Banjo left hand fingering

Banjo left hand fingering

Do you banjo folks emulate fiddle fingering? Like 1st finger plays F#, 2nd plays G, 3rd plays A and 4th plays the high B? Or more like guitar where 1,2,3,4 plays frets 2,3,4,5 and you move up a position to get up to the 7th fret?

I’ve been doing the second way but I’m starting to fool with the first way.

Re: Banjo left hand fingering

Oops I just searched and found this question answered.

Re: Banjo left hand fingering

Yeah, the answer is ‘yes’. People do both. Each method has its benefits and drawbacks. And it’s probably best to do what feels best to you. FWIW, I started on bouzouki with the 4 finger style, but once banjo became my primary instrument, I switched to fiddle fingering, because I.M.O. the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. But the experience of shifting the hand for higher notes from when I was playing 4 finger style is very valuable for the rare cases where I need to slide to second position for notes higher than B, and also in cases where a tune has some intricate stuff between the G and the B, and it’s just easier to shift your hand up to play that part of the tune.

People often complain about hand size and not being able to reach in fiddle fingering. But I have found that if you have a good hand position, you should be able to reach even with short fingers. (But I have long fingers, so it never feels like much of a reach, especially since I worked on improving my hand position many years ago).

Re: Banjo left hand fingering

Small hands are definitely not an impediment to fiddle fingering on banjo, just look at Emer Howley here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dKWEDK2GGc (the key seems to be fairly extreme extension of the index finger to reach back to the second and first frets, rather than trying to reach forward to the fifth fret.)


Personally I play guitar fingering, although I somewhat regret the choice as my pinky is always the first to finger to get tired when playing anything with a lot of As, Ds or Gs on the fifth fret.

Re: Banjo left hand fingering

Fiddle fingering mostly for me, there are some tunes (or portions of tunes) that I change but mainly fiddle fingering. What to use (along with picking) is something you practice when you learn the tune.

Re: Banjo left hand fingering

Emer is having to move her hand upwards to reach that top ‘b’ on the 7th fret, I have to do the same on banjo -
on mando or the odd occasion when I pick up the fiddle I can reach it without moving out of 1st position, so fiddle fingering doesn’t entirely translate to banjo due to the increased scale length.

Re: Banjo left hand fingering

4 finger for me

Re: Banjo left hand fingering

For me, it’s fiddle fingering. I can easily reach C nat without shifting. I can only think if 2 tunes that reach any higher. Probably more, I just don’t know them.

Re: Banjo left hand fingering

high c# in Cherokee Shuffle - oh sorry, that’s bluegrass…………….

Re: Banjo left hand fingering

After reading your post, I had to pull out my instruments and check. On guitar, banjo and bouzouki, I go back and forth between the two, dependent upon the tune and its key, but lean more towards the finger per fret for most of the tunes in my collection. Mandola and mandolin, because of the shorter scale length I suspect, I lean more towards fiddle fingering. I agree with Christy though, I think scale length plays a big role in what we choose to use. Using fiddle fingering on the longer scale lengths just doesn’t work as easily for me.