Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Anchoring your pinky on your banjo pick hand

Hey Ben,
I notice you anchor your picking hand pinky when playing banjo. I am new to the banjo, but have been finger picking guitar for many years, and do not anchor. Can you explain why you do this. Is it bad form not to?

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Hi @brakobch,

Thank you for posting and welcome to the forum.

I have only a few begining years of Banjo playing experience from which to draw. I played electric guitar many years back (no anchor, of course). I am not a seasoned player and do not feel comfortable to profess my technique… but rather my thoughts on the matter you raised (to anchor or not) because I was there where you are finding yourself now… questioning in the beginning as anchoring felt to strange and unnatural at first.

In the interest to offer well-intentioned assistance, I share that before I ever knew of @BanjoBen’s site, I now feel fortunate to have gotten a basic video (Play Banjo Today with my new banjo as part of a package where the teacher suggested anchoring either: 1) pinky or 2) pinky + ring finger to anchor and I committed myself to listening and absorbing the advice as the banjo was so completely different in my view. I respected so greatly that the banjo felt soooo different to me as compared to the guitar that I humbled myself to just receive the instructions as it was presented - and I am glad I did.

I can just say that when I finally came to @BanjoBen’s site, I quickly learned that the anchoring technique was reinforced (as it was in Earl’s book - Earl Scruggs and the 5-String Banjo: Revised and Enhanced Edition - Book with CD ) and so I felt secure I had made a good choice to follow the guidance of my teachers.

Well, I will put it like this… These players excel in the craft and have years of experience that all suggest the importance of the technique. I also studied that other Scruggs-style pickers that I admired and noticed they also anchor… without exception in this style that I wanted to learn to play.

This “evidence” was good enough for me.

You will have to decide for yourself… to heed the advice of these players to embrace their guidance or find and develop your own way. I also suggest that there is no one and only way to learn. In fact, the master, Earl Scruggs himself said that his 3-finger style was created naturally but distinctively different from the 2-finger style of his day. It was a revolutionary method paradym shift to the banjo techniques of his time… and one that many players may have thought was a mistake.

Having said that, I will also warn to be mindful of avoiding to “unlearn” mistakes that may have been avoided from the very beginning of playing this completely new instrument for you.

If you never played banjo before… what may seem like a step back (anchoring now as it feels strange) now may save you many regression steps later.

I will add that it took supprisingly little time for me to adapt and feel that this was comfortable… because it was the way I learned from the very beginning. I just started to feel right - so much so that anchoring is something I recently found translated easily enough to mandolin too… although the jury is still out on if I will or won’t continue anchoring. It is another debate that I have not decided… but I share it to illustrate that it can and will feel normal soon enough because it will be the way that you learned - if you decide to embrace it from the beginning.

If you want to blaze your own new path, follow your instincts but if you wish to emulate the Masters of a style, it may be worth some consideration to reduce the slope on your learning curve as everything is to you as a new player at this point.

Whatever you decide, I truly hope you do participate openly with us so as to share your experiences going forward.

Best of luck and keep us updated on your banjo adventures… whichever path you choose…

The biggest thing is that you will gain help and support here… free of judgement but willingness to support a fellow banjo enthusiast.

Best of luck as I hope these thoughts help you sort out your quandary - one way or another.

Welcome to the forum! I agree with Will, it is what all the great pickers do, and will help you in your picking. Coming from fingerstyle guitar you should have a little bit of a headstart as you already know how your fingers work. I came from both electric guitar and fingerstyle to banjo and I planted on both, and still do, so it wasn’t much adaptation for me. I have seen a reason given for pinky planting beyond just stabilizing your hand; it helps to mute unwanted overtones from the banjo head. I’ve experimented with planting both fingers, just the pinky, and no fingers, and there’s an audible difference in sound between all three
Hope this helps

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Howdy @brakobch! That’s a great question. I came from a bit of classical guitar background and know exactly what you mean. The anchor is there to provide power, speed, and drive in your playing, as well as accuracy in some instances. Make sure and watch my lesson on it here:

Let me know how you progress!

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I should know from watching so many of your banjo vids… but refresh my memory… Do you plant pinkey only or… Pinky + Ring?

I plant the pinky only…

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Pinky only. My ring finger is used to being mobile from fingerstyle guitar

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