Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Battle of the FINGERS vs PICK

I’m a beginner and am at a bit of a crossroads as it relates to strumming using a pick vs my fingers. I have found that when I use a pick my rhythm is choppy ( on the upstroke ) and slow. When I use my thumb and fingers everything is considerably better— rhythm, speed, and overall sound. I recognize that I give up a crisp sound when not using a pick, especially on those base strings, but strumming is so much better.
My question is this. Am I making a mistake of continuing on with my learning to strum and play rhythm with my fingers instead of a pick? I’ve been at this for about a year and I see a minimal amount of improvement with my pick playing. I was using JamPlay during this time for my lessons. Have just joined BanjoBen as a Gold Member . Have already found I like his method of teaching much better.

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It sort of comes down to what style you want to play.

If it’s Bluegrass, I might suggest going through all Ben’s rhythm lessons, giving each the time it deserves, then ask this question again after that.

If you’re switching back & forth regularly, or keep gravitating to playing with your fingers, you may just need more time with a pick in your hand.

Thanks for that comeback fiddle- wood. I have ordered serveral picks from Banjo Ben this week end based upon recommendations. Various styles and widths. I even ordered one of those $35 picks hoping for a quick fix, even though I know that won’t be the case. Just trying to give myself ever opportunity to succeed at this.
Thanks again for your response. Sounds like I need to just stay at it.

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By the way fiddle_wood, I am working through the Ben’s lessons on rythem . I’m currently on lesson 6.

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Make sure you’re holding the pick correctly, not too tight, and don’t strum hard, keep your wrist relaxed and go slowly

When I strum slow, I’m not tooooo bad. But when I attempt to speed up then things start to run off the tracks and my playing goes from music to noise…
I try to incorporate the things you mention, but speed seems to be the problem.
Thanks for the comeback.

Hey Lefty,

What you describe is a fairly normal progression. It flat out takes a bunch of time to get pick hand control. Ever wonder why people generally pick with their dominant hand, while the fretting hand that looks to be doing all the magic is their off hand? It’s because the pick end of things takes some time. In addition to all the great suggestions above, I would do one thing different than I got to do. Video your right hand and post it. Just a short video is all that is needed. I expect that you will get some awesome feedback… then do it again a short time later after working on the suggestions. You will get more feedback. Keep doing it. Having that feedback will save you years of time in development and allow you to get to a better ultimate result.

Keep at it!

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Will do…Thanks

speed comes with time, familiarity and relaxation.

Be patient…Ii know very few people who could play fast or in time within the first couple years of starting.

Nearly every person learning an instrument thinks they should be faster sooner…give it time and get the mechanics right at the start and you’ll save a lot of frustration fixing things later.


That sounds like good advice and is encouraging.