Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

189
Banjo Lovers Online


Discussion Forum

Want to hide these Google ads? Join the Players Union!

 All Forums
 Playing the Banjo
 Playing Advice: 4-String (Irish Trad Music & Related Styles)
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Plectrum v. fingerpicks


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/317065

KidfromDeliverance - Posted - 04/07/2016:  15:53:12


Getting ready to start my first lessons on the 4-string.  I've noticed the videos posted to this forum feature a fair amount of finger-picking over what I take is the more traditional plectrum method.  Is there any particular advantage to one over the other?  I already know Scruggs style, but would kind of like to give my fingertips a break. 

captbanjo - Posted - 04/07/2016:  16:58:08


Most people use a plectrum. I and a few others I've come across use fingerpicking. I always wear a thumb pick and finger picks when I play. I need them for volume and dynamics.



I come from a five string banjo background and I have applied those techniques to the Irish tenor. The main portion of my picking is alternating thumb and index. For triplets, I use T/I/M.



 



Wayne

brewerpaul - Posted - 04/07/2016:  17:40:24


quote:

Originally posted by captbanjo

 

Most people use a plectrum. I and a few others I've come across use fingerpicking. I always wear a thumb pick and finger picks when I play. I need them for volume and dynamics.




I come from a five string banjo background and I have applied those techniques to the Irish tenor. The main portion of my picking is alternating thumb and index. For triplets, I use T/I/M.




 




Wayne







Wayne- do you have any recordings or videos of your technique?

captbanjo - Posted - 04/07/2016:  18:14:52


brewerpaul:  "Wayne- do you have any recordings or videos of your technique?"



 



Here's a couple:



youtu.be/oM9YKSpj8FI



youtube.com/watch?v=FRZiqbboHQw&sns=em



 



Wayne



 

brewerpaul - Posted - 04/08/2016:  03:14:24


Nicely done Wayne!  Any fingerpick recommendations: metal vs plastic?

captbanjo - Posted - 04/08/2016:  06:36:15


Thank you. Obviously, picks are a personal choice. I have found that my picks need to be different for tenor vs five. For five, I use a short reso Blue Chip thumb pick and two Shelor finger picks.



A work in progress, I currently use a long tipped reso Blue Chip for thumb, a coated Butterfly pick for index and a Hoffmeyer for middle. My goal is to minimize pick noise and achieve a rounder and darker tone. I was using two Butterfly picks but found I benefitted from the slightly extra length of the Hoffmeyer on the middle. The Butterfly picks are excellent for anyone used to using fingers; they allow your finger to make contact with the string but have the advantage of being metal yet coated with plastic. Here are links:



bluechippick.net/thumb-picks/



butterflyfingerpicks.com



hoffmeyerpicks.com/HoffmeyerPi...icks.html



 



Wayne

mipake - Posted - 04/08/2016:  13:41:48


Wayne
do you have any TABS ?
mIKE

captbanjo - Posted - 04/08/2016:  17:24:21


Sorry Mike, I don't yet. I've thought about putting together some sort of intro video and tabs for this style but haven't gotten around to it. 



 



Wayne

mipake - Posted - 04/08/2016:  18:06:40


Wayne
I hope you do get around to producing a few tabs. I make try playing some of the existing tabs I have using your right hand technique.
Mike

KidfromDeliverance - Posted - 04/11/2016:  12:59:35


quote:


Originally posted by captbanjo

 

Most people use a plectrum. I and a few others I've come across use fingerpicking. I always wear a thumb pick and finger picks when I play. I need them for volume and dynamics.




I come from a five string banjo background and I have applied those techniques to the Irish tenor. The main portion of my picking is alternating thumb and index. For triplets, I use T/I/M.




 




Wayne







I tried that sort of technique a few years ago when I was going through the Tom Hanway book on celtic tunes for the 5-string.  I found it a little awkward to use three fingers for a triplet.  It's okay for the occasional single-string lick, like in Pike County Breakdown, but to use three fingers every time a triplet occurs in the typical ITM tune seems rather taxing.  I suppose it will be a benefit to be able to do it either way.

captbanjo - Posted - 04/11/2016:  18:26:50


Different strokes I suppose. Literally.



My experience was the exact opposite. I found flat picking triplets frustrating. Playing DUDD was also awkward recovering the DUDU pattern. The three finger TIM for triplets method was liberating. Many five string players do it, including great players like Fleck, Trischka and Pikelny. 



Ironically, I don't use it much for five string, preferring Scruggs style mostly. But for Irish four string I love it!



 



Wayne

Tom Hanway - Posted - 04/12/2016:  04:33:20


quote:


Originally posted by KidfromDeliverance

 
quote:


Originally posted by captbanjo

 


Most people use a plectrum. I and a few others I've come across use fingerpicking. I always wear a thumb pick and finger picks when I play. I need them for volume and dynamics.




