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Banjo Lesson: Right Hand Positioning with Tony Trischka


It may seem like a simple concept, but understanding the proper approach to positioning and planting your right hand is one of the most critical, if not the most important, first steps when learning how to play the banjo. Right hand positioning and technique impacts your time, dexterity, stamina, speed, tone, and even your tuning. In fact, it’s the foundation on which you will build all your other performance skills. So, getting this crucial technique mastered is extremely important.


In this online banjo lesson, world-renowned bluegrass banjo player and member of our premier faculty here at ArtistWorks, Tony Trischka teaches you the proper way to approach positioning your right hand and planting your anchor finger or fingers on the head of the banjo. Throughout the lesson, Tony repeatedly emphasizes one particular key concept when determining your right hand position—the importance of comfort and finding what works best for you.


“To get into position, I suggest bringing your right hand over the strings and onto the head of the banjo in a very natural way,” Tony explains. “It’s important to find a position that feels most comfortable for you.”


There are two main elements to keep in mind when positioning your right hand and performing on the banjo: 


1. How you plant your finger or fingers on the head of the banjo while playing

2. Where you place your right hand over the strings between the bridge and the fingerboard


These two factors play a huge role, not only in executing proper technique but in your overall tone and tuning stability. Noam Pikelny, Grammy award-winning banjoist, founding member of Punch Brothers, and another master banjo instructor here at ArtistWorks, stresses this heavily in a similar lesson on right hand positioning from his series of online banjo lessons.


“When planting your fingers on the head of the banjo, you can use the pinky, ring finger, or both. What’s important is that you’re comfortable,” Noam explains. “Planting dictates the sound of the banjo because we’re dampening the head. If you don’t plant, the banjo sounds overly ring-y and almost underwater sounding.”


Like planting, where you place your right hand between the bridge and the fingerboard can completely transform your sound on the banjo. Tony recounts an experience in this banjo lesson that drastically altered his perception of banjo tone and right hand placement.


“In playing bluegrass, you want to play kind of close to the bridge, so you can get that punchy sound,” Tony explains. “When I first started playing, I would rest my pinky on the backside of the bridge, and that would really choke my tone. You don’t want to touch the bridge.”


How you place your right hand on the banjo is essential when determining the tone you want to achieve on the instrument, and is chock full of subtleties and nuances. Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced level player, it’s imperative to keep this fundamental skill at the forefront of your mind when practicing and to experiment with it. It never hurts to revisit the basics.


To learn more about the intricacies and process for approaching right hand placement, dive into this online banjo lesson from Tony Trischka:




Have you always wanted to learn how to play bluegrass banjo? Through our comprehensive banjo lessons online and Video Exchange Learning platform here at ArtistWorks, you can learn from internationally renowned players, like Tony Trischka and Noam Pikelny, and get personalized feedback on your playing.


Tony and Noam’s courses each start with the basics and teach everything from beginner banjo to advanced performance techniques and tunes. So, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player, all levels are welcome and all students will grow and improve their skills as banjo players and musicians in either banjo course!


Try out some free sample music lessons here and see what makes ArtistWorks courses some of the best online music lessons around!



Pick Tips: A Guide to Banjo Picks

Banjo Tuning Basics for Beginners

ArtistWorks Music Series Podcast: Tony Trischka - Styles of Bluegrass




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