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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Songster Bob Help: Two finger banjo playing (35) RE: help: Two finger banjo playing 03 Oct 03

There are really two two-finger styles -- finger leading or thumb leading. Rosco Holcomb played thumb style, as did a lot of other Kentucky players. Bascom Lamar Lunsford, Pete Seeger*, Rufus Crisp, Doc Watson, and many others do the finger leading style.

Thumb-lead style is TITI, with the I playing -- almost exclusively -- the first string, and the thumb playing the other four. Typically, the thumb alternates from melody string to fifth string, but doesn't always.

Index-lead style is I / IT, with that / indicating either a pause or another note (hammer-on, pull-off, or "drop-thumb" note, where the thumb plays an interior string). The second Index note can be a single note or a chord, and can be played either plucking up or brushing (stroking) down. On the last count, the thumb plays the 5th string. The basic pattern is the same rhythm as the clawhammer / frailing / knocking style that derived from the Minstrel style. The rhythm can be thought of through the mnemonic "bum-titty / bum-titty / bum-titty."

I like both styles, of course, and see the relationship of the thumb-lead style to one of Scruggs' patterns (called the alternating pattern). Think TITM/TITM, where you're simply adding the second string to the mix. Really, the unique sound of each technique offers another sound to use, so that all the tunes don't sound alike**.

Bob Clayton

* Pete added the middle finger on the brush of the chord, but some of his mentors used the same finger for the melody and the chord.

** You know how to tell banjo tunes apart, don't you?

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