“Undroppable” banjo pick

“Undroppable” banjo pick

I’ve been playing tenor banjo for 30+ years but have recently experienced difficulties in holding a pick. I can finger-pick efficiently enough (legacy of classical guitar training) at moderate speeds, but banjo’s metal strings tear heck out of plucking finger-tips. Once upon a time I had come across a procedure for using surgical tubing fitted over the right hand index finger to serve as an "undroppable" pick (procedure used by [e.g.] Johnny Keenan and Tony Sullivan) but I don’t remember the details. Questions: do any banjo players out there [1] recall the procedure for creating such a rig [2] actually use it?
Many thanks
Bill Black

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Re: “Undroppable” banjo pick

Small bit of tape around top of it an cut of the excess that’s what I did . or bite the top of it to make 1 or 2 grooves on it won’t it drop then

Re: “Undroppable” banjo pick

I seem to remember what Johnny Keenan used was referred to as a ‘thimble’ a piece of tubing over the index finger cut off at a 45 degree angle , like an old time quill pen. I tried it, couldn’t get on with it so went back to the old Dunlop heavy pick - but you might have better luck

Re: “Undroppable” banjo pick

Tony "Scully" Sullivan shows how to make a thimble in his banjo tutor. There’s not much to them, bit of plastic tubing, slice at angle, see if it works. All the different diameters and materials will make for a lot of research though. I tried various types of pipe and could never get one that worked worth a darn. They’re supposed to make trebles/triplets easier, flatpicking in general is a bit more difficult. I read somewhere that Scully had given up on the things and just uses a flatpick these days too…

A design for a thimble like this - and the word "thimble" being used for such a geegaw - is shown in a journal published by banjo magnate SS Stewart in the late 19th century. Stewart was a manufacturer, instructor, advocate, the works. Thimbles are almost always shields for the right index finger made out of metal to protect the nail when frailing, or give a sharper sound, or whatever; in this one instance Stewart shows one of those, and then also this other design he had a description of, from a correspondent in California - he hadn’t actually seen one. A scan of the page from the journal used to be online but is gone now.

What the origin of this is remains a mystery. My guess is it’s an alternative to plectrums that wandered in to banjo playing from some Arabic stringed instrument tradition, it certainly has nothing to do with the run of the mill ways of producing sound on the African derived instruments.

How it got to Ireland is a riddle with an enigma, like the Antrim hammer dulcimer tradition. Using thimbles was de rigeur with travellers like the Keenan and Dunne family - you can see clips of Johnny Keenan and Christy Dunne using them. These were really great players, too.

Re: “Undroppable” banjo pick

Here’s a littlest more about the Stewart thimble, I’ve used them for clawhammer playing, I’m not sure that this pattern would work for tenor, but I find it’s interesting history.http://banjothimble.com/shop/thimbles.html

Re: “Undroppable” banjo pick

Try dava picks.never dropped one.

Re: “Undroppable” banjo pick

I use the Dunlop .60mm "Max Grip" picks, never drop them. The Clayton picks website also sells these wee sticky dots that you can put on your pick so that it has better grip.

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Both of my hands are damaged from SLAC wrist so I’ve ordered some “flat pick thumb picks” and a couple of Alaska Pics as well. I’m very tired of dropping picks.

Re: “Undroppable” banjo pick

I’ve tried the pick suggested in Sully’s banjo book, as I have a touch of arthritis in my R hand which can make a flat pick awkward after a while. As mentioned above, it’s a bit of hard plastic tube about half an inch long, cut at an angle of about 45 degrees, bevelled to a suitable point and stuck on the end of the first finger. Totally different playing technique, obviously, but doesn’t put pressure on the thumb, and can be used to get fairly fast picking, triplets and all. It can work well with practice, but it requires a bit of experimentation to get the best tube dimension / angle of cut / shape of point.

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Re: “Undroppable” banjo pick

ESI makes a silicone tape that works well for me. It’s about 2" wide, so you can easily cut it to fit the butt end of many picks. Stays on well too. I’ve also used it on the resonator of both my banjo and zouk to keep them from moving around whilst the rest on the leg. Not sure where you’d get it across the pond, but Jensen USA has it for about $9 a roll. 10 foot rolls so it should last awhile. My roll is about 8 years old and still works fine when I need it.

Re: “Undroppable” banjo pick

Thanks to all who replied. I was wrong with the initial mention of surgical tubing - I remembered after the post that it was more PVC-type material, not rubbery.
I tried an Alaska pick but didn’t have much luck in getting comfortable with it. Maybe not the pick’s fault but more of the "old dog new trick" syndrome. Anyway I’ll give it another shot, along with some of your other suggestions. Merry Christmas and Happy 2018 to all!

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Re: “Undroppable” banjo pick

Drilling a small hole through the centre of the pick enhances “stickability.”

Re: “Undroppable” banjo pick

My main problem is not so much dropping the pick as having it rotate out position. I can feel it as it slowly rotates and it distracts me enough to make me lose focus on the tune. I can sometimes adjust if I catch it during an appropriate space, but if it happens in the middle of a phrase, I lose it altogether.

I’m still more a beginner than anything else, so I can assume this will eventually resolve itself?

Re: “Undroppable” banjo pick

Great musicians the Dunne’s the fiddler used to be our neighbor Micky on pipes, Christ jr banjo young pa Dunne banjo and Micky’s daughters to great fiddler’s and not to forget the pecker Dunne a
legend great singer