The diversity of banjo types could only be shaded by that of the African culture, from which the remarkable stringed instruments were born. Each type has its own playing style, with the most famous one being the five-string banjo.
One of the most popular styles associated with five-string banjos is the bluegrass style. To play bluegrass banjo, you’ll need to wear three picks.
But which fingers will you use? And are metal or plastic picks better? In this article, we’ll give you the answers you need, along with how to wear banjo picks properly. So, without further ado, let’s jump in!
To wear your banjo picks correctly:
- Choose your banjo picks
- Wear your thumb pick
- Wear your fingerpicks
- Bend your fingerpicks
How to Wear Banjo Picks: A Complete Guide
After reading this section, you’ll be able to wear your banjo finger picks like a pro. Here are the steps you should follow:
1. Choose Your Banjo Picks
The first step you should take is to choose the picks you want to use. You’ll need three picks, one for the thumb, one for the index finger, and one for the middle finger. The only choice you’ll have to make is whether you want plastic or metal picks.
Ideally, you should get a plastic thumb pick and two metal picks. But why?
Well, metal finger picks are much better when it comes to producing bright melodies, and they breed a louder sound. However, they aren’t suitable for the thumb because it’s already stronger than the other two fingers. So, if you wear a metal pick on it, you’ll produce melodies so loud they’ll cover the notes played with your other fingers.
So it’ll be better if you stick to our arrangement because it’ll give you a nice balance while banjo playing.
2. Wear Your Thumb Pick
Thumb picks look like normal rings but have a pointy pick prodding horizontally out of them. The pointy part should rest against the inside of your thumb and should be directed toward the left hand. In other words, when you rest your hand flat on a table, you should see a ring around your thumb with an extra part directed away from your hand.
Before playing, ensure the thumb pick fits your finger and won’t slip or move. Luckily, most finger picks come with adjustable sizes, so you can adjust them till you’re comfortable enough with their positioning around your knuckles.
3. Wear Your Fingerpicks
Now, it’s time to put on the other two picks. Metal fingerpicks look like metal rings that aren’t fully enclosed and have picks prodding out of them upwards. They aren’t enclosed to allow you to adjust the size freely.
To wear finger picks properly, you should slip the rings around your finger, so they wrap around the lower part of your nails. Also, the prodding parts should rest against the insides of your fingers. Finally, you should adjust the size of the picks so that they fit comfortably.
Some people like slipping their picks down, so they reach the knuckles. But there isn’t a rule here. Ideally, you should try many pick positions till you find a favorite one.
4. Bend Your Fingerpicks
This step isn’t mandatory, but it breeds smoother tones and makes strumming banjo strings more comfortable.
Many banjo players bend the fingerpicks so that the prodding part takes the shape of the curve of their fingers. To do like them, push the finger pick against your skin till it looks bent. Banjo finger picks are often flexible, even metal ones, so this step should be easy.
However, as we’ve mentioned, this step depends on your personal preference. After taking the picks out of their box, experiment with different angles till you find the right angle for you.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Banjo Finger Picks
There are a few factors you should consider to find the perfect finger pick for you. Here’s a brief roundup of them.
We’ve already addressed the plastic and metal dilemma, but there’s another point you should know. Not all metal finger picks are the same. Some are made from brass, some from nickel, and some from stainless steel. So when purchasing picks, you’ll need to choose between the three.
Brass picks are famously the softest and produce smoother sounds. On the other hand, stainless steel picks are more rigid and produce louder and brighter melodies. Nickel picks fall in between the two. Ideally, you should try all three before buying and see which one you prefer. So take a stroll through a couple of music stores till you reach a decision.
Believe it or not, the thickness of the picks can make or break your playing experience. Thicker picks, while much less comfortable than thin ones, produce louder sounds. Now, if you’re a beginner who merely plays at home, you might not care about this point. But it makes all the difference in professional musical pieces.
On the other hand, thin picks bend easier than thick ones, and they’re more comfortable and softer on fingers.
Not all picks come with adjustable sizes. So you should check this feature before making a purchase. If it’s absent, then it’s essential you check the size of the pick you’re buying.
Many beginners make the mistake of buying picks larger than their size for more comfort. However, doing so will cause the picks to slip while playing. Also, tight picks will be uncomfortable and will cause you pain.
To Wrap Up
Wearing banjo picks is essential when playing bluegrass style, also known as Scruggs style. While you might take some time to get used to their presence around your fingers, they’ll make all the difference when playing different notes and melodies. And now that you know how to wear them properly, you can fascinate the world with your banjo melodies!