Right Hand Position

Casey HenryOne of my students is currently working on changing her right hand position to get better accuracy and tone. Changing one's right hand position is not something that should be taken lightly. Generally students will naturally fall into a position that is comfortable and relaxed, and that works fine. You have to have three key points:

1.) Fingers anchored on the head (at least one, either pinky or ring, is OK).

2.) Wrist arched. It should look like a bridge.

3.) Forearm resting on the armrest. It's what it's there for.

Outside of those criteria, there is a lot of variation in how people's hands look. The most important thing is that you are striking the string right down the middle of the pick (it should wear a shiny place). Also, your hand should not have any tension in it, and your fingers should not be flying all over the place; they should stay reasonably curled.

Changing your position after you've been playing a while is a huge undertaking and should be approached cautiously. Like I told my student, play everything slow. Play nothing fast until your new position is well established, or you will immediately revert back to your old position. Make sure you play through ALL of your old material with this new position. And do not introduce any tension into your hand, wrist, or arm, even if you think it looks/sounds better. It will hurt your playing in the long run.

5 thoughts on “Right Hand Position

  1. Bobby

    Hey Casey-
    I think I might be having a bit of an issue with my right hand. I’ve been playing about a year and a half. I noticed that my fingers do stay reasonable curled, but my index finger rises and falls to strike the string (as opposed to bending at knuckle). I’ve read some websites that say the picks should never go more than 1/4 inch above the string. I’ve been trying to retrain my right hand so the index doesn’t lift as much, but I end up with a lot of tension trying to keep my hand in a claw position. My initial position is more relaxed and comfortable, but I do make mistakes. It also doesn’t look like my picking is as tight as all the video I have seen of professional players. . .

  2. admin

    Hi Bobby,

    Right hand position is something that it’s almost impossibly to critique/evaluate over the internet. Don’t worry so much about how your hand LOOKS, but more about how your playing SOUNDS. Are your rolls uneven? Does your hand/arm get fatigued after you’ve played a while (not when you’re trying to “fix” it, just when you’re playing naturally). If either of those is the case then you might look into changing your hand position. But if you’re comfortable and your playing sounds OK, I’d not worry about making your hand look like other people’s hands. Everyone’s hand looks different. If you’re making mistakes, then you’re just playing too fast. Slow down and work on accuracy, don’t change what sounds like a comfortable right hand position.


  3. Eric Lindley

    Hi Casey,

    Would you have any advice regarding proper right thumb movement? I have found very little information on it. In the Murphy Method beginning banjo DVD, it’s briefly mentioned the thumb stays stiff at the joint while striking the string in the middle of the pick. If you can expand on this, I would truly appreciate it.



  4. admin

    I’m afraid I don’t. That sort of thing is almost impossible to advise on except when you’re sitting face-to-face with a teacher. Basically you just pick down toward the floor and try not to hit the head… I know that’s not very useful!!!

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