Floating Finger


I know this topic was mentioned on the old website, but i’m gonna bring it back up because I have to say i’m getting a little discouraged. I’ve only got a couple months experience practicing the banjo and I initially started out practicing rolls n such while attemtping to keep my pinky and ring finger planted. While playing things slowly, it seems natural enough and i don’t have difficulty keeping the ring finger down. However, as I begin to try to speed things up a bit, my ring finger seems to be naturally floating up on me and it seems much easier to pick individual strings consistently. When I notice I’m doing it, I try to replay at the same speed and find that I often “miss” or “incompletely pick” thru the strings. I do feel much more stable when both fingers are planted. Is this just because my finger muscles are weak to this type of movement?

My question is, Is this a sign that i’m not ready to speed up play or is it a sign that I might be one of those that just simply doesn’t have the mobility of my middle finger unless my ring finger “rides along”? If I continue to practice with my ring finger planted, do you think i’ll eventually have the range of motion in my middle finger to pick clearly and concisely at or near speed? I’m sure several of you out there have muddled thru these hoops and I’d sure like to here what experience has to say!



Hey Dan, here’s my take on this. Be cautioned, I’m a beginner too. I tried for a while to plant both fingers. Uh,no, not gonna happen. Then I asked around and got the answer that I thought was good enough for me. In a nutshell, there’s no right way. Either way is fine. Just do what feels comfortable with you. My ring finger floats around and seems to follow my middle finger and that works for me. As I build up my speed, it just follows me around but doesn’t seem to be a problem. Let’s see what others say on this.


I wouldn’t worry about keeping the ring finger planted, I think you’ll be fine as long as it doesn’t get in the way.

From my experience, and this is mostly from guitar, but if you start to pick up the tempo and notice that your technique begins to change in some way, thats usually a bad sign meaning you’re starting to tense up. The best way to build up speed is to just keep it loose and play slow and accurate. Its not really what your mind or your heart always “wants” to do, but building speed is slow gradual process, and as you’re getting faster is best if you don’t really even notice it.

Just play the same songs over and over again, use a metronome as much as possible, and never put the speed any higher than what you can do comfortably, relaxed and 100% accurate.

I’d like to hear some opinions on why you would want to plant fingers at all. Lots of teachers are against it as it can inhibit your range of motion if you pick the strings in different places to get different tones, and probably other reasons I can’t recall at the moment. For banjo it seems that most people recommend planting the pinky and/or the ring if possible, but I’m not really sure why.