May-June 2012

Hobart Smith’s Pateroller Song

Old Time Bang House Clawhammer Lesson

By David Bragger

HobartSmith_coverThe previous installment of the Old Time Oracle featured the clawhammer banjo lesson for Hobart Smith’s Last Chance. It was a banging success so I’ve decided to make part two. This installment features a detailed lesson of Hobart Smith’s modal tune, Pateroller Song. It is tuned in gDGCD, also known as modal tuning, sawmill tuning, mountain minor, etc. Like many of Hobart’s tunes it is fast, feverish and intense. Many banjo players think of this tune when they think of Hobart. I’m certainly one of them. The use of drop-thumbs, pull-offs, and slides are addressed in the lesson as well as optional variations. To help achieve a sound similar to Hobart’s playing, it really helps to play over the head and NOT give it the “new old-time” plunky, over-the-fingerboard, over-syncopated, delicate touch approach that is in vogue these days. The right hand should “hammer” down and not lightly massage the strings, if the desired effect is to achieve a sound close to Hobart Smith. Good luck and bust it down!!

Pateroller—Clawhammer Banjo Lesson

David Bragger is a Los Angeles-based instructor and player of old time fiddle and banjo music. He also photographs, films, and collects the lore of traditional artists, from puppeteers in Myanmar to fiddlers of Appalachia


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