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When being a banjo player really, really sucks

Posted by Sid Langley on Monday, June 25, 2007

Just arrived home after a terrible commute in the rain to find my partner asleep over the Guardian Quick Crossword. This is 12.05 GMT, of course. What I really want to do is grab the new instrument and have a go. But in this neck of the woods (a small market town) silence reigns as much as the rain. I simply daren't do it. I'm self-conscious enough at the bottom of the communal garden where I live, watching the koi carp in the pond lift up their heads at every roll and every catch of the thumbpick 'handle' under my fifth string (what's the solution to that, anyone?).I'll have to get a mute. Meantime I let off steam playing my little electric travel guitar unplugged. Come on you lot just about to have your tea in the US of A ... this must be a common problem - what do I do about playing late at night ... which is when I get the urge bigtime.

7 comments on “When being a banjo player really, really sucks”

NMD Says:
Monday, June 25, 2007 @7:29:02 PM

I use a viola mute. They're easy to find and they fit the bridge nicely for length. I cut off the inside legs because its made for four strings instead of five, but just clamping the outsides of the bridge mutes the sound very well.  I also cut notches in the side legs of the mute, so I can make sure it connects very snugly.

I still catch my thumbpick from time time.  To remedy that, I try to attack the string with my thumb leading and the blade trailing.  I find that whenever I catch my thumbpick, I've generally been leading with the blade.

mainejohn Says:
Monday, June 25, 2007 @7:42:17 PM



A rolled-up sock between the head and the co-rod (or dowel stick) will quiet her down...easy if it's an open back, not-so-easy if you have to remove a resonator.

Joanchek Says:
Monday, June 25, 2007 @8:37:52 PM

The hand-towel jammed behind the rod works in my house!

PruchaLegend Says:
Tuesday, June 26, 2007 @2:16:48 AM

A couple of clip-on clothes pins clipped to the bridge will mute your banjo. You can also get banjo mutes although I don't know about the availability in the UK.

As for catching your thumb pick on the fifth string Dr. Banjo (Pete Wernick) had a solution for that in the last Banjo Newsletter. Boil some water. Hold a pair of needle nose pliers in the water to get the jaws hot. Then grip the very end of the thumb pick blade and turn it in. He says it won't bend very far but only a little is needed. Obviously, if you don't get enough the first time, just do it again. He says he can't remember the last time he caught a pick on the fifth string. I tried it and it works great. Another benefit from this is that it puts just a little catch on the end of the pick that presses into your thumb which keeps the pick from rotating on your thumb.

Hope this helps.

stanger Says:
Tuesday, June 26, 2007 @4:07:45 AM

Hi, Sid... If your tumbpick has a short blade or it's worn down, it's time to get another one. If it's new, you might want to try filing down the wrap with a nail file until it quits catching. I could never get the boiling water thing to work for me, but it's worth a try, too. Thumbpicks are really a personal thing. Since they aren't expensive, try out as many as you can find. Eventually, you'll find the one that really works for you. For me, a Golden Gate pearloid medium does the trick.

Shatfield Says:
Tuesday, June 26, 2007 @3:29:25 PM

Hi Sid,  I use a piece of dense foam from a shipping carton that i have cut down to fit under my strings in front of the bridge.   It keeps the tone but really quites it down.   My finger picks used to catch too and I used the Pete Wernick trick that PruchaLegend (above) mentioned.  Haven't caught a pick since!

scawa Says:
Wednesday, June 27, 2007 @11:49:46 AM

Have you looked at BanjoBoog's YouTube video on muting the banjo?

You might try that out.

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