Playing Banjo 4-Finger Style – Introduction

Intro | Background | Observations | Benefits & Challenges | Getting Started | More Getting Started | Applying it to a Song

Have you heard of this yet? Picking a 5-string banjo with 4 fingers instead of the usual 3, as in Scruggs style. Greg Liszt is one banjoist who is experimenting with this new style and it sounds very interesting to me. After all, Earl Scruggs popularized three-finger style playing at a time when two-finger and clawhammer styles were the norm. I’ve been playing banjo for 30+ years, mainly Scruggs and melodic, along with some single string, clawhammer and two-finger styles, but I’m just learning four-finger style. Hopefully, I’ll have some good lessons learned to post here as time goes by.

So I’m starting a series of blogs here on playing a 5-string banjo in 4-finger style. What I’ll do first is examine the historical background, then blog on the practical challenges and benefits of playing a 4-finger style of banjo and finish up with looking at how to get started and some of my own experiences in learning a new style, coming from a Scruggs, melodic and single-string perspective.

Next blog, I’ll go over some background and other observations.

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About Phill Gibson

I'm from Huntsville, Alabama where I work as a Systems Engineer and part-time banjo and mandolin instructor. I've been playing various instruments since my teen years. I started mandolin at about age 17 and banjo at 20. I love just about all kinds of music. In terms of banjo styles, I play Scruggs and melodic and am working on becoming more advanced with single string. I'm also working on 4-finger banjo, which is way off the beaten path. I would like to see more jazz techniques integrated into bluegrass situations; counterpoint, especially. So long-term, that's what I'm doing. I'm also very keen on astronomy, ATM (amateur telescope making), birding, christian homeschooling, martial arts, organic gardening and about 30 other distracting hobbies to a (mercifully) lesser extent.
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5 Responses to Playing Banjo 4-Finger Style – Introduction

  1. Banjo Paul says:

    Hey Phill,

    Looks interesting for sure. I’ll be watching to see how you progress with this style. Any chance you are going to post sound files? I’ve never heard of the 4-finger style and would like to hear it.

    Banjo Paul
    “Wunse, I coodn’t even spel bango pikker…now I are one!”
    http://www.banjosrule.com (main site)
    http://www.mybanjolife.com (blog)

  2. admin says:

    Hey Paul,

    Good to hear from you. Yes, I do have a TablEdit file for starters. I’m just beginning this as well, so it may be a little while before I come up with anything great sounding myself other than a MIDI file of it. But that’s oone of my goals!

    I see those links at the top didn’t come through – I’ll fix that and you can get to the actual TEF file in the last lesson.
    Later!
    Phill

  3. Pingback: Playing Banjo 4-Finger Style – Background

  4. Pingback: Playing Banjo 4-Finger Style – Some Observations

  5. Pingback: Playing Banjo 4-Finger Style – Getting Started

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