I come from a five string banjo background and I have applied those techniques to the Irish tenor. The main portion of my picking is alternating thumb and index. For triplets, I use T/I/M.




 




Wayne








I tried that sort of technique a few years ago when I was going through the Tom Hanway book on celtic tunes for the 5-string.  I found it a little awkward to use three fingers for a triplet.  It's okay for the occasional single-string lick, like in Pike County Breakdown, but to use three fingers every time a triplet occurs in the typical ITM tune seems rather taxing.  I suppose it will be a benefit to be able to do it either way.







Just to clarify, as regards executing triplets, I never said in Complete Book of Irish & Celtic 5-String Banjo to use three fingers to the exclusion of other picking-hand choices that need just two fingers. Okay, put simply, every tune is different and the technique must serve the tune, not the other way around.



In the 'Belfast Hornpipe' (The Sweeps) for example, in the C-part, I use a variety of picking-hand fingerings, including: (1) index-thumb-index, (2) thumb-index-thumb, (3) middle-thumb-middle, (4) thumb-middle-thumb, and then there's also a variety of fretting-hand decorations combined with the picking-hand techniques. I like to play what feels goods and is practicable and fun (sounding).



This is true for tunes where lots of triplets are part of the tune, or added as decorations. Now, for trebles, playing three identical notes (or even two) on a single string, a thumb-index-middle (TIM) pattern sure comes in handy, but it's not the only one!



Here's an example of how I used to play triplets back in 1998, when I was a lot bouncier in my approach to the tunes, especially hornpipes such as these:



LIVERPOOL HORNPIPE/CRONIN'S/THE RIGHTS OF MAN



With gratitude to Mel Bay Publications, Inc. for letting me upload and share these sound files on the Hangout.



I hope this clears up any potential confusion as regards my overall approach to executing clean triplets, as distinct from clean trebles, where I do generally favor a thumb-index-middle pattern on one string.



Take it handy! ~ Tom 



wink



 

Tom Berghan - Posted - 04/17/2016:  21:14:58


I play bluegrass . . . but I also play 4 string tuned GDAE and play it with a flat pick.  I don't play Irish (although I love it) . . . I am American  . . . so I understand American music more being my heritage and all  . . . and so I stick with that.



Here is are some old time tunes played with a flat pick.  I'm not as fancy as our Irish brothers and sisters, but, I have fun!  laugh


mikeyes - Posted - 04/18/2016:  05:02:47


Tom,

I really like your stuff, you are now unofficially the old time guru of this forum . I've found that the less pure OT enthusiasts don't mind a tenor banjo even though none appreared in Mt. Airy at the crucial time. (There were plenty of tenor banjos, accordions, and assorted other instruments in early 20th century string bands.).
Bruce Molsky has one album in which Mick Moloney plays tenor banjo on several tunes. I will play tenor with OT bands on occasion to give it another sound and it works well, especially at dances.
Let's hear more of your work!

Mike Keyes

James Rankine - Posted - 04/18/2016:  12:41:59


quote:


Originally posted by Tom Berghan

 

I play bluegrass . . . but I also play 4 string tuned GDAE and play it with a flat pick.  I don't play Irish (although I love it) . . . I am American  . . . so I understand American music more being my heritage and all  . . . and so I stick with that.




Here is are some old time tunes played with a flat pick.  I'm not as fancy as our Irish brothers and sisters, but, I have fun!  laugh







I don't know a lot about old time but this is simply wonderful. Beautiful tone, there's more time than one usually finds in Irish music and it allows the tone and expressive playing to come through.

captbanjo - Posted - 04/18/2016:  16:41:48


IMO, there is no reason the four string tenor can't work in bluegrass or old time. I say this as a five and four string player. In GDAE tuning, it's related to the mandolin and fiddle. And it sounds like a banjo!



 



Wayne

Tom Berghan - Posted - 04/18/2016:  17:36:49


quote:

Originally posted by mikeyes

Tom,  I really like your stuff, you are now unofficially the old time guru of this forum.







Wow!  Thanks Mike!  I imagine this comes with a big salary and a corner office?  yes laugh



I am always willing to assist any and all 4 string players with regard to Old Ttime tunes. strings (i use custom strings) . . . or anything!  I can't think of what else exactly but anything!

Tom Berghan - Posted - 04/18/2016:  17:56:13


By the way . . . did you know that Elmer Snowden (Harlem Banjoist) was tuning GDAE waaaaay back in the 1920s . . . . long long before we came to think of GDAE as "Irish tuning."



