When I play the piano, touch type or when I pick out a tune on the guitar my hands are slightly raised with the knuckles at the base of my fingers a little higher than the finger knuckles. Watching classic style banjoists their hands are down with the knuckles from the middle of the fingers and the knuckles at the base of their fingers more or less in line - for speed on the strings, so I'm told. I've seen Chris Sands in action, (I'm sure OH can post a picture of him or there may be one on this site) and I've just watched a video of Pat and Eric Stefanelli. The back of their hands are more flat than raised.
When I 'had a go' at the banjo I found it extremely difficult to flatten my hands. I had more trouble with my left hand. Now when I play the piano or touch type I have no trouble keeping my hands on the keys - not so with keeping my fingers on the strings of a banjo. With each change they were flying up in the air wasting valuable time. I don't think I'm cut out to be a banjoist!
Thank you to Jody and Trapdoor2 for your comments. I hope I've explained my problem (OH might even be able to finding a picture of a guitarist's hands for comparison. I'm not up to posting pictures yet.) Now, Trapdoor, please don't resort to pliers - that would require another hand!
Comment by Jody Stecher 17 hours ago
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How those who have played guitar hold their hands?

Comment by Trapdoor2 14 hours ago
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Now I'm self-consiously thinking about how my hands look. Am I a guitar-style banjoist or a banjo-style banjoist? Argh!

I cannot look at the music and the banjo at the same time. Glance at one, glance at the other. I'm sure it is similar to the piano...some notes/positions are in the muscle memory and require no "looking" for your fingers to find their way; others require only a quick glance...and even further, some require concentration (and perhaps a pair of pliers).

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Comment by Jody Stecher on April 5, 2012 at 14:23

I've thought it over and here's what I think. The guitar has a more strings than a banjo and therefore a wider fingerboard. The "extra" strings are thicker than banjo strings and therefore the spacing of guitar strings is often wider than on banjo. The bass strings are placed further from the ground and closer to the sky. To reach these strings one must hold the hand as you describe for guitarists. This especially happens when playing chords, since chords usually include strings 5 and or 6, the ones up in the air.  But when a guitarist plays melodies on  the treble strings the hand is necessarily as you describe for banjo position. Classic banjo was originally an adaptation of guitar technique to the banjo and  was once called Guitar Style.  That "guitar hands" do not slow down a player is evidenced by the existence of very fast guitarists all over the world.

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