I love this tune but there are some tricky alternate fingering parts which I inevitably mess-up as soon as hit record.

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Comment by thereallyniceman on January 24, 2021 at 18:22

Great playing Carrie, and your tone on the CE Special does sound really good!

DON'T PANIC, as we all know about the staring, evil, red video eye that appears when you click "record".  ;-)

I notice that you plant your third finger rather than your pinkie... have you always done that?

Planting the pinkie makes rapid notes (as per Fred Van Eps) much easier as you can use the 3rd finger for picking.

Comment by carrie horgan on January 24, 2021 at 19:00

Thanks Ian - yes, it's an ingrained habit from my bluegrass banjo playing days.  I wasn't able to get enough elevation over the strings by planting my minute pinky so I started planting with my ring finger - it's a hard habit to break now.

Comment by Trapdoor2 on January 24, 2021 at 19:38


I like this tune too. Makes me want to dance...

Gaaak, my BG teacher was so hard on me for not planting both pinky and ring JUST LIKE EARL. We had several painful sessions where he taped mine together and made me play everything. He tried using rubber bands but the ends of my fingers started turning blue. I could hardly move my middle finger with the two outer ones locked together.

I finally just said "no". Much later, I saw an up-close video of Earl playing and watched him NOT plant his ring finger (it just floated around, like mine does today). If I ever see my old instructor again, I'm gonna...

Comment by carrie horgan on January 24, 2021 at 19:52

Oh great video!  Thanks Marc.  It's a good job that experience didn't put you off banjo!  I remember coming to my first lesson and the teacher gently telling me I had my fingerpicks on the wrong way round.  Bless.

Comment by Jody Stecher on January 24, 2021 at 21:02

I have a number of comments. First of all I LOVE the hat.  And then one of the pillows came to life and turned out to be an animal. Not a grizzly bear, possibly a dog. Whatever it was, it had a blue garment of sorts that was color coordinated with the banjoist and it seemed to be perfectly at ease with the sound of the banjo. 

Carrie, you are sounding better and better with each video. I agree with Ian that the banjo sounds very good but it's not just the banjo. A banjo needs a player to bring out the tone. I disagree about planting the pinky being the preferable way. As a teacher of banjo and other string instruments for so many decades (nearly 60!!!!) I have evolved and changed my views on a few topics. But if there is one thing I am certain about it is that there is no such thing as a Standard Issue Regulation Hand. Everyone's hand is different. Fingers are of different lengths as well. Some excellent banjo players plant the pinky only, Others plant the ring finger only. Some do both. Some plant none. Others do a combination of all of those things depending on the phrase being played. Another thing I am certain about: If It Hurts, it's wrong. Especially if it actually damages the hand it is wrong. 

I am curious about the bridge on your CE Special. What is it please?  Also it looks (and sounds) like you might be using a natural vellum rather than a synthetic head. Are you?

Comment by carrie horgan on January 24, 2021 at 23:43

Thank you Jody!  Yes, I definitely play with the anchor down but I agree that players should play what is ergonomically comfortable (there seems to be a lot of 'shoulds' with Irish tenor but actually mandolin versus guitar fingering is personal preference).  I wish I could play more cleanly but I think the problem is I tense up when I record - I try and get to a point where I know how to play the tune without thinking but still make mistakes.  I think I need to tell myself its okay to make mistakes (reverse psychology!).  The little bundle next to me is Nancy (Romanian rescue dog a.k.a Princess Nanski-from-Romanski) who can sleep through anything apart from fireworks - she deigned to allow me to sit next to her on her sofa today.  I am privileged!  

Comment by carrie horgan on January 24, 2021 at 23:44

p.s It's a calfskin head and I think the bridge is a Clifford Essex 'Morley' bridge.  

Comment by Jody Stecher on January 25, 2021 at 0:42

Carrie, I understood all of your reply except the part about shoulds.in Irish tenor banjo, and mandolin vs guitar. Can you explain please?  What I don't understand:

Since no two competent Irish tenor players use the same techniques and since the only two tunings I'm aware of are standard tenor (CGDA) and Barney McKenna's innovation of an octave below mandolin (GDAE), how would guitar fingering apply?

Comment by carrie horgan on January 25, 2021 at 8:19

I took a class and was told to try mandolin fingering for Irish tenor banjo even though I'm more comfortable playing (guitar?) fingering where index finger covers fret one and two, middle covers three, ring four and pinky five.  I struggled to get my hand into a comfortable position on the neck for mandolin fingering (too stretchy for my little fingers).  

Comment by Jody Stecher on January 25, 2021 at 15:42

I see. I didn't understand at first because I was thinking about chord positions and also because for melodic playing I don't know any guitarists who use "guitar fingering". Some do use a fingering where each finger has its own fret. So by the time you get to fret 2 you are using finger 2. At fret 4 you run out of fingers. But most guitarists I know use whatever fingering a musical phrase seems to prefer.  Mandolinists, (when playing mandolin) yes, they tend to use the fingering you describe....except for when they don't.  OK, here's my view as someone who has played Irish tenor banjo for over 50 years: First of all there are short scale 17 fret tenor banjos and then there are 19 fret tenor banjos with a longer scale. What's feasible on the short ones is much harder on the long ones. "Mandolin fingering" on a longer scale tenor banjo is advisable for giants and especially for those who want to get tendonitis. For playing Irish repertoire and style I can't see any advantage to using mandolin fingering on a tenor banjo, especially a long scale one. The main reason for using mandolin fingering on a short scale tenor banjo is that people who are already mandolinists or fiddlers can use the fingering they already know and don't have to think about it or learn something new.  There is no reason I can think of for using mandolin fingering on a long scale tenor banjo except maybe to cultivate a sense of superiority because of perceived "correctness".  

Here's a link to a video of Gerry O'Connor. He has, in my opinion, a particularly efficient and sensible technique. See how he uses the pinky on fret 5?  He's a professional musician so he doesn't endanger his livelihood and his very life by being "Correct". (If you have tendonitis you can't play. If you can't play you don't get paid. No pay=no money. With no money you can't buy food and can't eat. Then you die. So now you're dead but by God your technique was *correct* all the way to the graveyard!)


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