The fast-paced music produced by a banjo can strain your hands -- particularly your fingers -- after long periods of playing. Exercising your fingers regularly can help prevent the fatigue that comes with playing the banjo. Practicing your exercises on a daily basis will yield the best results and keep you in performance-ready condition.
While holding your banjo, the fingers on your non-dominate hand moves up and down the bridge. This movement can be cumbersome at first, but if you practice navigating the bridge, it gets easier. The process builds muscle memory so you can easily replicate the proper motions for your song. Read the notes for some of your favorite songs to use in your routine. Do the bridge walking exercise with several different songs in random order to get the most benefit from the exercises. Perform the bridge walking exercise at least once a day.
Practicing on your banjo can be loud and inconvenient. If you want to make the fingers on your bridge hand nimble and ready to dance across the bridge of the banjo, practice with them over the edge of a desk. Grasp the desk as you would the head of the banjo (with your thumb underneath the edge and four fingers on the surface of the desk). Practice lifting and placing your fingers on the desk without dragging the tips of your fingers over the surface of the desk.
Every banjo player needs to discover the proper home position for his strumming hand. The strumming hand needs to pivot over the strings of the banjo effectively to produce a consistent and strong sound. An improper home position can result in carpal tunnel, though, so choose your home position carefully. Examine your hand as you place it in a comfortable position near the strings. Hold your wrist straight so it doesn't cause tendon damage. Arching your wrist and holding it for long periods like that can put unnecessary stress on the tendons. Practice holding your wrist in this position while you strum your fingers over the chords. It may be taxing on your hand at first, but soon your fingers will adjust to the additional strain.
Spread Finger Stretches
Some songs may require you to stretch your fingers uncomfortably long distances over the bridge of the banjo. Stretching you fingers before you play can help alleviate some of that discomfort. Flex your fingers on both hands to spread them out as far as possible. Place four circular stickers on a table spaced out like the different notes on your banjo's neck. Practice stretching your fingers between the notes to make spreading them long distances more comfortable.
- Southwest Bluegrass Association; Left Hand Finger Exercises; Bob Kensinger
- Folk of the Wood; Right-Hand Positioning and Exercises; Mickey Cochran
- Paul Hawthorne's Web Site; Chapter 7 - Hand Position: Paul Hawthorne; July 2006
- "Banjo Encyclopedia: Bluegrass Banjo from A to Z;" Ross Nickerson; 2003
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