The purpose of this site is to provide approachable arrangements of traditional songs and tunes in the 2 finger thumb-lead banjo style.  It is my hope that the arrangements posted here will provide the tools for you to begin arranging some of your favorite songs/tunes for 2 finger thumb-lead banjo which might in turn be posted for others to check out as well.

The tabs linked in the posts are .tef files (check HERE for more info about .tef files). For those who don’t use TablEdit, there are .pdf files available on the site as well. Be sure to check out the .mp3 section to hear recordings of the songs I have arranged personally. Hopefully these will aid in the learning process.

Thanks for stopping by and feel free to drop me a line.

– Sean

(seanbarth79 at gmail.com)

61 Responses to “Welcome!”

  1. steve jeter 03/29/2010 at 8:46 pm #

    I think this is great!!!
    Thanks for putting it together.

    Im hoping to learn a lot from it.

    • 2ftlbanjer 03/29/2010 at 9:15 pm #

      My pleasure Steve!


    • Brad Bahler 02/27/2011 at 12:14 am #

      Good to see this site. I have been honing my thumb & index lead style for 35 years! For a long time I thought I was the only one interested in it!

      • 2ftlbanjer 02/27/2011 at 2:05 am #

        35 years of experience, huh?! There are an average of 100 hits a day on this site, so I think interest is booming – and I’m sure you could teach us all a thing or three. Let me know if you have any suggestions, ideas, or arrangements for the site. Thanks for stopping by, Brad.

      • Brad Bahler 02/27/2011 at 3:06 am #

        When I started I was listening to Bluegrass and Old-Time, and learned from the Scruggs book. I started using picking techniques to try to get an Old-Time sound, thinking the banjo was played either in Bluegrass or Clawhammer style. I was able to get a sound that seemed close, not realizing that many of the pickers I was listening to were in fact finger pickers! Most of the people I was playing with in Indiana were from E. KY & E. Tennessee, and were rooted more in the Old-Time & early country styles than in Bluegrass, though often playing a mixture. Clawhammer was difficult for me, though I finally got pretty decent (let the thumb rest on the 5th string and ‘pop’ it instead of picking it). But it has been gratifying to have people who were knowledgeable in clawhammer style to say thay liked my clawhammer selections in concerts, when if fact I was picking! I also recently played with some “Round Peak” devotees who seemed quite interested in the picking I was doing, and wanted to know the background of it

  2. Jack M 04/08/2010 at 4:18 am #

    Thanks a lot for this. It’s really hard to find very much information about this style!! Thanks!

    • 2ftlbanjer 04/08/2010 at 11:29 am #

      No problem Jack. Check back often.

      – Sean

  3. Erik Hallgren 05/23/2010 at 6:15 pm #

    Thx for putting this together, i live in sweden and we don’t have much in the way of banjo here except for bluegrass.
    I have been looking to learn this style for quite a while without finding much material or explanations to go by, not even at the hangout. Ty again!

    • 2ftlbanjer 05/27/2010 at 7:20 pm #

      Well I’m glad to help, Erik…especially is it saves you from bluegrass banjo!


  4. Glenn 05/25/2010 at 10:06 pm #

    Check out George Gibson, John Haywood, and Clifton Hicks on youtube. They play a great Eastern KY style 2 finger quite often.


    • 2ftlbanjer 05/27/2010 at 7:23 pm #

      I’m familiar with George Gibson and Clifton Hicks, but not John Haywood. Thanks for the lead.


  5. jerryjames1 06/01/2010 at 2:39 pm #

    great site! thanks for posting.

  6. Conn Daniel 09/04/2010 at 8:56 pm #

    Awesome site. Thanks for putting all this up. I’m a college student just beginning to try and learn old time banjo. This site is a life saver.

  7. Carrie 11/10/2010 at 6:53 pm #

    I just stumbled across this site. I’m getting more interested in Old Time finger-picking styles and different tunings (I play 3 finger – have learnt Scruggs style). Thanks for making this available.

