Ben: Right Hand Position & Attack


#1

Ben (and banjo brethren)…

I know it’s (largely) about comfort & individual style in terms of right hand position, however, I am of the opinion there are certain positions which seem to lend themselves better to clarity in the string attack/approach which aids play. Having said that, I have realized benefit from Ben’s advice on tightening the right hand when flatpicking guitar and, thus, have examined my right hand approach on banjo. For me, I find my right hand has never been ‘anchored’ while playing banjo and my ring finger is often awkward as a result. In my attempts to cleanly anchor, I have moved back toward the bridge with my picking fingers, actually holding my ‘pinky’ behind the bridge. It seems nearly impossibly for me to keep my ring finger & pinky together, and anchored, while picking 3-finger style.

Am I a freak of nature or is this common?

I seek advice on better anchoring & improving my string approach.

Ben, is it possible to do a video on this to aide those of us wishing to clean up our technique?

Thanks!
T.O.M.


#2

On other banjo forums there is much discussion about anchoring and the conclusions are pretty well that, yes, it is good to anchor. Anchoring helps you orient your fingers to the strings so they (your fingers) know where they are.

Is it absolutely necessary? NO. There are a very few players who play without anchoring but it seems for must of us mortal folks, anchoring is the way to go.

Do you need to anchor with the ring and the pinky. Again, this is a no and there are lots and lots of players who only anchor with one finger.

My own experience is that is took about a year or a year and a half before I could concentrate enough on my fingers to be able to plant the ring and pinky. Before that point, I had too many other things to worry about (fingerpicks, hitting the right strings, left hand fretting, timing, etc. etc.) to be able to concentrate just on planting my fingers.

When you start out on the banjo, everything is awkward; the fingerpicks, left hand pull offs, even just holding that heavy instrument so it takes time for your body to get used to it. Keep trying to plant at least your pinky. The more you play, the more comfortable and natural it will be to just place your fingers lightly on the head (I too, used to hook my finger on the bridge. It just a a question of practice and time for you to be able to feel comfortable about placing your hand).


#3

bluenote, as usual posted good advice.

I was in same boat, anchor fingers not anchoring, then one day looked down and they were. ??? Came with time for me.

Side note, see you have an Iida. Any idea model or year? I ask as I have a 74 Iida for my campfire banjo.


#4

Here’s a thread on this forum that deals with this and where the man himself - Mr. BanjoBenClark - weighed in on it.

https://banjoebenclark.com/forum/t/floating-finger/101/1


#5

BeardedBanjo…

My parents bought my iida for me nearly 40 yrs ago when I decided I wanted to learn to play. It was purchased as ‘used’ and in good shape. I have tried to get info on mine but there are no stamps or engravings with any info whatsoever. I’ve thought about taking some pictures of it and posting for members to try and help me date it, but haven’t taken the time to do so. I had the same cheap case which came with it until a few months ago when I decided to pitch it and purchased a better case.

Mine has a Mahogany resonator and neck but the pot is just cast aluminum… no rim or tone ring, plastic head. So, as you can imagine, it is light and it has a pretty impressive volume to it but lacks the tonal quality of a nicer banjo. When I bought the new case I also had a local shop do a full setup including new tuners. Years ago I replaced the friction 5th string tuner with a metal one because the button (white plastic) just disintegrated. The other 4 tuners needed replaced because they were beginning to crack too and I am surprised they lasted this long. Inlays are just dots and the fingerboard, arm rest & bridge are made a stained rosewood. The head just has ‘Iida’ in a gold script. From what I can find on the interwebs, mine appears to be a model 223.

Not a fancy rig by any means but I’ve had a lot of fun with it over the years and am having fun getting ‘reacquainted’ with it now. My goal is to purchase a Huber in 2016 and reserve my ‘old faithful’ for working with others who are wanting to learn.
I never plan to get rid of it as it holds too much sentiment to me.

Are you aware of anywhere I can get info on manufacturing date & model?
Here is what I was able to find:
http://hawthorne.fastie.com/asianbanjos/catalogs.htm

Thanks!
T.O.M.


