So I bought a strap (which I suspect is actually a laptop case strap, but fits onto the tension hooks anyway) and I now can play standing. Is playing while standing good for improving overall playing, or does it just mean you can play while standing?
I was about to write that standing is best, but then I thought of Barney Mc.Kenna - never saw him stand to play. Standing gives you acoustic projection and freedom to move, which may or may not matter to you. It doesn't make you play better or worse. It really depends on what your playing partners are doing. Best get used to both sitting and standing: it's no trouble really.
Typically, it takes a while to adjust to picking while standing. It is probably best to practice while standing to avoide the problem altogether. But the reality is that most of us spend a lot of time just sittin' and pickin.' You can adjust your strap and playing position so that your arms/hands/fingers attack the instrument from the same angles either while you are sitting or standing. This will minimize your difficulty.
Funny thing is, it wasn't too hard to adjust to playing standing up. It's still unnatural to play a guitar standing (after 2 years!) But the banjo felt more natural. I think it's the weight of the resonator that makes it feel more solid and controllable.
Yup. The heft of the banjo is a plus as gravity can actually be your friend. If you're going to play standing, then practice while standing. Once you have a tune down pat while standing, it's even easier when you sit. The hardest part for me was that when sitting I woulld tilt the banjo a bit toward me and could see the fingerboard. When standing I had to use the dots on the binding as my only reference.
Oh, and BTW, a really good strap to take the pain away is a great investment. I like the Neo-tech straps as they make the banjo feel half the weight! I'm sure there are other popular straps that will do a great job also.
I remember back in the '70s, a really fine traditional-style player up this way by the name of Denis Lepage told me he had three rules for playing the banjo. I suspect these were half tongue-in-cheek, but I've since learned that there was at least a grain of wisdom in them; 1) never play without your picks, 2) never play a chord, and 3) never play sitting down.