Clawhammer Banjo Song and Tab of the Week: “DEEP RIVER BLUES”
(RELATED: A step-by-step tutorial will be available this week for “Deep River Blues” inside the new Breakthrough Banjo Tune & Song of the Week series. Click here to learn more.)
I remember the first time I heard Doc Watson play “Deep River Blues” on guitar.
Up to that point, I was already a fan of Doc’s flatpicking. Every fiddle tune he played on guitar became the definitive version in my mind. Perfection.
But “Deep River Blues” clearly wasn’t flatpicking! And it was incredible.
It sounded like a full band was playing, yet I knew it was just Doc and his guitar. I had no idea how he did it, but I loved it. It was even better than flatpicking (it would be several years before I cracked the code of country blues fingerpicking).
It turns out there are a lot of similarities between country blues fingerpicking and clawhammer.
Both provide a rich and complete musical texture, with rhythm and melody all wrapped into a single package. And lots of opportunities for syncopation.
So no wonder I enjoy them both so much.
And I enjoy trying to adapt songs I’ve first learned for fingerstyle guitar to clawhammer banjo (including some prior MJH classics like Corrina, Stocktime, and Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me, all of which are available in the Breakthrough Banjo Vault).
Note that the tab for this song is Brainjo Level 4, meaning it’s on the advanced side of things. If you’re in the beginner to intermediate stage, don’t be discouraged if you find a bit too challenging right now – use it as inspiration for what to look forward to as your skills develop (I’ll also be demonstrating some simpler ways of playing it as part of the Breakthrough Banjo Tune of the Week this week).
The Banjo Player’s Songbook contains over 50 classic banjo songs, and you can grab it for free. Click here to learn more.
Need a refresher on how to read banjo tabs? Then click below to take the short quiz.
Many more tabs, plus step-by-step video tutorials for how to play them, are available inside the Brekathrough Banjo course, which is now FREE for 30 Days
Click here for a list of songs in The Breakthrough Banjo Vault.