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Mar 2, 2021 - 1:56:52 PM

Bowser

USA

108 posts since 12/30/2020

All the material I've come acrossed says it's ideal to plant the pinky and/or ring relatively close to the bridge. I find that I'm playing maybe three or four inches in front of this. Somewhat close to the front of the head.

The strings are lower and it just feels much more comfortable. I keep trying and trying to play closer to the bridge and find that my hand just slowly keeps scooting itself forward to the same spot.

I believe my bridge is 5/8 so i dont think it gets any lower than this so there's probably no way to lower the strings anymore. I don't think id want to anyway as to not risk buzzing.

I know the tone is different depending on where you play. I'm not too worried about that. I just want to know if this is something that is really going to make a difference in the long run or to not worry about it and just play wherever i find comfortable.

Mar 2, 2021 - 2:08:22 PM
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Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

25735 posts since 8/3/2003

If you're a beginner, I wouldn't worry about it. Eventually, you may want to learn to keep your hand closer to the bridge when you're playing down the neck and then move it up toward the top of the pot for when you're playing up the neck. The sound is definitely different, at least it is on my banjos.

For now, if what you're doing works for you and is comfortable, then keep doing just that.

Mar 2, 2021 - 5:17:56 PM

499 posts since 10/4/2018

My current banjo plays very well when my planted fingers are about 1-1/2 inches from the bridge. I don't have to move it very much to get a nice tone and clear notes in the way-up-the-neck area. So I guess where you plant and how much towards the neck you move depends on your banjo and setup.

Mar 2, 2021 - 6:32:07 PM
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11666 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Texasbanjo

Eventually, you may want to learn to keep your hand closer to the bridge when you're playing down the neck and then move it up toward the top of the pot for when you're playing up the neck. The sound is definitely different, at least it is on my banjos.


What she said!

Except you WILL want to learn to do that. So spend some time every practice playing closer to the bridge. You'll become a more well rounded banjo player and more in control of the sound of your instrument.

Mar 2, 2021 - 7:35:56 PM

3308 posts since 9/12/2016

lighter strings seem to help this for me

Mar 3, 2021 - 4:09:38 AM
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Greg Denton

Canada

63 posts since 10/5/2014

If you anchor near the bridge you will have sharper attack, more treble, and more separation between notes - all factors that help with bluegrass playing: you cut through the sound of band better and get clear articulation at uptempo speeds - great for soloing.
If you anchor towards the neck you will subdue the treble, reduce the harmonic overtones, have a warmer and deeper tone - which may be more desirable if you're playing back-up, or if you're playing up the neck, or if you're playing alone at home.
There's a reason electric guitars have a pick-up located at the bridge, and another at the neck position. A lead guitar player will favour the bridge pick-up, a rhythm player will favour the neck pick-up.
Your anchor point on your banjo is like your tone control. So you will change it depending on the conditions you are playing in. The bridge location is generally considered "home" position for bluegrass players and moving toward the neck is common when playing up the neck - notice the comet shaped wear patterns on the head of bluegrass banjos.
If you pick a string over the 12th fret you are picking the middle of the string and produce the purest fundamental tone, with fewer harmonic overtones. As you move away from the centre of the string, it twists more as you pluck it, producing more harmonic overtones and changing the timbre of the note you pick. Like if your pushing someone on a swing but push sideways at the same time you push back and forth. That's the basic physics of it.

Mar 3, 2021 - 12:19:39 PM

3678 posts since 5/29/2011

Good points have been made so I won't repeat them. One thing I did many years ago was to Super Glue a tiny piece of flat toothpick(1/4" long) on the head at the spot where I wanted my pinky to rest. When my finger was behind the toothpick I was in the anchor position. When I moved closer to the neck to change the tone the toothpick was there to help me find the anchor spot when I moved back. It's kind of like the dent in the C button on an accordian, a place to home in on.
I hope that made sense.

Mar 4, 2021 - 5:07:18 AM

Bowser

USA

108 posts since 12/30/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Culloden

Good points have been made so I won't repeat them. One thing I did many years ago was to Super Glue a tiny piece of flat toothpick(1/4" long) on the head at the spot where I wanted my pinky to rest. When my finger was behind the toothpick I was in the anchor position. When I moved closer to the neck to change the tone the toothpick was there to help me find the anchor spot when I moved back. It's kind of like the dent in the C button on an accordian, a place to home in on.
I hope that made sense.


I like this idea a lot. I think this would actually help me a lot. Think I'm going to give this a try. 

Mar 4, 2021 - 5:07:56 AM

Bowser

USA

108 posts since 12/30/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Greg Denton

If you anchor near the bridge you will have sharper attack, more treble, and more separation between notes - all factors that help with bluegrass playing: you cut through the sound of band better and get clear articulation at uptempo speeds - great for soloing.
If you anchor towards the neck you will subdue the treble, reduce the harmonic overtones, have a warmer and deeper tone - which may be more desirable if you're playing back-up, or if you're playing up the neck, or if you're playing alone at home.
There's a reason electric guitars have a pick-up located at the bridge, and another at the neck position. A lead guitar player will favour the bridge pick-up, a rhythm player will favour the neck pick-up.
Your anchor point on your banjo is like your tone control. So you will change it depending on the conditions you are playing in. The bridge location is generally considered "home" position for bluegrass players and moving toward the neck is common when playing up the neck - notice the comet shaped wear patterns on the head of bluegrass banjos.
If you pick a string over the 12th fret you are picking the middle of the string and produce the purest fundamental tone, with fewer harmonic overtones. As you move away from the centre of the string, it twists more as you pluck it, producing more harmonic overtones and changing the timbre of the note you pick. Like if your pushing someone on a swing but push sideways at the same time you push back and forth. That's the basic physics of it.


