Can You Play Bluegrass Banjo Without Finger Picks?

Finger picks are very popular tools with players in general and banjo in particular? However, many opinions wonder: can you play bluegrass banjo without finger picks? This article will explain it to you. Scroll down and find out!

What are finger picks?



Picks are little metal or plastic objects that you wear on the tips of your fingers and thumbs to make playing the banjo easier. 

There are several reasons to wear picks. More power and a better sound will be obtained. It’s also simpler to play swiftly with selections. When they first begin playing, some individuals lack confidence and prefer to play softly. Picks will let you play louder and more confidently.

What should you use for picks?

It is advised that you first grow comfortable playing your banjo with a pick before learning to play it without one. Even if you have the best bluegrass banjo, if you’re not good at it, your finger picks won’t work. Traditional banjo pictures are often made of plastic or metal and are designed to fit on your thumb and fingers.

The metal enhances the banjo’s volume and clarity—a stronger overall sound. Different metals are utilized, and their properties influence how the banjo sounds.

Brass has a pleasant tone. Nickel and stainless steel enhance the volume and clarity of the sound. Cobalt is more costly and produces less squeal when going through strings. It is up to you to choose the metal picks you want to use based on the sound you want to generate.

Plastic is less durable and quieter than metal. They are also more difficult to alter for size since you may have to boil them to make them smaller if necessary.

There are several brands, sizes, and gauges available. You must ensure that they fit well and are comfy. If you’re shopping at a store, ask to try some on. Get a sense of them and check whether they are at ease. If you’re purchasing online, purchase a few different kinds to sample. It normally takes a few attempts to discover the most comfortable clothes to wear and play with.

Can you play bluegrass banjo without finger picks?

Can you play bluegrass banjo without finger picks?


As you learn to play the banjo, you may question whether you can do it without using finger picks. Many greats don’t use them, even though they make you feel more in touch with your instrument. You may appreciate the softer sound and other music styles that playing without picks provides.

There are several methods to play the banjo without picks, including Clawhammer, old-time, and even with a bow. 

If you are a novice, you should first learn banjo picking. Once you’ve mastered that style, you may advance to more challenging playing skills (maybe without finger picks).

Alternatives to finger picks


Of course, you can play the banjo without picks, but what do you use instead? For a nice sound, you must still have strong string motion. So, here are some amusing banjo pick choices.

Fingertips exposed

If you don’t want to use picks, the finest method to play the banjo is with your fingers alone. You may use the same three-finger picking technique, but you want to attain the same precision or projection level.

If you play just with your fingers, you should also spend some time playing with finger picks. If you don’t, you’ll become accustomed to using your fingers, and the picks may become annoying once you start using them.

Guitar pick

This method may come naturally to you if you know how to play the guitar. You’ll feel perfectly at home using a guitar pick if you have a six-string banjo, commonly known as a banjo guitar. It may be played like a guitar and a banjo simultaneously.

You may either strum all of the strings at once or pluck one at a time. You may play both up and down. The lovely tone reminds me of old folk music that you’d want to dance to.

A guitar pick may also be used on a normal 5-string or 4-string banjo.


Some folks will get their nails painted with acrylic to play the banjo instead of standard picks. You may also play with your natural fingernails, but they will ultimately break, leaving you to rely on your fingers or picks.

Having fun with a bow

This method is less prevalent but has a distinct tone. It’s incredibly high-pitched and squeaky, almost like a violin, but with a banjo sound thrown in for good measure. You may use a bow designed for a fiddle, violin, or cello.

You may buy an insert to fit in the lowest area of the bow between the stick and string. Place the insert in the bottom half of the bow, giving enough area for the banjo strings to be strummed. The insert features three notches that might be useful if you want to play one string at a time.


Can finger picks be used on an open-back banjo?

Yes, many excellent finger pickers, including some of the finest ever, played open-back banjos. They weren’t called “open backs” back then, just “banjos.” 🙂 When I first heard a Goldtone Bob Carlin up close, it was in a band session and was being played 2-finger style by an excellent old-time fingerpicking.

Is it preferable to use your fingers or a pick?

Because the pick is constructed of the same material throughout, it creates a brighter and more constant tone than using your fingertips because plucking strings with various portions of your fingers generate varied sounds.

Is fingerpicking superior to using a pick?

One is less valuable than the other, and mastering both may improve your game in any case! Learning the fingerstyle approach may help you strengthen your muscle memory when using a guitar pick. Learning the pick method can help you increase the consistency of your tone while using the fingerstyle method. But, once again, it is all up to you.

Final words

The above analysis shows that the answer to the question: can you play bluegrass banjo without finger picks is yes. You can not use it. However, if you don’t play bluegrass banjo without finger picks, you should look for alternative tools to protect your hands and ensure sound quality.

Author: Geraldine Ben

Do you have any idea about what are some popular musical instruments? What about your favorite band? Do you know anything about any particular bands or musicians? There are so many musical instruments available for sale that it would be challenging and time-consuming for customers to compare many items among them and choose the best. I am Ben - a lover of all things musical. I synthesize the best instruments to help anyone with their equipment needs.

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