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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Starting with 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/393385

PurpleHull1967 - Posted - 10/15/2023:  01:58:43


Hi everyone, I have a question about using fingerpicks. I've been playing bluegrass style banjo about six years, but have not used fingerpicks...unwise no doubt, but I have only played solo, and at home, and whenever I've tried to use the picks I just couldn't get on with them. So I just kept putting them to one side. Now however I want to start practicing with them every day. Can you give me any tips/advice on starting with picks, after going so long without? Has anyone else had this issue?

Bill H - Posted - 10/15/2023:  02:58:22


I am a long time claw hammer player and several years ago decided it was time to learn 3 finger style playing. Picks were very challenging to me. All I can say is stick with it no matter how awkward and experiment. Picks are cheap enough. I have tried different gauges and brands for the best fit and comfort, and have experimented with bending the shape to various curves. I used stainless light gauge picks for a while. but then changed to a heavier gauge. I have settled on National NP2 nickel silver finger picks and find that I prefer a thumb pick with a fairly short blade.

Texasbanjo - Posted - 10/15/2023:  04:40:37


I don't have much to add to what Bill H has already said.

Put them on every time you practice, don't get frustrated if they feel weird, they always do when you first try to wear them. The more you practice with them on, the easier it gets and eventually, it will feel weird to NOT have them on.

Make sure you have the right size, right gauge and that they fit snug without cutting off circulation. If they don't/won't stay on but fit otherwise, try the old "lick and stick" method; i.e., lick your finger pads and then put on the picks. It acts like a glue. Be sure your fingers are clean (G) first.

thisoldman - Posted - 10/15/2023:  05:37:41


I came to 3 finger Scruggs style from 2ftl bare fingered, so I had to get used to using picks. It took me over a month to sort of get used to picks. Every time I put them on It felt like I was strapping long sticks to the end of my fingers. Like starting from the beginning every practice session, like I'd never used picks before. Frustrating. So other than just sticking with it, that's all that worked for me...no easy button. As I recall, I still did a little bit of picking bare fingered during that time, just to get used to moving my fingers to the right places and with even timing.

B_Shull - Posted - 10/15/2023:  06:29:24


The only answer is to put them on and pick. Don't jump into the deep end too quickly. Start with getting comfortable with the basic rolls and add fingerings. You probably are getting frustrated because you can't play the same songs as well as you can with no picks, but if you pull everything back and start with the technique first, I imagine you will gain confidence and comfort more easily.

Culloden - Posted - 10/15/2023:  08:11:17


If you plan to play in public in the future, it is a good idea to spend time working with your picks now. Make sure they are properly fitted to your fingers; they don't come that way out of the box. A little shaping with a pair of needle nose pliers can go a long way. You want them comfortable; not loose enough that they will fall off, not tight enough to cut the circulation to your fingers off. They will be awkward to use after using bare fingers but stick with them.
Another thing I have noticed is that lots of people advise others to use .025-gauge picks which are pretty heavy. If you have trouble getting used to picks, try using a lighter gauge like .018-gauge. I used .025-gauge picks for forty years but now I prefer something a little lighter.
Sonny Osborne used to say, "Practice the same way you play."

TN Time - Posted - 10/15/2023:  08:38:51


I must be truly blessed. When I first started playing, I used picks right from the get go and never had a problem with them. Even now sometimes I practice at home with bare fingers only so as to play a little more quietly so that I won't disturb anyone. Then, if I put on the picks, I can't tell much difference between using bare fingers and picks.
Robert

FenderFred - Posted - 10/15/2023:  08:44:58


quote:

Originally posted by PurpleHull1967

Hi everyone, I have a question about using fingerpicks. I've been playing bluegrass style banjo about six years, but have not used fingerpicks...unwise no doubt, but I have only played solo, and at home, and whenever I've tried to use the picks I just couldn't get on with them. So I just kept putting them to one side. Now however I want to start practicing with them every day. Can you give me any tips/advice on starting with picks, after going so long without? Has anyone else had this issue?






Hi PurpleHull1967



 If your planning to play with others I would encourage you to get yourself a set of picks and start practicing with them ASAP.



I had a hard time as a beginner wearing picks. My fingers were all scratched bloody and painful. I got myself a set of ProPik Stainless Steel Angled full band (not the split band) Picks and a  Jim Dunlop Clear Plastic Thumb Pick from Eagle Music in Huddersfield. This solved all my problems. 



You will need to shape the finger picks to fit snugly on your fingers, and also shape the point of the thumb pick with a file/sandpaper.  



Lick your finger tips before putting on your picks and you shouldn't have any problems with them falling off whilst playing.