    • 2ftlbanjer 11/22/2010 at 2:34 pm #

      You’re quite welcome, Carrie. Hope you find it helpful.

  8. angelo pecora 02/25/2011 at 9:56 pm #

    As a strugglin’ clawhammer fella this is awesome and gives me a diversonary tactic if I feel like switchin.

    • 2ftlbanjer 02/27/2011 at 2:06 am #

      Glad you like the site, Angelo. Let me know if you ever have any questions. -Sean

      • Brad Bahler 02/27/2011 at 3:08 am #

        Angelo, check out my comments above; they may be useful for you

  9. Kerry Tume 02/28/2011 at 10:20 am #

    Hi Sean,

    Just came across your site via one of the Banjo Forums. I,m in Australia, where it is very difficult to get material on Old Time/Mountain Banjo. This is particularly the case in drop thumb two finger info.

    I came across some videos on youtube which are great and give 5 videos to work with. They are by Tony Thomas (oldtimes).

    With his material and yours I can now really enjoy the style.

    Thank you Sean for this great site & info.


    • 2ftlbanjer 02/28/2011 at 1:55 pm #

      Glad you like the site, Kerry. Hopefully you enjoy the tunes as much as I do. Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to answer them. -Sean

  10. Bart Brush 05/09/2011 at 11:37 pm #


    Thanks for this site–just found it via Banjo Hangout. I bought a banjo in 1968, but couldn’t figure out bluegrass or Pete Seeger’s book, so sold the instrument. A year later I bought a “banjo in a box” (meaning in pieces) at a yard sale for $9, not because I wanted to play, but just ’cause I enjoyed fixing things and messing around with instruments. Then decided to go down to the local music store, just wondering if there might be some other books available that might work better for me, and lo and behold, there was Art Rosenbaum’s Old Time Mountain Banjo on the rack. When I got to the chapter on thumb lead, everything fell into place, and I’ve been playing that way ever since.

    I’d love to see your tabs or list of Doc Watson pieces in this style. I thought he only played index lead. Roscoe Holcomb tabs would be nice, too. Some of his songs are easy to figure out, but others aren’t. John Cohen told me that a lot of his really high singing is done with the banjo in D (Reuben) tuning.

    Do you know Tommy Jarrell’s version of Frankie and Johnny, which he called “Frankie Baker”? It’s in Tumberland Gap tuning (as he called it), and he showed it to me in 1973. He clawhammered it, but it’s really great in thumb lead. I’ll send you the tab if interested. I’d like to get it out there, since I haven’t met anyone who knows his version. I tried to put it on Banjo Hangout, but couldn’t figure out how…..I prefer banjos to computers.


    Bart Brush

  11. Brad Bahler 05/10/2011 at 3:36 pm #

    glad to see I wasn’t the only one who didn’t have much luck with the Seeger book! I actually had more success adapting the double thumbing from the Scruggs book to old-time playing! The Rosenbaum book was more helpful. Interestingly, when I want to add a clawhammer-type sound to my index lead, I do a downward brush with a clawhammer posture, supposedly similar to Seeger’s basic strum, which I couldn’t get to save my life! In reality it is much different as Seeger does not have a clawhammer hand posture (but I’m getting off the topic of the forum now). Maybe part of my problem was that the people I was learning from had never heard of any of the folk revivalists, so I didn’t have that connection in the beginning

    Doc is more known for his index finger lead, but he does some thumb lead also. “Willie Moore” is one tune that comes to mind. My own playing is greatly influenced by Doc, as he can float effortlessly between a thumb and an index lead, which is the basis of my style. This is true of Pete Steele as well

  12. Bart Brush 05/12/2011 at 6:54 pm #

    Thanks Brad,

    Can you clarify “adapting double thumbing from the Scruggs book to old-time playing” ? Do you mean that you took the TITM three finger pattern and play the same notes, but with TITI ?

    I sometimes drop my index finger down to an inside string, like on Willie Moore, tuned DGAD, and instead of hammering on the G string to get G-A as I sing “Moore”, I play G-A with thumb-index. (Thanks for reminding me of Doc playing that in thumb lead–wonder if that’s where I learned it way back when? Might have been from Tom Paley and The Old Reliable String Band Lp).

