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Jun 28, 2020 - 8:07:09 AM
Players Union Member



204 posts since 10/22/2017

So I have been playing with a tenor banjo with a pick for a little while. I also play 5 string and have gotten into the habit of anchoring my finger on the banjo as I play. Is this bad to do while playing the tenor with a pick ? Should I train my self out of this?

Jun 28, 2020 - 8:56:59 AM

7737 posts since 8/28/2013

There is far more wrist movement playing with a pick. I would think that anchoring a finger would restrict such movement. It will also tend to deaden the tone of a tenor.

Jun 28, 2020 - 9:12:25 AM
Players Union Member



204 posts since 10/22/2017

Okay thank. you G Edward Porgie You are probably right.

Jun 28, 2020 - 10:15 AM
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776 posts since 2/19/2012

Here is an interesting video comparing right hand technique posted a few years ago by Michael Keyes.  He seems to play with his pinky curled up and resting on the head, which, agreeing with George, isn't very helpful with wrist movement.  He's working his fingers a lot.  As you can see, there are some huge differences in technique.  I especially like the one with the pinky hooked around the bridge.  Here is another with Enda Scahill.  You can see examples of fingers dragging across the head, but none anchored bluegrass style.

Edited by - Parker135 on 06/28/2020 10:15:40

Jun 28, 2020 - 11:37:31 AM
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Alex Z


3950 posts since 12/7/2006

For flatpicking guitar and banjo, the hand needs to float.  No "anchoring" or "planting."

Now, some players curl the unused fingers under, and some extend the unused fingers which end up touching the top or head at some point.  But the picking motion is most all of the time a free motion, not a motion with a bracing on the little or ring finger like Scruggs style.  From experience, if you're used to Scruggs picking or fingerstyle guitar, it's not easy to get used to a free hand smiley, but it is possible with a little work.  

OK, OK.  The one player has his little finger curled on the bridge.  But still, it is not a bracing motion for the picking but more like a center for rotation.

Dan Crary and Molly Tuttle rest their wrists on the guitar bridge for single string work, but the fingers are still floating free.  And the hand is flexing up and down at the wrist, rotating from the bridge.

Anchoring or planting with a flat pick means the pick motion ends up almost all in the fingers, and that's a definite limitation on speed and tone.   You may feel more accurate that way at first, though.

Hope this helps.

Jun 28, 2020 - 3:17:49 PM

Tony O Rourke


34 posts since 2/9/2016

Here's a clip of Brona Graham from Antrim, one of Ireland's premier banjo players. Her hand is not resting on the head but sort of lightly brushing the surface. You can see it at about 0:48 into the clip:

Jun 28, 2020 - 8:33:16 PM
Players Union Member



204 posts since 10/22/2017

Thank you for the videos I certainly learned some things from them. I will get into the habit of not resting my pinky on the banjo. I am doing lessons with OAIM I think they will keep me busy for quite a while.

Jun 29, 2020 - 11:49:37 AM

56 posts since 12/5/2015

Learn the music on the 5, then you only have to carry one banjo.

There are a lot of jigs, reels, waltzes accessible to the 5 string banjo. I play irish, O'Carolan music on the 5 string picking my thumb down and index or middle up, this mimics the pick.

BUT If you want to learn the 4, float the hand. I have observed players do both posting a pinky and floating, the floating pickers always seemed to resonate more. **Warning there might be some bias there.** Really if it sounds good; if its comfortable; and you are happy, then do with your playing what you want.


Jun 29, 2020 - 4:59:04 PM



870 posts since 11/30/2015

The majority of the top teachers in Ireland and around the world will tell you to rest the heel of your palm lightly on the strings behind the bridge, cup the bridge with your hand, and pick about 1 to 2 inches in front of it. Do not rest a pinky as it creates stress within your hand and limits the movement. The movement should come from the wrist and be stress free. This is the best scenario for the muscles and joints.

But, there are All Ireland champs that blow that theory out of the water. It's is common to see the pinky rested on the head, there are some who have tons of movement with their fingers, some keep a tucked grip, some and open grip. Maybe search these names on YouTube Enda Scahill (free floating), Colm Naughton (pinky rest), Cillian Doheny (fingers move). Each player finds their way, there is a recommended way, but sometimes you just have to go with what works for you. I tried to keep my fingers tucked, but it was unnatural and felt stressed, so my grip is open, not what I was going for but it's the only way for me.

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