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Dec 1, 2023 - 4:45:03 AM
150 posts since 3/14/2020

I have recently been practicing some songs..one of them being Jingle Bells..that require me to play the second string with my thumb. I am having a tough time convincing my thumb to do what needs to be done. So, I have somewhat of a neurological question (I hope that I am using the correct term). Is it better to look at my picking hand when I am practicing so that my brain gets a visual or is better to not look....which one will get me to the desired result faster. I know that that only practice, practice, practice will get me there. But I am hoping that I can actually learn a Christmas song before Christmas this year, and not give up in frustration as I have the last two years.

Dec 1, 2023 - 5:24:44 AM
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B_Shull

USA

14 posts since 3/21/2023

Maybe practicing single-string drills on the 2nd string could help your thumb learn where it needs to be?

Dec 1, 2023 - 6:00:29 AM
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661 posts since 5/21/2020

quote:
Originally posted by pmartin9363

I have recently been practicing some songs..one of them being Jingle Bells..that require me to play the second string with my thumb. I am having a tough time convincing my thumb to do what needs to be done. So, I have somewhat of a neurological question (I hope that I am using the correct term). Is it better to look at my picking hand when I am practicing so that my brain gets a visual or is better to not look....which one will get me to the desired result faster. I know that that only practice, practice, practice will get me there. But I am hoping that I can actually learn a Christmas song before Christmas this year, and not give up in frustration as I have the last two years.


Hi pmartin9363

I think it is ok to initially look at your thumb and the strings when you are learning to pick the strings. But there comes a time when you need to stop and look away. Trust your brain to find the string. In theory you should be able feel confident to pick any string with your thumb. And the 123 strings with your middle finger. That said it's quite a challenge and takes a bit of time to master.

Dec 1, 2023 - 6:15:10 AM
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chuckv97

Canada

71514 posts since 10/5/2013
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I would look at first, as has been said ^^^ . I would also play strings 5 to 2 slowly, one at a time, with the thumb just to ease it into complete flexibility, & do some finger stretches, esp. stretch out the thumb vs. index finger of your picking hand - spread them apart for 5 second intervals throughout the day. God luck. Jingle Bells works well on the banjo.

Edited by - chuckv97 on 12/01/2023 06:16:01

Dec 1, 2023 - 7:12:45 AM
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KCJones

USA

2859 posts since 8/30/2012

Practice the "foggy mountain roll". It's basically just a forward roll but it features heavy use of the thumb on the 2nd string, and is repetitive enough that you can practice it a lot without much thought. It's also very useful for all sorts of songs and melody runs.

Dec 1, 2023 - 7:23:10 AM
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tonygo

USA

97 posts since 12/29/2022

quote:
Originally posted by pmartin9363

I have recently been practicing some songs..one of them being Jingle Bells..that require me to play the second string with my thumb. I am having a tough time convincing my thumb to do what needs to be done. So, I have somewhat of a neurological question (I hope that I am using the correct term). Is it better to look at my picking hand when I am practicing so that my brain gets a visual or is better to not look....which one will get me to the desired result faster. I know that that only practice, practice, practice will get me there. But I am hoping that I can actually learn a Christmas song before Christmas this year, and not give up in frustration as I have the last two years.


Do  it  very   s l o w   a few hundred times.  Use a metronome set to what works now. I bet you will have it in a couple weeks. Be patient. 

Dec 1, 2023 - 8:23:26 AM
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B_Shull

USA

14 posts since 3/21/2023

Practicing the foggy mountain roll is a great tip. I don't know why I didn't think of that!

Dec 1, 2023 - 9:16:44 AM
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Alex Z

USA

5725 posts since 12/7/2006

"So, I have somewhat of a neurological question (I hope that I am using the correct term). Is it better to look at my picking hand when I am practicing so that my brain gets a visual or is better to not look....which one will get me to the desired result faster."

Don't look.  

Since you already play the banjo, the location of the strings under your right hand is already known.  What you want to learn is to hit the second string with the thumb without thinking about it -- and without having to look for the location.  So that's what should be practiced.  

Two weeks, you'll get there. smiley

Dec 1, 2023 - 2:21:40 PM
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seanray

USA

1684 posts since 9/11/2004

As mentioned above the Foggy Mountain Breakdown roll will get you there in no time.

There is nothing wrong with looking at either hand if it helps. Watch your picking hand for a bit, then your fretting hand. Once you start getting comfortable then you can look out the window or even watch TV and just get a feel for it.

