Hi Joseph, This is a topic that crops up pretty much every week on the BHO and in every teachers mail box ever since Earl was asked that same question on the interview below. Unfortunately the part where he discusses this has been omitted from this clip.
I have studied thousands of hours of video’s of banjo players and what I have witnessed / concluded is that very few actually anchor two fingers on the head. Having said that most teachers will tell you that is your goal.
I try to keep both fingers down but I tend to flip between my pinkie and ring. I seem to recall @BanjoBen saying he had problems anchoring both fingers. From the footage of Earl playing I have watched closely I am convinced he didn’t always have two fingers on the head at all times.
Marteka is an exceptional banjo player and I keep hoping Ben will invite her and her brother to the cabin as guests.
In contrast see how Gina Furtado cups her hands round the strings
And Dave Hum who it seems never plants is fingers on the head although his banjo head tells a different story.
Willow Osborne who anchors her pinkie on the edge of her bridge.
Sonny Osborne keeps his ring finger on the head but it does move around
So, in answer to your question, I do believe it’s desirable to have the ring finger planted but studies have shown me that it is not necessary. I would add I am no expert. Like you Joseph I am a student what I know is what I have learned studying others and that includes slowing down Marteka’s videos.
We are all built the same but we are also physically slightly different, some have long and slender fingers others short and fat. I would encourage everyone to take time out to study Earl, Sonny Osborne, JD Crowe and the many, many other great players out there. But don’t force your wrist at a weird angle like JD in the hope that it will make you a better player, Don’t try to pry your front teeth apart to look like Earl. Just be yourself and apply that to your style.
P.S. Anchoring your fingers doesn’t come easy. You have to work at it.