Tag Archives: Frailing

Tale of the Nail

First of the year I really got back into playing the banjo.  Twenty-ten was a rough year but having a short on-line lesson with Patrick Costello really got me motivated again.

I’ve been playing the banjo every spare moment I have until Friday when we had the horrible storm.  I worked like a dog in the foulest of weather.  That didn’t bother me until I broke a nail.  Don’t laugh!  I broke the nail on my middle finger on my right hand.  The nail that allows me to frail on the banjo.

At my lunch break I normally play for a half-hour, so I grabbed a sandwich and coffee and grabbed my old banjo.  It was horrible.  I tried switching to my index finger and it partially worked but all of the fun went out of it.  I needed to fix it.  That night I talked to the wife and we decided to go to a nail salon.

I got up late Saturday (due to playing poker until three in the morning) and spent the next two hours shoveling snow and ice off off my driveway.  The broken nail slipped my mind and I spent the rest of the night catching up on one of my favorite shows on BBC America, Being Human.

The next day I took the wife out for lunch and she reminded me that I needed to get my nail done.  We were in Oberlin but couldn’t find a nail salon open so we headed to the wilds of Elyria.  We found a salon and went it.  They seemed amused by me and I had to explain to each person why I needed a nail.  The woman told me the price and said that I could have color on it for free.  I declined her generosity.

I sat down and the guy started to work on my nail.  I was surprised at the softness of his hands.  He applied a fake nail using glue and after it dried he cut off much of it.  He then used a dremel type tool to rough up the nail and then applied a mixture of powder and strong smelling liquid.  He scraped off much of it and did it again.  Much shaping and buffing and work go into a perfect clawhammer frailing nail.  Finally he finished and I paid the four dollars.

I got home and picked up the banjo.  I played Little Sadie on the banjo and life was good.  It doesn’t take much to make me happy.

Raleigh and Spencer

I’ve been spending a lot of time playing banjo on this vacation.  In the breaks between practice I often search for musicians playing in the clawhammer (frailing) style on YouTube.  Today I found Hunter Robertson.

I love his clawhammer style and his vocals are very primitive.  I love the banjo he’s playing!  It’s a half-fretless banjo, giving that fretless sound but giving you the frets in the upper neck where you need them.  I’ve been wanting one of these for a long time and this is only sparking that desire.

Check out his playing and let me know what you think.