak, break it down into its unique elements, and then demonstrate how to incorporate those elements into your own playing. This module also includes a 50 page accompanying ebook (PDF), the “Round Peak Recipe.”
Prerequisites: Module 6 (module 9 suggested)
Supplemental Learning Materials
The Vault, aka the Ultimate Clawhammer Song and Tune library, is an expanding repository of clawhammer tunes and songs. It includes tab arrangements – plus accompanying videos – at all Brainjo levels to help ensure you can choose tunes to work on that are appropriate for where you’re at in your learning progression.
Inside the listening library you’ll find playlists of some of my favorite clawhammer recordings. A great way to enjoy some great music, find inspiration, and immerse yourself in the sounds of clawhammer and its many dialects.
The jam player is the place to go to, you guessed it, practice jamming! It contains backing tracks with guitar and fiddle so you can hone your jamming chops. A great place to work on jamming, playing backup, hearing chord progressions (chords for each tune are displayed in realtime), and working out tunes “on the fly”. A great way to prepare for playing with others, and a great way to improve overall musicianship!
The Ear Laboratory
An extension of the “Playing By Ear” modules (modules 4, 5, 6, and 9 above), the Ear Laboratory is a place where you can continue grow and refine your ear learning abilities.
Ear Lab: Creating Songs from Scratch. Here you’ll find an expanding series of videos that guide you step by step through the process of building a clawhammer banjo arrangement from the ground up, using songs from The Vault.
As you know, I’m a big proponent of playing along with an external timekeeping device, especially in the early going, and the metronome is a time tested tool for doing so. It’s also great if you need to loop through a tricky part of a tune multiple times at a slow pace.
Get your drop thumb workout in with the drop thumb drills and practice tracks – 8 different drop thumb picking exercises, along with two separate 20 minute tracks to use to practice them. Intended as a supplement to the Drop Thumb Module.
Miscellaneous (other stuff that’s helpful to know)
As you may well know, alternate tunings are a rich part of the banjo tradition (for good reason!). And you’ll find that I use several different tunings in the arrangements here. But how exactly should you get your banjo from one tuning to the next? Is there a “right” way? Do you tune directly? Do you need a capo? In this module, all your tuning questions are answered!
In this module, you’ll learn how and why to use a capo to change tunings on the banjo.
Ready to start playing music with other people or attend your first jam? For some it can be a scary thought, but it doesn’t have to be! Use this module to prepare yourself to make the most out of those first jam experience.
In this short video, you’ll learn a practice technique that I consider indispensable, one that can dramatically shorten the amount of time it takes you to learn new tunes and techniques.
– From “plunky” to “plingy” and everything in between-y.
One of the unique features of the banjo is all the many ways it can me modified to achieve a wide variety of sounds, or “voices.” In this module, we review what the most common desired banjo “voices” are for clawhammer, and the ways you can modify your banjo to get them. Also included are videos on how to place the bridge, change out or tighten the head, and change the banjo strings.
An overview of how to read the tablature you’ll find on this site.
Old-Time Jam Clawhammer Banjo Tabs, Volumes 1-5 (right click on the links below to download)
You’ll find backup tracks for all these tunes on the home page at oldtimejam.com
3. The “12 Days of Banjo” Songbook, “12 Days of Banjo Video” Tutorials, mp3 files (level 2, main arrangements)
Manage Your Account
To update your credit card information (use a new one, or if one is about to expire, etc.) click on the “Subscriptions” link. On that page, under the “credit card” column, click on the link that says “Update.”