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How to Hold the Banjo
(for Clawhammer)

As you are learning to play, you should sit in a comfortable chair without arms. Hold the banjo so that you will be making chords with your left hand and using your right hand to pluck the strings. Let the round part of the banjo rest between your legs and elevate the neck approximately to shoulder height. If you have a banjo strap be sure to use it so that it can hold the banjo neck up without any assistance from the left hand.

 

The Left Hand

Don't grab the banjo neck too tightly, but rather let it rest in the web space between your thumb and index finger. Bend the fingers at both joints (as in the picture below) and hold down the strings with the tips of the fingers. Notice that the fingers hold the strings down just behind the wire "fret" instead of the middle of the space or directly on top of the fret.

 

The Right Hand

The foundation of playing clawhammer banjo is the "bum-ditty" strum. The bum-ditty will be described in more detail in a separate tutorial. For now though, if you are a beginner, just try to become comfortable with the basic right hand position. Take some time to play the melody arrangements without strumming, while practicing holding the notes correctly with your left hand. As you practice the melodies, try holding your right hand similar to the picture. Use either your middle finger or index finger (whichever feels more natural) to pluck the correct string with a downward motion, using the back of your fingernail. This seems somewhat awkward at first but becomes very natural after practicing it for a while. Your plucking finger should be held in the same position and the movement should be in your wrist.