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Apr 15, 2019 - 6:27:07 PM
9 posts since 3/13/2015

I bought some banjos a few years ago. On and off practice, but lately I have gotten serious about playing. My problem is my right hand. I have probably spent hours reading about planting fingers on the head, everyone has their idea. Here is my problem. I can plant both ring and pinky, but absolutely no speed and acts like my middle finger is fighting against my ring finger...however this seems the most stable on the head. If I plant just my ring finger, my speed is hindered and eventually my ring finger comes up against the 1st string. I keep having to move my hand down the head to stop my ring finger from deadening the 1st string and occasionally even the back side of my middle finger pick catches on the string when repositioning to strike it again. The most comfortable is just to plant my pinky finger, but if I don't tuck my ring finger in, it hinders my middle finger (like ties it up). after a short period, I can't keep my ring finger tucked up high enough in my palm with out it dropping down and my finger nail rubbing the top of the strings . I have to consciously think about tucking it tight into my palm. This is frustrating, if I can't get past the right hand , I an not sure in can play the banjo, but I am nowhere close to giving up yet. While everyone says, don't worry about which finger or fingers you plant, I am have issues with all three ways. Just hoping someone has ran into my problem and can help with some suggestions.

Edited by - banmark on 04/15/2019 18:34:21

Apr 15, 2019 - 6:43:18 PM
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7 posts since 4/8/2019

Mark, in spite of what you've read, you probably don't want to plant your ring finger on the head if this is slowing you down the least bit. The middle finger and ring finger basically share a tendon, and the ring finger suffers greatly from this enforced partnership. Likewise, I would recommend that you don't curl your ring finger either, since this introduces tension that will slow you down. To get around the problem of the ring finger getting in the way, try spreading your fingers apart just enough to avoid inadvertently hitting a string with the ring finger. Don't spread your fingers too far though, as this will introduce a different kind of tension and slow you down.

Apr 15, 2019 - 7:15:52 PM
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Alex Z

USA

3501 posts since 12/7/2006

I agree completely with the above analysis and advice from EulalieBlue

All the things that you've tried that didn't work all involve introducing a lot of tension in your right hand.

It's the opposite that works better -- relaxation.  Not floppy relaxation but more like "alert relaxation."  That will help get the ring finger out of the way.  In the natural hand position, the nail of your ring finger should end up facing away from the strings, not toward the strings.

Bill Keith said, in a workshop I attended, that the finger(s) touching the head should not be "anchored," but more like "caressing the head."

You'll get there.  smiley

Apr 15, 2019 - 7:57:41 PM
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107 posts since 1/28/2013
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Some players including professionals do not plant any fingers. I play with no fingers touching the head.

Apr 15, 2019 - 8:53:24 PM
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Blackjaxe47

Canada

1420 posts since 6/20/2014

I also just barely touch the head and my PINKY is really the only one that actually anchors but as Jan Dupree stated it's more or less a very light touch. My ring finger waggles all over the place, I completely ignore that fact. Most of the people I have played with including several other 1st class banjo pickers tell me I have a strong right hand and pick nice and clean. Find what works for you and keep at it, eventually it will become automatic, your not Earl Scruggs or J.D.Crowe. They had great foundation and developed their right hand to suit their picking and I have yet to see anyone replicate J.D.Crowe's right hand. Find yours.....do not give up. It takes time.

Apr 16, 2019 - 5:06:19 AM
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kjcole

USA

1149 posts since 4/21/2003

Resting one finger will not prevent you from acquiring a monster right hand - focused and effortful practice will get you there. Resting two fingers will not prevent you from acquiring a monster right hand - focused and effortful practice will get you there. However, if you choose to rest two fingers it can take quite some time to acquire independent control of the ring and middle finger. You may feel clumsy and slow for a few months or more, but that will resolve with practice. This is because the lion's share of the enslaving between the ring and middle is not due to mechanical reasons like shared tendons. The enslaving is more the result of partially shared muscle bellies in the forearm than from the little shared tendon slips that one of the extensor muscles gives off. It takes more than a little practice for the nervous system to learn how to send properly coordinated independent commands to the many muscles that serve the ring and middle fingers.

Apr 16, 2019 - 5:41:39 AM
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beegee

USA

21198 posts since 7/6/2005

Most of the time when I see this problem it is because the hand is too flat. To get the most effective angle of attack on the strings, the wrist must be arched. To what degree is debatable. J.D.Crowe's wrist position would be a little extreme for most folks. I would suggest that you examine your forearm and wrist position. I have raised the armrests on my banjos so they are as high above the tension hoop as possible to help elevate my hand and wrist. I plant my ring finger and pinky sometimes and other times I plant only the ring finger. I have heard of some people taping their two fingers together but , eh....

Edited by - beegee on 04/16/2019 05:42:15

Apr 16, 2019 - 5:43:12 AM
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147 posts since 9/21/2018

I won't add to finger planting suggestions, everything said above is valid. I'm a pinky planter, can NOT get the ring finger down.

I will recommend something else that can have an effect on this though. Have you tried adjusting your wrist angle and/or the angle you hold your banjo? Both change the way your fingers attack the strings and can if it's wrong, or off (may be a better term), you can have right hand issues.

Keep at it, it will pay off. Maybe go sit down with a good instructor just once to get some suggestions from someone observing the issue first hand.

Apr 16, 2019 - 5:49:07 AM
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chuckv97

Canada

40413 posts since 10/5/2013
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I would SLOW everything down to a crawl for a while to focus on desired finger movements. It sounds like you want speed before putting in the grunt work.... a mistake I and many others have made. Good luck,, keep on working at it.

