Ducks on the Millpond from Emmett Lundy – Fretless Clawhammer Banjo


This is “Ducks on the Millpond” adapted from Emmett Lundy’s fiddle playing. I’m playing in the equivalent of double-C (gCGCD) but tuned down. This tune is one of the ten I teach on my DVD “Unfortunate Puppy and Other Fine Tunes: Lessons in Intermediate & Advanced Clawhammer Banjo” (Mel Bay):

Bonaparte’s Retreat – Fretless Clawhammer Banjo


Bonaparte’s Retreat based on William Stepp’s famous fiddle recording from 1937.

If you want to learn to play “Bonaparte’s Retreat” on the banjo, there’s a lesson for it on my DVD Unfortunate Puppy and Other Fine Tunes: Lessons in Intermediate & Advanced Clawhammer Banjo (Mel Bay):

My fretless banjo here is tuned down from the equivalent of gCGCC or aDADD – double-C or D with the 1st string tuned down to unison with the 2nd string – to Bb: fBbFBbBb (the lesson is at standard pitch).

Videos from England


One of the the guys who attended the workshop and gig in Ludlow recorded some of the tunes. Thanks Neill! Here are three from Hobart Smith:

The Cuckoo


Last Chance

He’s got more on his Youtube channel:


Last tunes tabbed for Unfortunate Puppy


Well, it’s a pleasure to finally be able to announce that the last 4 tabs for Unfortunate Puppy and Other Fine Tunes are done! They’re up on my site and can be downloaded by anyone who has purchased the DVD (or the video as a download).

The final four tunes, ‘Ducks on the Millpond’, ‘Raleigh & Spencer’, ‘Ft. Smith Breakdown’ and ‘Unfortunate Puppy’ also have videos to illustrate the tabs, as there were some tricky timing problems in writing those four out.

They’re here:

I wish you the best of luck with these tunes! And a lot of pleasure from them.

Review of Unfortunate Puppy in Banjo Newsletter!


Another great review of Unfortunate Puppy just came out in the 5-string banjo magazine, Banjo Newsletter! The review is 2+ pages so I’ll just give some highlights.

“Robertson is an excellent player and singer, and has also recorded two CDs. And as I discovered, he’s also an exceptional instructor.”

“The DVD is jam-packed with 133 minutes of content, and none of it’s filler. The video format is widescreen (16:9 aspect ratio), which is ideal for the split screen technique he uses to show both hands simultaneously. The audio and video quality of this DVD is excellent.”

“If you play the DVD sequentially, you’ll first see a short introduction, followed by a fast-paced and concise 12-minute overview of just about every right and left hand technique I’ve ever heard of. You’ll see explanations and demos of drop thumb, M skips, Galax licks, slides, push-offs, hammer-ons, pull-offs, alternate string pull-offs, and more. Noticeably absent is the “cluck,” a technique Robertson doesn’t use much. It’s a great overview, and I think even veteran players will benefit from watching this section.”

“I can’t stress enough how good the video quality is on this DVD. Even the slowed-down segments are crisp and blur-free. In some cases, the slowed down audio suffers a bit (which is to be expected), but it never gets out of the acceptable range.

This DVD sets a new standard for banjo instructional material, and I can’t imagine any clawhammer player who couldn’t pick up a few things while watching it.”

“If you’re the type of player who has grown to depend on tab when learning a new tune, this DVD (along with some time and effort) might assist you in breaking free from that constraint.  But, as I mentioned, this product is not a start-from-scratch package for beginners. The 12-minute introductory video provides a quick overview of clawhammer techniques, but don’t expect this video to provide everything a new player must know. But on the other hand, I think most new players would certainly enjoy seeing a banjo master in action – especially one who explains what he’s doing.

This DVD is competitively priced – the cost of about two CDs, or about half of what you’d pay for a single private lesson.

If all instructional videos were this good, it might turn me into a DVD consumer after all.”

- John Walkenbach

Yup, there are lots of highlights! The review includes a tab of Lonesome John (transcribed by Tony Spadaro of Rocket Science Banjo) and there are two recordings I’ve made of the tune (one solo, the other with fiddler Casey Joe Abair) up on Banjo Newsletter’s website.

To see more about the DVD:



Skype Lessons – Clawhammer Banjo and 2 & 3-Finger Picking Instruction


If you’re interested in improving your clawhammer banjo playing or learning some old-time 2 or 3-finger picking with online lessons, get in touch. You’ll need a webcam, decent internet connection and Skype (which is free). To find out more about the lessons, scheduling and price, send me an email.

Review in Bluegrass Unlimited of Unfortunate Puppy (DVD)


A great new review of Unfortunate Puppy in Bluegrass Unlimited.

Mel Bay 22208DVD.

On this well-done instructional video, Hunter Robertson lays out the groundwork for learning old-time banjo—not just clawhammer style, but also two- and three-finger styles. The main thrust of this DVD is to present right- and left-hand techniques, tunings grounded in the fundamentals that build an informed style.

Robertson gives a brief description of each tune, then plays the tune. Next, he breaks the tune down with a verbal description of what he is doing. Then the tune is played slowed so that you can easily follow the right- and left-hand finger positions. Finally, it’s played at a medium tempo for you to practice along. Split-screens showing the two hands are used throughout. There are visual guides to help you keep on track. He teaches ten tunes played in the clawhammer-style in this fashion.

