How to fret better on banjo and improve the left hand Question

How to fret better on banjo and improve the left hand Question

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Student Questions / Answers from Ross Nickerson

How to fret better on banjo and improve the left hand Question

As a relative newbie to the banjo, I've got a question that pertains to the Banjo Encyclopedia's 3rd chapter on left handed technique. Here's my question. If you could only practice one part of that chapter (for about 15 min) everyday, which part would it be? I know it somewhat depends on the needs of the student, but I'm just wondering which part of this chapter I'll be truely glad I worked diligently on a year from now. Also, please relate any really really important left handed techniques that you did not mention in BE, if there are any. Thanks

Answer from Ross Nickerson

 I'm looking at it the Banjo Encyclopedia now and as far as the exercises go, there really aren't enough to not say.. all of them. Most, if not all are easily memorized and should be used to warm up with. Do not look at the tab when doing this, study the tab without playing to help memorize (they are primarily patterns that should be easy to grasp.) Memorize these simple systematic patterns, concentrate on accuracy, steady timing, increasing flexibility and keeping your fingers close to the fretboard....(use a metronome, you'll thank me later.)

The Exercises using thirds on pages 41 and 42 are very good ones to work on. Study and get the correct left-hand fingering as indicated or you may do more harm than good, (except possibly in regard to just getting more flexible), but, what you want is muscle memory of the positions that use the best choice of fingers....(the best choice of fingers often boils down to... the ones that leave you the most options with the fingers not being used to play other notes.)

The slides, pull-offs and hammer-on exercises are important, advice.... read the text a bunch of times and don't try it to play the exercises to many times till you more fully understand what you are trying to accomplish and improve. Otherwise, every time you miss or don't approach with the best technique, you reinforce the wrong thing and poor technique. The CD will help on those too.

I hope that helps, I have to pack for the cruise, so long, 

Thanks again,


Ross Nickerson

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