Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Left hand finger assignments

This is a total beginner question, but with left hand fingering, what frets go with which finger? Do the four fingers start by covering the first four or 5 frets? When you move up to 6 do you move your entire hand or just extend as far as you need to go? That is does the index play 6 or is it an extended pinky?

There may not be any one answer for this but I would be interested in hearing points of view.



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Good question John, and welcome! You’ll be practicing using nearly every finger on every fret eventually. That’s the beauty of Ben’s instruction. He’ll be teaching you things you won’t even realize but you’ll be improving your muscle memory without even thinking about it!

Have you watched Ben’s video about Fret Hand techniques?

Hi John

That’s a huge question with multiple answers. The best advice I can offer is to work your way through @BanjoBen 's Beginner Learning Track, Ben has gone to a lot of time and trouble you give you the tools you need to learn to play banjo. There are no shortcuts. These lessons are structured in a way to provide you the knowledge and skills to give you a path to follow. Take a look at this lesson on major chords this should go some way to providing some answers to your query…

It’s a common question a lot of people have. Do yourself a huge favor now and pay close attention to how Ben uses his fret hand before you develop bad habits that are tough to break later on.

Once you get past the beginner section, efficiency of motion becomes crucial in playing more advanced runs. If you’ve already built good habits, those will be much easier to tackle.

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I’d second what @Mark_Rocka said, John. Starting out, just pay attention to Ben and do what he does. You’ll develop what’s comfortable on your own in due time, but for now mimicking him won’t steer you wrong.

To answer down the road, you won’t always use the same finger on a certain fret. Ben will show you how to play up and down a scale in his Intro to Melodic Banjo, and in the process you use different fingers because of practicality (this is exemplified by him towards the end of video 2, about the 10 min mark or so.

Thanks for all of the good feedback. I actually never really look closely at the left hand during the lessons. I’ll go back and try to copy those moves.

I haven’t attempted the melodic Banjo lesson, but I’ll watch that too.

I appreciate you all jumping to my aid.

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Hi John
That’s the reason your finding things tough., 90% of your time you should be focused on Ben’s left hand 10% on his right hand. If Ben want’s to highlight a roll or picking pattern with his right hand he will draw this to your attention. If you need to pause or rewind the video to practice or check something like your left hand fingering that’s good. Check your fretting hand in the mirror or make a video to check your doing things right. In the beginning a lot of what we all do is mimic the teachers actions, trial and error. Listening is vital.

Stick with the Beginner track and it wont be long before you begin to see a marked improvement in your progress. your confidence will grow as your take on new challenges.

It’s perhaps most important when playing melodic!

But in general, there are varying opinions and techniques depending on who you watch. My general approach is to use the strongest fingers I can while also thinking about where I’m going next.