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The rule by which American musicians are judged is by how black they can sing, not how white they can sing - Taj Mahal, Frets interview

Author Topic: Banjo fingers  (Read 629 times)

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Offline big joe weems

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Banjo fingers
« on: July 29, 2017, 06:32:50 PM »
Hi all,
Question for those who pick Banjo or know something about Banjo pickers:
We know that many early blues guitarists used only the thumb and index finger of their picking hand.  Did any early banjo pickers do the same, picking with only the thumb and index finger?  If so, were there just a few in number who did this--or many, as with early guitarists?
Thanks,
Joe

Offline frailer24

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Re: Banjo fingers
« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2017, 07:27:42 PM »
There are a great wealth of 2 finger banjoists on record. Roscoe Holcomb(thumb lead), B.F. Shelton, Arnold Watson(Doc's brother, with index lead), DeFord Bailey(IIRC), the list just keeps on! I, myself use a 2 finger style more often than not.
That's all she wrote Mabel!

Offline oddenda

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Re: Banjo fingers
« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2017, 07:39:39 PM »
The black banjo players I recorded back in the '70's all either played claw-hammer, or thumb/index picking. They were Odell Thompson, John Snipes, and Dink Roberts - the latter also played guitar w. thumb/index. Most Piedmont guitarists played that way - Willie Walker (all fingers), and Brownie McGhee (thumb/index, middle) come to mind as exceptions.

pbl

Offline big joe weems

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Re: Banjo fingers
« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2017, 06:25:46 AM »
Are there any who have played the very fast and highly syncopated bluegrass or Scruggs style with just thumb and index?
Thanks,
Joe

Offline Lastfirstface

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Re: Banjo fingers
« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2017, 07:30:37 AM »
Jackie Phelps played Scruggs-type picking with Bill Monroe's band with just two fingers (check out the video of Roanoke on youtube.) As far as old-time two-finger up-pickers the list is enormous, but just to mention a few that I like: Pete Steele, Virgil Anderson, Morgan Sexton, and Granville Bowlin. There's also a lot of great old-time banjo playing on string band 78s that uses three finger picking.

Offline tmylet

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Re: Banjo fingers
« Reply #5 on: July 30, 2017, 08:23:34 AM »
According to H. O. Jenkins, the son of Oscar Jenkins and grandson of Frank Jenkins, both Frank and Oscar played with thumb and index fingers only. Frank Jenkins "Baptist Shout" and "Home Sweet Home" are a heck of a lot more syncopated than I would have thought possible with two fingers. I've since seen both Kirk Sutphin and Jeremy Stephens play both tunes with two fingers (each) what sounded perfect to me. Also, Kirk plays several Uncle Dave Macon tunes accurately with the same two finger style.

Tom Mylet
Dr. Tommy

Offline frailer24

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Re: Banjo fingers
« Reply #6 on: July 30, 2017, 10:43:09 PM »
Regarding Oscar Jenkins' style, it's pretty darn syncopated for a chordal backup! Like Charlie Poole with 2 fingers.
That's all she wrote Mabel!

Offline Johnm

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Re: Banjo fingers
« Reply #7 on: August 06, 2017, 04:48:01 AM »
Hi all,
Will Keys was a notable two-finger picker on the banjo in the recent past.
All best,
Johnm

Offline frailer24

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Re: Banjo fingers
« Reply #8 on: August 15, 2017, 01:20:58 AM »
I can't believe I forgot about Will Keys!
That's all she wrote Mabel!

Offline RobBob

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Re: Banjo fingers
« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2017, 06:13:58 AM »
Will Keys was a good friend of mine.  Two finger players include Doc Watson and Tracy Schwarz, both could make it sound like clawhammer but they were two finger players.  There is a fellow in Virginia, Chip Arnold, who can play two finger well but as he gets older he doesn't hear well.

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