Banjo, Old-time Clawhammer, Levels 2/3

Leela Grace

Take your old time banjo playing to the next level! This is your chance to expand your repertoire while honing technical skills. You’ll learn fun, beautiful tunes and songs in a variety of keys and tunings. We’ll work to create clear melodies without sacrificing rhythm. Each tune may challenge you at a manageable level and offer the chance to try a new technique or combine skills in a novel way. Utilizing by-ear learning, clear step-by-step instruction, and time for individual coaching, we'll have fun wrangling this amazing instrument! The tunes will be taught by ear, but audio files and tab will be shared electronically after camp.

Topics we may tackle include:

  • Prioritizing rhythm, consistent tempo, and drive over "fancy" licks;
  • Evaluating whether certain slight adjustments of your individual technique might improve your sound, clarity, and consistency (not to mention comfort);
  • Building by-ear skills for picking up tunes "on the fly;"
  • Being more conscious in your practice in order to enable more efficient learning;
  • Experimenting with techniques for accompanying singing;
  • And more – depending on the interests of the group!


You should know how to tune your banjo, change tunings, and use a capo, and be comfortable with the frailing/clawhammer strum at a moderate tempo. You should also be familiar with slides, pull-offs, hammer-ons, some drop thumbing, and know at least several tunes and chords in the G tuning (as well as a few alternate tunings such as double C and modal/sawmill).

It is suggested that your banjo have a 5th string 'spikes' in the 7th and 9th frets (or a 5th string capo) installed, and that you bring a banjo strap, electronic tuner, and banjo capo.

About Leela Grace

Leela is a nationally known singer, songwriter, clawhammer banjo player, percussive dancer and teacher of music and dance originally from Missouri. Since moving to Portland, Oregon in 2007, she has built a tremendous following, teaching popular banjo, by-ear harmony singing, jam, and Appalachian clogging classes. She recently opened her own school in Portland called Rose City Folk School.

Leela has performed and taught nationally for over 25 years—first with her family, and now as a solo musician and dancer and in a duo with her sister, Ellie Grace. She picked up the banjo as a young teen and has developed her own exceptional clawhammer banjo style, marked by clear, bright melodies and powerful rhythm. She recorded three albums with her family as a teen and released two acclaimed duo CDs with her sister. The sisters have performed at prestigious venues across the United States and Canada.

As a teacher of music and dance, Leela has inspired thousands of school children, banjo students, percussive dancers, and singers of all ages through the classes, school assemblies, weeklong camps, and lessons. She has taught at The Swannanoa Gathering (NC), The Christmas Country Dance School (Berea, KY), Pinewoods Camp (MA), The Augusta Heritage Center’s Old Time Week (WV), Lady of the Lake Camp (ID), FolkMadness (NM) and many more. She is a kind, entertaining, experienced teacher who offers clear, understandable instruction to singers, musicians, and dancers of all levels.

Leela was a big hit at Walker Creek when she taught our old time ensemble class in spring 2019, and we're thrilled to have her back for spring 2020 to teach clawhammer banjo!