This is great info. I'm definitely going to work on trying to get more control of it. 

Mar 4, 2021 - 7:08:09 AM
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3707 posts since 3/28/2008

I'll also point out that in general you may find faster tempos easier when picking closer to the bridge. The string has more and more give to it as you approach its midpoint (the 12th fret). Nearer the ends (bridge and nut) it snaps back more promptly. So the farther from the bridge you pick, the more the string stretches before it finally gives out its note.

Mar 4, 2021 - 11:30:07 AM
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Bowser

USA

108 posts since 12/30/2020

I'm glad i made this post because it got me to start working on playing closer to the bridge, and I'm happy that i am because there really is a big sound difference. I do like the way it sounds a lot better. There seems to be more volume and the notes are clearer.

I still have to keep pulling my hand back because I find it creeping forward pretty quickly. Before i was just letting it go and where it ended up is where i played. I do really like the sound though so I'm going to keep working on it. I'm sure I'm get used to it soon.

The one question i have is why would you want to play further away from the bridge when doing up the neck solo stuff? I think someone had mentioned that. I know I've seen guitar players do that but I'm just trying to understand why that's beneficial? Thanks!

Mar 6, 2021 - 9:32:55 AM

11666 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Bowser

The one question i have is why would you want to play further away from the bridge when doing up the neck solo stuff? I think someone had mentioned that. I know I've seen guitar players do that but I'm just trying to understand why that's beneficial?


Because some (most?) bluegrass banjos can sound downright awful -- shrill, nasal, piercing, honky -- picked at the bridge when fretted above the 17th fret.

I like the comment above that picking position is your tone control. Neck position picking is where the sweetness lives.

I recently subscribed to Noam Pikelny's school on Artistworks.com. He spends a lot of time picking away from the bridge, close to the neck.

For solo up-the-neck work, I might choose a mid-way position. Depends on what I want or need to hear at the moment. Am I playing at home for my own enjoyment or do I need to hear myself in a jam with no PA or monitor?

Glad to hear you're working on multiple picking positions. It's no problem if your hand wants to naturally move away from the bridge. It's finding its comfort zone.

Mar 6, 2021 - 10:33:26 AM
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Bowser

USA

108 posts since 12/30/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Old Hickory
quote:
Originally posted by Bowser

The one question i have is why would you want to play further away from the bridge when doing up the neck solo stuff? I think someone had mentioned that. I know I've seen guitar players do that but I'm just trying to understand why that's beneficial?


Because some (most?) bluegrass banjos can sound downright awful -- shrill, nasal, piercing, honky -- picked at the bridge when fretted above the 17th fret.

I like the comment above that picking position is your tone control. Neck position picking is where the sweetness lives.

I recently subscribed to Noam Pikelny's school on Artistworks.com. He spends a lot of time picking away from the bridge, close to the neck.

For solo up-the-neck work, I might choose a mid-way position. Depends on what I want or need to hear at the moment. Am I playing at home for my own enjoyment or do I need to hear myself in a jam with no PA or monitor?

Glad to hear you're working on multiple picking positions. It's no problem if your hand wants to naturally move away from the bridge. It's finding its comfort zone.


Ok that makes sense. Lately I've been working on two songs that have a few spots that go to the 15/16th frets and down to the 20,21st and i can definitely see what you mean. That pitch is pretty piercing. When i pick up the banjo tonight ill specifically try playing those spots close to the neck to see what it sounds like.

Its obviously a lot harder and I'm really really bad at it but all the up the neck work just looks so much more appealing to me than staying within the first few frets the majority of the time. 

Mar 6, 2021 - 10:57:13 AM

11666 posts since 6/2/2008

One of my parts banjos is naturally piercing and nasal up-the-neck. Only sounds good with certain combinations of bridge and head tension.

One challenge with up-the-neck work is that it's all fretted. You lost open strings, except for the occasional fifth. An advantage of this is that it makes the shapes moveable for playing in other keys.

For all the decades I've been playing, most of my way-up-the-neck work is on the first two strings (plus fifth). Still trying expand my abilities.

Mar 8, 2021 - 7:42:11 PM

6041 posts since 10/13/2007

Gabe Hirshfeld - great player: look at this video of his hand. how relaxed and both fingers down but just laid down and on the edge of the tips of the fingers. I used to try to get the tips  of the fingers down and that was stiff. https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=10159011473931209

ken

Edited by - From Greylock to Bean Blossom on 03/08/2021 19:42:54

Mar 8, 2021 - 8:20:39 PM

6041 posts since 10/13/2007

Here is another very similar hand position and also relaxed. I believe if you watch Stanley and Scruggs you will see the same. Just lay it on its side..no tension and pick. You may need to learn how to bend and twist your picks to get a square strike. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdYSWKMpk0E

I think it  is easier to copy a picture of a hand than to think in words on how it should be.

ken

Mar 10, 2021 - 3:15:52 AM

3967 posts since 12/6/2009

Its almost like a treble bass control on a stereo.....near the bridge short notes far away long and often a deeper sound. I play dang near on top of the bridge cause I like snappy picking sound.....every one is different. Sammy Shelor puts his pinky on the bridge....another so called no no...but I would argue with Sammy Shelor....would you? lol.... (besides notice how big he is) I do find myself sometimes with my pinky behind the bridge. Just do what comfortable and gets the sound quality you want. I suppose also it depends on the banjo also.

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