Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Guitar Fingerpicker > Learning Banjo: Which Fingers?

Hey,Ben & fellow pickers!

To any of you who play guitar and banjo - As a total newbie to banjo, so would love your advice, please: As a guitar player (fingerpicking on an acoustic guitar) I use my index, middle and ring fingers on the first 3 strings. (My thumb then takes care of heavier strings)

I’d like to get into the best habits for learning banjo - Should I leave my fingers mapped in the same way as guitar? Or should I re-map them for Banjo, and ONLY use index adn middle?

Option 1: I’ve watched a few banjo beginner tutorials and it seems that you only use the 2 fingers (index and middle) and the thumb does the rest. This would take a change in how I currently use my fingers, but happy to learn this way
Option 2: Because I’m already so familiar with using index, middle and ring fingers, I’d be happy to use that mapping for banjo.

If someone out there who plays both, could please tell me which path is best, I’ll gladly jump on and follow the advice. Thank you so much! Apologies for the newbie question. All ambition and loving it. Thank you muchly,

Hi @lei Lei welcome to @BanjoBen 's Forum.

Playing Scruggs Style or Three Finger Melodic Style Banjo the goal of most banjo players is to anchor the ring and pinkie on the head whilst using the thumb, index and middle to pluck the strings.

Many banjo players struggle to anchor both ring and pinkie and it is acceptable to anchor either the ring or the pinkie. I have seen some banjo players who never anchor any fingers the Late Dave Hum was one such player. Anchoring helps stabilize your picking hand and obtain a smooth roll pattern.

In practice the Thumb should be able to pick all 5 strings. The index should be able to pick strings 1 thru 4 and the middle finger 1 thru 3 but spends most of the time picking just the first string.

As your new here I would encourage you to work your way through @BanjoBen 's beginner learning track.

There are no short cuts to learning the banjo (even if you are an expert fingerstyle guitarist) you’ve got to learn the fundamentals before you can begin to progress on the banjo and Ben has set out a comprehensive list of lessons that will teach you all you need to know to get started on your banjo journey. Pay particular attention to the lessons on rolls.

Good luck


Pick with two fingers and thumb. The extra finger won’t really help, but it will get in the way


Use your thumb, index, and middle to pick the strings. Plant your ring and pinky or at least try to. If you cant, Earl said it is ok to use one or the other. :grin: Happy pickin’


Jens Kruger says the same thing.

The point of anchoring seems to be giving your hand a reference point so your fingers know where they should go next as you go rolling merrily along!

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Welcome, @lei!! You need to adapt to the 3 finger style of thumb/index/middle. I too fingerpicked guitar before banjo and it’s not a difficult transition to stop using that ring.


Good morning, all. Great advice and feedback from you all. Thank you everyone for the kind words. Much appreciated. I’ve taken on your advice and changed to the new banjo-only finger mapping!

Have a great day happy new year in advance.
Sending love and summer sunshine from South Africa.