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Sep 28, 2021 - 4:33:31 AM
33 posts since 11/22/2020

Hi,

To help reduce strain on my wrist causes by having to stabilise my right hand, I had the bright idea to buy some rubber finger thimbles for my pinky and ring fingers - like those used by bank tellers/clerks when counting money.

To my surprise I found there was actually LESS friction between my fingers and the head, not more!

Has anybody else found something that helps keep their fingertips stationary while picking?

Joe

Sep 28, 2021 - 4:40:19 AM

Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

26395 posts since 8/3/2003

I used to use the "lick and stick" method many years ago. Just be sure your hands/fingers are clean. And you may have to do it several times during a practice session.

Sep 28, 2021 - 5:30:15 AM
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csrat

USA

865 posts since 9/14/2008

There shouldn't be any pressure on the head from the fingers on your right hand touching the head.

For me, it's only my pinky that touches the head, and it's only there for a reference point for my right hand. You probably need to get some advice from someone who can see your hand and wrist position so they can guide you on a better position.

Sep 28, 2021 - 6:14:13 AM
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3118 posts since 2/18/2009

I've found (by accident) that it's possible to glue my fingers to most surfaces with super glue. This may be too much of a good thing in this case, though.

Sep 28, 2021 - 6:24:54 AM
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phb

Germany

2978 posts since 11/8/2010

quote:
Originally posted by Zachary Hoyt

I've found (by accident) that it's possible to glue my fingers to most surfaces with super glue.


Also a good way to increase practice time.

Sep 28, 2021 - 6:40:28 AM
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15330 posts since 12/2/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Josephpetrie


Has anybody else found something that helps keep their fingertips stationary while picking?

Joe


Yes. Several years of committed and diligent practice.

You're describing one of many common problems with developing players. And as with most of them, there's really no fully successful "magic bullet" to solve it.

Being aware of the problem is the first step, so you've got that going for you. For what it's worth, I have seen in students that their picking hands tend to move more if they're trying to acquire speed at the expense of technique.

I will also note that practicing in front of a mirror and watching your picking hand position can be helpful. But don't get too aggressive on speed. In fact, slow down. Use roll patterns if you like; use a song with which you're reasonably comfortable if you prefer. But slow it down, and concentrate on keeping your picking hand where it produces the best tone.

Over time, your picking hand will become stable. And it will take time. Learning to play the banjo is a process, not an event.

Sep 28, 2021 - 7:32:55 AM

3598 posts since 9/12/2016

The finger plant has and always will be opinionated on this forum.
I find my self slightly moving laterally with the right at a moments notice.Left hand moving up shortens the strings making them tougher so right hand moves slightly for better tone. The finger plant needs only enough to counter act the(push away) caused by plucking a string. Most important imo is exact position each and every time.A position that only changes in the lateral movement mentioned. After awhile one might raise towards the fifth string for inside licks ,but that would muddy up things more than help for starters.
my opinion--I ask no one to agree

Sep 28, 2021 - 8:03:27 AM

Owen

Canada

9570 posts since 6/5/2011

What helped me [like Tom, I ask no one to agree] was to initially use double sided tape to attach a small foam do-nut to the head.   I also reasoned, apparently correctly in my case, that the do-nut would initially help compensate for the pinky being shorter than fourth finger and allow for a more relaxed hand. After a couple of months I cut the foam down to 1/2 its thickness. A couple more months and I removed it. Adjustments were pretty much seamless and done without conscious effort.   Otoh, my "playing" says my advice (?) should be taken under advisement.

Sep 28, 2021 - 9:25:43 AM
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Alex Z

USA

4525 posts since 12/7/2006

"To help reduce strain on my wrist causes by having to stabilise my right hand . . . "

There should not be any strain at all.

Some use the words "anchor" or "plant" -- which gives a mistaken description of what is going on.  Bill Keith said, "think 'lightly caress.' "

Mr. Earl himself said, in "Masters of the 5-String Banjo":

    "The purpose of resting your fingers on the head is to help steady your hand and to keep your fingers the right height above the head all the time.  The pressure on the head should be light.  It should be about the same as you feel if you rest the palm of your hand on a table, and then curl your little finger and ring finger inward to lift your hand and fingers off the table."

So, relax the hand, relax the wrist, relax the arm.  Let -- not force -- one or two fingers touch the head.  Don't worry if they move or not.  If after a couple of years you think that your progress is being slowed by how the finger(s) touch the head, then address it then.  At that point, you'll have the control to place the fingers differently while still relaxing the hand.

