Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Planted pinky finger

Hey All,

Playing the guitar a lot more lately. Trying to up my game with some of Ben’s really nice tef files. Since many of these flatpicking songs require a lot more precision I find I lightly plant my pinky to give myself a little more accuracy when picking. Otherwise I feel like I’d be all over the place. I think it helps from my perspective, but wanted to get other ideas before I form a bad habit I’m likely to never be able to break.

Check out the pic if it helps.


There is nothing wrong with light planting; some of the best flatpickers in the world do it. Just make sure that it’s not creating a lot of tension in your picking hand.


No tension there. Thanks!


Whilst I am no great shakes at playing I have never done anything else but plant!


My opinion may be the less popular one, but if playing at pretty high speeds is ever your goal, I’d personally really encourage building the habit of a free floating right hand. In my personal experience, I’m very glad I stopped planting about a year ago. But we each find our own way! :slight_smile:


I don’t suspect I’ll ever be Tony Rice, but maybe. I’ve never been fast even when I was young.


We all have different hands and different goals too - I’d say do what feels good and is completely tension free all the time!


The frustrating part about these kinds of questions is that at the end of all the answers it just comes down to whatever is comfortable with you. I usually just kind of hook the E string with my pinky instead of planting and it’s been really helpful.


Here’s Ben’s advice on pick hand for accuracy and speed. I started with planting the finger but once I was more comfortable with left hand fretting, I focused on the right hand to do like what Ben recommended. For example, I was never be able to play Irish washerwoman at higher speed until I started to close the picking hand, as floating was what gave accuracy in addition to speed and not the planted reference finger. I brush or rest the part of the palm on the strings to get the reference in that case. A hybrid approach to learning picking! :slight_smile:


Thanks. He is definitely right about the pick gauge. I really like the sound of my thin V pick but the thicker ones have a faster action.


Hi Michael

I’d give planting your finger a go. I learnt to do it and it can be very useful.

I think that these days I tend to transition between my palm being planted on the bridge with some planting or my hand floating with no planting at all. I don’t think I struggle with speed so I haven’t thought about my picking hand technique for a long time. I know that I do not plant firmly or anchor my pinky - If I ever do plant it’s just kind of there. Or I’ll plant at the beginning to find my bearings, then move the pinky out of the way once I’m more confident that I know what I’m doing or playing.

The only had problems with the planting technique is when playing rhythm. I’ve followed Norman Blake’s advise to have your whole wrist relaxed as if shaking off some water. A couple of friends pointed out to me that even though my pinkly wasn’t planted my little finger was extended so that it was tapping out a small beat on the body of my acoustic, which they could hear and was distracting. I myself no longer noticed the tiny tapping, but they did. So I often have to remind myself to keep my pinky clear of the body when playing rhythm - I still sometime lapse into tapping and it annoys me now, because I’ll notice it.

If you are still in the early stages of learning speed is not at all important; it has become less and less important to me: I want to play well not fast.

You should give it a try to find out - see what you think. I also don’t think that it’s difficult to abandon planting and have your hand floating.

All the best.

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If you mean me, I do usually anchor my fingers. I have a fault of sometimes doing it too firmly, given my banjo muscle memory. I’ll sometimes alternate even mid-solo between anchoring and floating; It kind of depends on which strings I’m picking.

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There’s me all over, shooting my comments off without looking!

I mistakenly thought I was replying to sharingtimes again!


It’s good to know that you can plant your finger when playing banjo.

I’ve not done it on the banjo - It is after all kind of a drum head - and I really notice if my finger touches. It sounds quite noticeable if my fingers glance the head - so I avoided doing it. I got some metal fingerpicks recently and when that banjo gets rolling you can’t hear yourself think, so maybe touching the head doesn’t matter.

I’ve sometimes anchored my palm to the bridge - not firmly - but it got kind of comfortable

I’ve not developed any habits yet playing banjo - the access to all the new material and me having to iron out some of my guitar flatpicking shortcomings; it think Ben’s style uses more ornaments than I’m used to (which is a better sound) - so my banjos been sitting quietly on the wall.

It’s really cool to have so many banjo players here. I generalize, but I don’t think too many UK players would rush out to get themselves a banjo, before a guitar. I love the sound of a banjo - I had to get a myself cheap left handed made in China one - which sounds great to me - and I think it’s well made for what it cost. But my jaw has dropped at how expensive the good USA banjos are. I’m sure that they are worth every penny, but there’s probably not the market in the UK for too many high end instruments - especially not left handed.

So sorry for offering you my sage advice. I guess I got carried away playing the wrong chord progression yet again!

All the best!


Haha, no problem. :wink: :+1: It is pretty universally recommended to plant at least one finger on the banjo, since you don’t move your hand around as much as you do when playing guitar.