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Aug 10, 2022 - 2:42:29 PM
10 posts since 3/9/2021

Just curious is it possible to play jazz banjo/ dixieland with two or three fingers on the fretting hand? I have heard that since the instrument is so loud sometimes playing two note chords is better with a vocalist. Are there any famous players or people here to who play jazz with limited fingers? I have essential tremors in my hand so they shake when trying to fret especially the ring finger and pinky, but my two fingers and thumb are very stable. I can play scales and such with all four fingers just fine but chords and especially fast changes with three are very difficult( four fingers even more so). I play clawhammer and Irish tenor fine, but would like to try jazz banjo.

Edited by - Snowbeast on 08/10/2022 14:52:27

Aug 10, 2022 - 3:46:04 PM
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400 posts since 5/16/2017
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While not a banjo player, Django Reinhardt played jazz guitar with two fingers on his fretting hand.

Aug 11, 2022 - 4:21:16 AM



3055 posts since 1/15/2014

Originally posted by blazo

While not a banjo player, Django Reinhardt played jazz guitar with two fingers on his fretting hand.

Django still used his damaged fingers when chording. He used two fingers when soloing. 

To the original poster, while there are many chords on the banjo that can be played with two fingers, I think you'll struggle to play jazz that way given the complex chord voicings that are often required. 

Aug 11, 2022 - 4:53:53 AM

1025 posts since 6/25/2006

I had some lessons with Steve Caddick (recommended) and would definitely recommend having lessons as it is quite hard in the beginning.

You do need a certain amount of dexterity and it is obviously more chord heavy than other styles of banjo playing. However, to play jazz chord melody you don't have to play chords for every note and you don't always have to play full chords - in fact, my favourite players like Tyler Jackson, Don Vappie, Marco Levi often combine single-note playing with partial/triad chords. Have you heard Elmer Snowden's 'Harlem Banjo' album? You might find that interesting as he plays GDAE and it is mostly single-note style - Cynthia Sayer has a book of transcriptions. She also would be a great teacher - as would Tyler Jackson....

Aug 11, 2022 - 1:09:47 PM

10 posts since 3/9/2021

I was thinking it might be possible if I played like this: what do you think? I alread play bass so playing the bass line would come naturally any way.

Aug 15, 2022 - 10:29:46 AM



358 posts since 3/29/2012

I think you could do it with two fingers. You might have to alter your tuning a little bit or even invent your own tuning. If you can learn how to play major, minor, dominant 7th and diminished chords, you’ll be all right. (all of those can be voiced with just three notes.)

Edited by - Muskrat on 08/15/2022 10:44:45

Aug 15, 2022 - 7:59:25 PM

10013 posts since 8/28/2013

Besides the obvious Django, I have known more than one person who learned to play instruments with injured hands. I am currently trying myself, due to a recent stroke. I have found that even though there are things I can't do, I can still make music. It takes a little imagination at times, and it always takes practice, patience, and perseverance.

There are no laws that tell you how you must play, so you should feel free to experiment until you find a technique that works for YOU.

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