Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Building Hand Strength

I was curious if there is a way to build hand strength outside of playing? I find my right hand gets tired. I’m playing well ten minutes in and then I get tired and then tension creeps in. I don’t feel that its bad hand position.

I read once that Ted Williams used to squeeze tennis balls to make his hand strength better. Do you think something like this is necessary so I can play longer?

Hi Jason, I broke a small u shaped bone in the area of my left thumb and I was in a fibre glass cast for six months. When the cast was removed I used an indoor foam rubber tennis ball to build strength in my hand and fingers, At first I could barely move my fingers let alone squeeze the ball I also bought Alan Munde’s Banjo Workout and this was a great help. This is not a banjo tune tutorial DVD It’s a series of exercises using your banjo as an exercise tool to help you workout. Help you gain strength and dexterity in your fingers and hands. Similar to a fitness program an athlete might use to prepare for the Olympics’. Click on this link scroll to the bottom of the page and on the left site.


Cool thanks for this.

While it’s good to develop your hand dexterity, and the tennis ball trick is a good one, my first concern is that your banjo is set up properly. Have you had a pro do a set up job for you? Just 1/16th if an inch on the action can make all the difference in the world.

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Yo @Archie, did that video help you with finger flexibility? I’ve been hammering away at Cumberland Gap for 2+ years now and that up the neck lick with the pinky stretch still feels like advanced yoga to me.


Hi Rance

I have small hands with short fingers and had little or no stretch movement in my pinkie. I must admit Alan’s workout is tough and I stuck with it for about two years and now I have a lot more flexibility in my pinkie and a greater stretch over all. Come’s in handy when @BanjoBen decides to chuck one of his impossible to reach licks in. Aye the Cumberland Gap /Sally Goodin lick sure is a tough cookie. It took me a long time get accurate and begin to build speed. Remember the 3 P’s and you’ll get there. Patience Practice and Perseverance

On the video Alan freely admits to having difficulty moving his pinkie so we are not alone in that endeavour.

Action is perfect. Strings never been easier to hold.

I notice that many of you are speaking of left hand fretting so just to clarify I am talking about right hand. The picking hand. Hope I didn’t make it confusing somehow.

Hi Jason The same applies to the right hand. In order to pick rolls, pinches etc you need to put in the time. Yes your fingers are going to get tired, and possibly sore but the more you practice the easier it gets, the longer you can play without a break. If your hands are getting tired go wash them in warn soapy water, Rest for five or ten minutes and go again. In time you will forget about your hands feeling tire because your building strength each time you practice.

I think the best way to build it up is to keep playing, myself.


Just a novice… but really like Ben’s idea best!

I agree completely with Ben.

It’s not so much strength…you mentioned that tension creeps in….this is the enemy

Being in hard physical labor most of my life I have strong hands…doesn’t keep me from tiring on an instrument… relaxation is the key to endurance (and speed) on an instrument.


Thanks everyone. Always looking for an edge.

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I also like what Dave says too…

I am not a proficient player… and have some pangs as I play… even still on my pinky placement… but I do believe that tension is generally bad… but somehow necessary.

For me… I see the greats… and it does look effortless. Still, I know that it is far from effortless… but because of all the work that got them there… it LOOKS effortless… because they can “go with the flow, naturally” versus “fighting it”.

I can only guess that they have played those songs over and over again that perhaps at that point it is.

That is something I have considered doing. Going back and practicing rolls and hand position and do it over and over again until I can do those things in my sleep. Playing songs rocks but I know I don’t have the right hand down to were its automatic.

The issue is I want to maximize my time now and getting right on into songs is the way to go in my mind.

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Pretty much every day, all day some day’s. For example I am currently working on a long term goal, learning to play Foggy Mountain Special. Today I worked on the UTN lick @ 17th fret with lead in and exit phrases 13 measures in total @ 55 bpm. ( yes that slow) and I must have repeated it at least 50-60 times trying to get it clean. I find that learning to play these more advanced tunes takes a lot of extra study and practice. I try to get to a point where I no longer read the TAB but listen to the TAB through headphones whilst I play along. Most times I memorise the tune and play from memory. One musical phrase at a time. Hopefully when I get to the end I can remember how it starts.