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May 22, 2019 - 12:09:09 PM
19 posts since 9/2/2018

I have been practicing rolls and it's going great but when it comes to my left hand doing the frets it very hard which I knew this before trying the banjo but seems like my fingers are little fat. Any good way to practice just for freting. I know I'm not making any since sorry just new to this.

May 22, 2019 - 12:30:36 PM
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Players Union Member



103 posts since 6/10/2017

Hey Jeff, you make sense to me. I think most everyone who starts learning a stringed instrument struggles a bit. For starters you might check out some of these YouTube videos.  . A good teacher to get you started is probably your best bet though. 

May 22, 2019 - 12:58:44 PM

1768 posts since 5/2/2012

Like Steve said, probably something all beginners learning to play a stringed instrument struggle with. One of the things that helped me in the beginning was just forming a chord shape over and over again - form the chord, press lightly on the frets, relax and bring your hand up ever so slightly off the fretboard, repeat. I might do this several times in a practice session. I would also practice transitioning from one chord to another in much the same way. Then I might add something really really simple with the picking hand, like a pinching the first/bottom 3 strings when I pressed down on the frets. Getting those hands working together at the same time. For me, to make rolls and fretting work together I need to play that roll so many times I don't have to think about it. I mean like 5% attention to the roll and 95% to what the fretting hand is doing. Even now, when a new picking pattern comes up I practice it over and over (without fretting) until it becomes more or less automatic as part of my practice routine. I was doing that just today, spending a good 5 minutes practicing a couple of 2 measure picking patterns (they weren't new, but I hadn't played them for awhile), with open strings, before adding the fretting part.

May 22, 2019 - 1:47:27 PM
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Texasbanjo (Moderator)


22808 posts since 8/3/2003
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Part of your problem might be your hand position. Most beginners tend to try to strangle the neck and that doesn't work. Try this: put the fleshy part of your thumb on the back of the neck and arch your wrist over the fretboard (limp wrist type arch). This should put your fingers in good position to make chords. Be sure your fingernails are short, use the tips of your fingers and fret as close to the fret as you can. Put only enough pressure on the string to make a clean, clear tone.

Don't try for speed, try for tone, technique and timing. Go as slow as you need to to get your strings fretted and your string picked. It will be easier with time and experience.

It does take practice, practice, practice before you feel comfortable with making chords, but it can be done. Keep trying, I know you can do this!

May 22, 2019 - 3:27:48 PM

19 posts since 9/2/2018

Thank you everyone for your help means alot

May 22, 2019 - 3:49:31 PM
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40586 posts since 10/5/2013

I would also recommend finger and hand stretches. They’ve helped my old knuckles a lot.

Edited by - chuckv97 on 05/22/2019 15:55:06

May 23, 2019 - 3:05:51 AM

3051 posts since 12/6/2009
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Everything new has to be learned. If fingers never did something before ,they have to be taught how….some find this hard to believe but even to use a hammer properly needs to be taught… father taught me guitar at 11 years old. A song in C chord on guitar…for little fingers was a nightmare to make an F chord that sounded like an F chord…….and that G7 ….I struggled day after day but I loved the music so much I stuck with it. Good luck….keep trying…practice practice and that day when things fall into place is a gift from heaven…..honest

May 23, 2019 - 5:41:57 AM
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147 posts since 9/21/2018

Quality advice above, I'll try not to just repeat everyone else, but I probably will. I'm still fairly new, and that was/ is my biggest challenge as well. Mileage is what will help, as long as you are doing the right things. Practice slow, stretch, consult an instructor, find exercises that emphasize chord structures. It gets easier all of the sudden.

Also, Keith Billik did a Picky Fingers Podcast episode not too long ago called Left Hand Boot Camp. All of it my not be helpful or possible immediately, but it's all good to have in your toolbox to utilize when appropriate.

May 25, 2019 - 12:58:27 PM

3107 posts since 7/12/2006

try light gauge strings if you aren't already doing so.

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