ClawJammer picks go both ways on banjo

Another trend we noticed at the World of Bluegrass, especially with IBMA expanding the boundaries of what they promote as bluegrass, is banjo players who feature both finger style and clawhammer picking in the same set. There were a number of mostly bluegrass a acts that used old time banjo on a couple of songs, and at least one old timey band that used some 3-finger picking.

It can be a hassle for banjoists to swap out banjos in a fast-paced set, and it can take nearly as long to grab a set of picks and get them properly situated. Most banjo folks I have known take a few moments to get picks set comfortably on their fingers, and you often see them fidgeting with them throughout a show.

Now, thanks to Robb Torgler in the wilds of Pungo, VA, banjo players who switch off have a pick that can go both ways. The ClawJammer picks are made with the common pick shape along the back of your fingertip, and a separate blade that goes across your nail for downstrokes. Not only can you use it for picking and failing, but clawhammer-only players can use it instead of, or in additional to, natural or artificial nails.

Torgler makes these by hand, in either copper, stainless steel, brass, or nickel/silver for a variety of tones and sells them online for $25 each. He also mades a traditional, single-bladed pick in stainless for $15.

In this video review, Clifton Hicks uses a Clawjammer and one of Robb’s offset blade thumb picks to play both up and downstroke style.

And Robb demonstrates how easily you catch switch from 3 finger to clawhammer in this video from his web site.

Supply of these handmade picks is unpredictable as Rob has a variety of musical commitments, but they can be ordered in any of these metals online.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.