Forcing the fingers now will not speed up progress.

Hope this helps.

Edited by - Alex Z on 09/28/2021 09:26:53

Sep 28, 2021 - 10:11:31 AM

3598 posts since 9/12/2016

I use the word plant and don't feel bad about it in my view

Sep 28, 2021 - 10:53:41 AM

Alex Z

USA

4525 posts since 12/7/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Tractor1

I use the word plant and don't feel bad about it in my view


Whatever works for you is OK.

BUT, if you're teaching someone else, it's helpful to consider what the word "plant" means to them, as far as applying pressure to the head and positioning the fingers.  The poster is already straining his wrist, and still he's looking for additional ways to keep the fingers rigidly placed.

Edited by - Alex Z on 09/28/2021 10:55:50

Sep 28, 2021 - 12:00:59 PM

3598 posts since 9/12/2016

I still feel OK-I can't grill the whole world on their meaning of each word I speak-- my post covers applied pressure amounts to use when planting the hand unless of course they had 2 or 3 other words that your meanings were smarter than mine .
This type of planting the hand in a relaxed manner ,got rid of some hand pain.It shows up good at the 2 and ahalf minute mark .I still ask no one to agree .and don't care much the other way

Edited by - Tractor1 on 09/28/2021 12:04:42

Sep 28, 2021 - 1:58:19 PM

Alex Z

USA

4525 posts since 12/7/2006

   "I still feel OK-I can't grill the whole world on their meaning of each word I speak-- my post covers applied pressure amounts to use when planting the hand unless of course they had 2 or 3 other words that your meanings were smarter than mine .
This type of planting the hand in a relaxed manner ,got rid of some hand pain.It shows up good at the 2 and a half minute mark .I still ask no one to agree .and don't care much the other way"

What did you have for breakfast today, brother?  smiley  We got from the typical misunderstanding of the most common words that pickers learn about placing the hand -- anchor and plant --  as now equivalent to grilling the whole world on their meaning of each spoken word?  That's just a debate technique!  We're not competing here. 

We're just trying to help out the poster.  It's what he does or does not do that is important to him.  What we do or don't do and works or does not work for us, doesn't help him unless the communication of advice means the same for both speaker and listener.  

Sep 28, 2021 - 3:34:16 PM
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2639 posts since 4/5/2006

IMHO, it became more complicated when whoever it was coined the term anchor in reference to the topic in discussion. Touching the head (or the bridge) kills tone. That's why they used to put pick guards on banjos & mandolins. The lighter the  touch, the less negative effect it has on the tone. The reason Earl placed his fingers on the head was to establish a reference point as to string height.

There are those who maintain both ring & pinky must be placed on the head, more or less immovable with respect to each other. Earl acknowledged individual hands being different, some will have no problem, while others find the ring finger naturally wants to follow the middle finger, making it difficult to impossible. Should the ring finger tend to follow the middle, strive to minimize the amount of travel, while still maintaining ever so soft contact with the head. It takes time for the brain to learn & memorize the curvature of wrist & hand, as well as the lightness of touch to the head. This is what we call muscle memory.

Long story short, those two fingers are stabilizers. If your hand hurts, you're doing something wrong, & it will only get worse with the application of force. It may behoove the novice to study the thread on Muscle Tension. Study other people's hands. YMMV  

Sep 28, 2021 - 3:58:45 PM

3598 posts since 9/12/2016

Earl mentioned the backwards roll being hard. I have found that certain stock moves that use it .or similar patterns --in other words middle finger lead into index ---Anyway, when occurring these patterns == require a bit more hold down in the finger PLANT. If not the relaxed hand raises slightly ,messing with my optimum pick contact. I ask no one to agree

Actually letting the ring swing freely is what fixed my hand pain. The brace? in the picture facilitated that.


 

Edited by - Tractor1 on 09/28/2021 16:09:35

Sep 28, 2021 - 6:02:47 PM

1572 posts since 1/28/2013

Modern wood armrests are shaped to provide more stablization to the hand, and a wrist wrap will lock your wrist in place. After awhile you won't even have to touch the head at all. Go to banjolit.com and check out their armrests.

Edited by - jan dupree on 09/28/2021 18:03:50

Sep 28, 2021 - 7:38:47 PM

3598 posts since 9/12/2016

Floating hands do have fans ,but I personally don;t want my wrist being the pivot,when the right hand slides towards the nut ,the wrist has to be lifted enough to move,That movement has to keep the pick angles correct  so the arm could not change any angle ,it has with the strings .All done freehand ,too much for this oaf . But not Dave Hum

Edited by - Tractor1 on 09/28/2021 19:47:01

Sep 29, 2021 - 1:13:34 AM

33 posts since 11/22/2020

Thanks all for the great advice. @jandupree - what is a wrist wrap ?

