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May 16, 2021 - 4:12:07 PM

Heady

USA

39 posts since 4/25/2021

Do you know immediately from how it feels whether you're primarily a middle or index finger person for the hammer, or do you kind of experiment for a while before you settle in on one?

Is it like being left or right handed or is it by design and how you start?

Am I supposed to have a sense yet (almost a week in) or am I still supposed to be figuring that out?

May 16, 2021 - 4:23:19 PM
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Andy B

USA

59 posts since 5/26/2007

Some people use the index, some the middle, some both depending on which string they are picking. One week in is pretty early to decide irrevocably. Try both and see which works best for you.

May 16, 2021 - 4:25:47 PM
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banjo bill-e

Tuvalu

11053 posts since 2/22/2007

Yeah, one will feel awkward and the other will feel really, really awkward!

May 16, 2021 - 4:41:23 PM
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Heady

USA

39 posts since 4/25/2021

Oh good, then I'm doing it right ??

May 16, 2021 - 4:46:07 PM
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jacot23

USA

185 posts since 12/13/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Heady

Oh good, then I'm doing it right ??


Most likely. Both will feel weird for a while.

 

I started with middle, after about 3 weeks my teacher had me video with both and listen to which sounded best; ended up switching to index. Then about 2 months ago my index got to hurting when I played and she had me switch back to middle.

May 16, 2021 - 10:20:32 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

24693 posts since 6/25/2005
Online Now

I started with the middle because I learned from the Seeger book. Eventually I gravitated to playing the inside strings with the index, the first with the middle, which I still do. BUT—clawhammer is basically a hand motion. I can play with just my ring finger if I need to. That’s the key point.

May 16, 2021 - 11:04:05 PM
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AndyW

UK

790 posts since 7/4/2017

Pick one and use it exclusively at first is my advice and I wouldn't worry about which one. Chopping and changing things that you can keep constant slows the learning process.  (slightly different hand angles are needed and finger-thumb distance which is very important for drop thumb also changes). After a few months you will be comfortable enough with everything else that to learn to use the other finger will only take a few days to get up to speed. (and it's good for nail breakages if you can use both). (Like Bill says once the hand motion is ingrained you can even use ring finger though it's weak I feel compared to the other two.)

Edited by - AndyW on 05/16/2021 23:07:02

May 17, 2021 - 10:14:20 AM
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4087 posts since 11/29/2005

I found that I like the middle for most of my playing and believe that it is a bit more mellow than the index. When I need to really rap out a bright note or phrase or tune, I use the index.

Also prefer playing over the neck than over the head, again, mellower.

Also, pick one to start, then after you've been playing awhile you can try the other and then pick one or both.

Edited by - banjo_brad on 05/17/2021 10:15:35

May 17, 2021 - 10:00:43 PM

Paul R

Canada

14498 posts since 1/28/2010

Whatever feels most comfortable and appropriate to you.

I use the index because the middle nail tends to split after some use. Somehow the index nail is stronger.

May 17, 2021 - 11:35:33 PM

AndyW

UK

790 posts since 7/4/2017

quote:
Originally posted by Paul R

Whatever feels most comfortable and appropriate to you.

I use the index because the middle nail tends to split after some use. Somehow the index nail is stronger.


I also find middle nail splits easier than index for me.

The reason for me is the angle of attack relative to the strings changes.  The middle nail hits the strings 'flattish' and the wear pattern is to thin the nail eventually weakening it .  My index tends to hit on the edge of the nail and it never gets thinned but only chipped(more roughened than chipped actually) at the edge and if it gets too bad can be repaired simply by filing a touch. 

May 18, 2021 - 1:03:26 AM

3547 posts since 4/29/2012

@
I started with the index - Must have misread the Seeger book. Tried the middle when I had sort of mastered the index. Found it gave a different tone and feel. Now pretty agnostic as to which I use and sort of use both. Index on first and middle on inside strings gives a bit more economy of motion allowing a bit more speed with accuracy. But that's just me. As a beginner I'd just use whichever seems easiest now and experiment with the other or both when the basic action is well entrenched in muscle memory.
I'd also do a search on 'middle or index' here. It's discussed pretty regularly.

May 25, 2021 - 2:10:02 PM
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chrisnw

Wales

26 posts since 12/27/2007

I came to clawhammer banjo fairly late in my playing life via guitar and then bluegrass banjo. Initially, I tried both fingers, but could never make up my mind, switching constantly between both even during a single playing session. The result of my indecision (and possibly total ineptitude) eventually led me to being able to play with either finger, albeit with a slightly different sound and emphasis depending on which finger I was using. It may well appear (superficially) useful & practical to be able to play with either finger (and it really is), but hey, some more traditional players do consider this (so called talent) as the worst of both worlds (and yes, I have been told).

However, moving on, some time ago (and purely by accident), I started using both fingers (independently) in unison on different strings, e.g. index on 2nd, middle on first (or index on 3rd, middle on second ... etc.). For me personally, this has totally redefined clawhammer banjo playing, I now know that there are many well known, wonderful & progressive players who use this approach / technique to great effect (Mike Iverson & Mark Johnson spring to mind).

I am pretty sure that I will not be unique in my approach and subsequent development process. In summary, hooray !!! - Indecision has a lot going fot it. Cheers Chris (North Wales, U.K.).

May 26, 2021 - 1:28:57 PM

22 posts since 10/7/2014

I just got a new (used) banjo and it'll be interesting to see if my preferred striking finger changes... but I doubt it. I started years ago with the middle finger but moved to index over time.

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