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 Playing Advice: Bluegrass (Scruggs) Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: What finger do you use


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/74242

JONDEERE - Posted - 02/07/2007:  17:38:34


I am very new to the music world and this is my first attempt to play anything other than the radio, which i have trouble with sometimes. I have only been trying to play banjo since Christmas. The book i am using shows to use your thumb to pick the third string, index for 2nd and middle for first. I have found a teacher and last night i had my first lesson. The first thing he told me was to use my index finger to pick the third string. Now i am more confused than ever. When i first started it seemed natural to do it like that. It took me about 2 days to make myself use my thumb. Can somebody please explain this to a dumb country boy.

BE KINDER THAN YOU HAVE TO BE, EVERYONE IS FIGHTING SOME KIND OF BATTLE IN THERE OWN WAY. GOD BLESS

Banjoman - Posted - 02/07/2007:  17:40:33


The rules to which string to be picked with what finger is a rule to be broken.

Hugh
Playing since 1964

"If the banjo was any good, The Beatles would have used it."- Bill McEuen


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NINJO - Posted - 02/07/2007:  17:55:59


I would recommend Tony Trischka's Practice DVD. He will show you great exercises so that you will be able to play all of the strings with any finger. This is important when you develop your playing into improvisation and single string or melodic playing.

The best picker is the one having the most fun.

beegee - Posted - 02/07/2007:  18:15:52


The only string I don't use my index finger on is the 5th.

_________________________________________
A broken clock is right twice a day....

Grifton NC

Banjoman - Posted - 02/07/2007:  18:43:39


Sometimes I'll use the index or the 5th...When I brush up.

Hugh
Playing since 1964

"If the banjo was any good, The Beatles would have used it."- Bill McEuen


Click Here: Banjo Hangout Rules & Guidelines.

Click Here: Bobby Thompson's Home Page

snakeherd - Posted - 02/07/2007:  18:57:05


What finger do I use?
Depends on how frustrated I am at the time.


Scott

davidcava - Posted - 02/07/2007:  19:51:16


I totally agree with Banjoman and NINJO....a note is a note......it will all come together in time and practice and understanding with any finger of either hand.

highonblugrass - Posted - 02/07/2007:  20:03:28


i think it all comes with what feels the best to you. i also think it has alot to do with what roll you are doin. i like to use my thumb on the fith and forth index on third and second and middle on the second and first this also depends on the roll. everyone has there own style of pickin so just do what feels right

Danielg - Posted - 02/07/2007:  20:39:42


Single string rolls will cure you of what finger picks what string.

Ralph Stanley does a lot of first finger on 4th string.
There's one Scruggs song that has 17 first strings in a row, if you can figure out how to do that with only your middle finger, please tell me how.
Get Ross Nickerson's Banjo Encyclopedia, it shows a LOT of different roll patterns.

Danielg - Posted - 02/07/2007:  20:40:48


Oh, look around for "the tag lick" and you'll use your thumb and your index on the 3d string depending on what the notes before and after are.

banjoelvis - Posted - 02/07/2007:  21:57:50


It's funny that you should mention this as I just had this same discussion today with my banjo instructor at my weekly lesson. Last week we were going over one of the songs I am learning ( I think it was the "Ballad of Jed Clampett") and he was telling me that I am supposed to use my middle finger for the third string so I went home and tried all week to get into the habit of using that finger for that string. So I go over there today and I'm playing "Goodnight Ladies" from a tab that he gave me on my way out the door last week that incorporates a square roll versus the forward-reverse roll songs that I'm used to. He then tells me that I should be using my thumb for the third string. I said "wait a minute, last week you told me to use my middle finger for the third string so which is it"? He said that it's a good practice that when you hit the first note of any roll that you should lead with the thumb on that note only. I hope this makes sense. It did for me once I tried it on my banjo. Good Luck!!!

