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Aug 20, 2021 - 8:16:29 AM

34 posts since 7/16/2013

There really are no rules about banjo picking styles, and over time you will develop your own anyway!! Even the sacred "don't pick the same string twice!" rule gets violated from time to time. Borrow from anyone you like and even if you end up "not playing like Earl", that's OK. The best banjo players do this routinely, even accepting the criticism "that's not how Earl played it"!

I played folk style finger picking guitar for 40 years, then switched to banjo exclusively about 10 years ago. I'm sure my guitar finger picking style has influenced my melodic and Scruggs style banjo picking style, but that's OK by me. At my age (and creeping arthritis) I'll never be as fast as someone who started at 10, but I develop solo instrumental and vocal+instrumental arrangements for songs that I enjoy . . . and can play comfortably!!

Aug 20, 2021 - 10:21:09 AM
like this

249 posts since 11/15/2004

A lot of good answers here, and without making any particular recommendation for your direction, I want to offer a caution. This is based on 35 years of doing banjo camps and another 20 of 1-on-1 instruction. Lots of guitar fingerpickers new to Scruggs style along the way.

Many guitar 3-finger players assume it's an easy switch to Scruggs style, but I've seen many examples of a major pitfall. Your right hand's muscle memory includes the assumption that the 6th string is a bass note. In Scruggs style, that "thumb" space is the 5th string, not a bass note, but instead a high-pitched drone. Doing typical Travis picking (Travis actually played a 2-finger style, though many 3-finger pickers call their picking Travis picking), your thumb will reach for "alternating bass" notes, but they sure won't be there!

So you have to actually *suppress* your muscle memory's tendency to "think of" the 5th string as a bass note. That can take a lot of doing. Why?
Because Scruggs style involves a whole bunch of patterns where the 5th string is needed, to be a drone ("sparkle") string as part of a banjo roll, not at all a bass note. That's a whole different animal than thumb=bass picking, and the Scruggs rolls are challenging to learn... so a lot of guitar pickers sorta revert to guitar-style 3-finger picking -- not unmusical, but definitely not Scruggs style. Their right hand wants to do as on the guitar, but it doesn't really work.

So the caution is "be sure to suppress your right hand's 'guitar' tendencies, which are listenable enough, but definitely not Scruggs style. If the latter is what you want to learn, it will take some extra discipline to not lapse into guitar-brain. Eventually, you can learn to keep banjo-brain and guitar-brain separate, but I've seen a lot of guitar players get stymied by the apparent similarity which leads to a sorta dead-end: trying to pick banjo Scruggs style when you don't have the proper right-hand "vocabulary".

Good luck with the changeover. They're both great styles, but more distant-cousins than many people guess.

Aug 20, 2021 - 11:36:47 AM



11799 posts since 2/7/2008

I started off learning some frailing then a bit of 2 finger. I then started learning bluegrass style 3 finger picking and later some melidic clawhammer as it was called at the time.
Thing was, once I started 3 finger I had no more use for the 2 finger style, it was just easier to get to the notes I wanted with an extra finger available.
There is no reason you can't learn both 3 finger and clawhammer/frailing at the same time.

Aug 20, 2021 - 1:59:57 PM



202 posts since 4/20/2012

Lookup Great method from a Brain doc! Makes good sense too!

Aug 25, 2021 - 2:35:38 PM
Players Union Member



14627 posts since 8/30/2006

wdh1974: Welcome Home.
Are you playing guitar with a thumb downbeat? Or First finger downbeat? I relearned first finger downbeat after opening up on banjo. I play 12-string slide in Open G with a drop C in the bass, which are really banjo chords.
Tune your guitar to G tuning and find the same modified 14 chords.

There are 4 beats, it isn't boom diddy. It's Boom, rest, did he?

I suggest learning up picking first, that will establish the firm beat.
then learn down picking.
Then listen to some Roundpeak to fill out the menu.

IMTM TIMT is 21215215, the same 4 beats in two measures = Foggy Mountain Roll. It has one of the secret bluegrass gates that lets you handle good speed.

You are asking clawhammer questions.
You don't want to end up playing guitar on the banjo.
I use travis picking on the banjo on 500 miles and Hobo's Lullabye. I use other arpeggios brought over from guitar.

I like my pinch chords played with two fingers together on both hands. Bluehammer some pinch chords.

Are you having fun yet? It sounds like you remodeled the music lab in your brain. Good.

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