Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Muscle Memory: Pickin' Without Picks

Things have been busy the last few months, so when I got the opportunity to pick it was usually later on in the night. I’d slap my banjo mute on and pick without picks to help keep the noise down so as not to wake up the house.

Had some free time this afternoon and actually put the picks on for the first time in a good long while. Land sakes live was it awful! My muscle memory in my fingers was completely gone (well, changed). Especially my thumb. Almost every time I used my thumb I’d go too deep and get the string wedged between my pick and finger. It sure made pickin’ a frustration.

Today felt like I was beginning all over again. Had to pick Cripple Creek real slow and watch my pick hand like a hawk to make sure I was striking the strings how/where I was supposed to.

Lesson learned.


Yep, I loved Jason’s idea with the makeup pads until I discovered that it deceives you into changing your technique just a tiny bit. Then, when you remove whatever your using for the mute, it’s a bit unpleasant a surprise.

Haven’t used any kind of a mute since.

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Just a couple days without playing makes me sloppy on the banjo. It normally will take two days to get back to where I was. Two days without playing the guitar doesent have the same effect.

I’m the last person on the planet who should comment on this, but when away from the banjo, I practice the rolls on the desktop, mimicking the plucking action – M-T-I-M-T-I-M-T , for example. I don’t use picks, so that’s another variable I don’t have to worry about. This seems to help for the sequencing part of right hand muscle memory.

I’m not a banjo player, however, a friend of mine uses a banjo board to practice rolls, etc. image


That looks pretty cool. Put a lever-arm on it and you have a cheese slicer too. Any Banjo players out there use this?

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I’ve had one very similar to the modal shown, made by Hatfield. I paid a few dollars more for the Mahogany version. Only time I could say the tone wood makes no difference to the ears, only your eyes! Very well made, with the spacing available in Crowe or standard. It’s probably got a few hundred hours logged and been played where a “real” banjo would not fit or dare to go. I’ve made use of it for a few years. I don’t know if he is still making them; but I can say the design and purpose, to work the right hand, is an all out success. I was a paid woodworker for ten years, so I could have messed around and constructed one that would “work”. Yet for the fair price, and known quality of Hatfield Banjos, it’s proved itself, improving my right hand technique. It comes with a "Workout " booklet written by Mr. Hatfield, with well thought out exercises for all levels of play. Highly recommended…


Sorry to have corrupted you so. Lol. I agree though because its muted your mind tells you to play harder. I don’t use them that often. Only when I know that the avenging angel downstairs might rise up. lol

But, it was a good suggestion, and it muted great!

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