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Dec 28, 2021 - 10:07:29 AM
6 posts since 9/15/2021

Hi All!

Just started with a 19-fret tenor banjo, and am looking for advice on left-hand fingering. I have been trying to play using the index finger on fret 2 and then using the little finger for fret 5, and am finding this a bit of a stretch for me. If I am holding D string fret 5 (GDAE tuning) and want to play A string then back to G (fret 5), it seem sensible to keep the little finger in place. The stretch, however, means that I am often touching the A string, so the A does not sound cleanly.

Would it be better to move the left hand in this situation (I thought it best to keep fingers in place if subsequently playing the same string on same or lower fret numbers)?

Or, since I can just about make the stretch (even though it does feel uncomfortable), should I keep practicing like this - perhaps with time I will find a way to hold my hand better so that the A string is not touched?

All thoughts and advice appreciated!

Edited by - Vandermyer on 12/28/2021 10:21:05

Dec 28, 2021 - 3:55:14 PM

DSmoke

USA

1182 posts since 11/30/2015

You have to learn to fret any note without touching the other strings, unless of course you want 2 or more strings fretted, classic example is the E on the D string and the B on the A string.

There are 2 options, you play using 3 fingers (fiddle style) or 4 fingers. If you search the posts here with something like "Irish Fingers" you will probably see a bunch of old posts explaining this. Many of the top players with do both, but they graduated to doing so after learning one way or the other. I play 3 fingers, my pinky is really only used for the high b note (seventh fret E string). I can fret the 5th fret with the ring finger and play the 2nd fret with my index finger. This is something I've been working on recently with my teacher after getting my left hand in a proper position to do so.

You say you started on the 19 fret tenor. Is this your first tenor?

Dec 29, 2021 - 3:47:26 AM

6 posts since 9/15/2021

Thanks for that. "Irish finger" certainly gives lots of results and information. Think I was mentally 'stuck' on the 4 finger (rudimentary mandolin knowledge) when perhaps 3 finger technique will be more appropriate.

Yes. First tenor banjo. Have been playing the 5 string banjo for a while.

Dec 29, 2021 - 5:41:32 AM

45 posts since 12/23/2019

This morning as I was playing a tune, I remembered your post. I was playing "Fig for a Kiss". In the first part, the fingering jumps from back and forth on the D and A strings. It is a great tune to practice a sort of rocking motion from the pinky to the index and back.

Dec 30, 2021 - 12:59:14 AM

1154 posts since 1/30/2019

Interesting question. I found I was playing 3 fingers except for a high B. And really struggled with fretting the G string at 5th without catching and deadening the D string. But then I switched to fret the G at 5th fret with my pinkie, and it was instantly better. I'm still learning (aren't we all) so at the moment my fret hand fingering is a bit inconsistent. It is mostly 3 finger, except for high B on the top string, and now when ever I go to 5th or 6th fret on G string. I've never had a teacher or lessons, so am interested in the replies here too!

Jan 3, 2022 - 7:58:30 AM

6 posts since 9/15/2021

Interesting comments Andrew. What would you do if you were playing a sequence that was E (2nd fret) then G (5th) and then back to E. Would you lift off E to make the stretch easier or would you keep E fretted to minimize hand movement?

Since I originally asked this question I have been watching YouTube videos and it seems to me that in the sort of manoeuvre I am describing a lot (most? all?) actually seem to shift their hand whilst doing 3 finger style.

Jan 3, 2022 - 11:58:19 PM

1154 posts since 1/30/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Vandermyer

Interesting comments Andrew. What would you do if you were playing a sequence that was E (2nd fret) then G (5th) and then back to E. Would you lift off E to make the stretch easier or would you keep E fretted to minimize hand movement?

Since I originally asked this question I have been watching YouTube videos and it seems to me that in the sort of manoeuvre I am describing a lot (most? all?) actually seem to shift their hand whilst doing 3 finger style.


Hi again,

2nd to 5th and back on the D string for me - I would probably always leave my 1st finger on the 2nd fret. 

I have just been trying to play "Turkey in the pea patch" (no, not got it sorted yet) but this has a 2nd to 6th stretch on the G string. If I "sit properly" and pay attention to how I hold the neck, I can just do this. If I slouch and ignore how I'm holding my banjo, I can't. So it's worth checking out some of the basic lessons on how to hold a tenor banjo as well. It's easy to go past these steps, and to be able to play ok, but playing faster, playing those big stretches, is easier if you get the grip and position right. (I'm not sure I do this. I slouch too much!!) 

Edited by - Andyrhydycreuau on 01/03/2022 23:59:10

Jan 4, 2022 - 10:18:39 AM

6 posts since 9/15/2021

Thanks for those thoughts and advice. Think with some practice I will make the 2 - 5 stretch, but don't think will ever make 2 - 6.

Jan 5, 2022 - 7:28:21 PM

gsmyth

USA

1 posts since 7/25/2018

Quote from OP:
"Or, since I can just about make the stretch (even though it does feel uncomfortable), should I keep practicing like this - perhaps with time I will find a way to hold my hand better so that the A string is not touched?"

You might consider experimenting with the placement of the thumb of your left hand. I see a lot of players, probably most, wrap their thumb around the neck, bringing their palm almost up into contact with the back of the neck. I'm not knocking this, as many who play this way manage to sound just great! What I am suggesting is to try playing with the ball of your thumb contacting the back of the neck, approximately in the middle of the neck, to see if that helps your intonation and ability to make those long stretches.

You will find that this thumb position forces you to arch your wrist above the finger board, and your fingers then will have a more vertical approach to the strings with less chance of touching adjacent strings inadvertently and muting them. I use this thumb positioning, and also the 4 finger approach. I find this has the side benefit of making it easier to slide my hand up the neck in order to use, for example, my 1st finger at the 5th fret, 2nd finger at the 7th, etc... and then slide back down to the standard first position fingering.

This works for me, but I have noticed that there is no "one correct way" of left hand positioning and fingering (and certainly not one correct way of right hand picking technique either).
But give it a try. regards

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