Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Banjos are LOUD - no picks?

Hi Gang,
I’m eagerly practicing my somewhat-dormant banjo skills in anticipation of next month’s #CabinCamp. I’m practicing a lot and having a blast, but it is LOUD. I’ve tried a banjo bridge mute, but have found that it’s no help.

So, I’ve started practicing without picks. A little tough on the fingers at first (just like on my fretting hand), but really helps with the volume while keeping the muscle-training happening.

Has anyone else dealt with this? I see a few other posts about banjo volume but none that mentioned picks.

Thanks, as always, in advance.


I don’t find practicing without picks a decent substitute. It just doesn’t feel the same. I guess you could learn a song that way, but transitioning that to a live jam wouldn’t be something that would just happen. I’d have to spend some time with picks on first.

Have you tried Mike’s Banjo Mute? It’s literally the best on the market.

I did a review about mine a while back and even measured decibel levels with and without it. It’s impressive.


Learning to play at different volumes is part of learning any instrument, and is necesary for playing the dynamics required to jam with others.

Playing with less volume works like anything else…slowing down and getting it right by working on it and concentrating on it.

Some people will insert a towel or shirt inside the pot to quite a banjo downand cut down on overtones for recording.But htey can still play at different volumes when required.


I’m assuming you’re using a resonator banjo, as opposed to an open back. Open backs are not as loud to start with and are easy to mute by placing a towel in the back. You could take the resonator off, usually only 4 screws, and mute it that way.


I don’t recommend playing much without picks because it can mess up your muscle memory for playing with picks


Cowboy Up. The banjo needs to be heard. :cowboy_hat_face::banjo:


I agree with @Dragonslayer


For kicks one day I tried not using finger picks. I found that I ended up have to bring my fingers down a notch closer to the banjo strings because I didn’t have the pick extension. To compensate i had to lift my middle finger off the head to keep it from hitting the first string. I also found that my fingers did not slide off of the strings and when I tried to speed up I couldn’t play as fast as normal. To me this felt like have to learn banjo all over again. I also feel like part of learning the banjo is hearing the sound. I find myself saying when I play “now that’s what a banjo should sound like” or “no a banjo should never sound like that” then I analyze what both hand are doing, figure out what went wrong, and make a mental note of it. I might still make the same mistake again, but at least I’m mindful of it and try not to. This has been my experience not wearing finger picks. To sum up my story I would wear finger picks it pays in the long run. Anyway thanks for reading. I hope this helps.

Lone Wolf


Oh, don’t do that, I think you’ll be sorry.

If it’s still too loud even with a mute, take the resonator off.

If it’s still too loud, put a couple of rolled up hand towels inside between the head and the rods. If the towels don’t stay in, put a tone guard on the back.


Thanks, everybody. All great input, and confirms my initial concerns; don’t practice without picks.

Great suggestions, too, for dampening volume. Hope to see some of you in March!



Good point Dragon. When I practice without picks, it makes a huge difference when coming back to them. Messes up volume control big time. Especially with my thumb.