Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Breaking Bad Habits - Help :)

Whats up guys. I joined this site a couple weeks ago after feeling like a “plateaued” with my self-teachings. I can play most of the intermediate content decently with my playing already and with my bad habit of palm brushing and lightly anchoring. Mostly on the bass side of the bridge with my thumb pad. Not so much my wrist or a actual “anchor”

If I try to play completely free without any contact with the guitar/mando my accuracy and speed goes to garbage and I cant even play the stuff I could normally play with my ‘bad habit’.

I know its a tough one to break but is there more I can be doing than just the open string picking exercise? What are all the things I can be doing to break this habit fast? Also my hand feels weird when I make a loose fist instead of fanning out my 3 fingers like I am use to doing.

When I started bass the right hand fingering felt foreign but I got that In almost a day of practice (except for 3rd finger/triplets). This picking is going to be a bigger hurdle I can tell… It feels like starting over to be honest. But I want to be a better player and get out of this rutt. I’m noticing how the tension is the biggest thing holding me back right now. Thanks!

1 Like

I do the same sometimes…sometimes not. As long as you’re not damping the strings being played you should be good.

I found that, for me, Cross-picking exercises can help some. Also, slowing things usually helps when I’m correcting something.

The exercises themselves won’t cure the problem. I find that it takes constant concentration to correct an old habit…I have to keep it in mind all the while when playing.


Brushing is not actually a bad habit; I don’t know of any free-floaters who don’t brush at all. I free float on mandolin and plant my fingers on guitar; when I’m floating, my palm is lightly brushing/bouncing against the bridge.

Honestly, if you feel way better with the fingers extended, try planting like Adam Steffey. That guy plays as clean and fast as you could hope for, and his fingers are totally extended with the pinky planted.


so true…


Watch the GOAT of guitar playing, Tony Rice, and tell me that resting your wrist is a bad habit.

Just make sure you’re not muting any strings or really pushing down on the headstock and you should be fine. To be honest, i think that free floating like Jake Workman gives the best chance for max speed but Tony can play play plenty fast enough for my liking. Also, Trey Hensley’s speed blows my mind and he rests his wrist so…


@Shaky_loves_banjo You’re a bright young dude. Thanks for the kind words and advice! I wish you the best on your playing also.

As for everyone else you’re right. Its not bad that I do that. I just need to be conscious when my wrist gets tense and be aware always when playing. I noticed a improvement by the end of today already. keeping that wrist swinging like a pendulum while being natural.


FWIW Tony didn’t rest his wrist, but his fingers.

There are a bunch of amazing players who plant the wrist, who brush with the pinky, who plant the pinky, who plant the ring and pinky, who float with an open hand, who float with a closed hand… Do what is the most natural and most comfortable for you.


Yes, thats the key- Keep your wrist relaxed. If you watch Tony and Trey, you will see that they still have good flexibility at the wrist and they can both go through all 6 strings without stretching and breaking position, so that is the key. I remember a while ago, someone, i don’t know who, said they started progressing when they stopped stressing out about their technique and started perfecting the one they had. Same for me. I tried for a few month to stop resting and start free floating but once I went back to the old way, my picking accuracy went shooting up, and my max bpm went from 130 to 187.(Thats only for Tony Rice soloing or Black Mountain Rag. I can’t play nearly every song at that speed)


Yes that’s right thanks


Brushing and anchoring aren’t the same, as some others have said; lightly brushing your wrist across the bridge pins isn’t bad technique. But make sure you aren’t planting down because I believe that does hinder speed. As far as the closed fist feeling weird, if you keep working on it and being patient, it will feel normal after a while. I’ve experienced this change so I know exactly how you feel. I personally think good technique is worth the discomfort and effort it takes to get there, and there’s no better time in your playing to change those habits than now, because it’s only going to be harder to undo things when you’re more advanced.


All good except that none of us will ever be at Jake Workmans speed so theres no point for me to change :rofl::rofl::joy: I agree with what you’re saying though.


I love all the comments, and they probably cover the whole range of answers. What is the right answer for you? I don’t know. I do know that I had a similar experience to @Shaky_loves_banjo when I spent over a month committed to changing my picking hand. I didn’t get where I wanted. I think you hit the nail on the head and I do think tension is likely the key obstacle. Work to free up things from your neck down to your finger tips and I suspect that will help more than altering your hand position. Just a hunch…

I also recommend posting a video for Ben and others to see. You might get some helpful feedback.


When I changed my picking hand it took about 6 months before I felt really comfortable. I stayed committed to it though. Not that there’s just one right way to do it; I’m just saying it might take some time.


I can go back and forth depending on the song and the…day. haha

I’ve always wondered what would happen if I just committed and stayed there…maybe I should.


Everyone here gave great food for thought and I’ve taken all your advice in the last couple days and its helping tremendously. Thanks a ton for taking the time to help me understand this better.