Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Single string technique- am I overthinking it?

I’ve been trying to learn a version of Sleigh Ride I found on banjo hangout, and it has some licks where you pick the same string multiple times… It’s not always obvious to me which finger to pick the string with.

Do I need to strive to pick with my thumb on the downbeats, or should I just do whatever feels natural? There are places in the tab where it just makes a lot more sense to use my thumb on the upbeats, and this is what I’ve been doing, but I don’t want to develop any bad habits. is the link if you’re interested

I’ll have to look at this some more when I get home, but I bet this would be a perfect piece for some melodic type fretting around the 5th to 7th fret, which would eliminate the need for single string picking.

Hi Shad.

I would use the following - Measure 10 T TIT IT Measure 11 MTM TMI TM Measure 12 TIT ITI TM Measure 13 T

Alternately you could play Measure 11 MTI (or MIM) TMI TM That dip on the end I always use MITM

Whatever feels right for you. The thumb tends to highlight a melody note but if the melody falls on a string picked with the index or middle you just pick a little harder to emphasis the melody.

You have to think it thru as your learning, but once you have it, single string picking is perhaps a lot easier than Scruggs Rolls

@BanjoBen would say use the thumb wherever possible.

I’ll check out the TAB later


I almost always use my thumb on the downbeat when I’m doing single string picking, but that’s not super often.


Hi Shad, I had a quick look at the TAB and it’s good but not a tune I would want to spend any time with., Good luck with it.

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Single string is whatever, often I use my middle finger and thumb, but as far as which beat it just depends on context. Frequently it’ll make sense to pick the thumb on up beats, and sometimes it even changes in the middle of a measure.
Do whatever feels natural


So this is basically the same notes played in more of a melodic style around the 5th and 7th frets. No single string picking. I think this sounds better because it allows more of the notes to ring out.


Sounding great @Mark_Rocka

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You could also play a traditional Scruggs-style arrangement like in this video:


Wow! That was incredible!

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That was awesome @Michael_Mark thanks for sharing. Anyone know who the banjo picker is. The face is familiar but I can’t put a name to it.

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That’s Jim Britton, one of my favorite Scruggs-style pickers and the guy whose playing made me want to learn the banjo!


Thank you @Michael_Mark

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@Shad When I play single string I don’t keep any hard & fast rules, but usually play my thumb as often as I can. One time I got an impromptu lesson from one of the best banjo players to ever live, Jens Kruger. He told me to work on getting every finger to play any string I wanted and to throw all rules out the window.

@Michael_Mark I’ve had the pleasure to work with or get to know all those guys except Cody, who is perhaps in my top 3 flatpickers ranking. I’ve said hi to him a few times but never hung out with him. Jim Britton, Andy, and Byron are 3 of the most kind and humble (brilliant) musicians I’ve been around…just wow!


@Mark_Rocka Thanks! I’m going to learn this! Wouldn’t have thought of this… need to add some melodic banjo to my bag of tricks.


Glad to help! If you’re looking for a good lesson to start with on your melodic journey, this lesson feels a LOT like the way I arranged Sleigh Ride.