Sep 29, 2021 - 7:23:29 AM

2798 posts since 2/10/2013

I use a rubber thimble on the ring finger of my picking hand. Actually I only use half of the thimble. It seems to provide better traction. The box full I have will probably be all I will ever need. They are designed to provide traction when reading documents and would probably be helpful whenever finger traction is required. I have used them for quite a while.

Sep 29, 2021 - 7:49:33 PM
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lanemb

USA

214 posts since 3/11/2018

Here's just another opinion. I think there can be too much emphasis on planting and/or wrist movement. Before you can concentrate on how to place your picking hand you have to first be able to comfortably pick a few rolls without fumbling.

For the longest time I rested my pinky in the curve of the bridge. Years actually. So much so there was a dark spot on the bridge. It really was just a point of reference so I could hit the correct string. I never really focused on planting just clean picking. 

Now with speed increasing I find my pinky and ring fingers naturally plant and the firmer I pick the more I plant to keep from moving all over the place. Still not a firm plant and not necessarily from speed but crispness of striking the strings. 

Guess what I'm saying is don't over concentrate on plant. Just let it comfortably happen. You will develop your own comfort zone in due time. Focus on clean picking with a light touch at first. 

Sep 30, 2021 - 5:20:45 AM

6270 posts since 6/30/2020

quote:
Originally posted by csrat

There shouldn't be any pressure on the head from the fingers on your right hand touching the head.

For me, it's only my pinky that touches the head, and it's only there for a reference point for my right hand. You probably need to get some advice from someone who can see your hand and wrist position so they can guide you on a better position.


Agree! 
Decades of playing fingerstyle guitar have demonstrated to me that I prefer three point contact with the instrument; 1) forearm, 2) pinky 3) picking fingers. None of of which require pressure, which actually hinders playing in that it disturbs muscle relaxation required for smooth even picking. This is applicable to the banjo also regardless of one or two plant fingers. FWIW, guitar players pick with thumb and one, two, three, or all four fingers depending upon their chosen style and preferences. 
 

Sep 30, 2021 - 6:57:47 AM

3598 posts since 9/12/2016

To move a string takes a force . If no counter force was there(relaxed) --the hand would push away instead of move the string. Equilibrium --- Of course a very small amount----- but quiet an onslaught  of force applications  ----,These all demand counter force--Decades of trying to play the banjo here  also.

Edited by - Tractor1 on 09/30/2021 07:05:13

Sep 30, 2021 - 7:14:18 AM
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2798 posts since 2/10/2013

"Planting" the ring finger or "pinkie" serves a purpose. It provides a fixed point of reference for the thumb and 2 picking fingers. The position of these 3 things remain unchanged when taking a break. When playing backup the picking hand often changes position so maintaining a fixed point of reference is not always applicable.

Sep 30, 2021 - 7:30:34 AM

3598 posts since 9/12/2016

the tilt of the hand -front to back--side to sides --distance from strings and head ---I try to keep them planted in a pot that I slide to Earl's X nd Y s

Sep 30, 2021 - 8:52:28 AM

527 posts since 2/21/2005

I’ve always planted both fingers on the head. I find that it helps stabilize my hand and my picking fingers. I’ve also found that it changes the tone of the banjo for the better. If I try to play without touching the head, the banjo sounds harsh. It seems similar to the practice of many open-back clawhammer players who stuff a towel under the head to get a better tone. Since everyone’s hands are different, it may not be possible for some to anchor both fingers. One finger down seems to work as well.

Sep 30, 2021 - 10:11:07 AM
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6270 posts since 6/30/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Tractor1

To move a string takes a force . If no counter force was there(relaxed) --the hand would push away instead of move the string. Equilibrium --- Of course a very small amount----- but quiet an onslaught  of force applications  ----,These all demand counter force--Decades of trying to play the banjo here  also.


Muscle relaxation does not mean the muscles are inoperable. I suppose a preferable phrase would be; "Eliminate undue or unneeded muscle tension, not limited only to appendages but including upper body muscles, that when tense or tight will fight fluid motion needed for smoothness, accuracy, speed, and efficiency of movement. The relaxed, calm musician has purpose of movement and clarity of mind".

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