    Another “basic” pattern I use is T I – I . In other words, the basic four note pattern TITI, with thumb on a melody note first, and then on the 5th string, but leaving out the second T. In music notation, that would be 16th note, 16th note, 16th rest, 16th note. Makes kind of a “stumble” in the music.

    • Brad Bahler 05/12/2011 at 7:29 pm #

      yes, the TITM is the same as double thumbing. It can be played 3-finger in Scruggs style, or 2-finger as TITI. George Pegram plays this pattern with 3-fingers, but it sounds nothing like Scruggs

  13. Bisbonian 08/14/2011 at 3:59 pm #

    I’ve been playing clawhammer style for five or six years, but I’m really looking to figure out this 2ftl business. Looks like I am going to camp out here for a while. You’ve got a great set of tunes to work on…any chance you will post something on Darling Corey? B.F.Shelton’s two finger version seems to be the very epitome of 2ftl.

    • 2ftlbanjer 08/31/2011 at 12:32 pm #

      I’ve been meaning to post an arrangement of Darling Corey for a while. I’ll try to get around to it sooner than later. Have fun!

  14. Scott Conrad 09/28/2011 at 11:53 am #

    As much as I’d would have loved to be learn this style sitting “knees-to-knees” with my grandfather on his front porch, that simply doesn’t happen much anymore in this day and age even here in the heart of Appalachia. This is a great website on so many levels and I’m glad to see someone passionate about carrying the torch for this important piece of Americana. Keep up the great work!

    • 2ftlbanjer 10/08/2011 at 6:51 pm #

      Thanks for the kind words, Scott. I learned the style after listening to the famous B.F. Shelton recordings and after that I decided to try my best to somehow “revive” it. This page is my humble effort to do just that. It has been my hope that folks enjoy this site, so your message really put a smile on my face. Thanks again.

  15. Mike Brobeck 10/04/2011 at 4:55 pm #

    I just learned the rudiments of the thumb-lead style from a Mike Seeger video, and I love it. This site looks GREAT!! Thanks for your hard work!

    • 2ftlbanjer 10/08/2011 at 6:45 pm #

      Thanks Mike! I’m glad you dropped by. Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to help.

  16. Evret C. Newman, DVM 11/09/2011 at 1:24 am #

    Very enjoyable and helpful site! Having zero interest in bluegrass and apparently unable to master clawhammer (age may be a factor but I won’t admit to that), I’m working on TFTL with very satisfactory results. The material on this site and the comments by the many site visitors have been, and will continue to be, both interesting and quite helpful. Thank you and, rest assured, I will be a frequent visitor.

    • 2ftlbanjer 11/09/2011 at 3:15 pm #

      I’m glad you’re finding the site helpful, Evret. I’ll try to get some more animal related songs on the page for you to play around with 🙂 Thanks for reaching out and feel to ask if you have any questions. -Sean

      • Bart Brush 01/03/2012 at 10:05 pm #

        Here are some fairly easy animal songs that I play in standard G tuning:

        Groundhog (from playing of Doc Watson and Tommy Jarrell)
        She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain
        Jimmy Crack Corn (Mike and Peggy Seeger–Am. Folksongs for Children)
        Frog Went A Courting (Doc Watson)
        Little Birdie (Little Birdie Tuning or G tuning)
        All God’s Children Got a Place in the Choir (Bill Staines)

  17. bisbonian 11/29/2011 at 2:35 am #

    Sean, I happen to know that you play a very fine 2ftl version of Down in the Willow Garden…but I don’t see it anywhere on this site. Have you got a TAB (and an mp3) for that running around loose anywhere?

    • 2ftlbanjer 12/09/2011 at 2:00 pm #

      Busted! I’ll throw a tab together and get it on the site.

