Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Discuss the Guitar lesson: There is a Fountain

This song reaches deep down in my heart and brings back precious memories. This fingerstyle arrangement is robust enough to play anywhere, but also simple enough for anyone to learn. I hope you enjoy playing this one as much as I do!


The beauty and tenderness of this arrangement almost requires it to be played alone for maximum effect. While a simple arrangement to play, its difficult to do so without getting misty-eyed. Thanks so much for this Gem!


So pretty. I have been trying to learn to finger pick with a thumb pick (I can without no problem). Is there a reason you don’t use fingerpicks when you pick guitar? I find it to be a hassle trying to get used to them. But you’re a banjo player so I would assume it would be natural.


I can’t speak for Ben, but I am also a banjo player and fingerstyle guitarist, and I don’t use fingerpicks for several reasons. First, I use my ring finger a lot, and don’t have a pick for it. Second, the space between guitar strings is narrower than banjo strings, so it’s harder to be accurate. Also, metal fingerpicks don’t really sound good on guitar, they sound really clacky. Finally, in fingerstyle I do lots of strums with my fingernails, and that’s impossible with picks. Now, there are players who have used them, go back and look at older videos of Sungha Jung or Gabriella Quevedo, and you’ll see they used plastic fingerpicks, but they don’t use them anymore

Well I haven’t used them either because they are difficult to master. I wasn’t aware that banjo strings had wider spaces. I do recall that in my sparse attempts at banjo picking it didn’t seem as difficult to use finger picks and I regret not sticking with banjo for that and other reasons. I would however at a minimum like to be able to use a thumb pick with ease on guitar, which I can’t do yet. Main reason being that Doc Watson uses a thumb pick and others who play a Piedmont style finger picking or Delta Blues style seem to use them to good effect. Toby Walker and other finger pickers who I admire use them to good effect. Thumb pick in particular seems to make it easy to mute the bass string. I do think though that on this tune you are right - it doesn’t seem necessary or might even be detrimental. I’d like to know if BB ever does use thumb/finger picks on guitar and if so I’d like to see him do his thing in that regard.

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Here is a link to video of Doc playing Windy and Warm, which is a cool song and challenging. It’s clear I think how the thumb pick seems essential. I’ve done my fumbling version of this song without the thumb pick and I’ve gotten fairly competent. But trying to play it with thumb pick makes it all go to heck…

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Also, another note on this song: for the longest time (decades) I didn’t have great facility with my pinky in general on guitar. It’s gotten a lot better as a direct result of playing Windy and Warm. Reason being that you have to do a major pinky bend, which with medium gauge strings takes a lot of strength. Having messed with it a lot my pinky has doubled in strength. LOL

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I usually don’t play with a thumbpick, just cuz I prefer the more even volume and tone on the bass strings, but I can use one, my advice is to put one on every time you play, and within two days you’ll be able to use one. If you check, Doc was only using a thumb and index finger, and he had a pick on the finger. Here’s a video of me playing Windy and Warm, with no thumbpick:

And here’s a video of me playing Grandfather’s clock with one:

I don’t think it’s necessary easier to mute the bass with one, just more necessary. If you like the muted bass sound, you will need the pick.
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I will at times if I’m looking for a particular brassy tone, but usually do not because I want a more mellow tone. I don’t like the clicking sound in a song like this one.

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