Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

It sounds like a first great line to a nonsense verse, but it's actually a problem I'm not yet able to shake. In this case, a video would probably provide the best demonstration, but since I don't have way to record myself yet I'll try old style text.

When I play with the flesh of my index finger (or all out finger style) the banjo sounds great. In the 2 weeks or so I've had it I've learned about 5 songs to a point where I think they sound decent (not perfect, by any means, but decent).

So here's the problem: when I try to play stroke style a la Briggs or Rice, with the fingers rolled up so the index finger points at the ball of the thumb, I get a pretty annoying clicking or clucking sound from the index fingernail. I've tried adjusting my hand to different positions, but it doesn't disappear. Only the level of attack seems to affect it. I'm guessing some degree of clicking is normal, but this sounds like a chicken beak being flicked and it seems louder and more distracting than it should. I haven't heard anything like I'm hearing in any stroke style video I've yet seen (and I've seen a lot).

I can also play a sort of modified stroke style just using the flesh side of my index finger, but it doesn't feel like the real thing somehow. In the end, does it even matter? I'd like to play authentic stroke style, but I also dig finger style. I'd prefer to play both if possible.

Thanks!

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Joel...you are a regular Mr. Haney... ha ha

 

Heh... I had to look up "Mr. Haney" but now I know that it's a Green Acres reference. YouTube filled me in appropriately.

Also, John mentioned that I should check my bridge and it did seem pretty far back - it's also pine - I slid it forward and the clucking seems to have abated quite a bit... I still get subtle clicking which sounds normal, but the chicken seems to have been decapitated. I'll mess around with this some more, but that seems at least one piece of the puzzle. Thanks again for everyone's advice. There's a reason I come here almost every day.

I can testify to the high quality design and construction of Joel's thimbles.  They seldom require adjustment or re-alignment.  They are made from the highest quality brass alloy, similar to that used in Model-T headlights.  While I never actually use mine, I sleep better at night just knowing it's there, just in case my fingernail ever breaks, as it did once in 1994.  I highly recommend them to all readers of this site.  ---Rob Morrison

Joel Hooks said:

I also strike the strings like Rob- finger projecting out.  In one of the books, I forget which one, they suggest holding a pen knife in the closed fingers to start.

 

But if you truly want the authentic strong tone of the pre-modern-old-time era, you'll need a thimble. And you are in luck!  I just got setup to sell them again.

http://thejoelhooks.com/Site/Buy_Thimbles.html

I second the recommendation of Hook's thimbles.  For brilliance and clarity of tone they are without peer. 

And he's the only one who actually copies the documented pattern à la Franklin B. Converse.

Either use Joel's thimbles or get an acrylic nail that you keep just to the end of the flesh of your chosen finger.  Both sound and feel great.  I use Nylgut strings on my Doc's banjo, which has a 24 inch scale on a 12 inch pot, no wierd sounds at all and they last for years after they get stretched in.

Vitamins are the answer to weak nails.  Been taking vitamins for several years and am surprised how strong my nails have become.  I can tell when I haven't been taking them regularly as my nails seem thinner and softer.  I don't take vitamins to make my nails strong.  That's just an unexpected benefit.  I take them because I'm getting old and want to become much, much older. 

Get the thimble for now and a bottle of multivitamins for later. 

Pete Seeger accidentally smashed his right pointer with a hammer ( in the book 'The Incompleat Folksinger') and he said when it grew back it was twice as thick.

Quoting a review of mine from earlier this year:

The first time I wore my Joel Hooks patent thimble, my Q-Ray bracelet turned green with envy and leapt from my wrist. I haven't suffered from the lumbago or dropsy since I began wearing one. In fact, since I've been wearing my Joel Hooks banjo thimble, my pharmacist has been writing me letters of concern as I have not darkened his door in an age.

When ever I am out, I make sure I keep my Joel Hooks banjo thimble handy as the ladies always request it.


"Oh, Mr. Smith, will you be wearing your thimble for tonight's performance?"


"Indeed I shall, madame. I rarely am found without it upon my person. In fact, I have requested the esteemed Mr. Hooks fashion one into a watch fob in the event my favorite one is purloined by an overwrought admirer."


"Oh Mr. Smith, I don't mean to be forward...but may I view it? I mean, I should like to see it up close. You are so far away up on the concert stage!"

 

"Surely, madame. Here it is."


"Oh! Mr. Smith! What a fine, strong, thimble it is! Oh, I...I'm all a twitter. I'm breaking out in gooseflesh all over!"


"Steady madame. You'll be all right in a minute. Here, take a dram from my flask. You are indeed a strong woman, most faint dead away when they first encounter a Joel Hooks banjo thimble!"

Love it!

After reading that review, I gotta get me one of them thimbles!

After hearing your first hand account of the effects of using Joel's thimble, I may be forced to reconsider and use mine more, at least for public performances.

---Rob Morrison

Trapdoor2 said:

Quoting a review of mine from earlier this year:

The first time I wore my Joel Hooks patent thimble, my Q-Ray bracelet turned green with envy and leapt from my wrist. I haven't suffered from the lumbago or dropsy since I began wearing one. In fact, since I've been wearing my Joel Hooks banjo thimble, my pharmacist has been writing me letters of concern as I have not darkened his door in an age.

When ever I am out, I make sure I keep my Joel Hooks banjo thimble handy as the ladies always request it.


"Oh, Mr. Smith, will you be wearing your thimble for tonight's performance?"


"Indeed I shall, madame. I rarely am found without it upon my person. In fact, I have requested the esteemed Mr. Hooks fashion one into a watch fob in the event my favorite one is purloined by an overwrought admirer."


"Oh Mr. Smith, I don't mean to be forward...but may I view it? I mean, I should like to see it up close. You are so far away up on the concert stage!"

 

"Surely, madame. Here it is."


"Oh! Mr. Smith! What a fine, strong, thimble it is! Oh, I...I'm all a twitter. I'm breaking out in gooseflesh all over!"


"Steady madame. You'll be all right in a minute. Here, take a dram from my flask. You are indeed a strong woman, most faint dead away when they first encounter a Joel Hooks banjo thimble!"

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