Banjo, Clawhammer, Levels 2/3

Instructor(s): Ryan Harlin


Clawhammer banjo can take minutes to learn, but a lifetime to master. Adapting the simple bum-ditty motion of clawhammer to the melodic phrases in a fiddle tune or the subtle intricacies of ensemble playing can be a banjo player’s most rewarding technical and artistic challenge.

In this level 2/3 class, we’re going to dig into the deeper elements of clawhammer technique that will radically improve our playing and sound. We’ll make sure to cure any bad habits we’ve picked up along the way while building solid fundamentals and advancing our skill sets. Drop-thumbs, fanning the 5th string, alternate-string pull-offs, double-thumbing, the Galax lick, modal tunings…we’ll cover it all!

Tablature will be supplied to follow along with exercises and tunes, but we’ll also be learning together in the aural tradition of old time music. Level 2 players shouldn’t be worried about fitting in. We’ll make sure to help you stay with the level 3 players (and even help them learn a thing or two from you, too).

Whether you’re looking to solo, feature, or accompany other artists, we’ll work together to make your clawhammer playing effortless and beautiful.

Ryan Harlin
Ryan Harlin


Since this is a level 2/3 class, students should be comfortable with the basic bum-ditty clawhammer stroke from which we will build everything else from. Blazing speed is certainly not necessary but being able to play songs and phrases at a pleasant mid-tempo will help you get the most out what we’ll do together. We’ll save some time and dive in faster to the good stuff if everyone knows the basic three chords in both standard G and Double-C tuning — that’s G, C, and D for standard tuning and C, F, and G for Double-C tuning. If you don’t know those yet I’ll be reaching out to you before camp starts to make sure your fully supported on day one!

PLEASE BRING: A tuner and a capo. If you don’t have a capo, don’t worry: I will have some spares. We won’t have music stands so if you’re the type of person who loves to have one in front of you it’s a BYOMS kinda party.

About Ryan Harlin:

Ryan Harlin is a songwriter, producer, and music educator whose compositions have been featured on League of Legends’ eSports soundtracks, Dancing With the Stars Home Edition, Riot Games’ Valorant, and MTV’s The Real World, and whose work has been profiled in Rolling Stone, Smithsonian Magazine, and Music Radar Online.

Ryan holds a degree in music technology from the Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts, where he was awarded the prestigious Phillip Holt Prize by Sir Paul McCartney. He has since collaborated with artists as diverse as dance music legend Paul Van Dyk and Kermit the Frog, and in his role as senior creative executive for Reason Studios Ryan has earned tens of millions of views on YouTube—and praise from chart topping producers like Ian Kirkpatrick, Toro Y Moi, and Ali Payami—with his instructional videos about the essence of songwriting.

More than anything, Ryan enjoys helping others in their quest to make their own music, which is what led him to serve as a teaching assistant at the Walter Creek Music Camp since 2018, and which is why he is delighted to lead his first full course curriculum at camp in November 2023.

Ryan’s banjo style is a blend of old time technique and modern folk, with bluegrass, roots, and even pop influences. Notable banjo players like Tom Collins, Joe Newberry, and Steve Baughman have cited Ryan’s accuracy, tone, and musicality as his greatest strengths, and Ryan is excited to impart these same fundamentals to his students this November.