Edited by - FenderFred on 10/15/2023 08:45:42

Jack Baker - Posted - 10/15/2023:  10:02:15


Hi Fred,

Because of nerve spine damage to my right hand, I'm learning to play left handed. I had played Left Handed years ago but I don't remember how it felt to start back then. I can still play as a righty but I can't get the speed I want so I'm trying to play as a lefty again.



Wearing the picks is really difficult and they hurt--(I'm using the old National fingerpicks I used to pick with). I put my right hand picks on just to see how it felt and it felt totally normal. So I guess it just takes a while to get the actually flesh on the top of your fingers to get used to the pics.



My left hand is very clumsy even though I know exactly what I'm playing and it is very frustrating I must admit...So there seems to be many ways to go about putting these things on....My best, Jack


Edited by - Jack Baker on 10/15/2023 10:08:41

Jack Baker - Posted - 10/15/2023:  11:05:03


Ha!

My Wife Ellen has to sometimes tell me not to get too frustrated because She's afraid I'll quit. Nah! I have to practice what I've been preaching for 50 years... J


Edited by - Jack Baker on 10/15/2023 11:05:54

Tim Mullins - Posted - 10/15/2023:  19:52:36


When I started playing banjo I didn't use picks because I already played guitar and didn't use picks on guitar either, nor did I brace my right hand with fingers on the head. When I broke fingernails I decided to learn to use picks and found that I had been depending on the feel of the strings on my fingertips to "register" where the strings were. With picks I could no longer do that. I was then forced to plant fingers to have a stable reference to find the strings. It was a whole new ball game. It took me some months to get back the same fluidity that I previously had. My nervous system needed to re=learn how to regain that command of playing with dynamics and style again. It just takes time, but will come with practice. Slow down and stick with it.

FenderFred - Posted - 10/16/2023:  03:08:25


quote:

Originally posted by Jack Baker

Hi Fred,

Because of nerve spine damage to my right hand, I'm learning to play left handed. I had played Left Handed years ago but I don't remember how it felt to start back then. I can still play as a righty but I can't get the speed I want so I'm trying to play as a lefty again.



Wearing the picks is really difficult and they hurt--(I'm using the old National fingerpicks I used to pick with). I put my right hand picks on just to see how it felt and it felt totally normal. So I guess it just takes a while to get the actually flesh on the top of your fingers to get used to the pics.



My left hand is very clumsy even though I know exactly what I'm playing and it is very frustrating I must admit...So there seems to be many ways to go about putting these things on....My best, Jack






Hi Jack Baker in my case I started out using the Jim Dunlop Nickel Silver picks. Nationals were not available to me at that time and being a newbie and no one to guide me the Dunlop picks looked like the best option. What I didn't realize in the early days was the Dunlop picks  I was using had a flaw created during manufacture.



The holes round the band had sharp metal burr's created when the metal stamping punch cut through the metal plate to make the pick form. My thinking is a batch of these pick forms missed a polishing process where the stamps would have passed through a sand barrel or some other process designed to remove metal imperfection fragments. 



Those metal burr scratches and a possible allergy to Nickel Silver created a skin infection. Caused me to suffer so much pain and discomfort I had to stop playing for weeks till things healed. 

DAWertz - Posted - 10/18/2023:  08:22:05


I'm not sure this helps anyone except in my case. In the winter I occasionally had trouble with my cuticles which I just suffered thru using fingerpicks tight enough to not slip off. Very embarrassing to launch a fingerpick into a crowd while in the middle of a song. After launch it's very difficult to find it unless you are very lucky and that no one stepped on it. Last year I switched to Acri brass fingerpicks. These fit just below the first knuckle and grips the whole of the fingertip not like a thimble. I usually switch instruments from Banjo to Dobro during our sets depending on the song. I haven't launched any since I've made the switch.

steve davis - Posted - 10/18/2023:  09:02:46


I've been using Dunlops since 1976 because I didn't like the feel of the Nationals.

TScottHilton - Posted - 10/18/2023:  09:34:49


When I started learning Scruggs style a few years back after playing clawhammer for about a year, I attempted to learn without picks. I think you will probably experience what I did: your fingers will be used to making direct contact with the strings. But the picks create a small distance between your finger and the string that your muscle memory and brain will have a hard time adjusting to. Out of muscle memory, my newly pick clad fingers tended to plunge too deep, and I would strike strings early or interfere with strings I wasn't aiming for. But I worked specifically on adjusting my technique with regard to the depth of my pick strikes until it felt more natural. It took a little time, but was definitely worth it.

monstertone - Posted - 10/18/2023:  13:03:21


quote:

Originally posted by PurpleHull1967

Hi everyone, I have a question about using fingerpicks. I've been playing bluegrass style banjo about six years, but have not used fingerpicks...unwise no doubt, but I have only played solo, and at home, and whenever I've tried to use the picks I just couldn't get on with them. So I just kept putting them to one side. Now however I want to start practicing with them every day. Can you give me any tips/advice on starting with picks, after going so long without? Has anyone else had this issue?