  18. Bart Brush 11/29/2011 at 6:34 pm #

    This song works very well in G tuning. For years, I was only familiar with Roscoe Holcomb’s version, which he plays in a meter of 4 (4 beats to a measure). Imagine my surprise to hear it finally the more common way, in 3 (waltz time). Still sounds “wrong” to me that way; but I’m just writing to suggest listening to it both ways.

    Other tunes are done both in 3 and 4. Recently, I discovered “The Dying Californian” when a friend referred me to Tim Erickson’s YouTube performance. Great song! It’s a true story, and was made into a Sacred Harp hymn. I found it in two different versions in Sacred Harps books, one set in 3 and the other in 4.

    • 2ftlbanjer 12/09/2011 at 2:09 pm #

      Thanks for the heads-up, Bart. Another great song/tune in both 3 and 4 is “Down in the Willow Garden.” I like both takes, but since I prefer square tunes to round ones I lean more towards the Ward Jarvis version in 4. The Dying Californian has a very rich history. I’ll have to track down the version in 3. Thanks for the bird-doggin’

  19. steve t 12/10/2011 at 3:15 pm #

    What a great site, I have been 2f “up picking” clawhammer music for ages but have never felt really happy with the results but this thumb lead sounds like the real thing to me. Love it. I think many other banjo players will follow. Well done, time well spent. What about getting some of this out on you tube

    • 2ftlbanjer 02/09/2012 at 3:00 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by, Steve. I’m glad you’re digging the site. It seems like lots of people are getting into Old Time up-picking styles, which puts a smile on my face 🙂 As for the videos, if I had the time I’d be all over it, but as you can probably tell I don’t even have the time to post new tabs! One of these days I’ll get my act together and focus more on this site. Until then, let me know if there is anything I can help with. Have fun. -Sean

  20. Cathy Pittman 12/12/2011 at 8:38 pm #

    Is there a good way to approach D tunes with thumb lead? I understand how to do it in G/A, but not in D.

    • 2ftlbanjer 02/09/2012 at 3:04 pm #

      Good question, Cathy. For the keys of C & D I typically tune the 1st string up one full step and then play a chord-based back-up style in gCGCE and aDADF#. I have every intention of posting a ‘lesson’ related to this in the future – hopefully sooner than later. I’ll put it at the top of the list. Thanks for stopping by. -Sean

    • Bart Brush 02/10/2012 at 11:22 pm #

      Some D tunes work well in Open D or “Ruben” tuning f#DF#AD; or f#BEAD. Tommy Jarrell used this tuning. The tonic D chord is fingered with third finger on 4th string, 3rd fret and second finger on 3rd string, 2nd fret. I usually sing and play the melody, with incidental chords as they fit, rather than play chords and sing the song–so I don’t think a lot about the chords. However, if you keep the same left hand finger position, but move it over to the 3rd and 2nd strings, you get a G chord, which works very well with some songs–Frankie and Johnny and Tumberland Gap.

  21. Thierry 01/19/2012 at 8:23 am #

    Thanks a lot for your great site !

    I am from Brittany, France and I play clawhammer since 5 years, and I just discover the thumb-lead style with your help …so, great news horizons for me !!! and plenty hours discovering a new way to play !
    Thanks again ! and excuse my broken english …

    • 2ftlbanjer 02/09/2012 at 2:55 pm #

      I am happy you are enjoying the website, Thierry. Thank you for your kind words. Feel free to ask if you have any questions. Here is my attempt at speaking Breton: Yec’hed mat! -Sean

  22. Eddie McNulty 02/13/2012 at 3:15 pm #

    Hi Ive tried clicking on various links Vers ,chorus or tabs but all I get is this
    Am I doing something wrong ? or is there a problem?
    Eddie McNulty

    • 2ftlbanjer 02/14/2012 at 12:06 pm #

      No problem. When the new page pops up either click on the words below the image of the white page or the ‘download’ link in the upper left of the black box. This should bring up a download prompt. Let me know if you have any more issues. Thanks for stopping by. -Sean

      • chas 11/23/2012 at 2:21 pm #

        I have the same problem and there is no image of a white page nor is there a black box in which to click download.

