Tenor Banjo Fingerpicking

Tenor Banjo Fingerpicking

Does anyone else fingerpick tunes on an open tuned tenor banjo with steel picks? I came across the idea on the net,and it works.

Re: Tenor Banjo Fingerpicking

No reason why it shouldn’t work. It’s an instrument. It’s got notes on it. Play them in whatever manner works for the instrument.; and maybe a few that don’t just for self edification’s sake.

Yeah, I’ve played around with that a bit, but I’m not any good at it. I’ve never actually owned my own tenor, so I only play one when I can borrow one for a bit, or I’m willing to tune my 5 string or guitar in fifths and leave it there for awhile. A music store in the area has just put an old Tenorcaster in the window. Would anyone mind if I show up at your session with an electric guitar and a Crate Taxi? I promise to go easy on the Wah-Wah pedal.

Personally I prefer to play without fingerpicks. Yeah, they give "that sound," but they reduce feel.

Here’s something else you can try though. Frailing tunes. Picking the notes by hammering down on the string with the back of your nail. There is a strong argument that this is the way harpers used to play, and the very reason Irish harps are wire strung.

KFG

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Re: Tenor Banjo Fingerpicking

Oh, and tuning a 5 string open and fingerpicking tunes on it is a fairly standard technique known as "Keith Style", you can even buy books on it and s**t. I’ve got one by Tony Trischka called Melodic Banjo. It’s mostly American tunes, but it’s got a few of the Irish standards in it as well.

Probably won’t help you much, as it relies on working high up the neck and using the fifth string melodically.

KFG

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Re: Tenor Banjo Fingerpicking

You know too much KFG. We will have to deal with you.

Don Reno was another who played single-note melodic style on 5-string. I met his sons a few weeks back when they were up here with Hayseed Dixie. Fantastic players both.

Fingerpicking mandolin works pretty well on harp tunes, so it should on tenor banjo too. Check Mickey Cochran’s site on fingerstyle mando - it should help: http://www.folkofthewood.com/page5317.htm

Endorsed by Sean "Big Tam" Connery, Scottish patriot of Marbella and NYC.

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Re: Tenor Banjo Fingerpicking

Johnny Keenan played tenor with his fingers, but mainly with the thimble. He played tunes on the five string with his fingers also. Not claw hammer - actually played the tunes.
Some of his banjo playing can be heard on early Paddy Keenan albums.

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"Fingerpicking mandolin works pretty well on harp tunes…"

Oooooo! I’ll have to try that on a Mandobird run through a fuzz box.

KFG

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Re: Tenor Banjo Fingerpicking

don’t forget the bodhran loops

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Re: Tenor Banjo Fingerpicking

Ah, well, I guess that makes playing the violin with a plectrum, or tuning it as a cello and playing it gamba would be KFG style then. I must have "invented" these, as a Google search turns up nothing on them.

At least the guy had the good sense to include the scare quotes around "invented" himself, and I assume news just travels to Prague slowly.

Not that styles are always named after the people who "invented" them, or even play in that style if it comes to that. Edison invented the lightbulb, don’cha know? Nevermind the English fellow who demonstrated first.

KFG

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Re: Tenor Banjo Fingerpicking

isn’t that what clawhammer style is?

Re: Tenor Banjo Fingerpicking

dafydd sez:

"Does anyone else fingerpick tunes on an open tuned tenor banjo with steel picks? I came across the idea on the net,and it works."

I can see how it would work, especially with alternate tunings, but why would you want to do it? You can’t duplicate the plectrum driven tenor sound and ornamentation very well with that technique, at least not without a lot of practice and development, and your volume will suffer some.

On the other hand, in half the time it would take to develop a trad sound on the fingerpicked banjo you could become quite expert on the plectrum driven tenor. I just see it as a matter of practicality. I play five string, mandolin, guitar, and mandolin using fingerstyles with the five string and guitar, and it is a lot easier to learn to play the ITM tunes with a pick. Developing and learning a new style and then learning to play the ornamentations could take years to sound right. A few guitar players do it well, but only a few.

BTW, fingerpicking a mandolin is an exercise in frustration. It is very hard to drive the strings hard enought to develop tone and volume on a mandolin with fingers alone. You have to be able to sound each course equally, the string tensions are high compared to a guitar, and there is that nagging problem of developing a new technique. Stick to plectrum <G>

Mike Keyes
http://www.banjosessions.com/jun05/woodchoppers.html

Re: Tenor Banjo Fingerpicking

I play plectrum tenor already,and I play in a duo with a five string banjo player and the picks sound better in that context.

Re: Tenor Banjo Fingerpicking

dafydd,

I didn’t want to sound too authoritarian about the fingerpicking stuff, and if what you are trying to do is develop a new sound, give it a try. I suspect you will end up with a more legato guitar like sound with some interesting licks - at least that’s what happens when I try it. For a single performance or small group it would sound great once it was developed. In a session it would be harder to pull off.

The possibilities of chordal noting, contrapuntal sounds, and different dynamics together sound intriguing. I just don’t have time to try it right now, hence my initial response.

I still think it is a waste of time to fingerpick a mandolin, but that’s just me <G>

Mike Keyes
http://www.banjosessions.com/jun05/woodchoppers.html

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Hey, it’s a waste of time to PLAY a mandolin.

—-Michael B. <—mandolin player

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KFG,
of course there were many musicians who tried to fingerpick the tenor banjo, and there were many flatpickers who retuned the tenor banjo to some alternate tuning. But I have applied these two approaches (fingerpicking AND retuning to DGdg which emulates 5-string tuning) simultaneously. And as I did not find any remark on the net about some precedessor, I have used the term "invented". Any info about another people exploring the same style is welcome.

Mike,
you asked "why would you want to do it", speaking about the ITM tunes played by fingerpicks. The answer is very simple - because it is possible on my instrument. Especially in the field of fingerpicked ITM banjo tunes one cannot say "because nobody did it before" as there are examples of Bela Fleck and Tom Hanway, to name just those I saw in person in Longford festival this year.

The truth is that I am not (and I do not aspire to become) proficient in ITM tunes. I am just exploring what I can do with the DGdg tenor banjo, three fingerpicks, and ring finger nail. But the 5-string banjo players named above clearly proved that ITM tunes can be fingerpicked on (some kind of) the banjo.

Mirek
http://www.geocities.com/patekstylebanjo

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Just some updates:
My page is now http://www.mirekpatek.com
ITM tunes (fingerpicked by TIM fingerpicks on DGdg-tuned tenor banjo) are now one of my focuses.

In the GDae tenor banjo world - check the YouTube files of Gordon Johnston, Paul Roberts, Wayne Morisson (aka captbanjo on BHO, captacoustic on YouTube).

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This looks like a pretty old post. So maybe the verdict is in. After years of playing guitar and mandolin I recently took up tenor banjo. Since I was faking it by just keeping it in a standard mandolin tuning, it was more of a color instrument. The percussive nature of the banjo really accentuates sloppy pick work. I’m probably too old to want to change the attack angle at this late date. The neurons are already solidly burned into a pattern in my brain. So I went for the fingers, without picks. I find it works well for maintaining drone basses or open strings against the melody. This style would not fit well in a raucous session, most likely. While I do play fiddle tunes on the thing I do not pretend to be a traditional Celtic player. I was recently on an Irish tenor banjo group post, and found that finger style is pretty much a freak deal in those circles. So banishment to the hinterlands. I could also see that playing fast triplets with finger style might take some practice. Use of the back of the nail for brushing does seem to be a pretty effective technique with finger picking. FYI, I finger pick both the mandolin and the bouzouki, as well as use a flat pick (mostly).