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Feb 23, 2024 - 5:13:24 AM
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Snertbert

Germany

6 posts since 5/18/2020

Hi folks,

I have a question as a complete beginner:

Teachers often suggest holding the banjo neck with the thumb to extend the reach of the fretting fingers. While this advice sounds helpful, it doesn't work for me.

My thumb skin is extremely dry, causing the banjo to slip away frequently while I'm fretting. This results in either missing the correct strings slightly or the banjo neck completely falling off my hand.

Do you have any ideas on how to manage this issue? I've tried using double-sided tape on the neck, which helped, but it's not a practical solution. Should I instead try a grip where the neck rests between my thumb and index finger?

Thanks for your advice!

Feb 23, 2024 - 6:05:36 AM
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BobbyE

USA

3463 posts since 11/29/2007

Rest the neck in the palm of your hand between the thumb and first finger. Some people do a thumb wrap but not necessary. No reason the neck should move if the banjo is balanced as to its position against your body. If it continues to move slide the banjo to different areas against your body until it balances out. Also wear a strap when you play and that will help some stability issues as well.

Bobby

Feb 23, 2024 - 6:33:57 AM
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Owen

Canada

14823 posts since 6/5/2011

Tongue-in-cheek: 

Fingerless Driving Gloves PU Faux Leather Outdoor Sport Half Finger Glove  for Men Women Teens | Walmart Canada

Feb 23, 2024 - 6:46:19 AM
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695 posts since 5/21/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Snertbert

Hi folks,

I have a question as a complete beginner:

Teachers often suggest holding the banjo neck with the thumb to extend the reach of the fretting fingers. While this advice sounds helpful, it doesn't work for me.

My thumb skin is extremely dry, causing the banjo to slip away frequently while I'm fretting. This results in either missing the correct strings slightly or the banjo neck completely falling off my hand.

Do you have any ideas on how to manage this issue? I've tried using double-sided tape on the neck, which helped, but it's not a practical solution. Should I instead try a grip where the neck rests between my thumb and index finger?

Thanks for your advice!


Hi Swen the first question I would ask is. Do you have a banjo strap and is it balanced to support the banjo?

When I was a beginner I struggled to support the neck and fret the strings. Over time with practice you'll find a way to manage this.

Whatever you do, do not grip the neck tightly. better that you should cup the neck in the palm of your hand.

This may help better explain

 

 

Edited by - FenderFred on 02/23/2024 06:47:08

Feb 23, 2024 - 6:53:04 AM
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16009 posts since 12/2/2005

If I understand the question correctly, it sounds like you're in need of a properly-adjusted strap. Many banjos played by beginners are neck-heavy - meaning that the weight of the pot and that of the neck are such that gravity wants to take the peghead towards the floor.

A decent strap, properly positioned, will hold the banjo in correct position. You don't want ANY of your fretting hand/arm work going towards supporting the neck. The neck should stay in position such that all energy expenditure is oriented towards fretting.

As to the dry thumb: many of us find that thumb on the back of the neck helps with fretting. With the neck on proper position, it shouldn't matter about the dry skin.

Feb 23, 2024 - 8:27:24 AM
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Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

29963 posts since 8/3/2003

I second what Skip said: if you're not using a strap, get one. If you are, work with it until it holds the neck of the banjo steady where you can concentrate on fretting rather than on pushing the neck up when it starts to fall.

Feb 23, 2024 - 9:42:44 AM
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phb

Germany

4041 posts since 11/8/2010

Hallo Swen, welcome to the BHO!

The neck has to stay where it is without you keeping it in place. The thumb on the back is merely a point of reference for the finger movement. As suggested above, you'll need a strap. Btw, the thumb isn't there for you to be able to press the fingers into the fretboard in a deathgrip either. The fingers should only have to press only just enough to make the string come down on the fret next to it. One can do that even without the thumb being on the back of the neck.

Feb 23, 2024 - 10:13:48 AM

9550 posts since 8/30/2004

Philipp,
The thumb and fingers should move parallel to each other when sliding or moving to another fret. Thumb just should not be supporting the neck from falling off your lap. A strap is needed. But, the thumb and fingers should move parallel at the same time to get the proper pressure when holding down a note...Jack

Feb 23, 2024 - 11:24:18 AM

3032 posts since 2/12/2005

Get some rubberized mat like people put in kitchen drawers. Put in your lap. That will take the "banjo wants to rotate the neck downwards" issue out of the mix so you can focus on picking the "right way" that suits your situation.

Edited by - randybartlett on 02/23/2024 11:25:02

Feb 23, 2024 - 12:22:38 PM

118 posts since 11/3/2015

Two observations:

1. I agree wholeheartedly with phb. The neck should remain positioned irrespective of the left hand. I have been using Gary Sosebee's Banjo Kicker on the two banjos I play regularly which helps a lot with pot angle and a bit with rotation.

