A reader writes:
After having learned 5-string banjo, I've ended up with a nice Gretsch 6-string banjo. Are there any instruction books you could recommend for left-hand fingering technique for the 6-string banjo? Is there a way to do the forward, and backward rolls, etc.?
Sorry not to get back to you sooner. Are you left-handed? I think you mean right-hand fingering technique?
I assume you learned to pick with your thumb and first two fingers. I started out on folk banjo, so I learned to pick 5-string with my thumb and first THREE fingers. I always finger-pick guitar that way.
There are two BIG differences between 5-string and 6-string fingerpicking.
On 5-string your index finger plays the base note. On 6-string your thumb plays the base note.
On 5-string, your thumb plays the last note of each roll. On 6-string, your thumb is tied up doing other things.
Lack of that high G note on the last part of every roll takes the "ty" out of the "bum-dit-ty" pattern.
How do you get it back? I have a six-string picking pattern that I use on guitar which sounds great on six-string banjo.
I use my thumb to pick the bass note.
Then I use my second and ring finger to pick the highest two strings (E and B). (If you're used to frailing, you can use a downstroke with the back of your fingernails, but don't use your index finger - you'll need that for something else.)
Then I use my index finger to pick the third (G) string. This restores the "ty" to the "bum-dit-ty" pattern.
I actually developed this for guitar playing. Here's an example:http://btcomm.com/music/prmusic/downloa ... rifolk.mp3
Sorry I don't have anything more specific. In this recording, I use my middle and ring finger to play the melody of the various tunes. But starting on the second time through "Tis the Gift," but my index finger is almost always hitting the third string on the last part of what a banjo player would call a roll. It doesn't replace the "tonality" of the high G note, but it plugs the timing gap that the high usually fills.
Hope this makes sense. I don't have a recording of playing this on six-string banjo, but it sounds great. Only a banjo player would ever tell the diference and the main reason for that is that a six string's base notes go almost an octave lowar than a banjo's base notes.
There is probably a name for this picking pattern, since there really is nothing new under the sun, but I worked this out myself years ago when I was trying to get a fuller sound on this kind of solo.
Hope this helps at least a little.
Best of luck,