Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Flatpicking done kinda' Carter-style anyone else?

Hello one and all,
I’m a newbie on here and am so happy to belong. I been picking bluegrass style since I got a carter-style going using my fingers only by learning
Since joining though I already wonder if anyone else does flatpicking using their fingers?

I do :smiley: yup! And would be interested to know of anyone else doing this

I not entirely sure what hinderence if any it gives to my bluegrass style. I can certainly get the grooves going and I think my speed is pretty good without the pick. Makes fer a great attack on the strings though I think I may have difficulty in getting some tones to sing out at speed

Any thoughts

Cheers Gary

Lots of great bluegrass guitarists have used the thumb-and-finger Carter style picking (Lester Flatt), but usually with a thumb pick and at least one finger pick. You might give that a try if you’re concerned about volume/tone.

I love Travis picking (and related things) and still use it quite a bit. I used to do some bluegrass stuff with it. It was great for a quiet setting, but it was lost when I got involved with others using a flatpick. The volume wasn’t even close to what I needed. I tried to learn to use a thumb pick, but I didn’t stick with it long enough (and it still wasn’t as loud as a flatpick). I may go back to that someday. Anyway, for about a year and a half I have been working on flatpicking and I find I enjoy being able to do that as well as play with my fingers. Whatever you enjoy, I say go for it!

I’m starting to play bluegrass flatpicking tunes, but instead of using a flatpick, I use a thumbpick and fingerpicks.

Lester Flatt played this way, as ldpayton mentioned, but he only played rhythm. Wayne Henderson uses a very similar technique to play bluegrass flatpicking style leads, like in this video.


I’d tried flatpicking for a long time, but could never relax enough to make it work. I’ve been playing Travis style almost since I started playing, so when I recently started playing with Wayne’s technique, the bluegrass started to fall into place.

Thanks for your comments Guys

I’m locked into using my skin and bone - yeah it came from Travis but also from trying to get some Woody Guthrie tunes going
As well, since I’m about the only participant in this style round here’s in Maidstone, Kent, England, Volume shouldn’t be a problem at the moment. I met one Banjer player at a local gig and he failed to use any traditional banjo techniques at all was very odd. After his strange showing, I had go of his banjo for him and my buddy, I blasted a couple of licks and he took it off me quickly before anyone else heard something proper :smiley:

G-wulf, that’s a nice video. I never tried fingerpicks on a guitar. I might have to go look at Ben’s banjo vids and find one on fitting those things to my finger. I tried playing banjo for a bit, and it was after I gave up I learned that you typically bend them to suit your fingers. They were wailing in the breeze on me.

I haven’t found much advantage to using picks other than the volume, due to their consistant hard attack
And them picks (wherever they’re attached :wink: ) played havoc with wear and tear on yer fingers plus they can fall off!

The incredible thing I think I get is the number of ghost notes that can be kicked out by employing more fingers to the up and down strokes (carter-style) which adds more music and mainly stick with the thumb (downpick) on the 1st and 3rd beats, and the index finger keeps kicking to keep the groove as much as possible both up and down, tripling up notes, tis powerful stuff. I get so many differing sound with fingers giving more percussive effects, gets me gibson going a treat
So I can always find a way to get the crucial tones to sing out
I’m able to go straight to the advance tabs with good results I reckon, early days though still, but the speeds good and the clarity will soon come with familiarity of the music. I not been a member long and am going through foggy mt. breakdown as my first target it’s going well :smiley:

Henderson grew up with a guitar in his hand so to speak and he makes some great guitars, the one he is playing he made . His playing is kind of neat because he uses only the fingers and thumb. Go to you tube and you can hear a history of this gentleman and his guitar making expertise he has a waiting list about a year out. He is very very good at playing .

I grew up with the desire to only learn one tune if nothing else . That tune was “Wild wood flower” I learned it using nothing but a flat pick and developed a style all to its self . I use it in playing out of the chords and it sounds good to me . I know a few others have said some nice things about it. It may involve cross picking to a degree but not exactly / Maybe just the down strums across the the chord in between the melody .But each one of us has a finger print with everything we do including music . so pick away and have fun !!!

I always liked Doc Watson’s style of just his thumb and index finger. He could do more with those two than I can with all ten of mine.

That “Windy and Warm” is pretty tasty!

I guess this clip would be more appropriate since we’ve already mentioned Wayne Henderson. I think everyone on the forum can appreciate this. It’s one of those jams where the “magic” happens to be there. Notice Wayne has a capo on the seventh fret. Thats about the only way I can play that far up the neck. :smiley:


Thanks for posting that Bulldog. I really liked that. I especially liked the setting.

Wayne sure knows how to bring out the tone in his guitars.


Interesting to see a top notch guitarist using a capo so far up the neck. I was reading a thread over on FHO the other day and a lot of pickers have strong opinions about not capoing up that high. Had me thinking I was breaking an unwritten rule of flatpicking when I do it, but if Wayne does it, I’m not going to worry about it too much.

Doc is as good as it gets in my opinion, not a flashy guy but you always knew it was him playing and the melody never got lost. I enjoy his music a great deal as well as Norman Blake on the other end, simple style but very effective. I learned to pick with a flat pick and use my second finger on the other strings for melody and chords quite a bit, don’t know if it’s the best way but I could just not pick up on the finger style that well. Still need my flat pick for bass. Jerry

I’d never say Norman Blake was the greatest flatpicker but he’s always been my favorite because of those very reasons.

That is excellent from Wayne and company. Anyone recognize all the songs? I am terrible with song names… they always are right on the tip of my brain.

I need to use Larry’s practice methods and devote about 15 minutes a day to using a thumbpick. I bet it wouldn’t feel so awkward after a month or so.

1.) Keep On The Sunny Side
2.) Jimmy Brown The Newsboy
3.) You Are My Flower
4.) Can’t Remember (Thats not the song…I really can’t remember)
5.) Wildwood Flower

Thanks Bulldog,
You doubled my knowledge. Keep on the sunny side and wildwood flower were the only that came to me. I’ll have to go back and listen again, Jimmy Brown didn’t pop in there a bit.

“Jimmy Brown The Newsboy” and “You Are My Flower” were two songs that Flatt and Scruggs did a lot. Earl would give his banjo a rest, pick up his guitar and fingerpick the intro and fill in the breaks. I don’t want to clutter the thread with more videos but you can find the old clips on Youtube. Oh yeah, he also used a capo on the seventh fret!