2. Fretting the 5th string is problematic for me given that I don't have the hands of a wide receiver. It's one of the reasons I no longer use a Shubb capo, which are otherwise a pretty good solution. I am noodling on the notion of making a "thumb capo" to facilitate fretting the 5th. If I am successful in this, I will share it. I am going to use on of those rubber finger tips as a start.

Feb 24, 2024 - 2:40:29 PM
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3727 posts since 4/5/2006

Not that I'm a big fan of the Shubb 5th string capo, but back when it was all the rage, some were having it inletted into the neck.

As to the original issue, I agree with Skip & Sherry on the strap. Don't hesitate to invest in a good quality strap, it will last as long as the banjo.

Feb 25, 2024 - 2:58:36 AM
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Snertbert

Germany

6 posts since 5/18/2020

I do have a banjo strap, but it wasn't working as intended. After watching Jim Pankey's video, I noticed that he had attached his strap to the drum under the neck, whereas my banjo has a small eyelet above the neck. I adjusted the position where the strap is attached to the banjo, following Pankey's video, and now the neck stays in place effortlessly!

Feb 25, 2024 - 3:11:16 AM
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695 posts since 5/21/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Snertbert

I do have a banjo strap, but it wasn't working as intended. After watching Jim Pankey's video, I noticed that he had attached his strap to the drum under the neck, whereas my banjo has a small eyelet above the neck. I adjusted the position where the strap is attached to the banjo, following Pankey's video, and now the neck stays in place effortlessly!


Glad Jims video turn out helpful

Feb 25, 2024 - 5:23:36 AM
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16009 posts since 12/2/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Snertbert

I do have a banjo strap, but it wasn't working as intended. After watching Jim Pankey's video, I noticed that he had attached his strap to the drum under the neck, whereas my banjo has a small eyelet above the neck. I adjusted the position where the strap is attached to the banjo, following Pankey's video, and now the neck stays in place effortlessly!


Ah, yes -  the fabled "attachment point" that's featured on many beginner banjos... my advice: now that you're no longer using the one near the neck, stop using the one near the tailpiece, too. In addition to not holding the banjo in proper position, those things are cheap, flimsy, and prone to breakage - wwhich means that they will ultimately result in your banjo acquainting itself with the law of gravity.

Feb 25, 2024 - 6:36:44 AM
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79568 posts since 5/9/2007

I started playing banjo when the tuning was GCGBD and used my thumb to fret the 4th string at the second fret all the time for a 2000 G.
Now I use open GDGBD tuning,but continue to fret with my thumb for the 2012 C chord and lots of 5th string thumbfretting above the 5th fret.
My thumb is always wrapped all the way around the neck and the neck cradles between my thumb and index finger.

I do a lot of fretting with my thumb.

Feb 25, 2024 - 7:17:40 AM

118 posts since 11/3/2015

My problem with fretting with the thumb is the angle of the thumb. Since I am using some combination of fingers to fret the upper strings, the thumb, when wrapped around the neck, is angled to the fretboard at around 45º, which makes it almost impossible for me to fret the string cleanly. If my hands were larger, I could possibly get enough elevation of the thumb to mitigate this.

Feb 25, 2024 - 1:24:55 PM

3727 posts since 4/5/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Snertbert

I do have a banjo strap, but it wasn't working as intended. After watching Jim Pankey's video, I noticed that he had attached his strap to the drum under the neck, whereas my banjo has a small eyelet above the neck. I adjusted the position where the strap is attached to the banjo, following Pankey's video, and now the neck stays in place effortlessly!


There are many variations of "cradle straps" on the market, as well as many archived threads on the topic. Not to bad mouth any of them, however imho, the best have no metal or plastic attachments. They simply wrap around the banjo pot & lace together with a (rawhide) shoelace. I find softer leather more comfortable than fancy tooled leather, even more so when it has a Lamb's wool pad on the under side. YMMV  Stringing it under the hooks is optional. Which hooks being debatable.

Oh btw, banjo necks also come in different shapes, ie V vs. flat (fast), Fender Srtatocaster guitar style. Strictly a matter of personal preference. (Earl Scruggs was not pleased with the original factory neck shape of his Granada, which he remedied using a wood rasp) surprise

Edited by - monstertone on 02/25/2024 13:40:25

Feb 27, 2024 - 3:15:04 PM

79568 posts since 5/9/2007

When I fret with my thumb I just get the meat of the thumb that's beside my thumbnail to crowd the fret.t takes a bit of practice to roll up that lower part of the thumb's first joint.
Not even close to fretting with the "point" of the thumb.

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