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Banjo player tips

Anchor Fingers To Head If you can learn comfortably to play with both fingers "anchored," your playing will be the better for it. Over the years, I've had students who took to it with no trouble whatsoever, some who managed after some trial, and some who fought valiantly but could never do it. Use some prudence.... don't start hating the banjo just in an effort to reach some ideal.

That having been said... the best solution I have ever found for learning to anchor both fingers is double-sided tape. You can find it in any hardware store, often known as carpet tape. If you buy the very thin stuff and place a small square on the head where you want to anchor, I think you will find that it really helps keep your fingers in place. It won't hold them down like super glue, but will provide just enough resistance to the tendency to 'fly away' to give you time to develop the muscle memory to overcome it.

As a rule, by the time the tape has lost its stick, you can remove it and correct the extraneous movement on your own. If another fresh piece of tape is required, so be it.

I promise folks... this really works!

Thanks to John Lawless for this info.

More ......

While I no doubt have not caught all the posts on the recent thread of one finger vs. two (and which one?), here's one piece of advice that I've found useful in working with players who encounter this problem:

If your goal is to have both fingers planted, but your ring finger tends to move (especially when your middle finger hits a string -- I think that there is a physiological reason for this by the way), try putting *only* your ring finger down on the head for a while -- maybe two to four weeks. Play every song you've ever played to get the brain to hand connection going. Then, once your ring finger is staying down, (and of course your wrist is arched, your playing is relaxed and you're getting good volume and good tone), try placing your pinky finger down. Chances are, once your ring finger is trained, the pinky will follow and you'll have two fingers anchoring the right hand on the head.

This has worked with many students who have come to me with this problem and hope it helps some of you who are concerned with this issue. Like John and many others have indicated, this is not something to get totally bent out of shape about, as some great players play with only the ring or pinky anchored.

In my own playing adventures, I find that the instrument itself will sometimes determine where one falls on this issue. When I acquired my Gibson RB 1 a couple of years back, I found that the banjo had noticeably more bottom end if I kept just one finger down (which turned out to be my ring finger -- the pinky alone wouldn't have given me enough support). The reason for this I suppose is that in this case the banjo head has less contact with other objects (meaning fingers and bridge, and possibly tailpiece if you *really* wanted to crank it down!). With one finger down instead of two, it sounded slightly "larger" (you wouldn't think it would've made that much of a difference, but it did). This position also allowed my right hand to get a little closer to the bridge for lead playing, which also helped the overall sound of this particular instrument. So, I switched to this right hand position.

Back in the early 80s both Tony Trischka and Bela Fleck experimented with a right hand position in which only the ring finger anchors the hand for much the same reasons.

I'm now using a 1937 Gibson 75 model on stage that seems to sound just fine with two fingers down and a lead position that is slightly further from the bridge -- so I've adjusted back.

Moral: experiment and go for that which sounds good...always stay relaxed and keep the wrist arched, and at least *one* finger anchored on the head (unless you're playing two finger back-up like J. D., but that's another story...).

Thanks to Bill Evans for this info.

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