Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Discuss the Mandolin lesson: Hand Positions Overview

Anchor or not to anchor? Wrist or elbow? We’ll cover some of the basics here.

Learned a lot from this lesson. The right hand feels in pretty good shape and I can keep it relaxed. But I can’t seem to relax the left hand, specifically in the wrist itself. I think I’m applying too much pressure and will work on that. Also I will consciously work towards having my thumb placed correctly and slow down (even more🙄) to break bad habits.

Do you have any suggestions on pampering the left hand post playing? It always feels swollen afterwards (it doesn’t help that I’m left handed so I use that hand all the time). Heat or ice it down? Stretching exercises before and after? Thanks!

Hmmm, I’m wondering about your question. I don’t think I’ve ever had to rehab my fret hand wrist or hand. It would really help if I could see some video of you playing. Please upload a short video on the Video Swap category:

Hi Marian. I realise this is a mandolin query but what I am about to say may be relevant.

When I started out learning to play banjo I used to hold chord shapes way too tightly and found that my fingers and hand would stiffen up. After watching closely the way @BanjoBen and Alan Munde were fretting their banjo’s I soon learned to ease the tension and relax more.

Just make sure you are not pressing too heavily against the body of the mandolin with your forearm. It could be that even light pressure on a blood vessel might cause a sensation of numbness in your hand.

I used to do a lot of hand exercises and I always used to wash my hands in warm soapy water before each practice session especially in the winter when my hands were cold. A bit like a dancer or gymnast stretch’s before a routine.

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Hey Archie, you might be on to something there; I tend to get excited especially during a jam and find myself really pressing down on chords. Plus I’m not quite there with the full 4-string stretch and it sometimes takes a full measure to get the pinkie in place.
I never knew the correct way to use the right hand; Ben’s lesson has been helpful for correct thumb placement along with the meaty part of the index finger. Moving the thumb ever so slightly helps me plant the full chord although I’m far from fluent yet!

I’ll try the hand soak before playing. Sounds soothing so a win-win situation for me!

And Ben, I’ll get a video to you soon! I’d like to correct any bad habits asap!


Hi Marian, Yes without doubt the tension is heightened by the excitement of playing, do you feel breathless or your pulse begining to race?

I found that when I had learned a tune I wanted to play it through perfectly without any mistakes, but the more I tried the more excited I got and as a result tension would grow and my fingers would stiffen up. I would often feel breathless and my heart would be pounding.

Now I try to focus on staying calm and relaxed and not worry about making mistakes. Most of the time I get through to the end of the tune where as before I would I rarely get to the end. It frustrated me each time I had a train wreck which caused more tension.

Focus on taking things slow to begin with, remember to breath normally which will help you stay relaxed, that may sound silly but I often found myself holding my breath as I concentrated all my attention on what my hands were doing. Now I try to feel the music and listen as I try play on autopilot

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Hi my qestion is not really connected to this lesson, but do you also have an video where you explain the difference between the mandolins, like f style, and so on. Im just a beginner and also thinking about buying an good instrument one day. But for that a little bit of information would be wonderful. But othe2i really enjoy the lesson and the playing… thank you very much.

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Hi Raphi,

Here is a thread where some folks discussed the relative advantages of certain types of mandolins.

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I don’t have a lesson on that in particular but need to make one, thanks!