Gibby - Posted - 02/07/2007:  21:58:23


I know it is very confusing at first, especially if this is your first try at a instrument. Like the others said you will come to understand in time. Let me give you a couple of simple examples, on a 531 roll you would pick the third string with the index finger, on a 321 roll you would pick the third string with the thumb. I'm still fairly green when it comes to picking and most of these people on here can run cirles round me but I have learn to use my thumb on all five strings, my index on strings 4,3,2 and my middle on 2 and 1. You will learn too in time, just don't get to impatient. Good Luck

Gibby

plharrison - Posted - 02/07/2007:  22:52:48


Jondeere,
All that has been said is true, but may be confusing to you if you are new to banjo. Some of what has been said can be considered a bit more advanced. But I think as a beginner, for the most part, you will use your thumb on the 5th, 4th, and 3rd. Your index on the 3rd and 2nd. And your middle mostly just the 1st. Now don't anyone jump on me, I know there are exceptions, but a beginner will do fine with this approach I think. Just my humble opinion.
Paul

SJL - Posted - 02/07/2007:  23:38:14


Jon Deere,

You have been playing for a month. As you develop you will find that you will use your thumb on all strings, you index on 1, 2 and 3, maybe even four. This was your first lesson, your teacher has a plan to get you started, right now it includes your index finger playing the third. He or she will incorporate new rolls as you progress. Trust your teacher.

"If the woman is alive at the end of the song, it ain't Bluegrass".

bradfordknights - Posted - 02/08/2007:  01:24:13


if you call your first finger 1, your middle finger 2, and your thumb 3, then 3 gets 5, 4, and 3 most often, 2 sometimes and 1 rarely, 2 gets 1 mostly, 2 gets 2 sometimes and then 2 gets 3, 4 and 5 rarely, 1 gets 2, 3, 1, 4 and 5 in decreasing order of regularity. is this 1 2 confusing?

www.bradfordknights.com

AD3AD3AD3 - Posted - 02/08/2007:  08:13:50


The general rule about which finger must pluck which string is, indeed, one to be broken but it's important to know, or at least to be conversant with, the rule(s) before breaking. Using the middle finger on the 1st string and the thumb on the 5th string is a no-brainer. Similarly, the index finger lends itself to the 2nd string and the thumb naturally gets the 4th String in addition to the 5th string. The 3rd string gets attention from both the index and the thumb, depending on what's coming immediately before and/or immediately after. This is the basic idea ('the Rule', if you will.) Everything else (and there's plenty) is a variation. The bottom line is to do whatever works best for you - this ain't classical piano.

Ad3

tombro - Posted - 02/08/2007:  08:19:22


What they said. It sometimes comes down to "economy of motion", and breaking rules to get the notes out on time with whatever finger is available and most economical.

On a banjo mission...!

JONDEERE - Posted - 02/08/2007:  08:36:54


Thanks to all once again for some great advice. SJL I had another guy here at work ask me if my teacher could play. When i told him yes then he said dont dought his methods if he can play and you cant. There is a lot of truth in that if you think about it. I guess i was just looking for a set in stone method. The more i learn about the banjo the more it seems that there is nothing set in stone but just to injoy playing.

BE KINDER THAN YOU HAVE TO BE, EVERYONE IS FIGHTING SOME KIND OF BATTLE IN THERE OWN WAY. GOD BLESS

SJL - Posted - 02/08/2007:  08:46:16


JONDEERE,

I wish that I had a teacher available when I started. Lately I have been working on correcting bad habits that I developed by working from videos and books. I had a lesson the other night, the first one that I have had in a few years. I got more out of that hour than a I did from years of doing it on my own.

Stick with your teacher. Let them guide you. A good one wiil know exactly what to show you next.



"If the woman is alive at the end of the song, it ain't Bluegrass".

n8lhg - Posted - 02/08/2007:  10:17:32


I agree with Beegee,

The only string I don't use my index finger on is the 5th.

JONDEERE - Posted - 02/08/2007:  13:36:19


Danielg what so you mean by single string rolls. and do you have any idea where i can find the tag lick you mentioned

BE KINDER THAN YOU HAVE TO BE, EVERYONE IS FIGHTING SOME KIND OF BATTLE IN THERE OWN WAY. GOD BLESS

SJL - Posted - 02/08/2007:  14:34:13


JONDEERE,

There is a tag lick here, the first example.

http://www.ezfolk.com/bgbanjo/level...fill-in.html

Don't worry about single string rolls yet. There is a lifetime of learning in them thar five strings. Your teacher will get you there.



"If the woman is alive at the end of the song, it ain't Bluegrass".

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