Apr 16, 2019 - 12:43:15 PM

3410 posts since 5/6/2004

quote:
Originally posted by chuckv97

I would SLOW everything down to a crawl for a while to focus on desired finger movements. It sounds like you want speed before putting in the grunt work.... a mistake I and many others have made. Good luck,, keep on working at it.


That's not how I read Mark's original post.  Yes, he mentions "my speed," but I don't think speed is the central issue.  It's comfort.  It's how to reduce the tension in his picking fingers and increase their range of motion.  Trying to plant your ring finger when doing so restricts your middle finger and adds tension to your right hand is not the way to go.  Slowing everything down to a crawl for a while won't fix that problem.  Planting only your pinkie will. 

Apr 16, 2019 - 1:46:32 PM

chuckv97

Canada

40413 posts since 10/5/2013
Online Now

wadr,, Rich. Playing slowly with the correct finger movements ingrains it into your muscle/mind memory. If a person keeps trying to play too quickly with wrong finger placements, either with the picking fingers or the planting or “mid air” fingers, that person is just practicing mistakes. I have no problem with planting either one or two fingers, or even no planting if that works for. The OP says he has just lately gotten serious about learning banjo, which leads me to believe he wants speed too soon.

(I would also add, as is my custom :-), to advise stretching your arms, hands and fingers before playing,,,it eliminates tension)

Edited by - chuckv97 on 04/16/2019 13:48:26

Apr 16, 2019 - 2:55:59 PM
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1937 posts since 4/5/2006

This has been discussed in great detail, look up "muscle tension" in this forum.  But the long & short of it is, it tough for everyone in the beginning. There have been various methods developed over the years to help in learning how to position the right hand. Keep in mind you are asking your hand & fingers to do something they've never before had to do.  All the signals from the brain on down thru the body to the fingers, have never been asked to do these things. They have to be taught. Perplexing as it is, it can happen. Positive thinking is the key. Don't give up. Persistence will pay off as the muscles learn to relax & the signals establish the right path. Maybe put your banjo in D tuning & practice Ruebin's Train over & over. It worked for Earl, why not for you? Relax, get away from the "anchor" thought & think more of just resting the finger tips on the head as a reference point. (Really that's what it's all about, just a refeference to gage how high off the head the strings are) If the tip of the ring finger want's to move a little bit, Don't worry too much about it. Eventually the hand will learn to relax & the ring finger will not move as much, or none at all. Pick softly, don't worry volume & don't worry about speed. Speed will come all by itself when the time is rIght. Volume is what mics are for. LOL

Apr 16, 2019 - 3:06:18 PM

746 posts since 6/3/2013

Apr 16, 2019 - 6:02:58 PM
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banmark

USA

9 posts since 3/13/2015

Thank you to everyone who has weighed in on this.

Apr 17, 2019 - 2:11:13 PM
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1762 posts since 5/2/2012

This has been an interesting read. Got to thinking that the first resonator banjo I bought (a used Fender 54) had a frosted head and I made a short lived attempt at learning some rolls (that banjo is long gone).  I couldn't stand the scratching sound my "anchor fingers" made on the head as I played. Fast forward some years and a few years into my Scruggs journey I was playing my banjo with the frosted head today and realized that my one "anchor finger" was touching the head so lightly that it made no noise on the head as I moved my picking hand. So not so much as an anchor as a reference point, as JD suggested.

Edited by - thisoldman on 04/17/2019 14:12:31

Apr 17, 2019 - 4:44:02 PM
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1937 posts since 4/5/2006

And keep the nails trimmed really short on those two fingers. Saves the frosting on those new heads. :-)

Apr 19, 2019 - 2:04:04 PM

Bart Veerman

Canada

4372 posts since 1/5/2005

It could easily be a playability issue because of the way your banjo is setup: many people use bridges that are too tall for their fingers...

Apr 21, 2019 - 4:26:37 AM

3038 posts since 12/6/2009

Apr 28, 2019 - 3:27:20 PM

309 posts since 10/2/2017

I can only plant my pinky. It's quite common to only be able to plant one finger. I also suffer from a flying middle finger, which I'm currently trying to correct as it's wasted energy.

Apr 29, 2019 - 8:44:37 AM
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1937 posts since 4/5/2006

When melodic style playing came into vogue, I couldn't pick the second string with the middle finger. I made excuses & substituted other notes to get around using the middle finger on the second string.

My good friend Paul Hawthtorne would have none of that. Although he too found it difficult to pick the second string with the middle finger, he was never one to admit defeat. Rather than tell anyone he could not do that, he would say he was having difficulty with it, but he was working on  it. Persistence paid off for Paul & he finally mastered the technique. Paul had a positive attitude about everything he did.

I have come to the conclusion that a lot of us, myself included, just don't want to put in the time. It's not slow down & learn to do this or that. It's put everything else on hold until you get it right! But stop & think about it. If it is gong to plague progress, wouldn't it be worth investing the time rather than skirt the issue & move on? When it comes right down to it, it's a matter of priorities.

I got by all these years without learning to pick the second string with the middle finger. I got by with a lot of things by skirting the issues. No more. I am no longer under pressure to do anything. When I practice it is more than loosen up the hands & try to remember how to play all the stuff I used to play, it is what can I learn that will help me play better. I have to retrain my right hand to relax & keep both fingers down, the exception being that inside roll. That inside roll opens doors. Again, many good banjo players only keep one finger down. But if that one finger is the ringer, & you have to lift it off the head to do an inside roll, you've lost your reference point! Priorities. Many things become possible with persistence & a positive can do attitude.

I dunno, maybe that's a carry over form my days as an engineer having to analyze problems, break them down & attack one segment at a time, in order to solve the whole. But that's my story, & I'm sticking to it. cheeky       

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