Give it a day or two and you'll be all set.

Dec 2, 2023 - 7:29:22 AM
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4769 posts since 3/28/2008
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When you get up to real playing speed, you won't be able to get meaningful information from watching your right hand. You'll need to get used to the feel ("muscle memory") and the sound when you do it right. When you're really playing (not practicing), there's usually someplace you're better off looking--the guitar player's left hand, your own fingerboard, etc. So don't look (well, OK--you can look a little while practicing, just to orient yourself).

Get used to what that second string sounds like. As you practice hitting the second string, judge your success by whether you hear that note. If you hit the third string instead, notice what that sounds like, and try to swing your thumb a little farther next time. It you hear a higher note than you expected, you'll know you went too for in the other direction and hit the first string. Eventually you'll develop a feel for just how far to move your thumb.

And yes, practice the "Foggy Mountain' roll (IMTMTIMT) and other patterns that involve picking the second string with the thumb. It's not enough simply to be able to pick the string with the thumb; you'll need to practice doing so in contexts where you'll be doing it when you're actually playing.

Dec 2, 2023 - 8:24:44 AM
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135 posts since 8/9/2005

I have used my index finger on the 2nd string since day one many years ago; the criticism that I get is that it doesn't "Sound" the same; since I can play either way, I've told folks to listen and tell the difference and they can't!

Dec 2, 2023 - 8:37 AM
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3615 posts since 4/5/2006

quote:
Originally posted by frrypaul

I have used my index finger on the 2nd string since day one many years ago; the criticism that I get is that it doesn't "Sound" the same; since I can play either way, I've told folks to listen and tell the difference and they can't!


Those are the subtle "hearing" differences Paul Hawthorne talks about in Gestalt Banjo. Highly recommended btw.

Dec 2, 2023 - 1:15:30 PM
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GP banjo

Canada

16 posts since 11/30/2023

You can look at first! I practiced getting used to it by repeating the double forward roll... over and over.. for 10 minutes. Most boring 10 minutes of my life, but it worked!

Dec 3, 2023 - 1:38:25 PM

150 posts since 3/14/2020

Yeah, when I have to practice certain measures over and over to get them right, I often put on the mute. I hurts my head to hear the same thing over and over again...especially if I am not playing it correctly. It also does not help that the room that I am playing in is very small and the acoustics are terrible.

Dec 3, 2023 - 1:57:42 PM
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chuckv97

Canada

71514 posts since 10/5/2013
Online Now

Try this…

Dec 3, 2023 - 2:07:46 PM
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14809 posts since 6/2/2008

I'm in the camp that says it's ok to look for a brief time while you're learning the instrument in case you need that visual help knowing what thumb on second string feels like.

But I can't over-emphasize "brief." If it takes more than a few practice sessions to bring your thumb to the second string without looking, then there's something else going on that I have absolutely knowledge or experience to help with.

You've been playing since 2019. It's time to be able to hit any string with any reasonable available finger without looking.

Dec 4, 2023 - 12:59:16 AM

phb

Germany

4027 posts since 11/8/2010

I don't think that looking is of much help (other than finding out why something goes wrong consistently). You should hear whether you hit the right string or not. Play the few measures surrounding the tricky bit in a loop for hours. When I mess up in a jam session, I automatically close my eyes to shut off all the visual distraction which helps me get back on track. This is why I believe that looking rather makes it harder to learn the technique then help (again: except for the very beginning where you have no idea of how to do this piece of technique you are working on).

Dec 4, 2023 - 12:59:17 PM

14809 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Old Hickory

 >> If it takes more than a few practice sessions to bring your thumb to the second string without looking, then there's something else going on that I have absolutely knowledge or experience to help with. <<


Grrrr. 

Of course I meant "absolutely no knowledge . . ."

I don't know how to fix the things I do wrong let alone the ones others do.

Dec 14, 2023 - 3:02:12 PM
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150 posts since 3/14/2020

So, I was finally able to get this roll. I am not sure why it was hard. I had played the 2nd with my thumb on a couple of other songs, without much issue. I think a lot of it was mental, I thought that I was going to mess it up and I did. I would literally practice the measure over and over without and issues and then screw it up when I played the song. The fix was to not take my banjo on a weekend away, 2 days without touching it, and then I was able to play the measure properly when I picked up the banjo on my return.

Dec 17, 2023 - 10:04:44 AM
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3615 posts since 4/5/2006

There are no cast in stone rules. Whatever works is OK. Glad you got it worked out.

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