#6

Here is a catalog pic of the iida model 223 (far left) which looks like my model. This is from a 1976 iida catalog.

T.O.M.


#7

well i will be the first to tell you that anchoring one or two fingers has drove me to the point of crazy…lol.So i did all kinds of research on ways to help with this problem, so let me share this with you… TAPE!,If you tape your to fingers together is seems to work well,i know it sounds crazy but try it,it may work for you as well.


#8

Think you got Bearded and me mixed up. lol…I do sport a beard as well though, so I can why.

Here is probably the best place to get info;

banjohangout.org/pages/searc … da%20banjo

Any reason you picked a Huber? I looked at buying a Huber this last year but settled on a Hatfield. I don’t think you can go wrong with a quality banjo. Getting mine has made me want to practise more as I have a fair chunk of change tied up in it.

My Iida was one of their upper line from I’ve been able to figure out. Has tone ring, wood pot, fancier inlay. Sounds extremely good. Had it at one shop and although their set up people didn’t know how to set it up, they were all talking about the Iida as they had never seen one. While I was playing it, the owner came out and started talking about Iida’s. Told me to never sell it as there are people looking for them because of the sound. It’s a nice sounding banjo etc, but it’s no Hatfield.


#9

— Begin quote from "scott44"

well i will be the first to tell you that anchoring one or two fingers has drove me to the point of crazy…lol.So i did all kinds of research on ways to help with this problem, so let me share this with you… TAPE!,If you tape your to fingers together is seems to work well,i know it sounds crazy but try it,it may work for you as well.

— End quote

Mine came to rest on the head after awhile but the tape sounds like a great idea.


#10

scott44,

Awesome idea with the use of tape… I will have to give it a try. I’ve picked for years without anchoring and non-consistency is (has been) an issue for me. I’m hoping to clean up old habits and improve my overall style by anchoring.

Thanks!
T.O.M.


#11

ez2cy, (and BeardedBanjo)

Sorry for the mix-up… I’m coming off an illness & my over-the-counter remedies seem to only put me in a stupor so as not to realize how sick I have been. :wink:

I troll the hangout frequently but am not a member and have never posted there. Thanks for the link, it looks like there is a lot of good info provided in it. My iida is a low end for sure but it plays well and still looks as good as when I got it other than some fingerboard & fret wear. If I remember correctly, I think my Dad paid $75 for it so I have enjoyed a great return on his investment.

I’ve played all kinds of nicer banjos in stores and just keep gravitating back to the Huber for playability & tone in my price point. I have been a long time coming to my decision and really appreciate the customization Steve offers in his banjos to make them your own, so I am going the custom route. I’m not into the real fancy rigs as I prefer a somewhat understated look but I haven’t been able to match his ring & rim for tone quality. All those factors have been weighed and measured against other manufacturers and have helped me make my decision. I hope to order in a few weeks and have my new rig before Spring.

Having said that, I have not played a Hatfield, although Arthur’s shop is only a few hours from my home. I’ve considered making a road trip with a buddy of mine just to play one and check out the various options as I have seen some buzz about them on the interwebs.

Thanks!
T.O.M.


#12

— Begin quote from "ez2cy"

…I do sport a beard as well though…

— End quote

Good man.


#13

I think we all have struggled with this. Being a classical guitar player it was especially difficult for me. But patience and practice and gravity won over and I think it will with you.


#14

OK…

I decided to try a revised version of taping my fingers. Rather than struggle with getting the tape too tight, or in the wrong position, and having to get the tape adhesive crud off my fingers after each use, I decided to try a Velcro computer cable tie.

This tie, in addition to some finger flexibility exercises seems to be helping.

Thanks for the help!
T.O.M.

FYI
Here is what the cable tie I use looks like:


#15

I started playing banjo with a local instructor. At the time, I did not know there were different thoughts on one vs two finger anchoring. I was shown/told to do two fingers, and that is what I did/do. For giggles I have tried to play with only my pinky anchored, and feel like my fingers are too sloppy.

