November 04, 2001

#12: Planting one or two fingers on head

Marni from Ontario, Canada writes:

I have trouble keeping my ring finger -right hand on the banjo surface. I have played guitar for years and always kept the little finger down. When I try to keep the ring finger down on the banjo as well as the little finger- I find I can't pick at all!!!! Will it be ok not to keep ring finger down, or should I work on keeping it down? Will I run into future problems if I don't keep it down. The little finger is securly anchored. Suggestions?

Dear Marni,

Just one finger down is OK. That's actually quite common. Though some people recommend both fingers down (which is what seems to work for most players), I don't see it as especially necessary. In the book Masters of the Five String Banjo, we surveyed 40 pro players on this topic, and found that 19 (almost half) do not normally plant both fingers.

Just because various well-known players plant two fingers does not mean it's the only or the best way to sound good. I believe that since different people's hands are just built a bit differently, what's best varies from person to person. Good sound and comfort are the determining factors.

Pete Wernick

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