Developing Your left Hand

Developing speed and dexterity for your left hand is crucial to becoming a better banjo player. Start playing banjo right by following this guide to developing your left hand. This guide assumes that you play a right-handed banjo. If you don’t, just flip left and right around and you should be fine.

It’s important to keep in mind that without lots of practice and work you will not see results. Stay dedicated to becoming a better banjo player through hard work and you will see progress eventually.

If you do not currently have access to a banjo you can strengthen your left hand with stretching. Hold your left hand open. Curl your fingers (one at a time) so that they hit your palm. The other fingers in your hand should NOT move as you do this. Start with your index, middle, ring, and then pinky.

The pinky is the hardest one for most people. Often I can only get my pinky close to my palm without using the assistance of my ring finger. This exercise can also help the dexterity in your right hand.

Once you’ve done that for a couple minutes, try this next exercise. Repeat the same motion and keep your non-active fingers as still as possible. Follow this pattern:
- index and middle
- index and ring
- index and pinky
- middle and ring
- middle and pinky
- ring and pinky
Both fingers should hit your palm at the same time. Don’t start doing it too fast until you have the pattern down, otherwise you are just flailing your hand around.

Those work great if you do not have a banjo at the moment. The next one is for those who do have access to banjos.

Play this pattern on G, the thickest string. The number corresponds to the fret. Play 1 with your index, 2 with your middle, 3 with your ring, and 4 with your pinky.

Pattern: 1 2 3 4 | 1 2 3 4 | 1 3 2 4 | 1 3 2 4 |

Repeat the pattern faster and faster as you get better at playing it. Switch up to the different strings once you are ready.

Now try this other pattern:

Pattern: 1 4 3 1 | 2 4 3 2 | 1 2 3 4 | 4 2 3 1 |

Play it on the other strings, and while it may not be the prettiest sounding thing, it will help you build dexterity in your left hand for banjo playing.

  2014 Progressive Edge Records