 And . . . if you think about the name "Irish Tenor" . . . it makes no sense.  A tenor instrument has a range in the tenor range.(like a tenor banjo, CGDA) . . . but if you tune it a fourth lower it becomes a "baritone banjo."  These names like bass, baritone, tenor, counter-tenor, alto, soprano indicate range . . . not the length of the banjo neck.  Oh well!

robmac07 - Posted - 04/20/2016:  00:57:23


Thanks 'Guru Tom' for your encouragement a while back. smiley

I was looking at using a tenor (in GDAE tuning) in helping to reinforce the fiddles at our large OT Jam.

As a clawhammer and Scruggs 5 string picker of 40 years I thought this might be heretical but I received encouragement especially from Tom and others. 18 months later it has worked out well and I mix the tenor with clawhammer 5.

Meantime, I thought about some Irish tunes and was encouraged to try the 4 string on them too. I'm now hooked playing at Irish sessions and OT Jams! The GDAE 'tenor' is also great for rags, and country blues. Great fun. cool

BTW I use a flatpick.

robmac07 - Posted - 04/20/2016:  01:18:26


Here's a 'crossover' Irish American tune on the IT

"Temperance Reel" or the "Teetotaller" 


Tom Hanway - Posted - 04/20/2016:  01:21:58


quote:

Originally posted by Tom Berghan

 

I play bluegrass . . . but I also play 4 string tuned GDAE and play it with a flat pick.  I don't play Irish (although I love it) . . . I am American  . . . so I understand American music more being my heritage and all  . . . and so I stick with that.




Here is are some old time tunes played with a flat pick.  I'm not as fancy as our Irish brothers and sisters, but, I have fun!  laugh







Tom, your 'Big Sciota' is so refreshing and fun to listen to ... going back for the others, but first I'm playing along to this and absorbing some of your phrasing ideas.  I love the way it bounces, too.  Getting a cuppa, and starting off the day playing along to Berghan!



Best ~ Tom



smiley

robmac07 - Posted - 04/20/2016:  01:24:33


And another old time tune on the Tenor (ADAE)

​"Beaumont Rag" 


Tom Berghan - Posted - 04/20/2016:  20:58:39


Rob,



You sound freakin' GREAT on that four string. SUPER GOOD!



Tom


robobanjo - Posted - 04/21/2016:  06:57:44


Tom - Great recordings - I concur with the others.  I really like the mellow/woodsy tone you have.  Can you tell us what banjo you are playing and its set-up?  I am sensing you have a calf skin head on it, no?  Nothing cooler in my mind than a tenor banjo set up in a different way than the norm ...



Thanks,



Rob

Tom Berghan - Posted - 04/21/2016:  13:24:10


quote:


Originally posted by robmacneil

Tom - Great recordings - I concur with the others.  I really like the mellow/woodsy tone you have.  Can you tell us what banjo you are playing and its set-up?  I am sensing you have a calf skin head on it, no?  Nothing cooler in my mind than a tenor banjo set up in a different way than the norm ...




Thanks,




Rob







Thanks Rob . . . actually I do have a secret . . . but it is not so much the banjo nor the head.  By the way, my current main 4 string is a 1926 Gibson TB2 with a frosted top, but that is not so much where that great sound is coming from.  In fact on some of these recordings I am using a Goldtone IT-250 . . . so, you do not need a rare or expensive banjo.



My "secret" is the strings that I use.  Instead of a metal core . . . I like a silk core . . . now these days silk core strings are hard to find but stranded nylon sounds basically the same, so no problem.  So, that covers the core . . . next comes the winding.  I prefer copper winding that has been plated with nickel silver.



So, those are the string materials, and the brand I buy (out of convenience) is D'Addario.  Here is a photo of the model.  They come in singles so you can buy any diameter you wish.





:



MY SET:



E String - Loop End Plain Steel .012 (any brand)



A String - D'Addario Classical Guitar Silver plated Wound on Nylon 0.022 (NYL022W)



D String - D'Addario Classical Guitar Silver plated Wound on Nylon 0.031 (NYL031W)



G String - D'Addario Classical Guitar Silver plated Wound on Nylon 0.041 (NYL041W)



 



I buy from JustStrings.com, but there are other retailers.  I like JustStrings because they have great customer service, delivery, always keep stock, and they sell singles.



NOTE: These strings do not have a loop . . . so you have to tie a loop like classical guitarists do on their bridge.  I do the same.



 



There . . .  I spilled the beans . . . if you like my sound, then try those strings.  By the way, I did not use a tension calculator, I just experimented until I came up with tensions that felt right to me. Maybe you would like lighter or heavier . . . but as a baseline you can start with my set.  Best Wishes, Tom

Tom Hanway - Posted - 05/11/2016:  17:42:28


Wow, thanks for spilling those beans!  That sets a whole lotta wheels in motion, Tom.



Best ~ Tom wink

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.1098633