      • 2ftlbanjer 11/23/2012 at 10:48 pm #

        Hello Chas. Where does the link take you after you click it?

      • 2ftlbanjer 11/23/2012 at 10:54 pm #

        Wow. Looks like OpenDrive scrapped EVERYTHING I had stored there. I’ll try to get this cleared up and get back to you. Until then you can find tabs in the .PDF section and recordings in the .MP3 section.

  23. Eddie McNulty 02/14/2012 at 12:14 pm #

    Thanks Sean,
    Could you give me any advice on learning this style I am a complete novice.
    Do you know of anyone in the Uk for lessons or can recommend any learning aids,books DVD’s etc.
    Your help would be appreciated.
    I live in the UK in Coventry

  24. bob sears 10/15/2013 at 4:49 pm #

    Just found this site while reading Banjo Hangout and think it is great. Thanks a lot for putting this site up. Will be spending a lot of time here. This is a sound I have been looking for.

    • 2ftlbanjer 10/17/2013 at 8:18 pm #

      Thanks, Bob. Let me know if I can help.

    • Miguel Marcos 04/18/2014 at 1:57 pm #

      Likewise here, many, many thanks for putting this together for others to use. All the best from a banjo neophyte.

  25. Keith Madison 11/03/2013 at 8:01 pm #

    Great site, thanks for your hard work.

  26. Ryan 05/23/2014 at 3:43 am #

    Thanks so much for putting up the site. I hope to have a banjo by the end of next week and I really want to get into the 2 finger style of playing, but there really isn’t much out there in the way of instruction. I am very very grateful for what you have done!

  27. Gordy Wales 06/10/2014 at 12:25 pm #

    Hi. Just found your site. I’m excited about it as I’ve always played the banjo with thumb and forefinger (except when I’m accompanying myself with chords), but have always felt uncomfortable about it as it’s not claw hammer or Scruggs 3 finger (just can’t do either of these accepted and acceptable styles.) People have always said ‘Hey, you play that thing like a guitar, get out of here and go home and tune it with a sledge hammer.’ Now I can feel good about my playing. It hasn’t improved any, but at least I can enjoy myself more now and feel proud that I am carrying on a tradition. At present I am eagerly awaiting delivery of a Frank Proffitt style fretless from Richard K. Smith of Comer, Georgia, nothing like setting yourself a challenge innit?

  28. Dex 12/21/2014 at 5:25 pm #

    Does anyone have tabs for Trifling Woman played by F Proffitt?

  29. RollAway 02/22/2015 at 6:31 pm #

    Thank you so much for this site! It is a wonderful resource. The tabs in .PDF format along with the wonderful MP3 files are so greatly appreciated.

  30. Tam 09/10/2015 at 11:58 pm #

    Hi Folks, I have been trying bluegrass for years and I find it hard, the Seeger style is easy enough. I love the sound of clawhmmer but I struggle with it. Just days ago I found clips on youtube on the 2 finger thumb lead now i am flying through tunes. I play a sort of Carter style guitar with thumb and finger pick so I found it quite easy to adapt it to the banjo, sometimes I play the 2nd string with the finger.
    I am Scottish and still live in Scotland, in the last couple of days I have played plenty of Scottish and Irish tunes. I also play the mandolin, fiddle, and Irish tenor banjo so I know lots of trad tunes and songs.
    I just play the melody and fill in round about it.

    Great website

  31. Cyrill Ackermann 02/01/2016 at 8:22 pm #

    Hey Sean

    Thank you very much for this site. I play clawhammer banjo, but a few days ago I came across a good 2ftl picker on youtube and thought, I sould look into that plying style. On the first try I got to this wonderful site, full of tabs and even audio files. I was amazed. I come from switzerland and for me it is usually quite hard to get my hands onto some good tabs. So I always have to search the web and I am always so happy to find sites like this. Again, than you very much, it is just great and really helpful.



    • 2ftlbanjer 02/09/2016 at 3:01 pm #

      I’m happy you find the site helpful. Feel free to message me if you have any questions. -Sean

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