Hi all,

Being self taught I have relied upon the tutor books of the past when it comes to the hand positions and there seem to be a lot of ideas of what constitutes right hand position and how close to play to the junction of the finger board.

See below images from the Ellis books and the Barnes banjo School.

Below is my current "best practice" that I am trying to achieve from Cammeyer's "cultivation of the hands" book.

I really don't have a horse in this race and have found the journey interesting the different types of tones that it produces ... but I am curious if there are other ideas around this.

Cheers
Philip

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It is all about you and the sound you want to produce. The 'sweet spot' for you may be completely wrong for me and vice versa.

My favored playing position on most banjos is over the neck/rim joint...but that varies depending on the noises I wish to make.

A ZB is a very different animal from a standard banjo in many respects. Mine is like handling a greased pig. It wiggles and wanders all over the place. I came up with a strap for it...but that needs 'refinement' (it is a long piece of red Christmas ribbon threaded thru the hollow neck vents and then tied to the tailpiece).

You know that non-slip padding that goes under carpets?  My local carpet store was happy to give me a small piece. I put a piece of that between the slithery  zither-banjo and my leg and that solves the problem,

Yah, I tried that. Didn't like it. It is much more manageable for me with the neck strap.

I would endorse Jody's comment - zither-banjo bodies and modern fabrics do not go together! A roll of non-slip mat is about £1 in Poundland or Poundstretcher and comes in lots of interesting colours!

When I did my z-b presentation down in Edgebaston a few years ago I gave all the delegates a piece of non-slip mat around a foot long by six inches wide and a 2B pencil for marking scores.

My friend, lutenist Jake Heringman uses, in addition to a strap, a full piece the material to stop his lute slipping around.

Being an "early musician" myself, and therefore often around lute players, or rather theorbo players, those pieces of non-slip mat seem to be sort of standard equipment for the players. Often combined with a strap.

I play the Zb with a non-slip mat. I like it. I just want it to stay in place, don't need it "glued to my body" and the mat does just that. Although I can imagine a strap would be very comfortable as well. I just don't feel the need to tamper with my Zbs when the mat does the job.

Oh, and to the original question: I also think that the most important thing is that you yourself like the tone, if you play over the fretboard or very close to the bridge. On an other notice, I think the pictures speak pretty much for themselves. One can't really argue with those gentlemen (well, of course one can...) and I bet they actually knew what they're talking about. I for one would start with the hand as in the pictures, when I sort of got a bit of a hang of it, I would start experimenting if I don't like the sound.

Or get a new banjo... :-)

Yes, I use a non-slip mat as well. When I was first gifted the zither banjo years ago I had tried learning some basic bluegrass and clawhammer and had the it sitting on my lap like a lot of the modern banjo players (rather than my right thigh) and it drove me crazy as the neck was so heavy and constantly needed support by my left hand. It was a revelation to find images of how they were actually held and played and it now just sits beautifully with no strain or tension and no left hand support.

... back to chasing that 'tone'

The middle of the lap approach works well for people with long arms and/or very narrow waists and rib cages.  If I were to do that my right shoulder would be absurdly forward, twisted and bent.  That banjo player in Oh Susanna did not come from Alabama with a banjo on his lap!  On the knee is a comfortable place for people with average size arms. 

Pip said:

Yes, I use a non-slip mat as well. When I was first gifted the zither banjo years ago I had tried learning some basic bluegrass and clawhammer and had the it sitting on my lap like a lot of the modern banjo players (rather than my right thigh) and it drove me crazy as the neck was so heavy and constantly needed support by my left hand. It was a revelation to find images of how they were actually held and played and it now just sits beautifully with no strain or tension and no left hand support.

... back to chasing that 'tone'

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