Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

523
Banjo Lovers Online


Oct 24, 2020 - 6:22:04 AM
12 posts since 9/30/2020

The banjo is new to me. I have a rather large one with a 12" banjo body (what do you call that part?) And I'm a somewhat small person at 5'3" on a good day. Where does one put the banjo? In between your legs? One one or the other leg? And how do you position it so you don't get shoulder pain in your right shoulder?

In case it makes a difference, my banjo is a Gold Tone Octajo, an octave mandolin/banjo mashup, not really a banjo but the same size and shape as a banjo.

Oct 24, 2020 - 6:41:27 AM

Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

25110 posts since 8/3/2003

I'm a small lady, 5'1" and play a 12# Stelling. I use a strap to help hold up the neck of the banjo so my arms/hands/fingers are free to fret and pick. My banjo sits on my thighs. The banjo should be at an angle where you aren't straining to reach the strings.

Since you're a beginner, you're probably tense trying to do everything you need to do. Try to relax (not easy to do while learning something new), and see if that doesn't help.

If you're not using a strap, get one, use it when sitting as it will hold the neck steady while you learn to fret and pick.

You may have to try several different angles for the banjo neck to find what's most comfortable for you. For me, I hold mine at about a 45% angle, some people hold it at a 90% angle. A lot depends on your height and the length of your arms.

And to answer your question, the round part is called the pot

Oct 24, 2020 - 10:44:15 AM

8148 posts since 3/17/2005

Clawhammer players tend to hold the banjo differently from finger pickers. Which are you doing?

Oct 24, 2020 - 11:05:01 AM
likes this

55994 posts since 12/14/2005

Welcome to the HangOut.
No matter what the problem, you now have over 120 THOUSAND Spare Brains to help think up solutions.

 

WILD guess on my part:

With a banjo THAT large,  do it like Mary Z. Cox does.

(Also look at some of her youtube videos. She's VERY good at this stuff.)

Oct 24, 2020 - 11:05:56 AM

Alex Z

USA

3980 posts since 12/7/2006

Are you getting shoulder pain in your right shoulder?

If so, how are you holding the banjo when that happens?

Oct 24, 2020 - 12:10:31 PM
likes this

4622 posts since 2/24/2004

quote:
Originally posted by mike gregory

Welcome to the HangOut.
No matter what the problem, you now have over 120 THOUSAND Spare Brains to help think up solutions.

 

WILD guess on my part:

With a banjo THAT large,  do it like Mary Z. Cox does.

(Also look at some of her youtube videos. She's VERY good at this stuff.)


Hi :) Haha--this video is from the last decade . These days I mostly stand & play --here is a vid from this spring playing my 14" head cello banjo . But if you have a Stelling with a resonator--it's gonna be heavier than my cello --but I have played heavy banjos & here are are my tips . Get a really wide strap with cushioning to cushion your shoulder & I like the head to be over my tummy so no one can see if I've been eating ice cream :) Also either do yoga or full body workouts to strengthen your upper body & aerobic exercise too because it takes a lot of stamina & strength to play the banjo for any length of time .  Also--I'd stretch & rest a few minutes after 45 minutes of play--have some water too .  If you are just playing around the house--just walk around while playing it so you don't get stiff :)

https://youtu.be/G2iEmcXx7dE

www.maryzcox.com

Oct 24, 2020 - 4:37:29 PM

carlb

USA

2166 posts since 12/16/2007

I use my right thigh.

Oct 24, 2020 - 5:11:07 PM

12 posts since 9/30/2020

I've mostly held it like that picture, but because it's really more like a tenor banjo and I'm playing it like one, I'm picking lots of notes pretty fast, so I've been planting the bottom of my hand behind the bridge so that my wrist and hand is in line with the strings. Like a mandolin. This seems to cause me to feel like I'm reaching around it too much and putting my right shoulder in a strange position.

I've tried maybe putting it on my right thigh or hip instead or turning it so the neck is facing out forward from my body more. Today I tried loosening the strap and then rotating the whole thing on its long axis so that the face of it is pointing 45 degrees or so toward the sky. Maybe that's the answer. But the pain in my shoulder is still here and until it goes away I won't really know what works for sure.

I'm a newbie with such a large and heavy instrument. I've played mandolin and fiddle for a long time.

Oct 24, 2020 - 5:40:44 PM

Alex Z

USA

3980 posts since 12/7/2006

I think that if you're holding the banjo low, on your lap, but trying to play it like a mandolin with your forearm in line with the strings, the banjo is much too low.  Let the arm fall naturally.

Here is Barney McKenna, on tenor banjo, "The Maid Behind the Bar,"  Start 2:30:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LM-IAlcq0uM&list=RDLM-IAlcq0uM&start_radio=1

Here is Enda Scahill, "The Black Frog":  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGKwb88J3Vs

Arm is relaxed from the shoulder down.  No reaching down or bending over.

Different look between the two players, but same principles of position and relaxation.

Hope this helps.

Oct 24, 2020 - 8:20:07 PM
likes this

Alex Z

USA

3980 posts since 12/7/2006

Now, the picture of Ms. MaryZ also shows the same principles of efficient position and relaxation.  Since the playing style is different, the position is a little different.  Playing with fingers instead of flatpick, and thumb hitting 5th string -- so the forearm is higher (about 8 o'clock) and the hand is higher toward the top of the pot. 