There is a wonderful section on right-hand techniques where Robertson takes a good amount of time to explain the techniques and demonstrate them, following the same procedure he uses for the ten clawhammer tunes. The tunes are credited to his source and he attempts to catch the essence of that performance. He does not lavishly copy the source, but he does successfully present a rendition that is honest and accurate. The complexity of the tunes will take an intermediate to advanced ability to pull off. If you have mastered the right-hand techniques addressed in that section, it will make it much easier to tackle the tunes.

There is an in-depth section that covers several factors for mastering these styles. Robertson discusses thumb lead versus index lead in the two-finger style and does a nice job of demonstrating the old time three-finger approach. He demonstrates the piece “in the style” of a source and not necessarily a note-for-note representation of anyone’s style. The split screen reveals how both hands interact. He also slows these pieces down, as well. He does a nice job of breaking down Dock Boggs’ “Danville Girl” and “Sugar Baby” to demonstrate the essence of Dock’s style. The other extra is a performance of “Raleigh & Spencer” that can also be viewed on YouTube. Robertson’s guttural vocals and forceful banjo playing make for an impressive performance.

Robertson uses black-coated strings on his banjo so the viewer has no problem seeing which strings he is hitting. The accompanying .PDF provides a good deal of information on these tunes. There is a list of a lot of resources that can currently be found on the Internet. This DVD stands among the best out there for learning more about the old-time banjo styles. RCB (Mel Bay Publications, Inc., #4 Industrial Dr., Pacific, MO 63069,

To see more about the DVD (a video, what tunes are taught etc.):

Tablatures for Unfortunate Puppy: Lessons in Intermediate & Advanced Clawhammer Banjo


Been a while a-comin’, but we’ve finally got 3 tabs ready to go (Tony Spadaro, aka Oldwoodchuckb, has been giving me a hand): for Boatin’ Up Sandy, Cripple Creek and Lonesome John. I’ll put more up as we finish them.

As these are only available to people who’ve bought the DVD, there’s a user name and password involved. As I don’t have everyone who’s bought the DVD on my mailing list to send them the information, the user name and password are both simply the 3rd word on the very first page of the PDF notes that came on the DVD.

And here they are:


New Clawhammer Banjo Instructional DVD Release

I’ve mentioned recently a DVD on clawhammer banjo I’ve been working on. Well, it’s ready to deliver! The DVD is called Unfortunate Puppy and Other Fine Tunes: Lessons in Intermediate & Advanced Clawhammer Banjo and is out with Mel Bay Publications (Mel Bay 22208DVD).

First, a description of the DVD and then I’ll tell you the deal we’ve got going for the next week. Or just go here and order it:
Unfortunate Puppy and Other Fine Tunes: Lessons in Intermediate & Advanced Clawhammer Banjo (133 minutes, over two hours of lessons) teaches ten classic fiddle tunes arranged for clawhammer banjo, as well as tools and techniques to help you create your own arrangements.

Hunter Robertson begins each tune with a brief introduction and then presents each one in four different stages to help you learn it easily. First, Hunter plays the tune at full speed. Next, he breaks it down, with verbal instruction. The tune is then slowed to half speed so that you can easily follow the right and left hand finger positions, which are shown with a split screen throughout. Finally, the tune is played at a medium tempo for you to practice along with.

The DVD also includes a video of Hunter demonstrating right and left hand techniques and a detailed 26 page PDF booklet with notes on the tunes, general technical information, and thoughts on learning, playing, and arranging for the banjo.

Lonesome John from John Salyer
Candy Girl from Uncle Bunt Stephens
Boatin’ Up Sandy from Wilson Douglas
Cripple Creek from Hobart Smith
Unfortunate Puppy from Elmo Newcomer
Ducks on the Millpond from Emmett Lundy
Raleigh & Spencer from Tommy Jarrell
Bonaparte’s Retreat from William Stepp
Leather Britches from John Salyer
Ft. Smith Breakdown from Luke Highnight’s Ozark Strutters
• A brief look at 2 and 3-finger picking.
• A full-length performance video of the song “Raleigh & Spencer”.
THE DEAL is that for the next week, ending the night of Feb. 4th, we’ll be selling the DVD at 10% off and you’ll also get a free download of a music video, ”I Truly Understand”, which we recorded at the same time as the DVD.
Use the button below to order the DVD and pay through Paypal (orders handled by Open Lens Productions, the video’s producer):

$22.45 (now $24.95 that the deal is over) + Shipping and Handling.


Clawhammer Banjo Instructional DVD


I just recently finished the filming for an instructional clawhammer banjo DVD with Jonathan VanBallenberghe from Open Lens Productions behind the camera. It’s geared towards intermediate/advanced players and covers 10 tunes along with a section on technique and a few extras. Its aim is to not only teach those 10 tunes but to give the student the tools to learn and adapt tunes themselves from other sources. Jonathan is editing it now so keep your eyes peeled for its eventual release.

The tunes are:

  • Lonesome John (from John Salyer)
  • Candy Girl (from Uncle Bunt Stephens)
  • Boatin’ Up Sandy (from Wilson Douglas)
  • Unfortunate Puppy (from Elmo Newcomer)
  • Cripple Creek (from Hobart Smith)
  • Ducks on the Millpond (from Emmett Lundy)
  • Raleigh & Spencer (from Tommy Jarrell)
  • Leather Breeches (from John Salyer)
  • Ft. Smith Breakdown (from Luke Highnight’s Ozark Strutters)
  • Bonaparte’s Retreat (from Bill Stepp)