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Small Handed Banjo Players - Tips?

GUEST 11 Jul 18 - 11:13 AM
GUEST,Mark Bluemel 11 Jul 18 - 11:23 AM
GUEST,Jerry 11 Jul 18 - 04:52 PM
GUEST 12 Jul 18 - 04:16 AM
GUEST 12 Jul 18 - 10:56 PM
GUEST,Mark Bluemel 13 Jul 18 - 03:56 AM
GUEST,Mark Bluemel 13 Jul 18 - 03:57 AM
GUEST,Jerry 13 Jul 18 - 04:37 AM
GUEST 13 Jul 18 - 10:57 AM
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Subject: Small Handed Banjo Players - Tips?
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Jul 18 - 11:13 AM

just bought a banjo, having trouble positioning my fingers for chords since I have smaller hands. Tips for how to do it better?


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Subject: RE: Small Handed Banjo Players - Tips?
From: GUEST,Mark Bluemel
Date: 11 Jul 18 - 11:23 AM

Smaller than what? I have hands no bigger than my wife's and play guitar and even bass guitar comfortably.
I'm not a banjo player, but I'd expect that if you're having problems, it's probably a technique issue - you need to use clean technique, where a person with larger hands may be able to get away with sloppier...

Try reading this for a start - from the look of it, the clean approach is similar to classical guitar, keeping the neck of the instrument at a fairly steep angle, with the headstock high, your left wrist down and your left thumb in the middle of the back of the neck. Lots of people get away with other approaches, just as with guitars, but I suspect if you start by working on that you'll find things improve.


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Subject: RE: Small Handed Banjo Players - Tips?
From: GUEST,Jerry
Date: 11 Jul 18 - 04:52 PM

It would also help to know what sort of banjo you mean and what style. Five string, tenor or other? You can also get away with partial chords much of the time on five string, especially when tuned to open chords, and to a lesser extent on tenor.


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Subject: RE: Small Handed Banjo Players - Tips?
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Jul 18 - 04:16 AM

Get a small banjo.


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Subject: RE: Small Handed Banjo Players - Tips?
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Jul 18 - 10:56 PM

Sorry I haven't been responding quickly I've been busy lately. Mark, my hands are just over 6.5 inches long from bottom of palm to tip of middle finger.

Technique is likely the issue, I just bought it a few weeks ago and have slowly been attempting to teach myself. Thank you, that was a good read I hadn't seen yet.

I like the idea of keeping the neck steeper but then that makes it harder for me to pick the strings accurately--I guess I'll have to compromise!

Banjo is a Recording King Rk r20 songster. And while I appreciate the advice Jerry, I'm just starting to learn, not sure I've got what it takes to know partial chords yet :)

GUEST: the idea is tempting but unfortunately I already bought it.


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Subject: RE: Small Handed Banjo Players - Tips?
From: GUEST,Mark Bluemel
Date: 13 Jul 18 - 03:56 AM

Hi again Guest
My hands are little, if any, bigger than yours. I've only plonked on a banjo once or twice, but I've played a variety of fretted instruments without major problems.

You haven't said which kind of banjo you play (tenor or 5-string) but frankly I doubt that it makes much difference at this stage - you need to cultivate a left-hand position similar to that of a classical guitarist, to give you the best angle for your fingers on the fretboard.

A quick image search gave me
this photo
of the great Bela Fleck, who seems to fairly consistently use this approach on banjo.

The "classical" approach for guitar has been established over a very long time - while people get away with huge variation, it's still a good place to start for almost any fretted instrument you hold in a "guitarish" way (mountain dulcimers are different, though I seem to remember one of the Dransfields played one like a guitar). Remember that in the long run, your aim is not to look at either hand - so choosing a posture based on hand visibility isn't necessarily a good thing.

I'd suggest you find a teacher if you can, if not then there are books and loads of stuff on the web, but remember that a lot of the youtube videos will be made by people who either never learnt or chose to change from the "classical" position - don't necessarily copy that aspect of what they are doing. At least not until you've got some foundation, and can make an informed decision.

Have fun with it!


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Subject: RE: Small Handed Banjo Players - Tips?
From: GUEST,Mark Bluemel
Date: 13 Jul 18 - 03:57 AM

Hi Guest - missed the detail of the banjo. OK - I think my points hold water, and Bela Fleck is relevant!


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Subject: RE: Small Handed Banjo Players - Tips?
From: GUEST,Jerry
Date: 13 Jul 18 - 04:37 AM

I suppose the point I was making was, don’t get too worried about being able to finger fancy chord shapes on the five string, because whether you aspire to be a frailer or bluegrass picker, you don’t use full chord shapes that much anyway, but rather fragments of them as you move up and down the neck. Clearly, it’s important to know where the chords are on the neck and how they relate to each other, but if you are tuned to an open chord, such as gDGBD, then you have easy one finger chords like C at the 5th fret, D at the 7th and G again at the twelfth. Since some chords shapes actually only require a couple of fingers, it would seem that your left hand and thumb position need adjusting, as other have said.


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Subject: RE: Small Handed Banjo Players - Tips?
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Jul 18 - 10:57 AM

I see what you're saying now Jerry, thanks.


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