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Nov 8, 2019 - 3:22:22 PM
4 posts since 11/8/2019

Howdy. Beginner here. Been playing only a month and a half and I'm trying to overcome a bad habit I can't seem to correct. As my status says, my index finger is a jerk. When forming the D7 it muffles the 1st string and when forming the C it slowly slides down the neck as I place my middle and ring finger on the strings.

I've tried numerous things to correct it from slowly placing one finger on each string to, as my instructor told me, " think of the banjo as an extension of your being".

I practice watching the Deering Clawhammer video daily, and just can't progress due to my index finger issue.

Any advice is welcome.

Nov 8, 2019 - 3:45:43 PM
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465 posts since 3/9/2013

Someone might have a sure fire thing that works. But in my experience these things that come up as a problem work themselves out by just playing. It’s funny that something that drove me crazy I find all of a sudden I’m not even thinking about it again. Time playing cures a lot. It’s basically muscle memory that you have to build.

Nov 8, 2019 - 6:37:05 PM
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3702 posts since 10/13/2005

And you don't build muscle memory ( most of us anyway ) in a month and a half. Get back to us after you've practiced those chords a few thousand times . banjerd

Nov 9, 2019 - 4:40 AM
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Texasbanjo (Moderator)


23392 posts since 8/3/2003

How are you holding your hand on the banjo? If you're giving it a death grip trying to get clear, clean notes/chords, that may be the problem. Try this: put the fleshy part of your thumb on the back of the neck and arch your hand over the fretboard. Using only the tips of your fingers, make your chord and be sure that you are as close to the fret as possible without touching it. Fingernails should be short and not touch the strings. Now, make your chord. That should take care of the thunks and clunks.

As far as your index finger sliding, try placing the middle finger first, then the index and see if that helps.

And, to paraphrase what was said above: practice, practice, practice will help alleviate the problem.

Nov 9, 2019 - 6:03:17 AM

9053 posts since 2/22/2007
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I'm both agreeing with Sherry and adding to it. I can't seem to keep my thumb on back of the neck, but even with a "fiddle grip"---holding neck with the web of the thumb---you can get your hands in position or fret with fingertips. Make sure that you do not have your left hand with the thumb too far around or up over the fifth string. You need a bid of an arch to get those fingertips in postion. Fretting with the pads of the finger is going to cause what you described, as is "mashing". Light pressure will do the job.

And with D7 you do mean index finger on second string, right? Try getting a clear sound across all strings using nothing but index finger on second string first fret. Don't add any other finger until you get that right. Then try adding the middle finger to third string second fret to complete the D7 and watch what your first finger is doing? It should not change. Don't press too hard. If you get that nice and clear, try keeping that first finger in postion and make a two-finger C by just adding ring finger to first string second fret. Again, that first finger should not shift position.
Get that down before attempting the full C chord with added middle finger on forth. I have small hands and stubby fingers. If I can do it so can you!

Edited by - banjo bill-e on 11/09/2019 06:04:15

Nov 9, 2019 - 7:10:59 AM

4 posts since 11/8/2019

Thanks for the replies. I'm well aware that at the stage I'm at I'm nowhere near developing muscle memory. I'm simply trying to rid myself of what I call bad habits.

As an older learner I realize I need more practice than say my teenage nephew who just started the guitar. I'm practicing a minimum an hour a night starting each practice watching the clawhammer video. Then I'll spend the next hour or so working on everything the video went over.

My instructor is insistent I keep moving forward but I'm hesitant since I I'm struggling with the C and D7. Thankfully I've had no issues with the D.

As far as my D7, I'm placing my index on the 2nd string first frett then my middle on 2nd frett third string. Once I do that my index is sliding down slightly away from the frett while at the same time muzzling the first string. I've suspected that as I've grown more and more frustrated I've gripped the banjo harder and harder. For that reason I've tried to do some breathing exercises to help me relax before playing. That has helped some.

I like the idea of leading with my middle finger rather than index. I'll give that a whirl as well as readjust my thumb position and put it on the back of the neck.

Thanks again.

Nov 9, 2019 - 7:17:05 AM

4 posts since 11/8/2019

Oh and Bill-e, I'm gonna spend the day working on my D7 with my index as you suggested and see if I can nail that clear sound before placing my middle down.

It's some weird, involuntary movement where, after my middle is down, my index just shifts. I can place my index in the correct position originally, it's keeping it there once other fingers are placed on the strings is the big issue. 

Edited by - BigDaddyFreddy on 11/09/2019 07:18:20

Nov 9, 2019 - 12:15:15 PM
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4 posts since 11/8/2019

TexasBanjo, I owe you a beer.

Practiced a little this morning by watching the Clawhammer video and this time forming the chords with my index being placed on the strings last rather than first. I'll be darned if that didn't solve all my issues. Seriously, it was one of thee most self rewarding practices I've had yet with zero frustration. I can't thank you enough good sir. I owe ya one.

Edited by - BigDaddyFreddy on 11/09/2019 12:24:57

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