Bum-ditty and Beyond: Right-hand Rhythms for Clawhammer Banjo with Clinton Davis

Clinton Davis is a San Diego-based old time musician and full-time music teacher, and we’re excited to welcome him to the Folk School for the first time!

He will be teaching a week of banjo rhythm exploration on April 28 – May 3 in his class “Bum-ditty and Beyond: Right-hand Rhythms for Clawhammer Banjo,” perfect for folks looking to expand their banjo skills and learn more about the history of old time tunes. Watch Clinton’s Instagram reel about his class.

Read more below! Register today to secure your spot.

JCCFS: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your music background. How did you get started?

CD: I am a full time performer and teacher of old time music, and I’ve been a private instructor of banjo for over a decade. Most of my students have been complete beginners, often adults making their first attempts to study music, so I’ve had plenty of experience breaking down complex musical ideas into their most fundamental pieces. During that time, I have also earned a doctorate in music, become an official Deering Banjos artist, and been awarded the commission of Kentucky Colonel for my work in traditional music.

JCCFS: You have an upcoming class at the Folk School called “Bum-ditty and Beyond: Right-hand Rhythms for Clawhammer Banjo.” Can you tell us a little bit more about the techniques students will learn in class?

CD: We’re going to focus on clawhammer banjo techniques and understanding how we can use rhythm to shape a tune and give it character. The so-called “bum-ditty” rhythm is the engine that drives most clawhammer banjo music. Some players use it exclusively, but plenty of the old time banjo masters had a variety of right-hand rhythms. We’ll study their examples and learn how to apply their secrets to any melody.

Clinton in San Luis Obispo, CA

Banjo class in the Music Studio

JCCFS: What can students expect to leave your class with?

CD: Students at any level will find something of value in this class, even if you’re just starting out on clawhammer banjo, even if it’s still a struggle for you to play some of the beginner rhythms. Whatever rhythmic idea we talk about, we’ll always start it out at the most fundamental, technical level. Beginners may or may not be able to leave with mastery over all the ideas we talk about, but you will leave with a comprehensive roadmap of what there is to learn in your right hand (or left hand, if you’re left handed!).

For intermediate and advanced students, we will have in-depth discussions about how to apply these rhythmic ideas in a musical or tasteful way.

All of the techniques we cover will come from traditional clawhammer banjo masters, and we’ll spend a lot of time listening to their recordings and talking about their styles. At the very least, students will gain a deeper appreciation and recognition of the nuances of the clawhammer tradition.

JCCFS: What do you enjoy most about teaching?

CD: I enjoy finding the most precise and comprehensive way of explaining something. I really love puzzling over the questions of how and why music can be so compelling and exciting. If I succeed at explaining something well, whether a technical idea like how to position your hand on the instrument, or an idea about how to be tasteful when making creative decisions, I can see a student’s face light up as their own understanding deepens. I think that for a teacher, it’s as rewarding as laughter is to a standup comedian, or a standing ovation is for a performer.

JCCFS: This will be your first time teaching at the Folk School. What are you most excited about for your first visit?

CD: I was born in Kentucky and have lived on the west coast for many years now. I’ve travelled all over the country, but I have never been to North Carolina! I’m so excited to visit a place like this which has such a deep history of old time music, and such strong communities and institutions like John C. Campbell helping keep it alive.

JCCFS: Where can folks learn more about your and your music?

CD: My website is clintonrossdavis.com, and you can also find me on Youtube, Instagram, and Facebook.

Clinton teaching a workshop at Zigzag Old Time Music Campout!

Upcoming Class with Clinton

Bum-ditty and Beyond: Right-hand Rhythms for Clawhammer Banjo

April 28 – May 3, 2024

The so-called “bum-ditty” rhythm is the engine that drives most clawhammer banjo music. Some players use it exclusively, but plenty of the old time banjo masters had a variety of right-hand rhythms that made their playing more dynamic and exciting. Let’s learn some of these rhythms, listen to the players we associate them with, and learn how to apply them to any tune. Open to intermediate players familiar with playing basic tunes in different keys.

About Clinton Davis

Clinton Davis is an old-time multi-instrumentalist based in San Diego, where he has taught full-time for nearly a decade. A fifth-generation Kentuckian, Davis grew up in Carroll County. His repertoire spans fiddle and banjo music of his family home, ragtime piano and guitar, and ballad songs and dance music of the Southwest. In 2021, Davis released his first full-length solo album, ‘If I Live and I Don’t Get Killed,’ on Tiki Parlour Recordings. In 2022, in recognition of his work as a performer and educator, Davis was named a Kentucky Colonel, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the state of Kentucky.

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