Banjo Right hand Technique

Right hand Banjo Technique

In today’s video, I’m covering tips and pointers for working on dynamics and tone. All of this will help you play better banjo.

A quick synopsis of what is in the banjo teaching video:

1)incorrect posture and how it affects your right and left hand technique.

2)Why your picks not hitting flush can cause string noise and a reduction in tone.

3)Why you need to move your right hand to different areas of the head

4)What about Anchoring? Should you force it?

5)Thumbpick Scrapes

6)String Swatting and string noise

7)Fix your dynamics with VOLUME swells.

Click on the image to play banjo teaching video

banjo players right hand with the words Right hand Tips

Incorrect posture:

How you hold the banjo has a dramatic affect on the tone you produce.  As you move the instrument around in your lap, this changes the angle the picks hit the strings.  If your banjo is at too small of an angle, the picks strike the strings more sideways.  This can lead to string noise and less clarity with your tone.

In addition, It can cause strain on your left-hand, as now the banjo neck is further away from you; you’ll have to reach your hand further away to get to the fingerboard.  I personally hold my banjo a bit higher than many players as I find this helps with up the neck playing.  For standing up,  I recommend the Super Banjo strap by Neotech for more comfort.  Lastly, the less of a change when you stand up from sitting down, the better.   This is why you don’t want to wear the strap too low; otherwise, once again, you’ll be reaching further to get to the neck and the position you practiced sitting down will be nothing like standing up and playing

Shaping the banjo picks

Bend the picks so they hit the strings more flush.  They are making banjo picks stronger & thicker these days, so you may have to get out the pliers (just be careful :P).  You can also twist them a bit on the fingers, experimenting to achieve the best/fullest tone.  If you are getting a swushing sound and excess string noise, it might be due to incorrectly placed fingerpicks.

If you want to know more about banjo fingerpicks I did a video and blog here:

Banjo Fingerpicks


Be consciously aware of where you’re anchoring, making sure your ring finger isn’t hitting the 1st string.  Don’t obsess over anchoring both fingers.  It’s often said you MUST anchor both fingers; this simply not true. There are many great banjo players that don’t anchor both fingers; for example, Sammy Shelor.  He won IBMA banjo player of the year multiple times, so I think he did alright 🙂

This incorrect line of thinking was developed after people saw Earl Scruggs’ hand placement and thought it was part of his tone.   Meanwhile, everyone’s hands and fingers are built different; it is silly to think everyone’s hands on the instrument should look exactly the same.  Experiment and find what works best for you, what gives you the best tone.  With students, I’ve often found the body self corrects over time.  What might initially feel like a strain (keeping one finger down), gets easier as the fingers develop strength and flexibility. 

Thumbpick Scrapes

If you hear your thumbpick scraping the head, this is due to the thumb making motions that are too wide. In short, STOP THAT! Practice going down with the thumbpick and returning close to the fifth string.  See my other video on Increasing your right hand speed for more details.

Fingerpick Swatting

Make sure your fingers aren’t jumping hurdles.  Minimize the motion of your fingers, excess motion causes a reduction in speed and as shown in the video, lots of string noise that you don’t want. 


You need to practice dynamics.  Volume swells are a great tool to get a handle on this.  Go from playing as soft as possible, gradually increasing the pressure until you are EXTREMELY loud!!!!!  Be sure to warn your family and friends before doing so; otherwise, yelling may commence.

In summary, all of these things will go a long way towards increasing your banjo tone.  Banjo picking is already difficult enough, so, make it easier by taking an inventory of all the right-hand habits you have and see if they are conducive to good tone and clarity.

For more RIGHT-HAND TIPS and points on how to play faster visits my post about Playing Banjo Faster

If you find this blog useful for your BANJO JOURNEY, if you wish, you can support this channel via PATREON at:

Jody Written by:

Professional Musician of 27 years. I've played Banjo and Acoustic Guitar on the stages of Carnegie Hall, The Grand Ole Opry, and The Ryman Auditorium. I've also played in six different countries.

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