I just kept putting them to one side. Therein lies your problem. It takes time, and a good amount of adjustment, more time again, to get right with picks, especially the finger picks. Some people twist in the blades of their finger picks in order to strike the strings squarely. Others, such as JD Crowe & his infamous “claw,” take a different approach. Everyone is different. In the old days, there were only National, flat blade picks. There are now a variety of pick styles available. Keep trying different brands, & keep fiddling with them, until you find what works for you.



One of the major challenges confronting bluegrass banjo pickers is some notes, ofttimes entire runs, require a tad more emphasis to sound right. The long & short of it is even the best bluegrass banjo requires finger-picks to bring out that sound. Steel finger-picks against steel strings, are more capable of producing these subtle variations, with less effort, than is bare flesh. Not to mention, against a multitude of steel stringed instruments! And Bluegrass music, consisting of a rhythm section as well as lead, is a team sport. Bluegrass banjo picking sans picks is not only a futile gesture, it will wreak havoc on your right hand. Do your right hand a favor. Use the picks!

steve davis - Posted - 10/18/2023:  17:19:23


If you play without picks with others you won't be heard.

steve davis - Posted - 10/20/2023:  10:07:58


Get a book like the Oak Bluegrass Banjo and learn the basics of picks while building a strong foundation.

Bart Veerman - Posted - 10/21/2023:  20:44:55


quote:

Originally posted by steve davis

If you play without picks with others you won't be heard.






If that's the way it worked for you Steve then, sorry but you played a crummy banjo or you were doing the picking all wrong.

Bart Veerman - Posted - 10/21/2023:  21:01:35


From the man himself, in his Earl Scruggs and the 5-string banjo, page 31: "If you find the picks are holding you back, then side-track them."

Doug Dillard played a lot of his stuff without picks.

If you feel you must, then use light gauge picks, 015, they're easier on the fingers.



I play both 3-finger and clawhammer styles and do not wear picks as that way I can switch back & forth between the styles while playing. The jam I go to usually has a pretty large circle of players and nobody has a problem hearing me. Growing your picking nails to the right length is they key though. Well, besides a well set-up banjo of course.

TN Time - Posted - 10/21/2023:  22:02:33


I use a Dunlop .015 pick on my index finger and a Nick Pick heavier gauge (I think it is .025, but not sure) on my middle finger. This combo just seems to work great for me. I can't explain why other than I move my index finger more when picking so it can move faster with the thinner lighter pick. The middle finger then, just kind of follows. As mentioned above, everyone is different and thus the need for lots of different picks.
Robert

steve davis - Posted - 10/23/2023:  06:47:50


If you go to a busy jam without picks you will struggle to be heard.
It has to do with playing with powerful fiddles,Martin (and other) strong guitars and mandolins.
My banjos are very good,Bart.

nmflyr - Posted - 10/28/2023:  10:22:05


I had problems with keeping the picks on, so I use Gorilla Snot and it keeps them on. Bill Keith used it and look how well he turned out.??

joekur - Posted - 10/28/2023:  11:28:24


Check the positioning of your hands and fingers with and without picks and make sure it is consistent. Sometimes picks seem uncomfortable to me and then I realize I'm trying to play louder with the picks as if I was in a big room of people. Then I dial it back, make sure my wrist and fingers are curved the way they would be when I play bare-fingered, and play as if there are only 1 or 2 people in the room. After a while, I am just as comfortable with the picks.

warailroader - Posted - 10/28/2023:  12:32:29


Side question here since we’re on picks. A fellow banjo player at a recent jam lent me a speed thumb pick, Orange I think. I liked it and went searching for purchase. However I find there are different sizes and strengths or thickness. Have others tried them and what were your Impressions?

Fathand - Posted - 10/29/2023:  05:29:53


quote:

Originally posted by steve davis

I've been using Dunlops since 1976 because I didn't like the feel of the Nationals.






Same here, since 1978

Ol Groundhog - Posted - 11/27/2023:  08:47:58


As the guy who has to turn his socks inside out because the seams irritate, I found fingerpicks way to pinchy. Since I played mostly clawhammer this was not a big deal. I finally bit the bullet and decided to learn bluegrass style about 10 years ago. Finding a pick that didn't hurt was critical. For me it was the split band propiks. I am in the process of trying to find a metal thumbpick I can tolerate and have had a lot of luck taking them to a jewler friend who has been able to make very sublte adjustments to the pick using his ring sizing and other specialty tools. You might try something like that. In my case the jewler was intrigued enough not to charge me anything.

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