Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Angeline the Baker (speed/technique question)

Just starting to make another run at the banjo after a very long (decades) lay-off. I’m a lefty who plays right-handed and is short on natural talent. First near-term goal is to learn Angeline the Baker well enough to play decently with some friends at a reasonable tempo. (When I played in the past, it was always alone – strictly a closet picker, with all the attending issues).

So, my question has to do with the first note (second string, first fret) following the pinch (first string, second finger; second string, first finger) in measures 7 and 15. The TAB specifies use of index finger, which I don’t have any problem with until playing along at or close to 220 BPM, especially after I’ve been going at it for a while. It starts to get hard for me to hit that note quite on time and with good force, which then usually affects the hammer-on carrying into the next measure. Sometimes I can do better picking it with my thumb, but I’m concerned that might contribute to forming a bad habit. Maybe I just need to have more patience with building speed.

Any thoughts/guidance?

Hi Ken

Which version of the tune beginner or advanced ?

It would help @BanjoBen greatly to see a video of what your doing

Thank for the reply. Basic Melody. I’ll have to figure out how to make and upload a video.

It comes down to choosing between using my index finger to play two notes in a row (1-2 pinch followed by second string) or hitting the picking the second string note after the pinch with my thumb. When I play under 200 BPS or am my fingers are fresh, it’s not an issue.

I’m just not build for speed. I’d rather do it right, but if doubling up on the index is likely to be a persistent issue, I’m not sure it makes best sense to practice slow one way and then have to change to go faster. Probably a stupid question but thought I might as well ask. Maybe I’ll just practice both ways and try to be nimble at adapting when I have to.

Ok I am a wee bit confused here the measures you reference do not begin as you say and do not have any pinches in them.

So in measure 7 and again in measure 15. Although the chord letter shows the letter G above the measure you are actually making an F chord lick.

So make an F shaped chord play the open 3rd string picked with the thumb and hammer on to the third string second fret with your middle finger. Play an open 5th string with the thumb follow by a 1st string fretted at the 3rd fret with your pinky. Play the 3rd string with the thumb, fretted at the second fret with the middle finger followed by the 2nd string with picked with your index, fretted at the first fret with your index. Then repeat 5 1 as before.

Hi Ken

I stand corrected I am looking at the TEF file which I added a intro measure.

Ok so the measure starts of with the open 3rd string a Quarter Note, Played with the thumb followed by a fretted note on the 3rd string at the second fret played with the thumb and fretted with the middle finger.

Make a partial C chord and pinch the first and second strings with your index and middle fingers that’s a quarter note then pick the second string fretted at the first fret, pick an open first string and hammer on at the second fret. .

It may seem complex but if you take your time and work through the measure one note at a time it will come. Trust Me.

You need to let your brain process the information and that takes time

Speed will come in time/

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I’m probably wrong, but was going off what I took to be measure numbers in the TablEdit file, which correspond with those in the PDF. Circled below are the three notes I’m referring to, which repeat in the first section. What I’m stumbling on at 220 BPM after I’ve played a while are the pinch using my first and second fingers followed by picking the second string with my first finger and then the first string with my second finger. Hitting the second note in a row exactly in time with my first finger gets to be an effort that seems to extend to picking the third note with my second finger (i.e., it’s like my first finger’s fatigue/lag affects my second finger also). Substituting my thumb to hit the second note alleviates all of that. Make sense?

Hi Ken

No your right I was looking at a modified TAB.

If you can play this cleanly at a slower speed I am guessing the reason your stumbling at 220 bpm is your anticipating the hammer on that follows and your rushing the timing on the quarter note pinch.

What I would do is practice just what’s in the circle plus the hammer-on and open 5th String for an hour or two over and over at a slow speed. Get that action imprinted in your memory before you try to play at speed. I find that watching TV while I practice tricky licks helps.

Be sure to watch Ben’s video closely to see how he fingers the strings you can slow the playback speed by clicking on the gear wheel bottom right of your screen.

Good Luck

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I personally don’t see a problem playing that 2nd string following the pinch with your thumb the way you say you’ve discovered to do it. In fact, that’s probably what I would do if I were trying to play this song. I haven’t sat down to this with my banjo, but I can definitely see the potential for getting tripped up right where you circled, and my first thought was “use the thumb!”


Use your thumb for sure! I have no issue with that. I use my thumb most every chance I get, and this is a great opportunity to do what works for you.

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First, I appreciate the replies. I think they’re all good.

With the banjo (and probably a few other things), I always tended to move onto something else when continued progress toward mastering something got hard/slow/boring (not mention started driving my family crazy). Archie’s suggestion is a good one. I should probably continue trying to play according to the TAB rather than fold. I’ll see how far I can get with it. (Already resolved not to move on to the Advanced version until I can play the Basic one and the back-up bits at least a couple times through along with the Banjo & Mandolin Solos at full tempo.

On the other hand, I think it would good to work on alternating with the thumb substitution also. At 65, I’m finding it a little harder to overcome ingrained muscle memory. The reason I posted the question had mostly to do with awareness of potential for developing what might turn out to be a bad habit.

Thanks again.

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