Having said that I have learned Ben’s version of Cherokee shuffle (at my nice and slow pokey speed of about 160 bpm) which has a section using inside rolls. Using the two finger anchor during this section feels awkward, much like when I first began (about 8 months ago). I lose “power” on those inside rolls and the volume drops. I still prefer the two finger anchor, but there are TONS of great players who only anchor their pinky.


#16

— Begin quote from "TheOtherMarshal"

Having said that, I have not played a Hatfield, although Arthur’s shop is only a few hours from my home. I’ve considered making a road trip with a buddy of mine just to play one and check out the various options as I have seen some buzz about them on the interwebs.

Thanks!
T.O.M.

— End quote

You sound the same as me. When I got my Hatfield, the wife made a remark that she thought it would be fancier. “Looks don’t make a banjo” is what I told her. Mine is the Buckcreek with hardly anything added. Arthur and Beverly were a dream to work with. Told me if I was ever down that way to make sure to stop in for a visit. I was looking at a Huber as well. Think the Huber is a little more money. If I were you and lived that close, I’d give Arthur a call and make the trip. Even if you didn’t like or buy a Hatfield, the experiance would worth it and probably pick up some good advice. But that’s me. GL with whatever you decide. You won’t regret getting a good one, I sure haven’t.


#17

Hi, I’m struggling with the same problem of not being able to find a consistent anchoring position. Just can’t decide if anchoring the pinky (which is what Ben does, by the way) is better than anchoring the ring finger or even both fingers. Each seems to create some kind of tension in my hand or arm muscles.
I started playing the banjo with the ring finger anchored, which came to me quite naturally from some folk picking patterns that I had been playing on the guitar for more than 20 years. I was having trouble with forward rolls (backward rolls were easier for me), though, so I started trying out other positions around mid 2014. I have the impression that anchoring the ringfinger works best for me, but sometimes that creates tension in my arm and my middle finger seems to be kind of “blocked” (it doesn’t stretch back over the string in time for the next stroke). I also tried the tape thing (you can put a double-sided tape on your banjo head, so your anchoring finger(s) sticks to it and doesn’t wiggle around), but didn’t find it helpful as it creates more tension.

Here’s the essence for me (most of which we all know, but, easier said than done… :wink: ):

  • find a relaxed handposition and avoid tension
  • practise slowly for good timing and then speed up if you can (I can’t get up to speed to be able to jam with others, unless it’s a real slow piece)
  • economy of motion, which seems to be strongly related to the anchoring question. I’m having trouble keeping my hand still when I speed up and the radius my fingers go through is no longer well controlled.

So, if anyone has any more advice, special exercises to improve finger coordination and finger independence, you’re welcome.

@Ben: Sure would appreciate a dedicated video lesson about the topic


#18

— Begin quote from "TheOtherMarshal"

Ben (and banjo brethren)…

I know it’s (largely) about comfort & individual style in terms of right hand position, however, I am of the opinion there are certain positions which seem to lend themselves better to clarity in the string attack/approach which aids play. Having said that, I have realized benefit from Ben’s advice on tightening the right hand when flatpicking guitar and, thus, have examined my right hand approach on banjo. For me, I find my right hand has never been ‘anchored’ while playing banjo and my ring finger is often awkward as a result. In my attempts to cleanly anchor, I have moved back toward the bridge with my picking fingers, actually holding my ‘pinky’ behind the bridge. It seems nearly impossibly for me to keep my ring finger & pinky together, and anchored, while picking 3-finger style.

Am I a freak of nature or is this common?

I seek advice on better anchoring & improving my string approach.

Ben, is it possible to do a video on this to aide those of us wishing to clean up our technique?

Thanks!
T.O.M.

— End quote

To get my ring and pinky to stay down i taped them together at the angle they will sit on the head. I’ve found after a month I’m learning to hold them both down. Otherwise my ring will float. I found with both anchored my picking was tighter and stayed in right area of the strings.