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  2. Learning Paths
  3. Getting Started with Clawhammer Banjo
  4. Adding in the Thumb

Adding in the Thumb

Use the Thumb to Really Make this Rhythmic Pattern Pop!

In this next step, we'll add in the thumb to play this rhythmic pattern. To focus on this new movement, we'll only strum on beat one. We'll bring back the beat 3 strum in the next lesson. For now, strum on beat one, and plant the thumb. This time, when planting the thumb, apply a bit of pressure to the 5th string. On beat 4, swipe the thumb outwards when lifting your hand to prepare for the next strum. The pressure applied to the string with the thumb before playing it is known as "loading" the string. It helps to get a get strong sound, and is great tactile feedback to get used to the feeling of loading and playing the string. As you progress you'll need to develop more dynamic control to play it loudly or quietly. For now, this pop is a great place to start and will be a technique you use throughout your banjo journey.

The thumb is playing the "ty" of the Bum-Ditty pattern. For the way the pattern is played in this example. You can vocalize it "Bum, , ty; Bum, , ty" after you've learned to count it out loud while playing.

In the next lesson, we'll put it all together to play the technique that is the cornerstone of Clawhammer banjo - The Bum-Ditty!