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Total beginner- raw ringfinger from brushing

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Jan 22, 2020 - 3:06:32 AM


South Africa

3 posts since 1/21/2020

Hiya folks
I got a banjo this past December and am particularly interested in the clawhammer style. I've been following lots of video tutorials and am starting to get hang of the bumditty. But I must be doing something wrong because I am rubbing my ringfinger raw just above the nail on the brush down. Anyone have a solution to this? I'm a total beginner so any help would ve greatly appreciated.

Jan 22, 2020 - 3:51:16 AM



623 posts since 10/6/2017

I think that some visual aids might be helpful. Could you post a video of yourself playing maybe?

Jan 22, 2020 - 5:34:55 AM


South Africa

3 posts since 1/21/2020

Originally posted by hoodoo

I think that some visual aids might be helpful. Could you post a video of yourself playing maybe?

Hi unfortunately I don't have a decent enough internet connection to upload a video. Will try to do so at work tomorrow. Thanks so much 

Jan 22, 2020 - 5:43:36 AM

244 posts since 10/16/2011

You want to keep your hand in the open claw shape but don't have your fingers to close to touching your palm of hand . Fingers bent to much can give you the string rubing finger above nail problem and just try brushing with more of end of fingernail idea .

Jan 22, 2020 - 8:43:19 AM
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Players Union Member



9124 posts since 6/30/2015

Hi Brent, welcome to the forum and the wonderful addiction of banjos. Which finger do you strike the strings with, your index, or your middle? Your ring finger really should not be contacting the strings. Holding the claw shape is very important, your fingers should not flick out as you hit either the bum, or the brush. Try holding a credit card, or similar card, between the crease made by the upper finger joint and the crotch of the thumb. Do not drop the card as you play. Holding this position is really important, and is a common mistake that many beginners make. Your striking finger, either index or middle, should protrude just slightly more than the other fingers so when you come down on the strings that is the nail that hits, or brushes the strings. Also, your hand doesn't really go perpendicular, or straight across the strings, but sort of comes down on an angle onto the strings. When you hit the first string, you should also hit the head skin more often than not. When you hit any other string, your fingernail should come to rest on the next string. So when you strike the 4th your nail rests on the 3rd, strike the 3rd and it rests on the second.
There's a pretty good video by David Holt that shows this,

Here's another by Cathy Fink
Notice the wear pattern on the head of her banjo. You'll see how much contact both the thumb and the fingers have made over the years. That's where you want your banjo head to get dirty over time.

Good luck, and have fun.

Jan 22, 2020 - 11:34:54 PM


South Africa

3 posts since 1/21/2020

Thanks so much folks. I'm striking with my index finger. Going to give the credit card trick a go. Looking forward to it!

Jan 24, 2020 - 6:27:48 PM

4763 posts since 5/14/2007

I often brush with my ring finger (long boring story why I started doing that...). Sometimes, that's the sound I want.

Having the nail longer on that finger (as I do with the index and middle fingers) helps, along with extending the finger slightly when I use it to brush.

Jan 26, 2020 - 8:30:05 AM

8110 posts since 3/17/2005

In actual playing of tunes, you won't be doing a lot of brushing; certainly not on every "dit". So a good exercise is to play the bum ditty or better yet, bum pa dit ty, striking a single string rather than a brush.

Feb 2, 2020 - 3:44:39 PM

250 posts since 7/24/2011

BrentChukka, I often have that exact same problem- the tiny spot right above my middlefinger nail- it can be painful!
I've used a very simple solution for years: I keep a small dispenser of transparent Scotch Tape in my banjo case (I like the old fashioned shiny kind, not the "Magic" tape). Just a 1" piece wrapped over that spot will last me an hour or two and protects the skin there just enough. Simple to peel and toss after playing. You may want two layers, but I usually only need that if I'll be playing a whole lot.

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