Also known as three-finger style or Scruggs-style (after Earl Scruggs whose innovative approach influenced generations of bluegrass banjo players) the picking consists of an up-picking motion by the fingers and a down-picking motion by the thumb. Traditionally the player wears finger picks on the thumb, index and middle fingers.
JOHN PLAYING “BANJO BOY CHIMES” IN THE BLUEGRASS BANJO STYLE
BLUEGRASS BANJO TECHNIQUE
You might be surprised to learn that bluegrass banjo is at least three centuries younger than clawhammer banjo; it was developed in the American south in the early twentieth century. Unlike clawhammer, bluegrass banjo avoids strumming altogether. Instead, fingerpicks are used on the thumb, index and middle fingers; the strings are plucked in the same manner a classical guitarist plucks the strings of a guitar.
Earl Scruggs is generally considered to be the originator of this style of banjo playing. Despite the assumption that he singlehandedly “invented” bluegrass banjo, Scruggs had contemporaries who used a similar three-finger style approach. Scruggs simply borrowed ideas from these pickers and synthesized them into a more refined, flashier style. Scruggs also had the advantage of being the first bluegrass banjo player to showcase this style of playing to a wide audience through his work with Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys at the Grand Ole Opry. Below you can watch the fast and furious fingers of our teacher John playing “Roanoke.”
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