For me they help when trying to figure out the tricky stuff. I've typically assumed (yeah, shouldn't do THAT!) that you use the index finger unless otherwise noted since it's the basis of stroke technique. It can be fun figuring it out on our own too, but notation cuts that time in learning a new tune down! I need to go through and find your tab as I haven't been on the site in a bit. Will report back!
I find that one of most noticeable differences between minstrel style and clawhammer style lies in the use of the thumb. When I see a tab with no right hand indications, i just naturally start to play it clawhammer style as much as possible.
In clawhammer, people use either index or middle finger to play main melody notes- this can differ depending on personal preference. But my vote is to at least indicate under the notes with an X where one would typically use the thumb in stroke style. This would help those of us who tend to automatically revert to clawhammer.
As someone just beginning to learn minstrel style, I do appreciate the right-hand fingerings. I don't always follow them because sometimes they feel too awkward. I agree with Strumelia and I tend to revert to a standard clawhammer approach. But I like to see how the people who wrote down the songs thought they should be played.
Sometimes seeing the recommended stroke style fingerings reveals easier ways to play the song (Original Essence of Old Virginny in Tim's Early Banjo primer is a good example for me). But I treat the recommendations as advice that I should seriously consider but not necessarily follow; I tabbed out Whoop Jamboree from Rice and I find I can play it well by ignoring a few of the indicated thumb Xs that just take too much effort to break out of habit for.
Thanks Chris. That is a good and useful comment. Sometimes those fingerings...they are useful for "getting inside the mind" of the writer. Whoop Jamboree is a great example. There are easier ways to play it, but if you follow those, it takes you into a different space...a lilt the added thumb strokes provide. These are more clues as to what it may have sounded like. Even then, conceptually through time, these approached changed. I am specifically thinking of Frank Converse, and how his Yellow Book differs from the Analytical with similar material. He uses less thumb later on, and the Hammer Stroke has a more specific appearance.
The fingerings suggested in the beginning of Whoop Jamboree opened my eyes to the possible importance of the right hand fingerings, in fact (keep in mind I'm in my first week of really trying to learn this style). When I started in on it, I instinctively did a 1-X-1-X alternation in those first four measures. But the suggested 1-1, X-X pattern really does help create some of the magic of the tune. However, I find I can replace some suggested X-0 pulloffs with 1-0 pulloffs without a noticeable difference. Either way, I do like the suggested fingerings enough that I maintain the notation in my own tab even when I don't (yet) follow them.
Yes...like you said, it does make you aware in a different way, and worth examining before venturing off on our own.
Another vote for putting the right hand fingerings in. As a newer player myself, it can be very helpful. There seem to be a fair amount of new people joining recently , and while they may be just lurking, perhaps they are trying out some of the tunes. Having as much information as possible always helps.