By Michael Hofer
Lets Get Picky
Well there are a few more things you need besides just the banjo itself.
You will need picks. Ok, someone is going to say, grandma never used them on her
banjo. Ok, maybe not, but if you intend to play Bluegrass today you will need them.
They dont use gut strings anymore (unless your into minstrel or classical banjo) and those steel ones will tear up your fingers, so
just plan on getting picks. Dunlap and National both make good picks. You will need a thumb pick made from plastic
and two metal fingerpicks. The metal fingerpicks come in differant gauges. I prefer the
.018 and .015 gauge. The lower the number the lighter the pick. Experiment and find out
which pick you pick the best with. Its okay to be picky with picks. Did that last sentance
make you grin? See thats why they call it pickin and grinnin.
If you intend to play standing up, you will need a strap around that banjo of yours. There are many kinds available, I suggest finding the widest one possible. I know the skinny ones are stylish, but the wider they are, the more comfy they are to wear. Thats the kind of guy I am, prefering comfort over fashion. Make sure once installed on your banjo its easily balanced, you dont want to contend with the banjo moving around while you're playing. Its tough enough finding the strings and frets without the added excitement of a moving target. Also make sure the strap is the proper length recently my old strap finally worn to a frazzle had to be replaced, it was always a bit short, but I put up with it. I made sure the new strap was the proper length, what a differance made playing a whole lot easier!! So get a strap that FITS !
Special Tuning Pegs
There are special tuning pegs out, concieved by Earl Scruggs and perfected io design by Bill Keith, popularly called Keith tuners. ( Schaller also makes them, but Keiths are far superior according to most banjo players who have used both) Basically they allow you to change the tuning of your strings very quickly using a cam set up. Im only familiar with maybe 5 bluegrass songs where they are used, Earl used to play a few of these by just retuning, and thats where he got the idea for the cams. These tuners cost in excess of 60 bucks each. To me its a bit pricey ( ok another of my opinions I dont expect everyone to agree with) just seems like alot of dough to spend to put a slight special effect on a tune. Some people like the flash of it though, so whatever makes you happy.
Have I Made a Case for Cases?
You need a case for that banjo. Even if its deemed a dont get caught in the rain case, pick up one. A good hard shell case will protect your banjo for years. Its worth the money.
Here are a few other items you may wish to consider in your pursuit of excellance as a banjo picker.