And note the banjo is a little lower in relation to the elbow, compared to the tenor players.  If the banjo were held as high as Barney McK's, but frailing, the arm would be raised up to awkward position to get the hand on the top side of the strings, and the wrist then bent down to strike the strings.

Yet the shoulders are relaxed -- no reaching over or hunched up -- and the hand falls naturally on the strings.  In the frailing style the arm and hand have to move freely from the elbow on down, and so the shoulder and arm have to be positioned to allow that to happen.  Picture perfect frailing position.

Edited by - Alex Z on 10/24/2020 20:27:17

Oct 25, 2020 - 5:58:56 AM

12 posts since 9/30/2020

It looks like Barney McKenna is sort of leaning back a bit and his belly tilts the banjo a bit toward the sky. His banjo is a lot smaller than mine. Someday I hope to have a real tenor banjo, but they are so expensive!

Enda Scahill seems to strike the strings at an angle. I wonder if I can do that.

I think the body of my banjo is a lot bigger than both of those. 12" is pretty big. It's also super long so I tuned it down to E and put a capo on 3. I even replaced the G string so that tuned down with a capo it wouldn't be so floppy. I really can't hold my left arm up so high without the capo. It's a really big banjo.

Oct 25, 2020 - 8:43:52 AM

Alex Z

USA

3980 posts since 12/7/2006

Would it be possible to measure the length of the banjo scale, from the nut to the bridge?  Might give a better sense of what you're dealing with.

An open-back banjo of 12" is larger than the standard "pot" of 11" -- but the resonators in the youtube pictures extend the 11" dimension to about 13-1/2".

Finally, consider that, of the three example players, it is not the exact position that is duplicated -- each person is a different size and shape and develops their own comfortable posture.  Rather, it's the principles of efficient, unforced position and relaxed muscles that each of the three players end up in.  Might take some experimentation.

For a taller person, a good position is easier to achieve, because there is more total room to work with and adjust within.   For a shorter person, not as much, because the distance from lap to shoulder joint (when sitting) is much smaller compared to the diameter of the banjo, whether that be 11" or 12"  of 13-1/2" .   A small person with a large guitar often can't get into a typical position with the elbow over the large lower bout, but rather has to come more over the waist of the guitar, and ends up playing a little farther from the bridge.  Classical guitarists get into a good position for relaxed playing, and it might be worth taking a look at how they do it, and adapt some ideas to banjo.

You'll get there.

Oct 25, 2020 - 12:30:02 PM

12 posts since 9/30/2020

I believe the specs off the Gold Tone website are 22 and 7/8" scale length. I took the resonator off. The specs say the resonator is 14". goldtonemusicgroup.com/goldton...ts/octajo With a capo on 3 it's much easier to play.

I know what it's like with a big guitar. My boyfriend has a 12 string guitar. That thing is enormous. Strumming a thing is a lot easier than picking a thing. I need my hand to rest against something so I have enough control.

I tried striking the strings at an angle. It works. It will take some practice. I won't always have a way to sit that lets me lean back enough to tilt the banjo upwards.

Oct 25, 2020 - 1:06:40 PM

Alex Z

USA

3980 posts since 12/7/2006

I see what you mean now.  This instrument is about 9" longer than a mandolin.  It's about the same length as a tenor banjo.

So it would seem that the approach has to be like a tenor banjo, rather than a mandolin.  If the only way to hit the 1st fret is to capo up three frets, then that seems to be the mandolin approach, where the instrument is held more on the left side and the fretboard is extended out further.  So you're seeing now that things can change from mandolin and still work.

Here is Buddy Wachter, one of the world's greatest tenor banjo players.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9uhBhxEa50

Note that the banjo is more on the right side of center, and the neck is tilted up to provide (for him) a more comfortable and effective hand position for fretting.   I think Mr. Buddy's position here can give some good insights into what can work for you -- at least a good starting point, and then you adapt to your personal preferences.

Same principles, though.  Right arm and hand relaxed, as if they fall naturally onto the instrument.  Banjo positioned so that both left and right hands can naturally get to where they want to be.

Once the right arm can get into a relaxed position and still get the hand in position to pick, the shoulder muscles and neck muscles will relax, and eventually the pain will go away (unless there has been some underlying injury, or joint/muscle lack of flexibility).

Edited by - Alex Z on 10/25/2020 13:11:52

Oct 25, 2020 - 6:26:35 PM

12 posts since 9/30/2020

Geez that guy has huge hands. Look at that finger spread! Also, I am not sure how to maintain precision with my picking hand picking so far up toward the finger board. I've never been one to plant a pinky finger or anything like that. I usually don't touch the top of the instrument with my right hand at all.

Oct 26, 2020 - 12:28:16 PM

4622 posts since 2/24/2004

Diane--did not know you were essentially trying tenor with a flat pick. I'm in the mountains right now--but I do have a 12 inch Goldtone Irish tenor that I play sitting down at home & I think the positioning is much like is shown in the pix someone put up earlier . I was just experimenting during the stay at home--so I signed up for 6 months of online lessons with the online academy of Irish music & one thing that might be causing your shoulder pain is if you are anchoring your right hand in any way or holding ur pick wrong . In the lessons--your right hand & arm are not touching the head or banjo at all --so your free to move in an up/ down motion .  I've only learned a few tunes so far--but I'm not having any pain anywhere :)

Best banjo wishes,

Mary Z Cox

www.maryzcox.com

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.15625