Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Stretching the fingers

I have been working on Forked Deer and when the song goes to 8th notes in the second part A I have a hard time keeping my middle finger on the 3rd fret while stretching to the 7th. I was watching Ben play on the video and he can keep his finger on the third fret and hitting the 7th. I tend to slide up toward the fret on the 3rd, and when I walk down from the 5th the tone suffers, because my finger is too close to the fret. I can make it work if I lift up the middle finger and then place it back down, but when trying to play it at Ben’s timing, I can miss the sweet spot. Does Ben have long fingers? How many of you guys can comfortably make the 3rd and 7th spread on the E string? When I see Ben’s hand on the video, it doesn’t budge from the 3rd fret, but it appears he can easily stretch to the 7th. It would be great to do that to keep up to speed.

Hello Super 55,

That stretch is difficult and I have a hard time too, but it can be done with time and a lot of effort on practicing
stretching. I imagine Ben does have longer fingers, I think he once said he’s around 6’2" or 6’4", can’t remember for sure. That really isn’t the issue though. Being able to stretch your fingers is what matters and that takes time, patience and hours of practice. Steve Kaufman has short stubby fingers and when someone complains that they can’t reach certain frets, he holds up his hand and asks you to compare your hand to his. I know this because it happened to me. My fingers were significantly longer than his and I’m just average.

If you watch the A part video closely at 7:14 where he goes through it slow, at the exact spot you’re speaking of (7:20), it looks like he keeps the third fret fretted while going to the seventh fret with his pinky, but then lifts before going to the fifth fret, but he holds it down long enough to get the sustain needed to make it sound right. I wouldn’t worry too much about lifting a little bit, but do keep it fretted long enough to get the right sustain.

Hope this helps and Happy Thanksgiving,