Bluegrass Banjo Sheldon Friesen

Banjo lessons, teacher, performer – Vancouver / Surrey, BC

Left Hand Finger Independence Exercise

You’ve just finished supper, worked hard all day and now you want to take the rest of the evening off to play the banjer. Only, when you pick it up, your fingers feel like sausages, I mean frozen sausages and they just don’t do what you tell them to do. In fact they sometimes even feel like they’re tied together and can’t move independently.

What can you do?

First off, a big mistake when practicing is to not take the few minutes necessary for warm up. There are numerous warm up techniques and I won’t be able to get to all of them in this post but I wanted to share one technique I’ve found helpful. It’s a left hand finger independence exercise. Let me explain.

Plant your index finger (finger number one) on the D string about fret eight ( not too important which fret you start on). Now, finger two on fret nine, finger three on fret ten and finger four (pinky) on fret eleven. This is our starting position.

Here’s where we teach our fingers to move independently, starting with this opening position, only lift fingers one and three (at the exact same time) and plant them on the B string while keeping your other two fingers firmly on the D string.

Could you do it? If your not used to it you probably had a lot of trouble. You see, the brain and the fingers don’t always speak the same language and thus don’t always do what you tell them to do. Take your time and you will teach your fingers to obey.

Now, take those two fingers still on the D string and lift them at the same time while keeping the two fingers on the B string down, planting fingers two and four on the B string. You should now have finger one on the B string at fret eight, finger two on the B string fret nine, finger three same string fret ten and finger four on fret eleven, all on the same string.

Repeat this exercise to walk up the strings to both the G string then to the fourth string D.

Now, once you’ve mastered this, walk back to the first string and end up in our opening position.

This exercise will really help your fingers to move indepently of each other and make it easier to do that fancy fret work that your getting so good at 🙂

Keep up the good work!


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