Clawhammer Banjo Lessons

I'm a clawhammer banjo teacher based in Sheffield (UK.)

Clawhammer (or frailing) is a flexible way of playing the banjo which creates a full sound and a driving rhythm. This style is traditionally associated with traditional American music – but it can be used to play almost anything. It's suited to many roles, from solo / lead melody to rhythmic accompaniment.

What is Clawhammer?

Clawhammer is probably the oldest way of playing the banjo, predating modern bluegrass styles by almost 100 years. Clawhammer was adapted in the 19th century – along with the 5-string banjo itself – from much older African styles of playing.

Unlike a lot of other modern instrumental styles, clawhammer players use the back of their fingernails to strike the strings and produce notes and chords (this means you don't even have to invest in a plectrum!)

The hallmark of clawhammer playing is a seamless combination of melody and rhythm, so it doesn't matter whether you want to play tunes solo, accompany other instrumentalists or back up a singer or another melody player.

Of course, clawhammer is pefect for playing American folk dance music. But with a little imagination, the style can be adapted to serve all kinds of music, whether it's English polkas, Irish jigs or French bourées.

Pricing is £20/hour, £12/half hour at my home in Netherthorpe, Sheffield. If you'd like to be taught elsewhere, I'll need to account for travel costs – this can be discussed in advance. I am also happy to offer web-based lessons (over Skype or equivalent software.)

To get started, drop me a message at, call 07906 654571 or email


For those wanting to improve their clawhammer style banjo playing Theo is a fantastic resource and not only because music teachers in clawhammer are rare gems - they are few and far between, but because of his ability, knowledge and enthusiasm for this genre of music.

I have been a student of Theo's for many months and have been impressed by the huge repertoire of tunes he is able to draw from, which includes anything from traditional English/Irish folk tunes to well known American tunes. There is guaranteed to be something to suit all tastes and all levels of playing.

Practical teaching is complemented and supported by MP3 recordings of different speeds to practice to. It is also worth pointing out that Theo has a good understanding of banjo set-up and can advise on how to get the best sound out of your instrument.


Theo is a great teacher. Always warm, friendly and inspiring. Each lesson he breaks down concepts and techniques into easy to understand chunks.

He is happy to tailor lessons to my personal interests, needs and learning style. He creates a supportive and friendly learning environment with great support between lessons via email. Happy to take things at my pace.


I'll teach you:

I teach from beginners to intermediate – no prior musical knowledge required. Don't have a banjo yet? I have a spare banjo which I can teach you on in the short term, and I can offer advice on purchasing your own instrument.

I can also cover some fingerstyle and plectrum techniques for students wishing to add further variation to their technique.

What you get from lessons...

A lot depends out how you want to learn... If you're a new player, I'll give you the groundwork to get you up and clawing steadily. I can teach you a variety of tunes and show you how to pick up more as you go, all while developing new techniques and deepening your understanding of the instrument.

If you want to learn how to use alternative tunings to explore different sounds and ways of playing, I'll make sure you're confident finding your way around. If you'd rather stick to one tuning and learn how to play all over the fretboard, that's fine too.

Do you think your banjo feels like a soggy tin can with cheese wire attached to it? I can help you set your instrument to get the best sound and feel (practising is a lot more fun that way!)

Finally, I accompany my lessons with supplementary material in the form of TABs and audio recordings to help you nail those tunes (no pun intended.)